Powell: Torture puts our troops at risk.

Placed in Great Debates because I foresee debate on the topic.

From Think Progress :

Now, I think the bold portion above says it all. The majority of both leftists and libertarians has been saying this for a while. When we fly a flag of peace and decry despotic governments, how do we look when it turns out that we ourselves are clandestinely engaging in questionable practices that neglect individual rights? With what gauge shotgun are we shooting ourselves in the foot today, and how long till that foot falls off and we can no longer stand in the Middle East?

If I were to venture a guess, I would say that this is confirming the fears of many in the ME who have long ago learned that brutal dictatorships always hide behind the mask of benevolence and humanitarianism. We can’t accomplish anything this way.


This is why I like Colin Powell so much. What is the debate? Is someone o this board in favor of the changes? What Powell wrote is 100% true, correct and obvious.


I’m glad Powell said it. It needed to be said, it needs to be said: over and over and until our government “gets it.”

With the moral credibililty of our nation at a frighteningly low ebb across the globe, principled people who can make a difference need to take a stand. It matters.

Thank you, Colin Powell. This restores much of the respect I had for you.

While I agree with the rest of your sentiment, I must note that it was also Colin Powell who went in front of the UN and gave a straight-faced delivery of the Administration’s bullshit (his words) regarding Iraqi WMDs, ties to al Qaeda, and mobile bioweapons labs. If Powell had took a stand when it really mattered, we might not be stuck in the morass we’re in now.

Colin seems to be wandering off the reservation. Too little, too late? Yes. But you can bet yer sweet patootie that when Karl Rove hears a rumor that Colin Powell has called a press conference, his sphincter slams shut like a bear trap.

Well, I don’t think there’s a chance in hell of that. We would be at least as deep into Iraqle as we are. The only difference I can see is that Powell would have stepped down much sooner than he did.

I think that it’s good that someone in a public position is standing up for what is right, but wish that Powell had been paying attention previously. It would have been kind of nice to have someone who had experience speaking out against this sort of thing back in the day.

What, you think Powell might still have something non-classified but embarrassing to tell us?

Well, maybe not. The truth is always classified.

Agreed, I wish General Powell had stopped being the good soldier a lot sooner and looked out for the interests of America. I am sure he does and always will regret that speech, but he did his job with the information supplied. If he had gotten confirmation of his suspicions of “Bullshit”, I am of the opinion he would not have delivered the speech. I pity that the best advisers Bush appointed were of course the ones he ignored. Instead he listened to draft dodgers {like himself} with their own agendas.


Well, good for General Powell. You can’t have helped but hope that sooner or later he was going to gird up his loins (a guys loins can get awful lose when he is staring into his professional grave), stand up on his hind legs and do some straight talking. It may well be that Powell’s letter, with the attachment from General Vessey, also a former chair of the Joint Chiefs, got some attention in the Senate committee. More cracks are appearing in the foundations of this administration.

What I do find disturbing is that somebody appears to have sat on The Judge Advocates General of the four uniformed services and induced them to submit a very short letter that may undermine their testimony of several weeks ago. Here is a copy of the TJAGs’s letter. Since I do not know what sections 6 and 7 of the Administration proposal are it is a little difficult to know if there has been a retreat from their previous stand on the rule of law and common article three of the 1948 conventions.

I know as well as anyone how hard it is to go to a commander and tell him that what he wants to do is unlawful. It tends to result in a lot of gnashing of teeth and an assignment to a windowless office with no telephone at a one lawyer shop at a closed training base. None-the-less, if these officers, officerswho were trained by and served with the officers I trained and served with, have caved in I find it most disturbing. I trust they have not.

I note that the letter is signed by only one serving TJAG. The other signatures are of the Deputy TJAG or some underling signing for the TJAG. I wonder if that is significant or if there are some resignations in the offing.

A day late and a dollar short. Powell is speaking out years after a lot of people said the same things.

Sure, he’s opposing torture… years after it become an issue.

Sure, he said the WMD evidence was bullshit… after he’d presented it as truth.

Sure, he resigned the Bush cabinet… after he helped the administration start its war.

It’s nice to know he’s on the correct side of the issue, but so are millions of other people, many of whom spoke out before he did. opposing torture now is kind of like coming out really strongly in favour of the round earth theory. Why this guy is so worshipped by so many people I just do not understand.

Colin Powell did some of his “speaking out” within the Administration itself in the early days. He and Armitage were the voices in support of negotiation.

