« "Serving the President" | Main | Schedule »

19 October 2008


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


well said, col lang.

colin powell's endorsement is more related to rehabbing colin powell's reputation and hooking himself to a clearly winning and, yes, transformational, side.

the only reason colin powell was selected to be secretary of state was because he possessed the stature and unquestioned trust of the american people -- that was to be cynically manipulated to lead this country to war. he knew better; but he couldn't bring himself to stand against those forces that have brought this country such disgrace, catastrophe and heartache.

but i must give him props for a nicely stated rationale for why he supports obama.

steven gandy

A good friend served in the
Americal Division 69 70.
He understood that Powell
was an officer there. It was based in the Chu Lai
region south of Da Nanang.
The 101 was up north in the
Quang Tri Phu Bai are.

Leila Abu-Saba

Everyone ought to read Doris Lessing's collection of essays titled "Prisons We Choose To Live Inside." She wrote it in the 80s and 90s, and muses on the hysteria of Communism and anti-Communism in the 40s and 50s. Her comments on how mass mind works are still germane.

Let us all remember how monolithic the prevailing sentiment was a mere six years ago. Anyone who objected to the rush to war was labeled a terrorist sympathizer or worse. I am sorry that Powell did not have more courage in those days, and I cannot understand how he could recite all that claptrap he delivered at the UN. But. He is only human. How many of normal members of the establishment have the courage to row so fiercely against the tide?

I am from a family of freaks, weirdos and dissidents, so it's easy for me to say that he should have registered his objection. Our host, Colonel Lang, is a military man and has more standing to criticize than I do. I would hope that more members of the military would live up to Colonel Lang's ideals. Clearly they do not.

One more reason why I am grateful for the Colonel's blog and comment. A few voices crying in the wilderness may not seem important or convincing in the moment, but it's amazing how sentiments change and suddenly the solitary dissidents become part of a crowd.


To be more pointed, he served Bushian factionalism when should have served American nationalism.

He should do public work ala Jimmy Carter as penance.


he redeemed himself a little today.

all the stuff about his collateral involvement re My Lai is at the Wiki.

while doing a little research at Woodward's book Plan of Attack, here's a little untoward tidbit re the Viking wanna-be Rove, speculative that it may be:

Page 250: Karl Rove, a Norwegian-American, is obsessed with the "historical duplicity" of the Swedes, who seized Norway back in 1814. This nationalism manifests itself as hatred for Swedish weapons inspector Hans Blix.

Woodward's book, The Commanders, which covers the Gulf War, mentions the Col. several times.



I usually lurk, but wanted to comment after watching Colin Powell on "Meet the Press" today.

I wasn't impressed with Powell's endorsement of Obama or his railing against the Republican party. What, he didn't know that his party is full of bigots?

I was impressed that Powell stood up and spoke out about the anti-Muslim sentiment that is widespread in this country. It is about time that a nationally recognized figure said something. Too bad Obama didn't do it, himself.



Define "nationalism", if you would. What, in the world, is Jimmy Carter serving "penance" for?

Patrick Lang


My thought exactly. pl

Dan M

I agree with Pat on Powell's failure to stand up and be counted ahead of the Iraq war. I also think he's now safely seeking to jump on a winning team...

But in isolation from his own faults and motives, his "what's wrong with being a moslem stuff" on the kid at Arlington from NJ was very, very strong.


Jonst and Pat Lang... think you misunderstand jerome on two points:

1- the "penance" is for Powell to serve for having enabled the Bush/Cheney imperium...

2- the "nationalism" to be valued is contrasted with the "factionalism" of Bush/Rove and Cheney that is detrimental to the national interest...



do you think the obama camp will have the common sense to 'distance' themselves from powell's 'endorsement'?

one glaring thing that sticks out every time that browkaw comes on meet the press -- i brokaw am an unabashed mccain supporter, so stuff it in your snoots john q public. IMO that's the whole demeanor that brokaw comes across with.


OT: Jimmy Carter, on the other hand, has served a stranger "penance" for having failed to effectively preside over his administration and the government even though his basic instincts can be viewed positively (eg., Paul Volker at the Fed began the recovery from stagflation, the early identification of energy policy as central to the future, not going to war with Iran over the hostages, etc.).

An ironic speculation: would Cyrus Vance have resigned if Desert One had succeeded? As for Colin Powell, my biggest gripe is that he did not stand up for Shinseki... but then again, would it have made any long term difference if the MNF had been 400,000 and if it had been a broader coalition?

