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Powell: U.S. made 'serious mistakes' in Iraq
Sun Times
April 9, 2006

Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell on Saturday said the United States has made "serious mistakes" during the Iraq war that have led to the rising violence the country now faces.

Powell, in his keynote speech at the National School Board Association's annual conference in Chicago, also said the United States made visa requirements too strict for foreign students after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. But he steered clear of talking about President Bush's alleged role in leaking classified prewar intelligence on Iraq.

"We made some serious mistakes in the immediate aftermath of the fall of Baghdad," Powell told a crowd of thousands at the McCormick Place conference. "We didn't have enough troops on the ground. We didn't impose our will. And as a result, an insurgency got started, and . . . it got out of control."

Now, American troops must "stick with the people of Iraq" until order is restored, he said.

Powell, a retired four-star general, served as secretary of state under Bush from 2001 until 2005.

His remarks came a day after suicide bombers hit a Shiite mosque in Baghdad, killing more than 80. They also follow reports Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, told a grand jury that Bush, through Cheney, authorized him to leak classified information to the media, supposedly to discredit critics of the Iraq war.

Former school board president

Powell, a former school board president in Kentucky, also addressed the educational focus of the conference by saying more emphasis must be placed on improving early education programs such as Head Start. And he said many of the world's brightest international students enrolled at universities in Canada, Europe and Asia after deciding it would be too difficult to get a U.S. visa after 9/11.

"College presidents were writing me and saying, 'Listen, you know we're not getting foreign students anymore,'" Powell said.

The requirements got tougher after it was discovered one of the hijackers entered the country on a student visa. Powell said the restrictions are now loosening -- "but we have still a very long way to go."

Powell easily won over Saturday's crowd with jokes about his transition from being a leading world figure to a not-quite-average Joe.

"There's only one thing that I really miss, and that's my plane. I used to have a 757," he said, referring the Boeing planes used by top members of the president's Cabinet.

Contributing: AP

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