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Wednesday, November 26, 2014
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Published: Friday, 5/2/2003

Unfriendly fire

The neo-conservatives in and around the White House still have their long knives out for Secretary of State Colin Powell over the Bush Administration's post-war policy toward Syria.

That much is apparent when Newt Gingrich scuttles into public view to proclaim - in McCarthy-like tones - that Mr. Powell is throwing away “all the fruits of hard-won victory” in Iraq by preparing to visit Syria on a diplomatic mission.

Never mind that Mr. Powell is only carrying out the instructions of President Bush, who has decided to rest his military juggernaut in the Middle East for the time being.

Odder still, Mr. Gingrich, the former speaker of the House, is an adviser to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld as a member of the quasi-public Defense Policy Board.

Could it be that Mr. Rumsfeld, through complicity in Mr. Gingrich's intemperate attack on Mr. Powell, is trying to consolidate his influence and authority within the administration in the wake of the successful foray against Iraq?

Or maybe the militarists are intent on stripping Mr. Powell of any foreign policy credibility he hasn't already sacrificed by pleading the administration's patently illegal doctrine of pre-emptive force before an unbelieving world community.

In wartime, assaulting someone wearing the same uniform is known as fratricide. In Washington, it's a blood sport at any time.

So cynical has political discourse become that there are even suggestions that Mr. Gingrich spoke not for himself or Mr. Rumsfeld, but on behalf of the President to reassure the right-wing that there will be only a slight pause in his military push against the “axis of evil.”

Mr. Gingrich, in a speech to the rightist American Enterprise Institute, bashed Mr. Powell's planned trip to Syria and urged the administration to shake up the State Department, which he condemned as “a broken instrument of diplomacy.”

That was an unmistakable attack on Mr. Powell, but unmerited. President Bush never intended that diplomacy might succeed in ousting Saddam Hussein. It was to be a military show all along, and Mr. Powell's diplomatic efforts were only window dressing at best.

Though the secretary of state has been tainted by the pre-emptive force initiative, he remains the only administration figure with any credibility in the international diplomacy game. He is far more crucial to the best interests of the United States than Newt Gingrich and the rest of the neo-conservative hawks.



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