Lawrence Wilkerson was chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell from 2002 to 2005. Inside the Bush administration, he has never been a team player. Last year he told GQ, “I don’t care whether utopians are Vladimir Lenin on a sealed train to Moscow or Paul Wolfowitz. Utopians I don’t like.” He also complained that the Defense Department was mucking around in Taiwan, “delivering messages to Taiwan that ‘Taiwan needn’t worry.’ ” When he said these things, Wilkerson was still on the State Department payroll.
Now he is off the State Department payroll. In a speech this week to the New America Foundation, he laid out what I think may be the most blisteringly contemptuous critique yet of the Bush administration by a.former high-ranking official there. (Second prize: Richard Clarke, or possibly Paul O’Neill.)
Here is how Wilkerson described his time in the Bush administration:
[T]he case that I saw for four-plus years was a case that I have never seen in my study of aberrations, bastardizations, perturbations, changes to the national security decision-making process. What I saw was a cabal between the vice-president of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, on critical issues that made decisions that the bureaucracy didn’t know were being made. And then when the bureaucracy was presented with the decision to carry them out, it was presented in such a disjointed, incredible way that the bureaucracy often didn’t know what it was doing as it moved to carry them out.
Of Douglas Feith, the undersecretary of defense, Wilkerson said: “Seldom in my life have I met a dumber man.” Yet, with regard to Iraq policy, he was “given carte blanche to tell the State Department to go screw itself in a closet somewhere.”
Of President Bush, Wilkerson said he is “not versed in international relations and not too interested in them either.”
Of former national security adviser Condolezza Rice, Wilkerson said, “She made a decision she would side with the president to build her intimacy with the president.”
Quoting George Packer’s new book, The Assassin’s Gate, quoting Richard Haass, * former director of policy planning at the State Department, Wilkerson said, “To this day I still don’t know why we went to war in Iraq.” Haass declined to comment to me about the speech.
And so on. You can read the whole thing here.
Correction, Oct. 26, 2005: An earlier version of this column misspelled Haass’ name. It’s Haass, not Haas.