Attacks White House for confining power to small 'cabal' with presidential
OK, saying it led to bad decision on war
U.S. foreign policy is being made in secret by a small "cabal" of
powerful people like Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald
Rumsfeld, a former top Bush administration official charged yesterday.
Lawrence Wilkerson, a retired U.S. Army colonel who was chief of staff for
Secretary of State Colin Powell until they left office in January, unleashed
possibly the broadest attack on the Bush administration from one of its own
since former Counter Terrorism Chief Richard Clarke last year.
Wilkerson said "we have courted disaster in Iraq, North Korea and Iran"
and said that if there is another attack in the U.S. such as a nuclear explosion
in a U.S. city "you are going to see the ineptitude of this government."
He accused President George W. Bush of "cowboyism" in dealing with
foreign leaders and said that Cheney and Rumsfeld and others could not be kept
under control by a president "not versed in international relations and
not too interested in them either."
The White House did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Speaking at the New America Foundation, a nonpartisan think tank, Wilkerson
said his central complaint was that too much power was centered in too few people
who kept the rest of the bureaucracy in the dark.
There was a "cabal between Vice President Cheney and Secretary of Defense
Rumsfeld on critical decisions that the bureaucracy did not know was being made."
Asked what role Bush played with the "cabal," Wilkerson said the
president "was very integral to the process. When the president's [intervention]
was needed the president's office was entered by one person and the president's
consent was obtained," Wilkerson said.
Then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, who succeeded Powell, failed
to intervene to stop the "cabal" because she made a calculated decision
"to build her intimacy with the president," rather than confront his
other advisers, Wilkerson charged.
He indicated that this flawed, secretive process contributed to what he thought
was a bad decision to go to war in Iraq.
But Wilkerson said that any decision by the Bush administration to leave Iraq
"precipitously" would result in Iraq's neighbors sending in troops
and creation of a breeding ground for terrorists like Afghanistan, leading to
another major war involving the United States.
"We will have to go back and take the Middle East within a decade,"
if that happens, he said.
The Bush administration never planned for what would happen in Iraq after the
war, he said.
"There was simply no plan with regard to postwar Iraq," other than
some contingencies for humanitarian assistance, he said.
Wilkerson said that Powell, for whom he worked for 16 years at the Pentagon
as well as at State, did not agree with his decision to go public with his criticisms,
and it had led to a breach between them.
Powell is "one of the world's most loyal soldiers and feels we will overcome
these problems," Wilkerson said.