Colin Powell slams Bush

might vote for Obama; Former U.S. secretary of state says presidential voting decision will be based on passion and policies
Doug Ward
Vancouver Sun

Colin Powell at a news conference Thursday before delivering speech at the Vancouver Convention & Exhibition Centre.
CREDIT: Ian Lindsay, Vancouver Sun
Colin Powell at a news conference Thursday before delivering speech at the Vancouver Convention & Exhibition Centre.

He was a four-star American general, the secretary of state during President George W. Bush’s first term and remains a Republican.

But Colin Powell said Thursday in Vancouver that he is considering voting for Democrat Barack Obama in November — and he took shots at the Bush administration’s handling of the Iraq war and the holding of terrorism suspects in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Powell told a crowd of about 1,000 people at the Vancouver Convention & Exhibition Centre that he hasn’t decided whether to support Obama or Republican John McCain for the U.S. presidency.

Powell said that Obama’s life story sums up the “American dream” and he described McCain as the “toughest man I’ve ever met.”

Powell said he told both candidates recently that he has not decided which one will have his coveted endorsement.

The African-American former general said his decision won’t be based on the race or military experience of the candidates, but on their passion and policies.

The former secretary of state discussed the controversy that drew a small but loud protest outside the convention centre — Powell’s use of flawed intelligence during his 2003 presentation at the United Nations to sell the world on the invasion of Iraq.

Powell told the audience that he wouldn’t have agreed with the decision to go to war had he known that the data about Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein having weapons of mass destruction was exaggerated.

Powell said that every word of what he called his “infamous” presentation about WMD had been vetted by the intelligence community — “and I had no reason to disbelieve it.”

The former secretary of state has previously described his prewar UN speech as a “blot” on his record.

Powell went on to say that the Bush administration fell into “disarray” over how to govern Iraq after it overthrew Hussein.

“If we had handled the aftermath of the fall of Baghdad differently then we wouldn’t be where we are today,” said Powell.

He said the new president should “draw down” the number of American troops in Iraq and hand more responsibility to Iraqi forces.

Powell said the use of torture and denial of habeas corpus at the prison for suspected terrorists at the U.S. military base in Guantanamo has diminished America’s standing in the world. “It [Guantanamo] is not a seen as a place that is consistent with what America says justice will be.”

Powell said the harshness of Guantanamo has also given “cover to a lot of really bad people around the world who say: ‘Hey, don’t lecture me, look at what you’re doing.’ “

Powell said that torture, including water-boarding, should stop at Guantanamo and that terrorism suspects should be given lawyers and afforded all the rights of the American criminal justice system.

Powell also said that the American war on terrorism has gone too far in deterring foreigners from entering the U.S., and rules governing entry to the U.S. must be relaxed.

Many well-qualified people from around the world are deciding not to study at American universities or work at medical clinics because of their fear of being hassled by U.S. authorities, he added.

“We will not be terrified into changing our way of life because of some guy [Osama bin Laden] hiding in a cave somewhere in Afghanistan.”

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