Posted by | March 18, 2009 18:05 | Filed under: Top Stories


Lawrence Wilkerson, who was chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, has some fine words for the Bush administration and, in particular, the recent reasoning of former Vice President Cheney.

  • The first of these is the utter incompetence of the battlefield vetting in Afghanistan during the early stages of the U.S. operations there. Simply stated, no meaningful attempt at discrimination was made in-country by competent officials, civilian or military, as to who we were transporting to Cuba for detention and interrogation.

  • The second dimension that is largely unreported is that several in the U.S. leadership became aware of this lack of proper vetting very early on and, thus, of the reality that many of the detainees were innocent of any substantial wrongdoing, had little intelligence value, and should be immediately released.

  • The third basically unknown dimension is how hard Secretary of State Colin Powell and his deputy Richard Armitage labored to ameliorate the GITMO situation from almost day one.

For example, Ambassador Pierre Prosper, the U.S. envoy for war crimes issues, was under a barrage of questions and directions almost daily from Powell or Armitage to repatriate every detainee who could be repatriated.

This was quite a few of them, including Uighurs from China and, incredulously, citizens of the United Kingdom (“incredulously” because few doubted the capacity of the UK to detain and manage terrorists).Standing resolutely in Ambassador Prosper’s path was Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld who would have none of it. Rumsfeld was staunchly backed by the Vice President of the United States, Richard Cheney. Moreover, the fact that among the detainees was a 13 year-old boy and a man over 90, did not seem to faze either man, initially at least.

  • The fourth unknown is the ad hoc intelligence philosophy that was developed to justify keeping many of these people, called the mosaic philosophy. Simply stated, this philosophy held that it did not matter if a detainee were innocent. Indeed, because he lived in Afghanistan and was captured on or near the battle area, he must know something of importance (this general philosophy, in an even cruder form, prevailed in Iraq as well, helping to produce the nightmare at Abu Ghraib).

Wilkerson underscores how Cheney continues to mask his failings by the comment in his recent Politico interview that 61 detainees released from Gitmo have gone back to being terrorists.  If anything this is an indictment of the incompetence of his administration.

So, the fact that the Bush administration was so incompetent that it released 61 terrorists, is a valid criticism of the Obama administration? Or was this supposed to be an indication of what percentage of the still-detained men would likely turn to terrorism if released in future? Or was this a revelation that men kept in detention such as those at GITMO–even innocent men–would become terrorists if released because of the harsh treatment meted out to them at GITMO? Seven years in jail as an innocent man might do that for me. Hard to tell.


As for the fear-mongering: “When we get people who are more interested in reading the rights to an Al Qaeda (sic) terrorist than they are with protecting the United States against people who are absolutely committed to do anything they can to kill Americans, then I worry,” Cheney said. Who in the Obama administration has insisted on reading any al-Qa’ida terrorist his rights? More to the point, who in that administration is not interested in protecting the United States–a clear implication of Cheney’s remarks.

But far worse is the unmistakable stoking of the 20 million listeners of Rush Limbaugh, half of whom we could label, judiciously, as half-baked nuts. Such remarks as those of the former vice president’s are like waving a red flag in front of an incensed bull. And Cheney of course knows that.

  • Lastly, there is the now prevalent supposition, recently reinforced by the new team in the White House, that closing down our prison facilities at Guantanamo Bay would take some time and development of a highly complex plan. Because of the unfortunate political realities now involved–Cheney’s recent strident and almost unparalleled remarks about the dangers of pampering terrorists, and the vulnerability of the Democrats in general on any national security issue–this may have some truth to it.

But in terms of the physical and safe shutdown of the prison facilities it is nonsense.

Seems to me it’s now obvious why Colin Powell left the Bush administration.  And, when Bush fired Rumsfeld he should have done the same to Cheney.  But he didn’t and we know where the  buck stops.  Can you imagine what the rightwingosphere would be doing if a Democratic administration had behaved this way and had released 61 detainees to commit further acts of terrorism?  All they went after Clinton for was sex. 

Wilkeron saves his most devastating comment for last:

…al-Qa’ida will be back. Iraq, GITMO, Abu Ghraib, heavily-biased U.S. support for Israel, and a host of other strategic errors have insured al-Qa’ida’sresilience, staying power and motivation. How we dealwith the future attacks of this organization and its cohorts could well seal our fate, for good or bad. Osama bin Laden and his brain trust, Aman al-Zawahiri, are counting on us to produce the bad. With people such as Cheney assisting them, they are far more likely to succeed.


But you can be sure the defenders of the last eight years and the right in general will blame “the libruls” the next time we get hit.  This, in spite of the fact that BushCo. has detained innocent people indiscriminately, started an unnecessary war in an unrelated country, and did not bring key perpetrators (remember “dead or alive“?) to justice. If we’re half the country we say we are,  that’s exactly what we’d be doing to those responsible for the mistakes chronicled above.

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Copyright 2009 Liberaland
By: Alan

Alan Colmes is the publisher of Liberaland.