I’m glad that he is speaking out to the Senate and the public now. But it’s a shame to have to appeal on the grounds that torturing endangers our own soldiers. That’s a good reason, but a better one is that it is morally wrong to torture.

I can’t believe this is even up for debate in America.

Powell is a smart, (mostly) honest, politically-competent, and largely nonpartisan figure who demonstrates both aptitude in military and foreign affairs; he was basically a modern-day version of Robert S. McNamara. Unfortunately, like McNamara, he continued to (publically) support an Administration with whom he clearly disagreed on many issues. Powell spoke out early during his tenure and differed with the Bush Administration on a number of issues, including the prerequisites for and expectations of an invasion of Iraq, to the point that just prior to the invasion, he repeatedly stated that there would be no action without international consensus. He seemed to be overruled, any I would guess (or at least would like to think) that he stayed on and mostly towed the party line in hopes of mitigating the worst of the damage. Instead, he became increasingly marginalized and finally resigned.

It’s easy to stand back and say that he should have spoken up then, should have spoken up later, or should speak more loudly now, but none of us are in that position. Powell may judge–correctly or incorrectly–that speaking up would have worse, more destabilizing consequences than letting events go apace. As a former Administration official, his statements have far greater impact than that of opponents or political pundits. Indeed, if it turns out that information was intentionally falsified at the direction of or with the congnizence of the President (a possibility I don’t view as entirely out of the realm of probability) then there could be significant legal impact, up to and including impeachment. While some people would welcome such proceedings (and I wouldn’t be entirely adverse to the ceremonies), someone like Powell might feel that the damage to the nation and executive structure might be worse than the alternative.


Boy, talk about your bad people to be compared to.

shrug McNamara got a lot of bad press, especially after the Morrison incident. Some of it was perhaps well deserved, and he certainly contributed to the expansion of the Vietnam War during the Johnson Administration, but the record also shows that the he repeatedly advised Johnson against widening the war and to craft an exit strategy, something Johnson completely and vehemenatly opposed. McNamara’s basic refusal to speak in detail about Vietnam has been widely regarded as complicitness, but arguing in his own defense he stayed in place to best serve the interests of the Administration. He was essentially a technocrat, executing the desires of the Executive Office in the most efficient mann, rather than a core policy-maker, which is in fact what the Secretary of Defense is supposed to do. Would it have been better had he resigned at first opposition to Johnson? Certainly Clark Clifford (nor Nixon’s appointees) did no better of a job with regard to Vietnam, and worse in other areas. And, for what it is worth, McNamara has repeatedly spoken out against the Iraq invasion. (Presumably, having no attachment to it or special knowledge of it, he doesn’t feel the need for the same kind of restraint as talking about Southeast Asia.)

For better or worse, there are some pretty strong parallels between McNamara’s tenure in the Sixties and Powell’s stint as SecDef. It’s a shame some of the lessons of the former were not better learned by the responsible parties, but I don’t think history is Bush’s (and certainly not Rumsfeld’s) best subject.


I look forward to Powell’s reflective film, The Sand Storm of War, sometime in the future.

Interviewed by Errol Morris with a Phillip Glass minimalist music score? :wink:

Like Zoe, I have a hard time believing that this is up for debate. Our moral high road–the one that at least nominally seperates us from African dictators and certain evil empires–is that we don’t invade other nations under false pretenses, we don’t imprison people without due process, and we don’t torture people, period. With some notable lapses (many involving the use of plausibly deniable proxies), official policy has been thus. Under this Administration it is apparently perfectly justifiable to do whatever is desired to “defeat the terrorists”, or whatever justification du jure is in effect. I’m not sure whether to be amazed by their honesty or galled at their belligerance; either way, it’s not something I carry to have done in my name, and particularly not under such teniable (at best) pretense.


I find it curious that this Thread lacks the company of the usual Bush supporters.

Have we reached a milestone in the Bush saga?
Will Powell’s remarks be viewed as a Rubicon to future generations of historians?

Like you I’m flabbergasted that there is even a question about this. I can hardly credit that an ex deputy Attorney General writees opinion pieces justifying torture, imprisonment without counsel and all the other items of due process.

I have a lot of problems with Powell and have had them ever since the gays in the military flap, but he is right in this case. It would be a lot better if he hadn’t thrown away his credibility. As an experienced military man he had to have known that the intelligence about WMD was shakey at best but he went ahead and argued for the war.

The Moral High Ground Is Ours, Dagnabit!