Bless him and Tony Blair
Wil S. Hylton, "Casualty of War," GQ, June 2004.
"[National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice] claimed that [Secretary of State Colin Powell and Vice President Dick Cheney] are "more than on speaking terms: They're friendly...very friendly"— [Powell's friend and mentor, Harlan Ullman - the man who coined the phrase shock and awe] said, "I can tell you firsthand that there is a tremendous barrier between Cheney and Powell, and there has been for a long time. It's like McCain saying that his relations with the president are 'congenial,' meaning McCain doesn't tell the president to go fuck himself every time." Then he added, "Condi's a jerk." Or as Larry Wilkerson described his boss's role in the cabinet, "He has spent as much time doing damage control and, shall we say, apologizing around the world for some less-than-graceful actions as he has anything else."
"We're trusted not to want anybody's land, not to want to exercise dominion over any other peoples," and then without pause dived into a story about "this little stupid island that I had to deal with about a year and a half ago, off the coast of Morocco, which is as big as two soccer fields. Nobody lives on it. And for some reason, the Moroccans went aboard and claimed dominion over the island—not even an island, it's a rock. It's 200 yards off the Moroccan coast. It belongs to Spain."
"Why would they want it?" I asked.
Powell winked. "Because it belonged to Spain, and it's 200 yards off the Moroccan coast. And they've been arguing about it for a couple hundred years. Next thing we knew, it was an international crisis. The European Union immediately said, 'Spain is right,' and the Organization of Islamic Conference—the fifty or so Muslim nations in the world—said, 'No, Morocco's right.' So there you have it. Well, what are you going to do? Take it to the U.N.? No. What are we going to do?" He paused for effect. "Call the U.S. secretary of state on a Thursday night.
"And so the brand-new Spanish foreign minister, who is now one of my best girlfriends, Ana, calls me. She calls me and says, 'I have a problem,' and she explains this rock. And she gets finished and I say, 'Why are you calling me?'
"And she says, 'You need to fix my problem.'
" 'Ma'am, what's this got to do with me?'
"Well, over the next forty-eight hours, I did nothing but work this rock problem. I must have made, oh, I think we counted it one day, thirty-eight or forty phone calls to her, the prime minister of Spain, and the king of Morocco. And the only way both sides would agree to the outcome is if I would write a letter to both of them telling them what they agreed to do to each other and if I would sign the letter. Not each of them—I would sign the letter. If I would cosign this deal!
"So I wrote the letter at home," he continued. "I shipped it out to the two of them. They both started arguing about the letter. It was a major problem in that the name of the island on the part of the Moroccans was one name, and the Spanish called it something else. And this wasn't going to work. So what to do, what to do? I say, 'Can't I just call it "the island"?'
" 'No, it's got to be more than that.'
"So I went to the State Department cartographer, and I got the exact coordinates of the island, and we put into the letter 'the island located at da-da-da.' Okay, that'll do it. And then, when the deal was about done, the Spanish agreed to it thirty minutes before darkness. Couldn't find the king of Morocco. He'd gone off in his car to go to another city. I tried to reach him, and they said he doesn't take calls in his car. I said, 'Well, you need to find him in ten minutes, because I'm going to go play with my grandchildren, and the Spanish won't leave the island. So he needs to pull over somewhere.' And he did. They caught him. He pulled over, called me from somebody's house. The king got on the phone. I said, 'We got the deal, but you've got to approve the letter.'
"He said, 'But the letter isn't here. It's back in Rabat.'
"I said, 'I've got to have you approve the letter now, Your Majesty.'
"And he said, 'But I only saw an early draft. What does it say now?'
"I finally said, 'Your Majesty, the letter does what I told you it would do. Trust me.'
"And he said, 'Mr. Secretary, I trust you.' And he got in his car and went off where he was going. I signed two copies of the letter, faxed one to Spain and one to Rabat. The Spanish left, and they've been buddies ever since."
He paused for a second. "Now, that's a silly story," he said, "but it illustrates so much. They come to the United States. It takes diplomacy. It got almost no attention in the press. Why would it? I mean, it's not terribly exciting. But that's what diplomacy is about."
"You have no idea how many issues end up on the desk of the secretary of state of the United States," [Rice] said.
"Little things?" I asked.
"Yeah," she said. "There is no issue that people honestly believe is not an American problem, and I would say 90 percent of those end up on Colin's desk. And so he will find himself resolving small issues, border issues between small countries that most of us can barely find on a map."
What I didn't expect from Wilkerson was the rest of the picture, a glimpse of the venom with which Powell and his staff have come to regard their adversaries in the Pentagon. But almost as soon as I asked about the relationship between Powell and the neocons, Wilkerson crouched forward in his chair and said, "I make no bones about it. I have some reservations about people who have never been in the face of battle, so to speak, who are making cavalier decisions about sending men and women out to die. A person who comes immediately to mind in that regard is Richard Perle, who, thank God, tendered his resignation and no longer will be even a semiofficial person in this administration. Richard Perle's cavalier remarks about doing this or doing that with regard to military force always, always troubled me. Because it just showed me that he didn't have the appreciation, for example, that Colin Powell has for what it means."
"I call them utopians," he said. "I don't care whether utopians are Vladimir Lenin on a sealed train to Moscow or Paul Wolfowitz. Utopians, I don't like. You're never going to bring utopia, and you're going to hurt a lot of people in the process of trying to do it."