"Political language -- and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists -- is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind."
-- George Orwell, Politics and the English Language
Speaking on CBS' "Face the Nation," Powell seemed to draw as much from his 35-year Army career, including four years as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as from his more recent and difficult tenure as Bush's chief diplomat.
The summer surge of U.S. troops to try to stabilize Baghdad failed, he said, and any new attempt is unlikely to succeed. "If somebody proposes that additional troops be sent, if I was still chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, my first question ... is what mission is it these troops are supposed to accomplish? ... Is it something that is really accomplishable? ... Do we have enough troops to accomplish it?"
Although he said he agrees with Gen. John Abizaid, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, that there should be an increase in U.S. advisers to the Iraqi military, he said that "sooner or later, you have to begin the baton pass, passing it off to the Iraqis for their security and to begin the drawdown of U.S. forces. I think that's got to happen sometime before the middle of next year."
Before any decision to increase troops, he said, "I'd want to have a clear understanding of what it is they're going for, how long they're going for. And let's be clear about something else. ... There really are no additional troops. All we would be doing is keeping some of the troops who were there, there longer and escalating or accelerating the arrival of other troops."
He added: "That's how you surge. And that surge cannot be sustained."
The "active Army is about broken," Powell said. Even beyond Iraq, the Army and Marines have to "grow in size, in my military judgment," he said, adding that Congress must provide significant additional funding to sustain them.
I think it's terrific that General Powell is speaking his mind. I just wish he had done so in, oh, late '02-early '03. That would have been infinitely more helpful.