Destabilizing speculation

Colin Powell died of complications from COVID-19, his family say


WASHINGTON (AP) – Colin Powell, the pioneering soldier and diplomat whose solid reputation for service to Republican and Democratic presidents was marred by his flawed claims to justify the 2003 US war in Iraq, died Monday of complications from COVID-19 . He was 84 years old.

A veteran of the Vietnam War, Powell spent 35 years in the military and rose to the rank of four-star general before becoming the first black chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. His oversight of the US invasion of Kuwait to overthrow the Iraqi military in 1991 made him a household name, sparking speculation for nearly a decade that he could run for president, a path he ultimately rejected.

Instead, Powell joined George W. Bush’s administration in 2001 as Secretary of State, the first black person to represent the US government on the world stage. His tenure, however, was marred by his 2003 speech to the UN Security Council in which he cited misinformation to claim that Saddam Hussein had secretly hidden weapons of mass destruction. Such weapons never materialized, and although the Iraqi leader was sacked, the war turned into years of military and humanitarian losses.

In announcing Powell’s death, his family said he had been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. Peggy Cifrino, Powell’s longtime assistant, said he had also been treated in recent years for multiple myeloma, a cancer of the blood that impairs the body’s ability to fight infections. Studies have shown that these cancer patients do not receive as much protection from COVID-19 vaccines as healthier people.

In the White House, President Joe Biden said Powell “embodied the highest ideals of the warrior and the diplomat.”

Noting Powell’s rise from childhood in a failing New York neighborhood, Biden said, “He believed in America’s promise because he lived it. And he’s dedicated a great part of his life to making this promise a reality for so many others.

The flags were ordered lowered in government buildings, including the White House, the Pentagon, and the State Department.

Powell’s time as Secretary of State was largely defined by the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. He was the first US official to publicly blame Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network. He made a whirlwind trip to Pakistan to demand that then Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf cooperate with the United States to prosecute the Afghanistan-based group, which was also present in Pakistan, where bin Laden was later killed. .

But as Washington’s push for the Iraq war intensified, Powell at times found himself at odds with other key figures in the Bush administration, including Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald. Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld also passed away this year.

Powell’s State Department doubted the belief of the military and intelligence services that Saddam possessed or was developing weapons of mass destruction. But he presented the administration’s case that Saddam posed a major regional and global threat in a loud speech to the UN Security Council in February 2003. The following month, Bush gave the green light for the invasion. .

The UN speech, filled with Powell’s display of a vial of what he said could have been a biological weapon, was seen as a low point in his career, though he deleted some elements of the remarks he considered to have been based on poor intelligence assessments.

The American overthrow of Saddam ended the reign of a brutal dictator. But the power vacuum and ensuing lawlessness sparked years of sectarian fighting and chaos that killed countless Iraqi civilians, sparked a protracted insurgency and unwittingly tipped the balance of power in the Middle East towards a rival. American, Iran. No Iraqi weapon of mass destruction has ever been found.

Yet Powell maintained in a 2012 interview with The Associated Press that overall the United States has been successful in Iraq.

“I think we have been very successful,” he said. “The terrible Iraqi dictator is gone.

Saddam was captured by US forces while in hiding in northern Iraq in December 2003 and then executed by the Iraqi government. But the war dragged on. President Barack Obama withdrew US troops from Iraq in 2011, but sacked advisers in 2014 after ISIS invaded the country from Syria and captured large swathes of territory.

Bush said Monday that he and former first lady Laura Bush were “deeply saddened” by Powell’s death.

“He was a great public servant” and “widely respected at home and abroad,” Bush said. “And most importantly, Colin was a family man and a friend. Laura and I extend our deepest condolences to Alma and their children as they remember the life of a great man.

Condoleezza Rice, Powell’s successor in state and the department’s first black woman secretary, praised him as “a trusted colleague and dear friend through very difficult times.”

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, retired Army General and first Black Pentagon chief, said the news of Powell’s death had left “a hole in my heart.”

“The world has lost one of the greatest leaders we have ever witnessed,” Austin said on a trip to Europe.

Vice President Kamala Harris, the most senior black woman in U.S. history, also noted Powell’s racial early years.

“Every step of the way, when he filled those roles, he was through everything he did and the way he did it, inspiring so many people,” she said. “Young servicemen and others not only within the military, but in our country and around the world, took note of what his accomplishments meant as a reflection of who we are as a nation.”

No child of privilege, Powell has often presented his biography as an American success story.

“Mine is the story of an early promising black child from an immigrant family of limited means who grew up in the South Bronx,” he wrote in his 1995 autobiography “My American Journey.”

It was an experience he loved to recall later in his life. When he appeared at the United Nations, even during his speech in Iraq, he often remembered his childhood in New York, where he grew up the child of Jamaican immigrants and got one of his first jobs. at the Pepsi-Cola bottling plant just across the street. the East River from the UN Headquarters.

Powell’s path to the military began at City College, where the ROTC discovered. When he put on his first uniform, he wrote: “I liked what I saw.

He joined 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 the Pentagon and an assignment as military assistant to Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, who became his unofficial godfather. He later became commander of the 5th Army Corps in Germany and later served as National Security Assistant to President Ronald Reagan.

During his tenure as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, his approach to war came to be known as the Powell Doctrine, according to which the United States should only engage forces in conflict if it has clear and achievable goals. with public support, sufficient firepower and a strategy to end the war.

Although he gained national notoriety under Republican presidents, Powell eventually walked away from the party.

He has supported Democrats in the last four presidential elections, starting with Obama. He has become a vocal critic of Donald Trump in recent years, describing Trump as “a national disgrace” who should have been removed from office by impeachment.


AP writer Steve Peoples and AP medical writer Lauran Neergaard contributed to this report.

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