Originally posted at The Brad Blog[Now UPDATED with a response from 27-year CIA analyst Ray McGovern at bottom of article.]
In a response to a charge cited by The BRAD BLOG on Tuesday that then-Sec. of State Colin Powell “knowingly lied” during his infamous February 5, 2003 presentation of false intelligence to the UN Security Council about the need to attack Iraq, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Powell’s Chief of Staff at the time, characterizes the allegation as unfair.
He says points made in support of that claim are “misleading and even spurious” and “not supported in the surrounding narrative.”
“I have admitted what a hoax we perpetrated,” says Wilkerson in his reply today, sent in response to our request for comment. “But it actually spoils or desecrates a fair condemnation of what is already a bad enough set of misstatements, very poor intelligence analysis, and — I am increasingly convinced, outright lies — to take the matter to absurdity with one man, in this case Powell.”
David Swanson, who authored the charges in question, as cited earlier this week by The BRAD BLOG, disputes Wilkerson’s response. The full remarks by both men are posted in full at the end of this article.
On Tuesday, we ran Swanson’s critique of Hubris: Selling the Iraq War, a new NBC News documentary based on the book of a similar name by journalists David Corn and Michael Isikoff. (You can watch the entire film online here.)
While Swanson lauded the project for helping to “prolong Americans’ awareness of the lies that destroyed Iraq,” he offered a number of worthy criticisms as well, including the fact that MSNBC, which aired the documentary, failed to acknowledge its own participation in propagating many of those same lies to the American people.
Featured in the film are several new pieces of information and commentary that have come to light since the original publication of Corn and Isikoff’s 2007 book.
Some of those revelations come by way of Wilkerson, a retired U.S. Army Colonel and, more to the point, Powell’s Chief of Staff at the time of his February 5, 2003 presentation to the UN Security Council on the supposed chemical, biological and nuclear threats posed by Saddam Hussein. That presentation by perhaps the most well-regarded official in the Bush Administration at the time is widely credited with turning the tide of public opinion in favor of the invasion of Iraq, which would commence just weeks later, 10 years ago next month.
Unfortunately, virtually every piece of evidence presented by Powell at the UN. said to have been culled from various intelligence agencies, turned out to be completely false. Some years later, Powell would describe the speech as a “painful” “blot” on his career. As Hubris details, Powell’s evidence was not only wrong, but known to be wrong by many in the intelligence community by the time it was presented to the public as fact by the well-respected Secretary of State.
“Though neither Powell nor anyone else from the State Department team intentionally lied,” says Wilkerson in the film, “we did participate in a hoax.”
Swanson’s critique, however, takes that point further, charging that “The Hubris version of Colin Powell’s lies at the United Nations is misleadingly undertold.”
“Powell was not a victim. He ‘knowingly lied,’” wrote Swanson, including a link to his own 2011 op-ed at Consortium News headlined “Colin Powell’s Disgraceful Lies.”
Given the serious nature of the charges cited by Swanson as detailed in his 2011 piece — all well-documented with direct quotes from the State Department’s own January 31, 2003 Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) assessment repeatedly describing most of the claims Powell would offer the following week at the UN as “weak” at best, and “implausible” in many cases — it seemed appropriate to give Wilkerson the opportunity to respond to the direct allegation that Powell was outright lying during his UN presentation.
In his response, Wilkerson draws a line in the sand, if you will, against the contention that his former boss “knowingly lied.”
He says he believes that Swanson’s “use of INR’s assessment of ‘weak’ repeatedly, is weak itself.”