Bob Herbert, in this morning’s New York Times, lays out some of the key themes raised by Lawrence Wilkerson in his candid and thoughtful talk at the New America Foundation last Wednesday. Herbert starts the article by noting that the White House is waiting for word of indictments of some of its heaviest guns — and into this pensive camp, Wilkerson has dropped one hell of a bomb.
From “How Scary is This?“, Herbert writes:
Lawrence Wilkerson, a retired Army colonel who served as chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, addressed the administration’s arrogance and ineptitude in a talk last week that was astonishingly candid by Washington standards.
“We have courted disaster in Iraq, in North Korea, in Iran,” said Mr. Wilkerson. “Generally, with regard to domestic crises like Katrina, Rita we haven’t done very well on anything like that in a long time. And if something comes along that is 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.”
Herbert also notes Wilkerson’s passionate anger about the treatment of prisoners under American control. While Herbert’s article does not mention it, Wilkerson actually went further and said that he and Colin Powell knew that such pervasive behavior among the military ranks was not possible unless he had been “condoned.”
Nevertheless, he is appalled at the way the war was launched and conducted, and outraged by “the detainee abuse issue.” In 10 years, he said, when this matter is “put to the acid test, ironed out, and people have looked at it from every angle, we are going to be ashamed of what we allowed to happen.”
And on why Wilkerson spoke out now. . .
Mr. Wilkerson said he has taken some heat for speaking out, but feels that “as a citizen of this great republic,” he has an obligation to do so. If nothing is done about the current state of affairs, he said, “it’s going to get even more dangerous than it already is.”
As I have written already, I believe that Larry Wilkerson should be applauded and embraced by all of those who want to see not only a more honest and transparent national security apparatus — but a more “effective” foreign and national security course for the country.
— Steve Clemons