- The release of a documentary on the administration's failures in Iraq, "No End in Sight," directed by Charles Ferguson, has the White House spooked. Bush's aides are not worried because the film is brilliantly shot and edited, or because it is compelling, but because of what -- or whose appearance -- it might augur to upset their September rollout.
The film features three former administration officials speaking on camera as unreserved critics of prewar and postwar planning: Powell's former chief of staff, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson; Powell's former deputy secretary of state, Richard Armitage; and former U.S. ambassador Barbara Bodine, a senior member of the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance in Iraq, closely aligned with Powell.
Wilkerson and Bodine have spoken out before. But Armitage's debut in particular has the White House fuming and fretting that it somehow signals Powell's emergence as a full-throated critic in the middle of the September P.R. offensive. National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, according to sources close to him, has voiced anger and concern about whether Powell will step forward and what he might say, and other presidential aides are wondering how to cope with that nightmarish possibility.
Throughout the excruciating years of his slow destruction, no one served Powell less ably than Powell. To the degree that his abusers and tormentors may be haunted, he is more haunted. Powell's aides are now on the front line of criticism against the administration, while he obviously simmers, pretending to be happily retired. He travels the country delivering motivational speeches, a theater of make-believe, as though he were the same Colin Powell as before Bush. While he preaches his secrets of success, he can see the neoconservative architects of failure in Iraq who demonized him distributed among the leading Republican candidates for president. There is not one among them who does not boast neocon dominance of his foreign policy circle. Powell's absence cedes the political terrain to those who ousted him from office. Notwithstanding his tarnished reputation, he has a final chance to regain his dignity and at least some of his previous standing by stepping forward at the crucial hour. Does he accept his marginalization as permanent? He is Banquo's ghost, but will he make an appearance at Bush's banquet?