General Colin Powell Had It Right

Among the incongruities — and ironies — of the Bush Administration and the war in Iraq is the seemingly untenable position of Secretary of State Colin Powell. It’s more than being a non neo-con.

As Chairman of the Joint Chiefs in 1991, he cast a crucial no vote on adding to the grief of Baghdad by going in and ousting Saddam Hussein. President George Bush the Elder is still criticized in some quarters today for not having “finished the job” then and maybe obviating the need for what has been going on for the last year.

But it bears referencing what was behind Powell’s disinclination back then. He knew better than most that war wasn’t heck and that “finishing the job” would have meant more U.S. casualties from Iraqi resistance. Maybe a lot more. Moreover, Powell made it clear that “finishing the job” would have positioned the U.S. as the occupier of a foreign country, a Muslim one at that. It could have been a template for disaster.

Even if he didn’t envision a jihadist all-call, alienation of allies and inadequate planning, we now know why General Powell didn’t want to go into Baghdad back then. What we don’t know is how Secretary Powell sleeps at night these days.

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