Secretary of State Colin Powell realized this weekend what other White House officials grudgingly acknowledged long ago. It’s hard to find a spot where you can make a public appearance without your mere presence causing problems that distract from the actual event.
Powell planned on visiting the Olympic games in Athens, including the official closing ceremony that took place Sunday night. Apparently, the mere plan of Powell’s visit caused major protests in the streets. According to the BBC, Powell cited “press of business in Washington” and a full work schedule as reasons for canceling his three-day trip before it even started.
But to Greek officials it was obvious why the U.S. official cancelled: to avoid facing thousands of protestors who took issue with the Bush administration’s foreign policy. Protestors naturally heralded Powell’s decision as a “huge victory.”
While Powell is a cabinet-level member of the Bush administration and his job description particularly includes foreign relations, previous statements by him make it obvious that he did not agree with the way in which President George W. Bush took the nation to war.
Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward quotes Powell in his book “Plan of Attack” as telling a general, “What the hell! What are these guys thinking about? Can’t you get these guys back in the box?” when he first got wind of Bush’s plans. The same book also notes that Powell was informed of the decision to invade Iraq after the Saudi Arabian Prince Bandar was briefed on the same subject.
When planning the actual attack and occupation of Iraq, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld went against the “Powell doctrine” in an attempt to use a small, mobile army rather than a large, overwhelming troop presence as Powell suggested.
After Powell expressed regrets about presenting a case for war against Iraq to the United Nations, , NBC’s Meet the Press moderator Tim Russert fittingly characterized his position as “in the dog house.” It is also expected that even if Bush is re-elected, Powell will not return for a second term.
Powell is therefore the last person in the Bush administration who deserves such protests. Nevertheless, his mere association with Bush was reason enough for thousands to take to the streets.
When U.S. relations are so bad that even an opponent of the war is shunned, it sends a clear message in relation to our nation’s political situation. Sadly, Bush’s stubborn “stay the course” attitude makes it unlikely that this will change before the election.