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Time to go

By Tim Rollins
web posted January 28, 2002

Colin PowellIn what can only be described as time to go, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State Colin Powell (right) has shown that he is (a), too much a soldier, (b), not enough a diplomat or statesman, and (c), a liability when it comes to the handling of the 158 detainees that are currently being held at the United States Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  Their current situation as to their being handled was well described my friend and colleague Robert Yoho in his column last Friday, which I would recommend highly for your reading.

In a four-page internal memo obtained by The Washington Times, Powell makes a request of the Bush White House that said detainees be classified as Prisoners of War under rules of the Geneva Convention.  Sources within the administration have all but unanimously spiked the idea in what is a major rift within the ranks of the Bush team – and for a player with a major portfolio such as foreign affairs that Powell holds, it does not take a brain surgeon to figure out that he is sucking up to the Europeans, who are more interested in saving their own hide from possible reprisals than anything else.

Oh, sure, the NATO children voted for a unanimous invoking of Article 5 – the first ever, following the September 11 attacks, but talk is cheap.  Other than Great Britain, I have yet to see anyone else really walk the walk.  Powell's move of what could only be considered professional suicide was done for one reason only that I could think of, and that was to placate the Europeans – like their opinion really matters on this one.

Was it their two leading cities attacked that fateful day?  Did they have to fill over 3000 body bags?  Of course they didn't.  Are their social services being stretched beyond the limit because of the actions of 19 suicide jockeys, some of whom passed on the opportunity to get laid in Boston the night before because they had to (get a load of this) stay within budget?  It seems to me that if most of these "suicide bombers” knew they were going to be meeting Allah, they'd be looking to make the most of their last night on Earth.  On the other hand, if these people really knew and understood the Quran, they would have had nothing to do with this madness.

According to the memo forwarded to the President with Powell's request, Powell faces stiff – no, make that almost unanimous opposition at both the White House as well as at the Justice Department.  Here are the problems I find with Powell's idea, and why I, as a former military man have problems with Powell's idea behind POW designation.

First of all, such a designation only goes to uniformed personnel.  Neither the Taliban nor al-Qaeda are uniformed personnel, thus they fail they the first test.  Second, they are not the organized military of a legitimate government as no country other than Pakistan recognized the Taliban, and even they pulled the plug after 9/11.  Lastly, giving POW status to these detainees and conferring prisoner status on them would legally place them in a position to where they could restrict their answers to name and date of birth only.

In an effort to obtain the necessary information from the detainees currently in U.S. custody, we need to be free from the restrictions the Geneva Convention would place on us.  Furthermore, to most of the world, the Geneva Convention is as worthless as the paper it's printed on.  Nobody else abides by it – or so it seems; the North Vietnamese beat and tortured POW's during the Vietnam War; American POW's in the Gulf were given gruel that wouldn't be fed to a dog and at least one female POW was raped while in captivity.

While I am not advocating that the U.S. lower themselves to the level of terrorists by breaking the rules of the Geneva Convention, I believe that the rules in this case do not justify placing these detainees under its protection.  What's more, doing so would prevent us from getting key information that could help in preventing a repeat occurrence of the events of 9/11.

Defense Secretary Rumsfeld is right when he says that their status should remain as it is, and Powell is wrong in suggesting they should be given POW status.  Furthermore, for him to be so far off the mark from the goals and objectives signals a rift of sufficient magnitude so as to render Powell permanently incapable of being an effective spokesman or advocate of any of the President's programs or objectives.  As such, Powell should resign as he has neutralized himself, or in other words, committed both professional and political suicide.

Just as it was time for President Ford's Agriculture Secretary Earl Butz to go after making his remarks about the Pope's comments on birth control, so now is the time for Powell to step aside for the good of the country in favor of one who will advance the cause of foreign policy that the President seeks – not only to protect American interests abroad, but more especially at home.

For if those interests cannot be protected at home, as evidenced on September 11th, then those deaths were for nothing and our men and women fighting both at home and on foreign shores are fighting and dying in vain.

In short, Powell blew it, he has to go and be replaced by a true team player.  A suitable candidate who happens to be available at the moment would be former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.  A consummate team player, he knows how to work and play well with others, has dealt with the yo-yos at the United Nations and knows his way well around the international community.

What's more, Mayor Rudy would be an asset to the Bush administration and his selection would boost his presidential or senatorial ambitions, thus dealing the final deathblow to any and all ambitions Hillary Clinton may have for a return to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and that is something that would suit most Americans just fine.

 Myself included.

2002 Timothy Rollins

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