Et tu, Colin?

By Mark Follman
February 4, 2004 7:39AM (UTC)
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First, former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill all but called the president a dunce. Now, the Bush administration's prize moderate and voice of reason, Secretary of State Colin Powell, has broken ranks with the administration line on the necessity of invading Iraq. With the prospect of finding weapons of mass destruction there fast evaporating, the Bush administration has been steadily backing away in recent days from its pre-war assertion that Saddam had large, lethal stockpiles at his disposal. But on Tuesday, Powell -- whose U.N. presentation convinced many that Saddam posed an imminent threat -- went much further. Though he still emphasizes that invading Iraq was "the right thing to do," Powell told the Washington Post in an interview that had he known there were no Iraqi WMD a year ago, he might not have advocated the invasion.

"If CIA Director George Tenet had said a year ago today, if U.S. weapons inspector David Kay had said, that there are no stockpiles, would you still have recommended the invasion?"


"I don't know. I don't know, because it was the stockpile that presented the final little piece that made it more of a real and present danger and threat to the region and to the world... The absence of a stockpile changes the political calculus. It changes the answer you get, the formula..."

As investigations get underway into the intelligence (or political) debacle that led to the erroneous WMD claims, Powell's sudden wobbliness on the war is bad news for the super-disciplined Bush team, which has never deviated from its insistence that Saddam was too dangerous to leave in power.

Mark Follman

Mark Follman is Salon's deputy news editor. Read his other articles here.

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