Speaking to the BBC on Tuesday, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson continued the practice of speaking frankly that he initiated last month. -- Wilkerson, former chief of staff for Colin Powell when he was secretary of state, said that Vice President Dick Cheney could well be guilty of "advocating terror." -- "The retired U.S. Army colonel told the BBC that more than 70 prisoners, 'and up to 90, people are now telling me,' had died in what he termed "questionable circumstances," Rupert Cornwell reported Wednesday. -- Col. Wilkerson said, essentially, that Dick Cheney had made policy independently of and in opposition to the president: "Mr. Bush had tried to steer a middle course, whereby the Geneva Conventions would apply to 'all but al-Qa'ida and al-Qa'ida look-alikes,' Col Wilkerson told the BBC yesterday. That policy was defensible in legal terms, but was quickly undermined in practice. -- Under Mr. Cheney's protection, 'the Secretary of Defence moved out to do what they wanted to do in the first place.' Asked whether the Vice-President was guilty of a war crime, Col Wilkerson said it was 'an interesting question.' It was certainly a domestic crime 'to advocate terror,' and 'I would suspect it is -- for whatever it's worth, an international crime as well.'" ...
CHENEY 'CREATED CLIMATE FOR U.S. WAR CRIMES'
By Rupert Cornwell
November 30, 2005
WASHINGTON -- A leading aide to the former secretary of state Colin Powell has accused Vice-President Dick Cheney of creating the climate in which prisoner abuse could flourish, and implied that he might have committed war crimes.
Lawrence Wilkerson, General Powell's chief of staff until January this year, alleged that U.S. policy on Iraq before and after the March 2003 invasion had been hijacked by an alliance between Mr. Cheney and the Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld -- fostered by President George Bush's "detached" attitude to details of post-war planning.
He also suggested that the faulty intelligence used to justify the war had been at the least "cherry-picked" by the White House and the Pentagon.
The controversy over prisoner abuse and torture has recently flared up anew in Washington. But for Colonel Wilkerson, the problem has arisen as the result of an "alternative decision-making process," led by Mr. Cheney and Mr. Rumsfeld.
Mr. Bush had tried to steer a middle course, whereby the Geneva Conventions would apply to "all but al-Qa'ida and al-Qa'ida look-alikes," Col Wilkerson told the BBC yesterday. That policy was defensible in legal terms, but was quickly undermined in practice.
Under Mr. Cheney's protection, "the Secretary of Defence moved out to do what they wanted to do in the first place." Asked whether the Vice-President was guilty of a war crime, Col Wilkerson said it was "an interesting question." It was certainly a domestic crime "to advocate terror," and "I would suspect it is -- for whatever it's worth, an international crime as well."
The former State Department aide's outburst came on the eve of a major speech on Iraq by Mr. Bush, in which the President is expected to set out conditions for a reduction of U.S. troop strength in Iraq.
Mr. Bush said yesterday that there would be no immediate withdrawal: "We want to win, and I don't want the troops to come home without having achieved victory." The U.S. "has sacrificed a lot" in Iraq, including the lives of more than 2,100 of its troops. "We're not going to cut and run, we will achieve our objective," he declared.
But for Col. Wilkerson, the situation has been made far worse by poor post-war planning, and the abuse of some foreign detainees, which had blotted the reputation of the U.S. around the world.
The retired U.S. Army colonel told the BBC that more than 70 prisoners, "and up to 90, people are now telling me," had died in what he termed "questionable circumstances." There were two sides to the debate in government: one grouped around Gen Powell insisting that the Geneva Conventions must be respected; the other around the then Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales.
President Bush had sought a compromise, but, Col. Wilkerson told the Associated Press in a separate interview, he was "too aloof, too distant from the details of post-war planning," allowing lower officials to exploit this "detachment" and make the wrong decisions.
The former Powell aide also cast strong doubt on the regime's explanation for the use of faulty intelligence to justify the invasion.
Until recently, Col. Wilkerson said, he had tended to accept the White House explanation that -- along with the intelligence services of Britain, Germany and other countries -- the CIA and other U.S. agencies had simply been fooled over Iraq's presumed weapons threat. "You begin to wonder, was this intelligence spun? Was it politicized? Was it cherry-picked? I am beginning to have my concerns," Col. Wilkerson said.