Monday, July 28, 2014         


 Print   Email   Comment | View 5 Comments   Most Popular   Save   Post   Retweet

Powell was more skeptical about Iraq than previously thought, Annan says



Colin L. Powell, who as secretary of state famously made the case for war against Iraq in 2003 with an impassioned speech at the U.N. Security Council, was more skeptical about the evidence he used to justify the U.S.-led invasion than previously known, according to a new memoir by Kofi Annan, the secretary-general at the time.

Six weeks after the Iraq invasion, Annan wrote, Powell visited his 38th-floor office at the United Nations to privately exult with him over news that U.S. forces believed they had found mobile laboratories in Iraq that the administration claimed were used by Saddam Hussein to make weapons of mass destruction — the core reason for the war.

“Kofi, they’ve made an honest man of me,” Annan quoted Powell as telling him.

Annan wrote that “the relief — and the exhaustion — was palpable. I could not help but smile along with my friend, and wanted to share in his comfort,” even though Annan himself was far from convinced. Still, Annan wrote, “I could only be impressed by the resilience of this man, who had endured so much to argue for a war he clearly did not believe in.”

Efforts to reach Powell for comment about the passage were not immediately successful. Peggy Cifrino, his office assistant, said he was traveling and contacting her only intermittently.

By now, of course, many books have been written on the run-up to the Iraq War, in which no weapons of mass destruction were ever found. Powell’s role, which some historians say irreparably harmed his credibility and derailed his political career, has also been well documented.

But the encounter between Powell and Annan, as reprised by the former secretary-general, offered a new insight into the degree of doubt harbored by Powell about putting troops on the ground in Iraq.

In a telephone interview from his Geneva office, Annan, 74, said he had decided to use that anecdote in the opening chapter of his new book, “Interventions: A Life in War and Peace,” published by The Penguin Press, because Iraq had been such an important issue during his tenure, which lasted from 1997 through the end of 2006. The Iraq War, he said, was “an event that divided the international community hopelessly — the way Syria is about to do.”

Moreover, Annan said, he regarded Powell as “a friend, highly respected, a star among the foreign ministers. And I think the presentation of the U.S. case to the council did a bit of harm to him, and I wanted to convey what happened at the time.”

The 383-page book, written in collaboration with Nader Mousavizadeh, Annan’s former adviser and speechwriter, is a chronicle of his diplomatic life. Born in Ghana, Annan is the first career U.N. official and first sub-Saharan African to rise to the post of secretary-general. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001 for his work at the U.N.

Written as part autobiography, part history lesson, it is infused with Annan’s accounts of private encounters with world leaders, including Saddam, with whom he once had an intense exchange in Baghdad, persuading him to allow weapons inspectors into Hussein’s presidential palace.

The book is also Annan’s effort to explain the circumstances behind some spectacular lapses that have been partly attributed to Annan during his tenure as secretary-general and earlier, when he ran the department in charge of U.N. peacekeeping operations.

Annan wrote that the reasons behind the U.N. failure to avert the 1994 Rwanda genocide, to take one example, were rooted in earlier peacekeeping debacles in Somalia and Haiti. Many nations that had contributed peacekeepers, led by the U.S., developed an aversion to taking such risks, Annan wrote, and the Security Council resisted ordering measures that might include the use of force.

“Fatefully, the first operation to be created in this climate was the mission to Rwanda.”

In what may be a surprise to some of Annan’s conservative critics, he expressed great admiration in the book for President George W. Bush, despite their disagreements on the Iraq War and what Annan regarded as Bush’s flawed approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Annan said Bush’s effort to combat the global AIDS epidemic represented “the biggest financial commitment by any country in history to fight a single disease.”

Annan said he had been working on the memoir for two years and was nearly finished this past winter when he got a telephone call from Ban Ki-moon, his successor as secretary-general, with an extraordinary request.

Ban wanted Annan to negotiate a diplomatic solution to the Syria uprising, as a special envoy representing the U.N. and the Arab League, where exasperation with President Bashar Assad of Syria seemed intractable.

