Colin Powell, In His Own Words

In a recent interview, the former Secretary of State spoke about the Iraq war, U.S. preparedness, difficulties within the White House and the stain on his career from presenting incorrect information to the United Nations.

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

This election year, the driving issue so far has not been a last-minute expose but something more than three years old. NPR's senior news analyst Daniel Schorr has some thought about one of the men who made it happen.

DANIEL SCHORR: Between Karen DeYoung's biography of Colin Powell and Bob Woodward's State of Denial, you can learn a lot about how Powell, one of America's most trusted figures, became the front man for President Bush's biggest mistake.

I have an interest in Powell that goes a bit beyond journalism. He is a co-product of the Bronx and a co-alumnus of New York City College. And so I'd like to hear about his travail in the run-up to the Iraqi War in his own words. The magazine of the AARP helped me by interviewing him at great length and publishing a verbatim account. I quote from this. About the United Nations speech asserting Iraqis stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction that didn't exist.

Powell. When people ask me, is this a blot on your record? Yeah, okay, fine. It's a blot on my record. It's there for everybody to see forever. But do you want me to walk around saying, I have a blot on my record every day?

About why he did not resign as secretary of state once it became clear that the Iraqi weapons assertion was untrue.

Powell. Why will I have quit? Because we had bad intelligence? If I had been lied to, that would be different. Why would there be a suggestion that I was disloyal because I stayed with the president on policy?

About conflicts with Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Powell. More often than not, we fought these things out in a setting where all of us were present and we all had the opportunity to speak. It's not a basis to say, nah, nah, nah, somebody went in there and I wasn't there and so I'm going to take my marbles and quit.

About Powell's assertion that the troops deployed for the invasion were insufficient.

Powell. We weren't prepared to do what was necessary to own the country, and dominate the country, and to keep an insurgency from breaking out.

About administration policy on terrorism.

Powell. Only if we start being so afraid that we don't let people come to this country, we don't want any foreigners here, we let the terrorists scare us so badly that we don't go to football games and we're afraid to go here and we're afraid to go there, which was something of the case in 2001 in the fall. We're coming out of it. We are righting ourselves and we've got to stay upright.

Colin Powell, in his own words.

This is Daniel Schorr.

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