Water Man Spouts

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The Unknown Soldier

"For all the speculation about Rove's fate and despite a failed attempt by Senate Democrats to have Rove's security clearance revoked, within the White House there was little sign of panic. 'They think Karl is bulletproof,' says a former Administration official who is familiar with the issue and the players. 'They think, "We won a second term. We control Congress." They don't think Karl is any real jeapardy."-- "The Rove Problem"; Nancy Gibbs; Time; 7-25-05; pages 32 & 34.In a White House that takes great pride in its ability to "control" the news, at least in the corporate media, the above quote -- from an "unnamed" former Administration official -- has raised the hair on the back of many necks. While the general public, reading the full article, would take little or no special notice of such a comment, those in the cross-hairs of Fitzgerald's investigation know that there is a man outside of their control .... who is talking. He's talking to the press, and he's talking to other sources.This morning, I thought that we could examine a fellow who poses a serious problem for those Bush administration officials who are beginning to feel the pressure that Nixon administration felt 32 years ago. To keep this little essay simple -- so simple that even a republican could understand it -- I thought we should rely primarily upon a single source of information. So grab your copy of Bob Woodward's "Plan of Attack," the self-proclaimed "definitive account of the decision to invade Iraq," and let's have some fun examing what the book tells us about Dick Armitage.Woodward understands Dick Armitage quite well. Dick graduated from the US Naval Academy in 1967. He served four tours in Vietnam, which made him a rarity in the Bush2 administration. He taught counterinsurgency, in programs which resulted from President Kennedy's beliefs in the future of armed conflict. In the 1980s, he served in the Reagan administration, under the criminal "leadership" of Casper Weinberger, as the assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs. It was during this time that he bacame best friends with Colin Powell. Woodward notes that the two began talking to each other several times each day, something he compared to teen-aged pals. He calls Armitage "Powell's best friend, adviser, and most outspoken advocate." (page 20)In the early months of the Bush administration, Armitage often joked to Powell that the two of them were "being kept in the freezer," because they were at odds with Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. Cheney and Rumsfeld certainly had complete access to Bush and Karl Rove. Powell had to go through Condi Rice in order to reach the president, something that was unprecedented considering his position.A week before 9-11, Time magazine ran a cover story, "Where Have You Gone, Colin Powell?" The story was clearly based upon information given to Time by someone in the White House who, for the sake of this essay, we will call "Karl Rove." The story was an obvious attempt by Rove to pressure Powell to toe the Cheney line. In my opinion, it marked a the beginning of a significant trend: Powell seems to have become weaker, and more willing to humiliate himself, while Armitage becomes the stronger of the two, despite his official position as being his friend's assistant.Just after 9-11, the New York Times ran an article, "Bush's Advisors Split on Scope of Retaliation." The topic was the talk of targeting Iraq for posing a threat to the USA, in relationship to 9-11. The article made clear that Powell was strongly opposed to targeting Iraq, while Wolfowitz and "Scooter" Libby were advocating an attack on Iraq.Those who have followed the Plame Threads will recall my saying from "thread one" on that, even within the administration, there are those who perform from behind a curtain of complete secrecy. Libby is one of those people. When he saw his name in print on this, he told Woodward he considered it "scandalous." He immediately went to confront Armitage. Woodward describes Armitage as looking like a cross between Daddy Warbucks and a professional wrestling champion. He is a large man, who though 56 when this book was published, is aware of his strengths. A man who served four tours in Vietnam is not intimidated by those in the administration who found ways to avoid serving in the military. The situation, described on page 50 of "Plan of Attack," marks the point when Armitage is no longer considered trustworthy by the neocons.The neocons' "plan of attack" is to go to a friend at the New York Times, and plant a story about how while Rumsfeld is a tough man, looking to protect American interests, Colin Powell is "soft," and doesn't recognize the need to take agressive actions to keep Americans safe. Yet, as noted, Armitage specialized in "counterinsurgency." He intervened and had some changes made in the 12-1-02 NYT's article. He laughed about how this upset the neocons; Woodward quotes him as saying, "Oh, State, they're in the game. They want to get these fuckers." (pages 38-9)In the build-up to the invasion of Iraq, Powell continued to oppose the Cheney blueprint. Woodward's book includes a number of quotes, such as this one from page 183: "So Powell and Cheney went at it yet again in a blistering argument." When Powell had wrote his book, "My American Journey," he had experienced some difficulty in telling about the cold shoulder that Cheney had always turned towards him. Armitage had helped him with that section. Now Dick advised Powell to talk directly to President Bush.Armitage and Powell had discussed the "pottery barn rule" of "you break it, you own it," as it applied to Iraq. Armitage in particular was unimpressed with Douglas Feith's plans for post-Saddam Iraq. Many of the people with military experience found the "high-pitched" Feith annoying; DUers will remember General Tommy Franks told his friends about Feith: "I have to deal