According to reports of what's in Bob Woodward's new book "Plan of Attack," Secretary of State Colin Powell was a reluctant team player in the invasion of Iraq:
Two months before the invasion of Iraq, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell warned President Bush about the potential negative consequences of a war, citing what Mr. Powell privately called the "you break it, you own it" rule of military action, according to a new book.
"You're sure?" Mr. Powell is quoted as asking Mr. Bush in the Oval Office on Jan. 13, 2003, as the president told him he had made the decision to go forward. "You understand the consequences," he is said to have stated in a half-question. "You know you're going to be owning this place?"
I watched with disbelief as Powell, the member of Bush's administration I've always held in the highest regard, made the case for invading Iraq before the United Nations. Not that I knew he was doing so against his best judgement, per se, but from a source very close to Powell, I've known for some time he had no intention of serving in a second Bush administration (despite his insisting otherwise publically).
So I wondered, why would this man not just quit back then. Was his sense of loyalty or responsibility such that he felt, since he had signed up for the job and Bush was his boss, he owed it to the nation to complete his term as dutifully as possible.
In Mr. Woodward's account of the meeting between Mr. Bush and Mr. Powell in January 2003, the president is described as having simply informed the secretary of state of his decision to go to war in Iraq, as part of a 12-minute meeting in which Mr. Bush made a conscious decision not to ask Mr. Powell for advice.
But, according to the book, Mr. Bush did ask Mr. Powell "Are you with me on this?" and told him, "I want you with me." Mr. Powell is quoted as having replied: "I'll do the best I can. Yes sir, I will support you. I'm with you, Mr. President."
Or was it more a sense that, as we hear about Blair, he felt he could help steer this runaway train better if on the train than from somewhere next to the tracks? I've always hoped that was it, wanting to continue to admire him. And Powell might as well play to my side of the fence now anyway:
Conservatives have long accused Mr. Powell of pursuing his own agenda, and of being more interested in depicting himself as right on the issues than as loyal to his president.
One thing is certain. There's no way Bush can try to claim he was poorly advised on what he was getting us into:
Over a period that began in early 2002, Mr. Powell is depicted as having cautioned Mr. Bush and other advisers repeatedly about the potential drawbacks of military action in Iraq. The "you break it, you own it" principle he cited in delivering those warnings was privately known to Mr. Powell and his deputy, Richard L. Armitage, as "the Pottery Barn rule," the book says.
"You are going to be the proud owner of 25 million people," Mr. Powell is said to have told Mr. Bush in the summer of 2002. "You will own all their hopes, aspirations and problems. You'll own it all."