An Open Letter to Colin Powell

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General Powell, I have a tremendous respect for you and what you have done for our country. It is out of that profound respect that I am concerned about your recent endorsement of Senator Barack Obama. I have many questions and concerns. You and I both know, as retired servicemen, we have an obligation, the more senior we are, to answer questions from the citizens we serve.

I served my country for 34 years as a United States Marine and retired as a Colonel. You probably do not remember me, but I met you in Haiti in September 1994 at the Villa Creole Hotel while we were all attempting to bring stability to Haiti. While there, we attempted to restore democracy.

General, people listen to you. They respect you. I would hope that you would question how a person, running for the Illinois State Senate, could successfully challenge the ballots for all four contenders (including an incumbent) so that he would run unopposed. Isn’t that the type of political process you and I went to Haiti to stop?

I am curious as to how you can justify an endorsement of Senator Obama when we know so very little about him. As a leader, you obviously remember the grilling you received while awaiting senate confirmation. All background issues were reviewed and you were required to provide answers. While a presidential candidate is not required to answer such questions, I would presume that, as a good leader, you would suggest he answer those questions even if not required. Can you in good conscience endorse someone who consistently voted "present" so many times? We both know that you cannot vote "present" as President.

It is also obvious that Senator Obama would not get a security clearance if he attempted to join the military. His travels outside the United States to third world nations and his prior relationships with persons with questionable backgrounds would cause him to either be denied a security clearance or the adjudication process would never be completed until he answered those questions satisfactorily. Can you in good conscience endorse someone to be Commander in Chief if they, themselves, cannot meet the standards of the very people he will be commanding?

Sir, you obviously know that there is pressure in any leadership position. You have seen it first hand. Dealing with pressure, or presence of mind as we call it in the military, is learned at a very early age in your career. That knowledge comes from experience in leadership roles. Can you in good conscience believe that a community organizer, state senator, or U. S. Senator prepares him for that role? Do you think it is wise to allow that person to get his first test of true pressure as President? Would you put someone in command of a battalion who never was tested?

You also indicated a concern about Governor Palin and her qualifications. Does someone’s answer to questions about Supreme Court decisions cause you to question that person’s capabilities? I would hope that you would not allow a few edited sound bites to sway your judgment without first hand experience with that person. I would think that being elected Governor and being the person in charge for two years would be better experience than having been a community organizer or State Senator. I would hope you would evaluate your presidential choice based upon actual experience and not the perception of experience.

While I would never presume to lecture a leader I respect so much, I pray that you will accept my comments in the spirit in which they are intended. You must be able to honestly answer the questions about your support for Senator Obama. Please do not tell me it is because of the negative campaigning or personal attacks on Senator Obama because if it were, you would have never served in the Bush Administration after the personal attacks against Senator McCain by the Bush campaign in 2000.

I was dismayed that Senator Obama offered you a position in his cabinet after he received your endorsement. General, you would have told any young officer that it is inappropriate to have offered or to accept such a position under such circumstances.

Sir, now is the time for you to reflect on your endorsement. Confirming your support for Senator Obama after seeing my questions is something you must live with. Unfortunately, your support for Senator Obama if you cannot honestly answer these questions is something our Nation and our children must live with. General, the price of leadership is high. But, then again, you already know that.

Col. Frank Ryan, CPA USMCR (ret) specializes in corporate restructuring and lectures on ethics for the AICPA. He is on the boards of numerous publicly traded companies as well as not for profit charitable organizations. He can be reached at [email protected].