Although I didn't write this, I think many of you will be refreshed and welcome the perspective as introduced by it's author. "I was never kinder to the old man than during the whole week before I killed him" - Edgar Allen Poe, The Tell-Tale Heart He has always been there, barely visible - his comforting presence more felt than seen. From ROTC to Vietnam, from Iran-Contra to Desert Storm, from the Joint Chiefs to Foggy Bottom, he has been quietly steady, honest, trustworthy and obedient. Both in and out of uniform, Secretary of State Colin Powell has served brilliantly. Powell is the creme da la creme of the media's ability to create heroic caricatures, exceeded only by their carefully constructed image of George W. Bush. Although Powell's military career dates back to Vietnam, he first appeared full-blown in America's line of vision during the first Persian Gulf War where, as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he is credited with orchestrating that wild and bloody foray that ended in a Feb. 1991 crescendo of bullets in the backs of tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers and civilians promised safe passage back to Baghdad along what was to become the Highway of Death. Colin Luther Powell is a good soldier. Few know just how good, because Powell is a walking dichotomy - very adept at showing only his illuminated side to moonstruck supporters. Americans who so generously bestow political capital upon Powell are either unaware of, or do not believe, the deadly murkiness of his dark side. They see Powell striding confidently across the international landscape - compassionate, moderate, diplomatic - issuing gentle, tongue-clucking "warnings" to those who resist the gift of U.S. hegemony. They fail to note the chaos and the tangle of bodies that inevitably pile up behind Powell in whatever country he approaches with outstretched hand. Americans are not only blind, they appear to be deaf to those who chronicle Powell's evolution from a cunning eager-to-please young officer on a military fast track to a cold-blooded unrepentant shock-and-awe executioner. What Powell has done - is doing - for those he serves is public record. He seems increasingly unable to separate service to his nation and service to his president, making "honor" as well as "truth" an early casualty of war. Other Places, Other Times In 1996, investigative journalists Robert Parry and Norman Solomon teamed up to produce a penetrating and meticulously researched account of Powell's sometimes frenzied activity for most of his military life. Even in a tight, "just the facts, ma'am" format, the finished product, published in Consortium News, was so voluminous it comprised a five-part series. That critical series was republished in December 2000 after Powell - once compelled by a straight-shootin' sense of integrity to defy the Uniform Code of Military Justice and publicly blast his commander-in-chief about gays in the military - stood by silently at the Bush ranch in Crawford, Texas, while Florida's African-American voters for Gore were disenfranchised. A scant four days later, Powell was rewarded for his silence with the coveted Secretary of State slot. Read the Parry/Solomon series. Slog through the steaming fetid excrement that comprises Powell's smarmy sense of honor as he makes easy choices in covering up Vietnam atrocities, including the hundreds of unarmed civilians slaughtered in the My Lai massacre. Recoil at his involvement in funding Nicaraguan contra terrorists by illegally routing missiles through Israel to Iran. Chuckle at how he covers his own ass by first setting up Oliver North to take the fall for the Iran-Contra mess, and even his boss and mentor, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, if it came to that. Count the lies with which this soldier padded his career - in letters, reports, interviews and testimony before Congress. How many, you ask? Well, it depends upon how many times he opened his mouth - and he isn't through talking yet. Our descent into Vietnam more than three decades ago left an indelible mark on this country, and the mere mention of the "V" word even today evokes a kaleidoscope of emotions about the brutal, needless slaughter of 57,000 U.S. soldiers and 2,000,000 Vietnamese soldiers and civilians. I cannot speak to Powell's emotions, but as a minimum, it appears that his experiences in Vietnam allowed him to dehumanize his enemy and to use overwhelming force to destroy anything in his path - civilians and combatants alike. His experiences allowed him to adopt the murderous Weinberger Doctrine; his ego compelled him to co-opt it and to refine it into what is widely touted today as the "Powell Doctrine." In his autobiography, My American Journey, Powell coldly describes the deliberate destruction of "the enemy," or villagers who might sympathize with the Viet Cong: "We burned the thatched huts, starting the blaze with Ronson and Zippo lighters... Why were we torching houses and destroying crops? Ho Chi Minh had said people were like the sea in which his guerillas swam. We tried to solve the problem by making the whole sea uninhabitable. In the hard logic of war, what difference does it make if you shot your enemy or starved him to death?" In April 2002, shortly after the Jenin refugee camp massacre in Palestine's West Bank, Powell took a turn around the site and returned to testify to Congress - "I've seen no evidence of mass graves... no evidence that would suggest a massacre took place... Clearly people died in Jenin - people who were terrorists (emphasis added) died in Jenin - and in the prosecution of that battle innocent lives may well have been lost." Powell was not asked why not one single home in Jenin was left standing; he did not address the problems he must have had maneuvering through the rubble, nor did he give any indication that the pungent, stifling smell of rotting corpses bothered him at all. Anyway, that was then and this is now. Although Powell says Vietnam is "another place, another time," his unrepentant callous disregard for the lives of innocent civilians is legend, and continues in this place and in this time. When a reporter asked him in April 1991 about Iraqi military and civilian deaths, Powell shrugged with stunning indifference, "That's not really a number I'm terribly interested in." Now, 12 years later, we are back in Iraq where bodies of the dehumanized stack up on city streets and litter the desert landscape. But their number is not too terribly interesting because - as you know - we don't do body counts. Don't Go There! ____________________________________________________ This is Psychoblues talking now: Being a Vet ain't easy. I performed tasks and made decisions that today I am not proud of while wearing the uniform of a United States fighting man. I don't like being taken to task for them but refer to the tried and true adage, "I was just doing my job". And to be totally honest, I really didn't know at the time that my decisions were based on faulty, erroneous or otherwise ignorant information. The aftermath of factual evidence and self reflection is devastating, to say the least. But that was then, this is now. I don't think Colin has ever done an adequate self-examination as reflected in the facts that have emerged through the years. But maybe he's a little like me, he just doesn't want to think about it or be taken to task for it or maybe he truly does have that "darker side". Killing without conscience is a work of the Devil and certainly no work of any GOD that I worship. Don't you agree?