with the fucking stupidest guy on the face of the earth almost every day." The neocons were not pleased with Armitage's influence on Powell. They had resented a NYT's article that noted Karl Rove having increasing involvement in foreign affairs. Rove had wanted to exercise control over Powell. The neocons saw Powell doing things like putting three "career people" in jobs that usually went to "political appointees" .... meaning those were jobs Rove had planned to fill. The three that Powell put in place, without consulting Rove, included a democrat under Armitage."We're never going to say no to you," Rove wrote to Powell. "(Now) what are you going to do for us?" (page 127)As the build-up to the invasion of Iraq built strength, the neocons decided to try to draw Dick Armitage in. The White House "Communications" had come up with a document they called "Apparatus of Lies." It was 33 pages of information about Saddam's hidden WMD programs and capacities. Armitage, who was aware that the vast majority of the information was from the pre-Gulf War era, told Woodward that the document was "bullshit." (page 286) The White House pressured Armitage to use the document for a speech, in coordination for one being given by Wolfowitz."This is awful. I'm not going to touch it," Armitage told them. However, the pressure increased -- meaning that the man in charge, Dick Cheney, was demanding he use it in a speech. Finally, he agreed, upon the condition thatr he would not accept White House "clearance" for his speech.On January 21, 2003, Armitage addressed the US Institute of Peace. He told this group, established by Congress to promote peace, that he had recently addressed alma mater, the US Naval Academy. He said of the 4000 midshipmen he had spoken to, "I sincerely hope that not one of those young men or young women -- or any of our other service members -- is sent into harm's way in Iraq. That is what we at the Department of State -- and indeed across the government -- are working hard to avoid." At the end of his speech, Armitage noted that the document "Apparatus of Lies" was avaliable in the back of the room. "I recommend it to you to the extent that the past is prologue."(pages 286-7)Four days later, Armitage was one of the White House officials that listened to a presentation by Scooter Libby on the dangers posed to the USA by Saddam. Woodward notes: "Armitage was appalled at what he considered overreaching and hyperbole. Libby was drawing only the worst conclusions from fragments and silky threads." (page 290)Colin Powell, in preparing to present the administration's case for war to the United Nations, spent Saturday, February 1st, at the CIA. There, analysts showed him what they actually knew about Iraq. Powell was stunned. That night, he called Armitage, who agreed to go with him to CIA headquarters the next day. (page 299)Woodward notes: "At times, Powell thought Chalabi was the biggest problem they had in Iraq. From the reports Armitage received from Iraq, most Iraqis thought Chalabi was a knucklehead. And though it was denied by others in the administration, Armitage believed that Chalabi had provided hyped WMD intelligence that made its way to Bush and Cheney before the war." (page 433) Armitage wanted the CIA and Congress to investigate Chalabi's role. (Speaking of Judith Miller.....)By this time, Woodward reports that Armitage realized Powell and he were not able to exert any positive influence on the administration. He recognized they were enabling the administration. A close friend from Congress told Armitage that he and Powell had failed in their attempts to do what was right.A new co-worker, who had been employed in a right-wing think tank, told Armitage he could serve as a bridge to the neocons. "You're on our team. You don't bridge shit. I've known those fuckers for thirty years. You ain't bridging shit," Armitage told him.Three weeks later, the guy told Armitage that he was right. "I had no idea," he said. "It's mind-numbing." (page 433)Armitage knew he would be leaving the administration. But he wouldn't go before Powell. However, he did take a new approach. Throughout the remainder of his service, when Powell approached him about a problem with the neocons, Armitage would say, "Tell these people to fuck themselves." (page 414)Condi Rice was sent to talk to Armitage about his "all-too-apparent distress." He outlined his views. On October 12, 2003, the Washington Post had a front-page article, "Rice Fails to Repair Repair Rifts, Officials Say; Cabinet Rivalries Complicate Her Role." The article was by the paper's two State Department reporters, and it read very similar to the opinions Armitage had outlined to Rice.Rice went to Powell to express her concerns that Armitage was the "unnamed source" of the information. Powell brushed her off. He realized, he later told Woodward, that Rice was more interested in finding someone to blame for saying there was a problem publicly, than in addressing the problem. (pages 414-5)And thus ended the neocons' relationship with Dick Armitage .... at least for the time. I recognize that some DUers might be thinking, "Hey, Water Man, have you lost your mind? Speaking well of a guy like Dick Armitage?" I am very aware of his background, from the Reagan years through PNAC. My point is, in part, that the neocons are facing potential dangers when republicans are seeing them as posing a serious problem to the stability of our cuntry. A number of DUers have a relative like Armitage, maybe an uncle, maybe a cousin. They are the type of guy that you have argued about politics with at every family function (weddings, reunions, funerals) for the past thirty years. But, in a strange way, you know that they really do care about America, and that -- even if they hate to admit it -- they find things like the war in Iraq and the lies about WMDs and the exposing of Valerie Plame unacceptable.Thank goodness some of them still have media connections.


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