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Powell: 'I tried to avoid this war'
Published: Sunday July 8, 2007
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It was revealed today that prior to the Iraq war, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell spent two and a half hours trying in vain to convince President George W. Bush not to invade.

"I tried to avoid this war," Powell told the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado, reports Sarah Baxter in the Sunday Times. Powell said he walked Bush through the risks of becoming an occupying force in an Arab country.

The sectarian violence in Iraq has escalated to the point of civil war, said Powell, and one that US forces cannot resolve.

Baxter points to plans being drawn up by Defense Secretary Robert Gates to begin a slow troop reduction to pre-"surge" levels as signs that "the views of Powell and other critics of the war are finally being heard in the Pentagon, if not yet in the White House."

Powell also asserts that any reduction in US troops must be accompanied by diplomatic measures with Syria and Iran, writes Baxter.

However, Powell may have a hard time convincing the anti-war public of his message.

"It's really too late for Mr. Powell to redeem his reputation now," comments Kevin Robbins of New York, on the Sunday Times web site. "He could have resigned and gone public at the time rather than signing on to the whole fiasco."

While "Fernandez" from San Francisco sarcastically jibes, "A whopping 2.5 hours. Wow."

Excerpts follow:


Speculation is growing that Gates will demonstrate his commitment to withdrawing US forces by moving a combat brigade of up to 3,000 troops out of Iraq as early as October and continuing to reduce their numbers month by month from their current strength of 160,000 to presurge levels of around 130,000 by the summer of 2008.


A senior defence source said it would be possible to reduce the number of American forces to roughly 50,000-70,000 by election day in November 2008. "You are going to have to have some people left behind to provide stability and security for the country and take on the terrorists," the source said.


The general and former joint chiefs of staff added: "Shi'ites will ultimately prevail because they are 60% of the population and their militias can be pretty violent. They will prevail also because they are determined not to be ruled again by the Sunnis.

"The Sunnis are struggling for power and survival and itís going to be resolved by a test of arms. Itís going to be very ugly."