WASHINGTON (AP) – Colin Powell, who has served Democratic and Republican presidents in war and peace but whose impeccable reputation is forever tarnished by his erroneous claims to justify the US war in Iraq, died Monday from complications related to COVID-19. He was 84 years old.
A Vietnam War veteran, Powell rose to the rank of four-star general and in 1989 became the first black chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In this role, he led the US invasion of Panama and then the US invasion of Kuwait to oust the Iraqi army in 1991.
But his legacy was darkened when, in 2003, he appeared before the UN Security Council as Secretary of State and argued for a US war against Iraq at a time of great international skepticism. He cited false information that Saddam Hussein secretly hid weapons of mass destruction. Iraq’s claims that it does not have such weapons constitute a “web of lies,” he told the world organization.
After announcing his death on social media, Powell’s family stated that he was fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.
“We have lost a wonderful and loving husband, father and grandfather, and a great American,” the family said. Powell was treated at the Walter Reed National Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
Peggy Chifrino, a longtime assistant to Powell, said that for the past several years he has been treated for multiple myeloma, a blood cancer. The Powell family post on social media did not say if Powell has any medical conditions.
Multiple myeloma reduces the body’s ability to fight infection, and research has shown that these cancer patients do not receive the same protection from the COVID-19 vaccine as healthier people.
Powell was the first American official to publicly blame Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network for the 9/11 attacks and made a lightning trip to Pakistan in October 2001 to demand that then Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf cooperate with the United States. States are pursuing the Afghan-based group, which also had a presence in Pakistan, where bin Laden was later assassinated.
As President George W. Bush’s first secretary of state, Powell headed a Department of State that questioned the military and intelligence community’s conviction that Saddam Hussein possessed or was developing weapons of mass destruction. And yet, despite his reservations, he presented the administration’s version that Saddam did pose a serious regional and global threat in his speech to the UN Security Council on the eve of the war.
This speech, replete with a demonstration of a vial of what he said might be biological weapons, was later ridiculed as the low point in Powell’s career, although he removed some elements he believed were based on poor intelligence ratings. …
Bush said Monday that he and former First Lady Laura Bush are “deeply saddened” by Powell’s death.
“He was a great civil servant,” and “was highly respected at home and abroad,” Bush said. “Most importantly, Colin was a family man and friend. Laura and I express our sincere condolences to Alma and their children as they remember the life of a great man. “
Powell rose to prominence in the country under Republican presidents and considered running for president, but ultimately withdrew from the party. He has supported Democrats in the last four presidential elections, starting with former President Barack Obama. In recent years, he has become an outspoken critic of Donald Trump, calling Trump a “national disgrace” who should have been removed from office by impeachment. After the storming of the Capitol on January 6, Powell announced that he no longer considered himself a Republican.
Powell grew up from childhood in a ramshackle New York City neighborhood to become the country’s top diplomat. “My story is about a black child from a low-income immigrant family who was not promised early, who grew up in the South Bronx,” he wrote in his 1995 autobiography, My American Journey.
At City College, Powell discovered ROTC. When he put on his first uniform: “I liked what I saw,” he wrote.
He enlisted in the military and in 1962 was one of more than 16,000 military advisers sent to South Vietnam by President John F. Kennedy. A series of promotions led to his being transferred to the Pentagon and appointed military assistant to Defense Secretary Kaspar Weinberger, who became his unofficial sponsor. He later became commander of the 5th Army Corps in Germany and later was President Ronald Reagan’s national security assistant.
During his tenure as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, his approach to warfare became known as the Powell Doctrine, according to which the United States should only engage forces in a conflict if they have clear and achievable goals with public support and sufficient firepower. and strategies for ending the conflict. war.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, a retired army general, said the news of Powell’s death had left “a hole in my heart.”
“The world has lost one of the greatest leaders we’ve ever seen,” Austin said while traveling through Europe. “Alma lost a wonderful husband, the family lost a wonderful father, and I lost an amazing personal friend and mentor.
Powell’s appearances at the United Nations as Secretary of State, including his speech in Iraq, were often accompanied by fond memories of his childhood in the city where he grew up as a child of Jamaican immigrants who received one of his first jobs at Pepsi-Cola. bottling plant directly across the East River from the UN headquarters.
In a 2012 interview with The Associated Press, Powell argued that the United States was ultimately successful in Iraq.
“I think we’ve had a lot of success,” Powell said. “The terrible dictator of Iraq is gone.” Saddam was captured by American forces while hiding in northern Iraq in December 2003 and then executed by the Iraqi government. But the uprising grew, and the war dragged on much longer than anticipated. Obama withdrew US troops from Iraq in 2011, but he sent advisers back in 2014 after the Islamic State broke into the country from Syria and seized large swaths of Iraqi territory.
AP authors Steve Peeples and AP writer Laurent Niergaard contributed to this report.