With Minor Edits, Colin Powell Actually Makes Sense

By Stephen Gowans

You've got to feel sorry for Colin Powell, the American Secretary of State. So many people asking him so many tough questions, and he has to come up with intelligent answers without even a moment's thought. Maybe that's why some of his answers seem, well, a little ham-handed.

Like this one. On June 13, Canadian reporters asked him about the Middle East. "Only when two peoples have their own state, living side by side in peace with each other, will we be able to go forward to find peace." Kind of figures, doesn't it? When two peoples live in peace, somehow, peace just breaks out.

Of course, I know Powell didn't intend to answer quite like this. He just did. He didn't have the advantage of editing himself.

But what if he did? What if he could give an answer, play it back, and then edit what he said, so that his answer made more sense? It would sure save a lot of people wear and tear on their scalps, with all that head scratching the Secretary of State's words set in motion.

More practically, maybe what he needs is someone to trail discretely after him, someone who can make a few nips and tucks here and there, so that his answers could be put into a semblance of order. And then Powell's editor could announce, "What the Secretary of State meant to say is....," while Powell trundles off to his next appointment. It would save time. Not to mention a lot of misunderstanding.

Here's how it would work. Let's take what Powell had to say about Iraq at the same press conference, and show how an editor, making a few changes here, inserting a more appropriate word there, could whip this into something more closely resembling the truth than what Powell actually said.

Powell's unedited words:

"People should be nervous about the fact that there is a country such as Iraq, with all that wealth available to it...that is using that wealth to develop chemical, biological and even nuclear weapons in order to threaten innocent people throughout the Persian Gulf region, and, in due course, perhaps even threaten us here, this far away.

That capability might well fall into the hands of terrorists, so while people focus on 'will the United States take action or not?' and that causes them to be agitated, they should be more agitated about what's going on in Iraq and the nature of that regime."

Now here's Powell's words again, with a few edits.

"People should be nervous about the fact that there is a country such as the United States, with all that wealth available to it...that is using that wealth to develop chemical, biological and even nuclear weapons in order to threaten innocent people throughout the Persian Gulf region, in Afghanistan, in Iran, in Syria, in Cuba, in North Korea, and, in fact, all the people of the world.

That capability might well fall into the hands of terrorists, so while people focus on 'will Iraq develop weapons of mass destruction or will Cuba develop biological weapons?' and that causes them to be agitated, they should be more agitated about what's going on in the United States and the nature of that regime."

That's a lot better, don't you think? Closer to the truth, anyway.