colin-powell-bantustan.jpgDemocratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has sought and received foreign policy advice from former Secretary of State Colin Powell. While Powell served in the administrations of two Republican presidents, he said Sunday it was too early in the 2008 race to say whether he would back the GOP nominee.

“I’m going to support the best person that I can find who will lead this country for the eight years beginning in January of 2009,” said Powell, who also served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under former President George H. W. Bush. Powell said he has met twice with Obama, D-Ill.

“I’ve been around this town a long time and I know everybody who is running for office. And I make myself available to talk about foreign policy matters and military matters with whoever wishes to chat with me,” Powell said. Powell said he does not want to serve in elected office but was less certain about a return to some government post.

Powell, interviewed on NBC’s “Meet The Press,” said, “I am not at all interested in political life if you mean elected political life. “That is unchanged. But I always keep my eyes open and my ears open to requests for service,” he said.

During the interview Powell lamented what he described as the damage the Guantanamo Bay prison facility has done to U.S. foreign policy. “Guantanamo has become a “major problem” in the way the world perceives the United States, he said. “If it was up to me, I would close Guantanamo — not tomorrow, this afternoon. I’d close it,” he said. Powell advocated turning Guantanamo captives over to the U.S. court system and chided critics who don’t want the captives to have access to lawyers. “So what? Let them. Isn’t that what our system’s all about? And by the way, America, unfortunately, has too many people in jail, all of whom had lawyers and access to writs of habeas corpus,” Powell said.

“I would do that because it’s more equitable and it’s more understandable in constitutional terms. But I’d also do it because every morning I pick up a paper and some authoritarian figure, some person somewhere, is using Guantanamo to hide their own misdeeds. “So essentially, we have shaken the belief that the world had in America’s justice system by keeping a place like Guantanamo open and creating things like the military commission. We don’t need it, and it’s causing us far more damage than any good we get for it,” he said.

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