"And I’ll finish just by bringing it down screechingly to the ground and tell you that the detainee abuse issue is just such a concrete example of what I’ve just described to you, that 10 years from now or so when it’s really, really put to the acid test, ironed out and people have looked at it from every angle, we are going to be ashamed of what we allowed to happen. I don’t know how many people saw the “Frontline” documentary last night - very well done, I thought, but didn’t get anywhere near the specifics that need to be shown, that need to come out, that need to say to the American people, this is not us, this is not the way we do business in the world. Of course we have criminals, of course we have people who violate the law of war, of course we had My Lai, of course we had problems in the Korean War and in World War II. My father-in-law was involved in the Malme?dy massacre and the retaliation of U.S. troops in Belgium. He told me some stories before he died that made my blood curdle about American troops killing Germans.
But these are not – I won’t say isolated incidents; these are incidents that are understandable and that ultimately, at one time or another, we came to deal with. I don’t think, in our history, we’ve ever had a presidential involvement, a secretarial involvement, a vice-presidential involvement, an attorney general involvement in telling our troops essentially carte blanche is the way you should feel. You should not have any qualms because this is a different kind of conflict. Well, I’ll admit that. I’ll admit that. I don’t want to see any of these people ever released from prison if they’re truly terrorists. I don’t want to see them released because I know what they’ll do. I’m a former military man, 31 years in the Army. They will go out and they will try to kill me and my buddies, again and again, and some of you people, too.
So I understand the radical change in the nature of our enemy, but that doesn’t mean we make a radical change in the nature of America. But that’s what we did, and we did it in private. We did it in such privacy that the secretary of State had to open the door into my office one day - we had adjoining offices and he liked to do that, and I never objected - he came through the door and he said, Larry, Larry, get everything, get all the paperwork, get the ICRC reports, get everything; I think this is going to be a real mess. And Will Taft, his lawyer, got the same instruction from a legal point of view. And Will and I worked together for almost a year as the ICRC reports began to build and come in, and Kellenberger even came in and visited with the secretary of State. And we knew that things weren’t the way they should be, and as former soldiers, we knew that you don’t have this kind of pervasive attitude out there unless you’ve condoned it - unless you’ve condoned it.
And whether you did it explicitly or not is irrelevant. If you did it at all, indirectly, implicitly, tacitly - you pick the word - you’re in trouble because that slippery slope is truly slippery, and it will take years to reverse the situation, and we’ll probably have to grow a new military." - Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s former chief of staff