Wilkerson said Powell was "simply not opposed to the war," citing the former Secretary of State's now infamous trip to the United Nations in February 2003 in which he testified that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction as proof that he wasn't undermining Bush. Instead, Wilkerson said he actually criticized Powell for "expressing too much support" for the war and explained that he used his own military experience to advise Powell that the U.S. military wasn't finished with its job in Afghanistan and the military would be stretched too thin. He said he registered "all manner of objections" to Powell, adding that "some of those probably leaked" but that Powell wasn't objecting to the war.
"From what I've read, Cheney seems to criticize everyone, including President Bush, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, [Deputy Secretary of State] Rich Armitage, and a host of others except himself. Waterboarding is a war crime, unwarranted surveillance… all of which are crimes. I don't care whether the president authorized him to do it or not, they are crimes," Wilkerson said. "Cheney was a good secretary of defense in my view. In fact I would put him up amongst the top three in the short history of the position. No longer do I feel that way, and I don't know what happened to Cheney."
Wilkerson levels a serious charge that he believes Powell was misled before going to the United Nations in 2003, beginning the march to war in Iraq.
"I think he was misled by the DCI [Director of Central Intelligence] George Tenet, by the deputy DCI John McLaughlin and by the vice president of the United States who had put Tenet and McLaughlin under such pressure that they dared not respond except with the message that the vice president wanted them to respond with," Wilkerson said. "[Cheney] had been out there [to the CIA] a dozen times to put his personal imprint on George Tenet, John McLaughlin and others so that they would know positively what he wanted, and what he wanted was war with Iraq."
Tenet declined to comment for the article, but he paints a different picture in his own memoir, "At the Center of the Storm," about how the U.N. speech came about.
Wilkerson added that he was struck that Cheney doesn't seem to admit any mistakes or backtrack any of the decisions he made during his time in the administration.
"There are plenty of people who have written their memoirs and have had battles to fight in those memoirs who have not been as acidic or acerbic as Cheney is and I can't think of anyone … who have not at least admitted to a mistake here and there or at least given some extenuating circumstances. Cheney doesn't seem capable of that," Wilkerson said.
Wilkerson adds, "Something happened to Dick Cheney and it wasn't just 9/11," which Cheney cites as deeply changing him. Wilkerson said the former vice president always "coveted power" and that Cheney was "fully expecting that he was going to be vice-president" when he headed up the search team for Bush.
"I can't speak to the psychosomatic or the genetic problems with heart attacks or whatever, but I can speak to power," Wilkerson said. "He wanted desperately to be president of the United States … he knew the Texas governor was not steeped in anything but baseball, so he knew he was going to be president and I think he got his dream. He was president for all practical purposes for the first term of the Bush administration."