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October 19, 2005

The Cheney-Rumsfeld Cabal

Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell's Chief-of-Staff, is the shrillest creature on the planet earth:

FT.com / World - Transcript: Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson: transcript of talk given by Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff to Mr Powell until last January.

I want to thank Steve [Clemons] and the American Foundation for giving me this opportunity and thank some of my friends for turning out. I see an assistant secretary over here, I think he's left that post now, who used to spend some time in my office. And I see others around the room. I see some journalists in here who have been trying religiously to get me over the last 3 or 4 months. You finally got me....

[I]n a very intimate way, I saw the George W. Bush administration from 2001 to early 2005.... I don't think even his critics would have argued that FDR wasn't a brilliant politician and a brilliant leader. But... how often does America get brilliant leaders?... I can count them myself on one hand.... So we need a system of checks and balances and institutional fabric that can withstand anybody, or at least nearly so. You laugh, but I'm not trying to solicit your laughter.... It's the old business of checks and balances....

Decisions that send men and women to die, decisions that have the potential to send men and women to die, decisions that confront situations like natural disasters and cause needless death or cause people to suffer misery that they shouldn't have to suffer, domestic and international decisions, should not be made in a secret way.... [F]undamental decisions about foreign policy should not be made in secret.... I would say that we have courted disaster, in Iraq, in North Korea, in Iran, generally with regard to domestic crises like Katrina, Rita and I could go on back, we haven't done very well on anything like that in a long time. And if something comes along that is truly serious, truly serious, something like a nuclear weapon going off in a major American city, or something like a major pandemic, you are going to see the ineptitude of this government in a way that will take you back to the Declaration of Independence....

Now, let me get a little more specific.... Almost everyone since the 1947 act, with the exception, I think, of Eisenhower, has in some way or another, perterbated, flummoxed, twisted, drew evolutionary trends with, whatever, the national security decision-making process.... John Kennedy trusted his brother... far more than he should have. Richard Nixon, oh my God.... Jimmy Carter allowed Brezinski to essentially negate his Secretary of State.... [W]hat Sandy Berger did to Madeline Albright.... But no one... has so flummoxed the process as the present administration. What do I mean by that? Remember what I said about the bureaucracy: if it's going to implement your decisions it has to participate in those decisions.... The complexity of the crises that confront governments today are just unprecedented.... [Y]our bureaucracy has got to be staffed with good people and they've got to work together... under leadership they trust....

That is not the case today....

[T]he case that I saw for 4 plus years was a case that I have never seen in my studies of aberration, bastardizations, changes to the national security process. What I saw was a cabal between the Vice President of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the Secretary of Defense... that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made.... Read George Packer's book The Assassin's Gate.... And I wish... I had been able to help George Packer write that book. In some places I could have given him a hell of a lot more specifics.... But if you want to read how the Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal flummoxed the process, read that book. And, of course, there are other names in there, Under Secretary of Defense Doug Feith, whom most of you probably know Tommy Frank said was the "stupidest blankety blank man in the world." He was. Let me testify to that. He was. Seldom in my life have I met a dumber man. And yet, and yet, after the Secretary of State agrees to a $400 billion department, rather than a $30 billion department, having control, at least in the immediate post-war period in Iraq, this man is put in charge. Not only is he put in charge, he is given carte blanche to tell the State Department to go screw themselves in a closet somewhere. That's not making excuses for the State Department. That's telling you how decisions were made and telling you how things got accomplished. Read George's book.

In so many ways I wanted to believe for 4 years that what I was seeing... was an extremely weak national security advisor [Condi Rice]... an extremely powerful Vice President... an extremely powerful... Secretary of Defense, remember a Vice President who's been Secretary of Defense... and also is a member of what Dwight Eisenhower... called in his farewell address the military industrial complex and don't you think they aren't....

So you've got this collegiality there between the Secretary of Defense and the Vice President. And then you've got a President who is not versed in international relations. And not too much interested in them either. And so it's not too difficult to make decisions in this... Oval Office cabal... that are the opposite of what you thought were made in the formal process.... And to myself I said, okay, put on your academic hat. Who's causing this? Well, the national security advisor. Even if the framers didn't envision that position, even if it's not subject to confirmation by the Senate, the national security advisor should be doing a better job. Now, I've come to a different conclusion.

Posted by DeLong at October 19, 2005 10:21 PM