Excerpt: "Soldier: the Life of Colin Powell"

Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan said he hoped that any country that possessed evidence would turn it over to the inspectors and called for the "utmost effort" to work toward a political solution. Igor Ivanov agreed and said that Powell's information had provided more, not less, impetus to continue inspections. De Villepin noted that there were still "grey areas" in Iraq's cooperation with inspectors, a good reason to increase the number of U.N. personnel on the ground.

Much of the world seemed similarly underwhelmed. British reaction was divided, with conservative commentators agreeing that Powell had proven the case for war, while liberal ones, along with the majority of the population, remained doubtful. Among Iraq's neighbors, The Jordan Times said that "these new elements did not amount to convincing evidence of Iraqi noncompliance, or that Iraq presents any real or imminent danger to any party." But an editorial in Israel's conservative Jerusalem Post exulted, "Scratch everything we've said about Secretary of State Colin Powell. We love him." Saddam Hussein told Tony Benn, a visiting British member of Parliament, "[t]here is only one truth. . . . As I have said on many occasions before . . . Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction whatsoever."

But if world opinion largely rejected Powell's argument as a justification for war, his speech was an overwhelming success at home. U.S. public opinion shifted literally overnight to support for dealing forcefully with Iraq. A Newsweek poll taken just after the speech found that half of all Americans surveyed were now ready to go to war, compared to only a third the previous month. Three out of four Americans who told Los Angeles Times pollsters that they had watched, listened to or heard about Powell's presentation said that the United States had proved its case against Iraq. A Washington Post editorial called the evidence "irrefutable" and said that Powell's case made it "hard to imagine how anyone could doubt that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction." Even the war-wary New York Times said that Powell had made "the most powerful case to date that Saddam Hussein stands in defiance of Security Council resolutions and has no intention of revealing or surrendering whatever unconventional weapons he may have." Mary McGrory, the grande dame of liberal political columnists and one of the harshest critics of the administration's hawkish stance, said she had been persuaded. "I'm not ready for war yet," McGrory wrote. "But Colin Powell has convinced me that it might be the only way to stop a fiend, and that if we do go, there is a reason."

Republican politicians were euphoric, and many previously skeptical Democrats said they had been convinced. Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota called the speech "a powerful, methodical and compelling presentation," and California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, who had expressed strong doubts about the allegations made in Bush's State of the Union address, now conceded that "I no longer think inspections are going to work." "If Saddam Hussein does not disarm," said Massachusetts Senator John F. Kerry, now a Democratic presidential contender, "he will have chosen to make regime change the ultimate weapons enforcement mechanism."

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