Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, former State Department Chief of Staff, has been cooperating with the media to deepen and broaden his commentary on the breakdown of the national security decision making process in the White House.
Wilkerson’s comments have continued to help keep the White House off balance and unable to distract the nation from the subject of the Libby indictments, the hyping of Iraq WMD intelligence, and prisoner detention abuse.
This morning on National Public Radio, Lawrence Wilkerson made the statement that Vice President Cheney is the individual most responsible for the pervasive and disturbing prisoner abuse scandal.
Here is an excerpt from Editor & Publisher:
His initial blast, on Oct. 19, at a luncheon in Washington, D.C. drew wide press attention. Now Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, is at it again. In an interview for National Public Radio he charged that Vice President Cheney’s office–and new chief aide David Addingtoon–was responsible for directives which led to U.S soldiers abusing prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Wilkerson said he had some hard evidence: a trail of memos and directives authorizing questionable detention practices up through Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s office directly to Cheney’s staff. The directives, he said, contradicted a 2002 order by President Bush for the military to abide by the Geneva Convention rules against torture.
The former Powell aide, in his October statements, declared that Cheney and Rumsfeld operated a “cabal” that had hijacked U.S. foreign and military policy.
President Bush tried in a Monday morning news blitz to turn the attention of the nation towards debates about the Supreme Court by nominating the controversial Appellate Court Judge Samuel Alito, Jr. and away from the Friday afternoon indictments of Vice President Chief of Staff I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby.
Just as fast, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid stole the focus of national attention back by shutting down public access to the Senate and invoking Rule 21, a “Closed Door Session”, to focus on the failure of Senator Pat Roberts as Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to produce a long-promised report on the use and abuse of intelligence by the Bush administration in the lead-up to the Iraq invasion. Reid’s move was planned, purposeful, and brilliant in shutting down the White House’s Alito-focused media machine.
The rest of this week, there has been a tug-of-war to control the “national conversation”. However, those focused on the Iraq War, on Vice President Cheney’s role in promoting torture as a tool of the state, and on Karl Rove’s unresolved legal mess have one the day over those who want to compel a battle now about Sam Alito.
Saturday morning at 10 a.m., the President will use his radio address to focus solely on Alito and the Supreme Court.
But CNN reports that Bush today did what Scott McClellan did yesterday: he failed to extend to Karl Rove his legendary “full faith in the man” comment.
As CNN reports:
President Bush said Friday he would not comment on the status at the White House of deputy chief of staff Karl Rove until an investigation into his role in the leak of a CIA agent’s name was completed.
Bush, taking questions from reporters on the fringes of the Summit of the Americas in Argentina, called the CIA leak probe a “very serious investigation,” a week after a vice presidential aide, Lewis Libby, was indicted in the case.
“The investigation on Karl as you know is not completed,” Bush said. “Therefore I will not comment about him and/or the investigation.”
For those who don’t watch these matters every day, the President’s less than robust comment about his “architect” is highly unusual — and means that the President is no longer making his own weather and his own reality. The White House is having to react to things happening to the administration — and is off balance while still trying to steady matters.
So, even the President can’t stay off the subject of the Iraq intel mess, Plame, and his staff.
While the American public may be getting a good case of whiplash from this back and forth struggle over the national agenda — this is the first time in years that the Democrats — as well as moderate Republicans like John McCain, Chuck Hagel, and Lindsey Graham who are very angry about the revelations about governmental support for torture (kudos to Dana Priest) — have been able to go punch for punch with this White House.
For those interested, I will be on CNN tonight, some time around 9 p.m. eastern, talking about this “whiplash” effect in national news struggles and how blogs see it.