In the early years of the George W. Bush administration, the Defense Department apparently felt confident—or lucky—enough to roll the dice on a possible war with China.
Via Laura Rozen, Jeff Stein of the Congressional Quarterly reports on allegations by Lawrence Wilkerson, a top aide to Colin Powell while Powell was Secretary of State in the first GW Bush administration, that the Department of Defense, led by Donald Rumsfeld, was promising to support Taiwan against China if Chen Shui-bian declared independence.
“The Defense Department, with Feith, Cambone, Wolfowitz [and] Rumsfeld, was dispatching a person to Taiwan every week...essentially to tell Chen Shui-bian...that independence was a good thing.”
Wilkerson said Powell would then dispatch his own envoy “right behind that guy, every time they sent somebody, to disabuse the entire Taiwanese national security apparatus of what they’d been told by the Defense Department.”
“This went on,” he said of the pro-independence efforts, “until George Bush weighed in and told Rumsfeld to cease and desist [and] told him multiple times to re-establish military-to-military relations with China.”
Wilkerson’s account is supported by Douglas Paal, former head of the American Institute in Taiwan.
Interesting sidelight: Theresa Sheehan was the previous head of AIT—and is married to Larry DeRita, Rumsfeld’s chief press flack at the Pentagon. She used her bully pulpit to push for Taiwan independence and support the credibility of the DoD approach until Colin Powell demanded her resignation and she was removed.
“In the early years of the Bush administration,” Paal said by e-mail last week, “there was a problem with mixed signals to Taiwan from Washington. This was most notably captured in the statements and actions of Ms. Therese Shaheen, the former AIT chair, which ultimately led to her departure.”
Spluttering denials from the hardliners involved, but this looks like the real deal—and probably the acme of reckless neo-con hubris during the entire George W. Bush administration.