Keone Michaels

I agree with your sentiments, however, I feel very few of us spoke out (including myself)when we should have. Let's not hold the General to a higher standard. His ambitions and failings, so obvious now, were just the fruit of misplaced and greedy human striving. Look how "presidential aspirations" have twisted the moral fiber of Mr. McCain.

Besides, the Republican party and Colin Powell were compromised long before he made his UN presentation.


As I recall, Powell commanded in the 2ID -- 1-38, 1-23, something like that. I was up north at the time.

Powell's legacy as SECSTATE was his move to properly resource the organization that had been gutted during the 90s. Diplomats and developers are going to play a more of an important role in the "long war" than most of us defenders.

Neil Richardson


Powell had 1/9IN in Korea under Gen. Emerson after Vietnam. The Manchus who knew him held him in high regard especially during a very difficult period in terms of morale and discipline. AFAIK this was his only battalion command. IIRC he had a brigade command under Gen. Wickham in the 101AB.


I have no love for Colin Powell, but as others have said, he started "rehab" today as far as I'm concerned.

The best thing about this endorsement is it will dominate the news cycle for three days. And with only two weeks to go before the election, that is not insignificant.

I doubt he'll play any official role in the Obama administration other than being available by phone from time to time for Sec. of Defense Chuck Hagel.


Stephe Clemons has been reporting on Powell endorsing Obama. He gives the issue an interesting twist in pointing out how he has been prodded by people like Bill Kristol to do that.

Waving Good-bye to Bill Kristol, Colin Powell "Might" Endorse Obama
When it Comes to Colin Powell, What is Bill Kristol Up To?

From the latter article:

So, what is Bill Kristol up to?

I have a hunch -- but it's completely speculative.

Since Steve Schmidt was given the operative reins of the McCain campaign, Schmidt has been pushing hard for flamboyant, dramatic showdowns to contrast McCain from Obama. He helped orchestrate the ongoing political theater on oil drilling. And Schmidt and his team have grabbed the Russia-Georgia conflict and tried to ratchet higher US-Russian tension rather than stand down, again to differentiate the McCain camp from what they hope is perceived as a more dovish Obama position.

My hunch is that Bill Kristol and friends don't want interest-calculating negotiators and balanced, sensible, pragmatic realists around McCain. They are perhaps using the Russia conflict to purge their foreign policy team of those who are not neocon or neocon-friendly -- and by trying to "export Colin Powell to Obama," Kristol is really going after his close friend and ally Richard Armitage while at the same time attacking General Powell's utility to Obama.

And who is helping Steve Schmidt and Bill Kristol orchestrate this purge and exploit this European crisis? I think Colin Powell's old White House nemesis -- Karl Rove.

Just a hunch -- but McCain's team is working on achieving national security clarity of the neoconservative kind.

A rovian/ neo-con co-effort in cleaning the Republican party of those despicable and troublesome 'Realists'? It appears that they have now succeeded. I find the idea scary, to say the least, to have a party that only has hard core ideologues or disoriented people like Palin influencing the party's foreign policy line. Permanent neo-con dominance over foreign policy in a GOP permanently dominated by it's right-wing?

And then think of the prospect of a Project Palin, say, for 2012.

Patrick Lang


No. I understand exactly. I despise nationalism. I agree with Elie Khadourie's definition that Nationalism is the love of one's country or group at the expense of someone else's country or group. Conversely, Khedourie defines patriotism as love of one's country or group. On that basis I will admit to being a patriot. Powell, IMO, did what he did because he was essentially motivated by his own interest.


Yes, maybe, if they too are not simply seeking career advantage.


I spoke out and wrote against it, but what I said did not matter. pl


An ironic speculation: would Cyrus Vance have resigned if Desert One had succeeded?

... and it's worth noting he tendered his resignation before the operation began.

As for Colin Powell, my biggest gripe is that he did not stand up for Shinseki...

... and for the professionals at State who had fully understood what the post-invasion would would require...

but then again, would it have made any long term difference if the MNF had been 400,000 and if it had been a broader coalition?

... and if it had included a post-invasion stabilization plan (ie, no looting, finding and keeping the "good" Baathists, etc.).


On "nationalism" versus "patriotism"...

... I agree 100% because I was not making the distinction but accept it as meaningful.

For me, in fact, 'nationalism' can exist even where a formal state does not exist (or where it is fragmented into different polities...) while 'patriotism' can only exist where 'citizenship' is either a reality or a concrete aspiration...

