Memo to NY Times editors: Cabals are important -- the e-mails don't lie

It is rare to have such concrete prima facie evidence of how New York Times editors are out of touch with the interests of their readers. Yet after burying a small article by Brian Knowlton titled "Former Powell Aide Says Bush Policy Is Run by 'Cabal'" on the bottom of page A15 on October 21st, the Times readers voted with their computers, making that story the most e-mailed story in the past 7 days. Thus, of the many hundreds of stories the Times has printed in the last 7 days, this was the story deemed most important to be shared with colleagues, family and friends -- a story the Times editors didn't even think was one of the 20 or more most important stories on October 21st.

Just in case no one e-mailed the story to you, Lawrence Wilkerson, who worked for Mr. Powell at the State Department from 2001 to early 2005, "... suggested in a speech at the New American Foundation that secrecy, arrogance and internal feuding had taken a heavy toll in the Bush administration, skewing its policies and undercutting its ability to handle crises."

Mr. Wilkerson, a retired Army colonel and former director of the Marine Corps War College suggested that "the dysfunction within the administration was so grave that 'if something comes along that is truly serious... you are going to see the ineptitude of this government in a way that will take you back to the Declaration of Independence.'"

The LA Times knows a hot story when it sees it. The paper gave Colonel Wilkerson op-ed space today, October 25th, to bring more colorful detail to his initial assertions.

"In President Bush's first term, some of the most important decisions about U.S. national security - including vital decisions about postwar Iraq - were made by a secretive, little-known cabal. It was made up of a very small group of people led by Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

When I first discussed this group in a speech last week at the New American Foundation in Washington, my comments caused a significant stir because I had been chief of staff to then-Secretary of State Colin Powell between 2002 and 2005.

But it's absolutely true. I believe that the decisions of this cabal were sometimes made with the full and witting support of the president and sometimes with something less. More often than not, then-national security advisor Condoleezza Rice was simply steamrolled by this cabal.

Its insular and secret workings were efficient and swift - not unlike the decision-making one would associate more with a dictatorship than a democracy. This furtive process was camouflaged neatly by the dysfunction and inefficiency of the formal decision-making process, where decisions, if they were reached at all, had to wend their way through the bureaucracy, with its dissenters, obstructionists and "guardians of the turf."

But the secret process was ultimately a failure. It produced a series of disastrous decisions and virtually ensured that the agencies charged with implementing them would not or could not execute them well."

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