Ban said he was asking on behalf of a group of foreign ministers, who believed that Annan’s negotiating skills could succeed in Syria.

Annan, who had dealt with Syria’s president before, consented, and the book was delayed, with the final pages to be revised.

“We had been on the verge of delivering it to the editors,” Annan said.

The Syria portion of the book, which goes on sale Sept. 4, was updated to include a tenuous cease-fire that Annan negotiated in March. But Annan is no longer the special envoy, having resigned in frustration in early August as the cease-fire was ignored.

Since then, the conflict has worsened. The 300 U.N. monitors who were to observe his cease-fire have left Syria, and a new special envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, who once worked for Annan, has now been designated his successor.

Still, Annan said, he had decided awhile ago that he would make no further revisions to the book.

Now, he said, “people are asking me if I’ll write a second book, about Syria.”

Annan said that in his multiple meetings with Assad in Damascus, he felt that he never got through to him. “Initially I felt he was in denial,” Annan said. “He felt like most of his problems were being caused by outsiders. If outsiders were to leave Syria alone, they would resolve their problems in no time.”

Leaders like Assad, he said, “tend to believe in the world they create.”

 Print   Email   Comment | View 5 Comments   Most Popular   Save   Post   Retweet

You must be subscribed to participate in discussions
By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. Because only subscribers are allowed to comment, we have your personal information and are able to contact you. If your comments are inappropriate, you may receive a warning, and if you persist with such comments you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email commentfeedback@staradvertiser.com.
Leave a comment

Please login to leave a comment.
manakuke wrote:
There are no simple answers to the quagmire of the Middle East A great general saw this.
on August 30,2012 | 06:02AM
thos wrote:
Of all the mistakes G. W. Bush made, arguably his worst was to embrace Colin L. Powell and make him SecState. Colin L. Powell is a snake pure and simple. Saying one thing to his boss and "friend" the President and quite another in off the record remarks to his pals in the media in which he undermined Bush time and time again. The sharpest knife he drove into the back of the man who had shown him undying loyalty, was to remain silent for almost two years while Scooter Libby was crucified and later sent to jail for an offense -- the so called "outing" of Valarie Plame -- that Powell knew full well was false. And how did he know? Because it was his own deputy Armitage who had outed Plame. Colin L. Powell's "loyalty" extends to Colin L. Powell AND NO FURTHER. With a "friend' like Colin L. Powell, one needs no enemies.
on August 30,2012 | 06:16AM
Hugo wrote:
Photos of the "mobile laboratories" show a military field kitchen, without a top to provide concealment from photo reconnaissance. The two large biological "culture vats" on each trailer are actually what anybody that has ever been in a military mess kitchen are double-bottom (rice) cookers. Powell, as an Army General would know this. Me, as a veteran, know this because I had to stir stuff in them with the "canoe paddle".
on August 30,2012 | 10:28AM
manakuke wrote:
The tyrant had a negative track record; toxic chemical weapons -----he did that, -----SCUD missiles against Israelis ---- he did that. So Mr. Tyrant was bit in the butt. No surprise. By the way yellow cake was confirmed and disposed of.
on August 30,2012 | 01:48PM
Kuniarr wrote:
Saddam Hussein fooled the Western intelligence community into believing Iraq had WMD. Saddam had to make it appear that he had WMD because his greatest fear was an Iran invasion of Iraq whose military capabilities was greatly damaged during the Liberation of Kuwait. Iraqi armor was devastated by the incessant air strikes during the Kuwait liberation and what was remaining of Iraqi armor was decimated in a battle against US armor. Iraqi air might was non-existent. To convince the Western intelligence community that Iraq had WMD, Saddam deliberately prevented UN nuclear inspectors from visiting sites which actually were not worth inspecting. What Saddam failed to calculate is that the US would actually invade Iraq. Saddam had counted on the US not invading Iraq to avoid lots of casualties. What Saddam failed to remember is that the US suffered little casualties during the liberation of Kuwait which is why Bush was willing to commit the US to the invasion of Iraq. But what Bush did not anticipate was Terrorist resistance to occupation.
on August 31,2012 | 11:38PM