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Thursday, January 19, 2006


Colin Powell's former chief of staff excoriates Bush administration

The Washington Post carries a story today on the severe criticism of the Bush administration from Colin Powell's former chief of staff, Larry Wilkerson, who has lost the friendship of Powell for his outspokenness.

"My wife would probably shoot me if I headed to the ballot box with a Republican vote again," he says. "This is not a Republican administration, not in my view. This is a radical administration."

Wilkerson calls Bush an unsophisticated leader who has been easily swayed by "messianic" neoconservatives and power-hungry, secretive schemers in the administration. In a landmark speech in October, Wilkerson said: "What I saw was a cabal between the vice president of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, on critical issues that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made."

He is particularly appalled by U.S. treatment of enemy detainees, counting at least 100 deaths in custody during the course of the war on terrorism -- 27 of them ruled homicides. "Murder is torture," he says. "It's not torture lite."

As for the invasion of Iraq? A blunder of historic proportions, he believes."This is really a very inept administration," says Wilkerson, who has credentials not only as an insider in the Bush I, Clinton and Bush II presidencies but also as a former professor at two of the nation's war colleges.

"As a teacher who's studied every administration since 1945, I think this is probably the worst ineptitude in governance, decision-making and leadership I've seen in 50-plus years. You've got to go back and think about that. That includes
the Bay of Pigs, that includes -- oh my God, Vietnam. That includes Iran-contra, Watergate."

Such a critique, coming from a man who was long thought to speak for Powell, is seismic in Washington power circles. Some observers used to regard Powell and Wilkerson as so close that they enjoyed a "mind meld," but now Powell distances himself from the pronouncements of his former aide.

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