Colin Powell, Where Have You Gone?
March 12, 2007
Where have you gone Colin Powell? Where is the man who was once considered the most trusted man in America and who a major news magazine declared a “superstar”?
For a generation you were omnipresent as National Security Advisor, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Secretary of State and as a best selling author. You stood tall as a paragon of much of what was best in America – integrity, duty, hard work and opportunity; towering over the political landscape just as the World Trade Center once soared over lower Manhattan. Unfortunately, both colossal icons crumbled from the impact of a single tragic hour in Manhattan, leaving a void that has yet to be filled.
A decade ago, you voiced outrage when Madeline Albright asked “[w]hat’s the point of having this superb military you’re always talking about if we can’t use it”; responding contemptuously that “American GIs are not toy soldiers to be moved around on some global game board.” Where is your outrage today after American GIs have been sent into a quagmire without sufficient personnel or supplies only to return to deplorable conditions and neglect such as was seen at Walter Reed Army Hospital?
Where is your indignation today as this administration’s adventurism has, in your view, pushed the active Army towards the breaking point?
Where is your contempt today after five years of this administration refusing to listen to voices of reason from your pre-war warnings and objections to the use of torture to the current findings of the Iraq Study Group?
Where is your voice today as this administration repeatedly ignores the Constitution you swore to protect and defend “against all enemies, foreign and domestic”?
As the Valerie Plame case demonstrates, this administration will smear anyone who gets in its way regardless of whether they are speaking the truth. You are one of the few Americans who have the stature and moral authority to challenge this administration in a non-partisan way without having to fear White House reprisals. With over 3,200 fatalities and over 10,000 seriously wounded and billions of dollars spent that could have been invested in our future, the nation turns it weary eyes to you.
You have been exceedingly loyal to both this administration and the Bush family. While loyalty has its place, two of your principal lessons of leadership are that leadership is about “solving problems” and “[b]eing responsible sometimes means pissing people off.” That is the case today. More importantly, loyalty to your country must always come before loyalty to any leader or political party. Like Robert E. Lee and General Rommel ages ago, you are called upon to use your status and your voice to rescue the nation from a prolonged war because there is no person in America today better suited to lead this battle than you.
Yes, there are risks in your leading this effort. As former IBM President Thomas Watson, Jr. once noted, those who stand up to be counted may get knocked down; but “[a] man flattened by an opponent can get up again. A man flattened by conformity stays down for good.” That is precisely why this may be your last best chance at redemption.
You can bring an end to the same catastrophe that your one-hour presentation at the United Nations helped launch. Taking such a role may be counter to many rules you have adhered to throughout your career, but as General MacArthur noted “[y]ou are remembered for the rules you break.”
If you lead this charge, the American people, especially the children of the soldiers whose lives will be spared by a prompt end to the war, will always remember you for your courage to break the rules in this difficult time and not for the single hour that has stained your forty years of public service. You will be remembered as a hero who not only was able to make the incredible journey from Harlem to Foggy Bottom and from general to statesman; but who had the courage to stand up and call for an end to this war when far too many voices were silent. As you indicated in the close of your United Nations presentation, “we must not shrink from whatever is ahead of us. We must not fail in our duty and our responsibility to the citizens”.
Where have you gone Colin Powell? Your nation needs you now more than ever.