Cheney accused on prisoner abuse
A top aide to former Secretary of State Colin Powell
has launched a stinging attack on US Vice-President
Dick Cheney over abuse of prisoners by US troops.
Col Lawrence Wilkerson accused Mr Cheney of ignoring a
decision by President Bush on the treatment of
prisoners in the war on terror.
Asked by the BBC's Today if Mr Cheney could be accused
of war crimes, he said: "It's an interesting
"Certainly it is a domestic crime to advocate terror,"
"And I would suspect, for whatever it's worth, it's an
international crime as well."
This is an extraordinary attack by a man who until
earlier in the year was Mr Cheney's colleague in the
senior reaches of the Bush team, the BBC's Justin Webb
in Washington says.
Col Wilkerson has in the past accused the
vice-president of responsibility for the conditions
which led to the abuse of prisoners.
But this time he has gone much further, appearing to
suggest Mr Cheney should face war crimes charges, our
He said that there were two sides of the debate within
the Bush administration over the treatment of
Mr Powell and more dovish members had argued for
sticking to the Geneva conventions, which prohibit the
torture of detainees.
Meanwhile, the other side "essentially wanted to do
away with all restrictions".
Mr Bush agreed a compromise, that "Geneva would in
fact govern all but al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda look-alike
"What I'm saying is that, under the vice-president's
protection, the secretary of defence [Donald Rumsfeld]
moved out to do what they wanted in the first place,
even though the president had made a decision that was
clearly a compromise," Col Wilkerson said.
He said that he laid the blame on the issue of
prisoner abuse and post-war planning for Iraq "pretty
fairly and squarely" at Mr Cheney's feet.
"I look at the relationship between Mr Cheney and Mr
Rumsfeld as being one that produced these two failures
in particular, and I see that the president is not
holding either of them accountable... so I have to lay
some blame at his feet too," he went on.
In the BBC interview, Col Wilkerson also developed his
views on whether or not pre-war intelligence was
deliberately misused by the White House.
He said that he had previously thought only honest
mistakes were made.
But recent revelations about doubts in the
intelligence community that appear to have been
suppressed in the run-up to the war have made him
question this view.