Colin Powell can set the record straight on Cheney

Defiance is a constant in politics, but few politicians are as dedicated to their scripts as former Vice President Dick Cheney and even less as vitriolic towards their dissenters. In his new autobiography, In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir, Cheney contentiously writes about his years in the Bush administration – defending some of the most controversial decisions largely attributed to him and further scolding anyone who dared to disagree at the time.

In the Simon & Schuster release due out next week, it’s members of his colleagues bearing the brunt of the public scolding. On George J. Tenet, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, resigning in 2004, Cheney says he left “when the going got tough,” arguing that it was “unfair to the president.” As he questioned Tenet’s loyalty, he paints former National Security Advisor and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as one suffering from a bit of naïveté in select situations for each of her roles.

While he seems to not hold back on anyone, some of the more damaging criticism appears to have been leveled at the first Secretary of State in the Bush administration, Colin Powell. Cheney claims that the retired four-star general essentially undermined President Bush’s role as commander-in-chief by privately expressing doubts about the war in Iraq.

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Cheney felt so strongly about this that he revealed he had a lot to do with Powell being removed from the cabinet after the 2004 presidential election. Cheney writes, “It was as though he thought the proper way to express his views was by criticizing administration policy to people outside the government.” He added that he believed his resignation “was for the best.”

Perhaps this is true for Powell’s own credibility, which deservingly took a hit after he sat before the United Nations Security Council pushing for a war in Iraq with claims of links between the Iraqi government and al-Qaeda, in addition to allegations “that Saddam Hussein and his regime are concealing their efforts to produce more weapons of mass destruction.” That was clearly not the case for the rest of the country, though, as Cheney continued to advocate the most irresponsible foreign policy positions. We can now add pushing for the bombing of a Syrian nuclear reactor site to the list.

While Powell certainly lost a few fans for helping push an Iraqi invasion that then Security General of the United Nations Kofi Annan described as illegal with false information, he still remains one of the most trusted figures of an collectively untrustworthy administration.

That key point is why it would behoove the former Secretary of State to offer his own detailed account of his time with President Bush and Vice President Cheney. Cheney arrogantly paints himself as some sort of lone wolf who made the case for the tough choices needed on national security issues. This incredibly lack of self-reflection leads Cheney to defend an unpopular and unjustifiable war as well as the use of water boarding, which he refuses to brand as torture.

Cheney no doubt is hoping to capitalize on a forgetful and economically distracted general public with his brand of revisionist history.

Never mind that Cheney largely profited from every war the U.S. has entered within the last decade thanks to several Haliburton (whose company shares he still kept) no bid contracts without facing any sort of legal scrutiny. Or the fact that he – someone who deferred from military service on multiple occasions – shows no remorse in pushing the policies that resulted in the loss of lives of mostly poor American men and women who joined the military.

Cheney also fails to acknowledge that his long-heralded nation-building strategy has proven itself not to be as effective as more genuinely diplomatic approaches like those that have resulted in the fall of several governments in Arab countries in recent months.

This failure is rooted in Cheney’s pompous attitude that pushes him to evade legitimate challenges to his point-of-view at all costs. Though such narrow-mindedness might have cost Powell his job in 2004, it doesn’t have to further soil his reputation now.

It’s already quite likely that future generations will wonder why President Bush and Vice President Cheney didn’t face more severe consequences for the Iraqi war and use of torture. But in that administration’s collective efforts to whitewash history, it’d be nice to at least have the footnote to say that someone a part of that original team stood up to be more forthright about their numerous failures and the subsequent consequences.