I frankly have been struggling with that distinction for a while and appreciate this dialectic exercise...


Colin has always been with the team. Not just My Lai, but Iran-Contra as well. He's always been just left of the likes of Elliot Abrams.

And what kind of guy rolls over on his own doctrine? The kind that stood by while Shinseki was pushed down the stairs representing it.

Sidney O. Smith III

In 1996, I was as enthusiastic of Powell for US President as some are about Obama today. Powell came across as “transformative” and I viewed his popularity in the Deep South as a much needed breakthrough that shattered some deeply engrained perceptions. (And in 1996, Powel apparently was more popular in the South than anywhere else in the nation -- a point the msm today seems to go out of the way to ignore, offering more proof that suggests on the part of the msm an ill adapted and anachronistic point of view, imo.)

And as a civilian, anytime I read about someone from the Vietnam and post Vietnam era military, I look to see what that person thinks about Bernard Fall. Powell cited Fall’s book in his autobiography. Granted, it wasn’t a discourse but the book was mentioned. So, while Powell may have been a Washington player, I always believed he was on the right track, at least from my civilian perspective (and also admitting that I saw Powell in part as a “cultural” icon, much as Obama supporters do today.).

So naturally his stance as Sec. of State in 03 was disappointing. Ray McGovern, at about the time of the release of the Suskind book, wrote an interesting analysis of Powell’s tragic mistake.


And all this said, I just don’t see the foreign policy aspects of the Democratic platform as “transformative”, if Ilan Pappe, Jimmy Carter and Walt and Mearsheimer are correct in their analysis. (Again, “if” they are correct and I dunno‘ because I haven‘t spent enough time in the Middle East). But “if” they are correct, then the Democratic platform is a sell-out as much as anything else that has happened of late.

Good grief, at the Democratic convention, Axelrod and company made Jimmy Carter sit at the back of the bus, just like the ol days. But the msm failed to explore reasons for such a decision, offering more evidence of arrested development to go along with ersatz Greek columns that appeared made of Styrofoam. (And surely MLK Jr. would not have “gone along to get along” when it came to US foreign policy. No way.)

So neither party seems imbued with the courage necessary to make some tough decisions. But, yes, I am voting for Obama and somewhat excited of upcoming changes, although no evidence exists that Ron Paul would ever sell out. And while it’s not Obama in the least that concerns me about the Democratic Party, at some point Obama will have to show moral courage at the foreign policy game. Haven’t seen it yet. It’s same ol, same ol, although Hagel as SecDef offers a glimmer of hope. But wait…Hagel is a limited government Republican with an anti-imperialistic streak, as was Powell supposedly at one time.


The Bushites specifically, and movement conservatives generally, consistently prioritize factional good ahead of national good. Powell served factionalist ends, though I do not view his loyalties as factionalist in the manner of Cheney, Rove, Delay, Bush and so many others.

If Jimmy Carter has done anything requiring penance, his estimable public work after leaving office is satisfactory. Powell has penance to do, but if has done any I have not heard.

Green Zone Cafe

Powell was very clear, powerful and quite moving in his endorsement of Obama, especially when he spoke an America which would give the 7 year old Muslim boy growing up in America hope to be president, and when he recognized that there are Muslim soldiers in the US Army - see the grave of the soldier he talked about, SPC Kareem Khan, here: http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/krkhan.htm

By using that example to criticize the right-wing know-nothingism that the Republican Party has become, he made a great point.

As for his support of the Iraq war, I give him a pass. Having seen the acres of a couple of large Iraqi ammo dumps, bunkers and bunkers to the horizon, I saw how it was reasonable to believe that Iraq had chemical weapons. That was one stated reason for the war; everyone knew there were several others, both venal and altruistic. There was oil, and there was the idea of the democratic paradigm shift in Arab politics. If Powell is to faulted, it is for not opposing Rumsfeld's idiocies by resigning earlier.

BTW, what is up with Larry Johnson? His "methods have become unsound."

Leila Abu-Saba

Colonel Lang - what you said did not seem to matter at the time. However it does matter in the long run. I for one have been very grateful to meet a patriot, Army officer, Southerner and conservative such as yourself who spoke out early against the war. Your experience in the military and in the first Gulf War adds to the weight of your opinion.

Reminds me that we shaggy-haired liberal peaceniks were not just parroting knee-jerk reactions - we were against the war for good reasons, and we are joined by others who love our country as we do, even if we don't all agree on (for instance) social issues or the fine points of economic policy.

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

February 2021

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
Blog powered by Typepad