Colin Powell's former chief of staff called on Friday for a special prosecutor to be appointed and "armed to the teeth" to investigate the authorization of torture by Bush administration officials. He also stated that the lawyers involved in drafting the "torture memos" should be disbarred, but he held out little hope that the political will exists for either course of action to take place.
In an email exchange with the Huffington Post, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson did not shy away from describing what he thought would be an apt punishment for the Bush officials involved in implementing controversial detainee interrogation programs:
"First, the lawyers," he wrote. "I feel that [Alberto] Gonzales, [David] Addington, [John] Yoo, [Jay] Bybee, [Defense Department General Counsel William J.] Haynes and [Douglas] Feith should be, at a minimum, disbarred... That, in my view, is punishment enough for them..."
"Second, the decision-makers and their closest advisors (particularly the ones among the latter who may, on their own, have twisted the dagger a little deeper in Caesar's prostrate body -- Rumsfeld and Feith for instance). Appoint a special prosecutor such as Fitzgerald, armed to the teeth, and give him or her carte blanche. Play the treatment of any intermediaries -- that is, between the grunts on the ground and the Oval -- as the law allows and the results demand."
An eagerness for accountability aside, Wilkerson tempered his remarks by noting that the likelihood of disbarment or prosecution seemed, at the moment, quite distant.
"Is there the political will to carry either of these recommendations to meaningful consequences?" he added. "No, and there won't be. So why waste the time and the resources in the first place? 'The moving finger writes and having writ, moves on...'"
As the chief aide to then-Secretary of State Powell, Wilkerson had a front-row seat, of sorts, to the the early chapters of the Bush administration's "war on terror." But he said that, reflecting the surreptitious nature of issue, Powell's office was left in the dark as these policies were crafted. The February 7, 2002, memo that laid out legal justifications by which the U.S could skirt the Geneva Conventions in its treatment of detainees, for example, came as a complete surprise to him and Powell.
"I did not have knowledge of anything but the debate -- and then the decision memo," he said. "I had no knowledge of the techniques and methods that were then developed, nor the legal reasoning behind them, until after the photos of Abu Ghraib broke in the Spring of 2004 and the Secretary charged me and his lawyer, Will Taft, to find out what had happened. By the time I left State in January '05, I was beginning to compile and analyze documents, classified and open source, and had conducted inquiries that gave me deep concern."
Out of office, Wilkerson began publicly expressing his concern over the treatment of detainees by the White House and the role that Vice President Dick Cheney, in particular, played in authorizing enhanced interrogation and even torture. He also spoke out repeatedly on the failures and manipulation of intelligence to bring the United States into the Iraq War, calling Powell's now infamous presentation before the United Nations -- which he helped prep -- the "lowest point in my professional life."
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