Colin Powell: A trailblazing legacy, blotted by Iraq war

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A child of working-class Jamaican immigrants in the Bronx, Colin Powell rose from neighborhood store clerk to warehouse floor-moper to the highest echelons of the US government. It was an amazing American Dream tour that earned him international acclaim and trust.

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It was this credibility he put on the line in 2003, when, appearing as Secretary of State for the United Nations, he made the case for the war against Iraq when it was discovered that the intelligence he cited was faulty and The Iraq War became a bloody, chaotic nightmare, Powell’s stellar reputation was damaged.

Yet it was not destroyed. After leaving the government, he became a prominent politician on the global stage and the founder of an organization aimed at helping young underprivileged Americans. Republicans wanted him to run for president. After becoming disillusioned with his party, he turned to the last three Democratic presidential candidates, who welcomed his support.


For many Iraqis and others, Powell will forever be associated with that 2003 speech and the bloodshed that followed. But with Powell’s death on Monday at 84 of COVID-19 complications, Republicans and Democrats described him as a historic figure, a staunch soldier-turned-politician, the first black secretary of state and the first black chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. as remembered.

Powell rejected comparisons between himself and past icons such as George Marshall, the World War II general who became America’s top diplomat. But he embraced a local-kid-do-good legend that reflects his humble roots.

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He was fond of remembering his youth in the Bronx, working first as a clerk in a neighborhood store and then as a sweeper at the massive Pepsi-Cola plant across the East River directly from United Nations Headquarters, A job he often referred to in meetings at the United Nations. A geology student at the City College of New York, Powell explained that he found his calling in the Reserve Officer Training Corps, or ROTC, which would begin his 35-year career in the military.

Powell served two tours in Vietnam and rose through the ranks with various positions in Cold War-era Europe, with President Ronald Reagan tapping him as his national security adviser. President George HW Bush then appointed him chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, where he oversaw the removal of Saddam Hussein from Kuwait in 1991.

It was then that the “Powell Principle” emerged; It was a strategy for the use of American military power that relied on the deployment of heavy force and a clear and defined exit strategy from the conflict.

Powell held the position of Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Clinton administration, where he recounted arguments with cabinet members over military intervention in the Balkans, which Powell believed was unwise.

“I thought I’d have an aneurysm,” Powell wrote in a memoir about a White House incident in which Madeleine Albright, the then U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, asked how good the armed forces were if they were never used. Powell succeeded Albright as Secretary of State in 2001.

And while his military career had taken him from the mines of Vietnam to the strategic Fulda Gap in West Germany, it was his role as Secretary of State in time of war that almost did him.

Powell was the first of President George W. Bush’s cabinet members to publicly blame Osama bin Laden for the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and the first of Bush’s top national security aides to visit Pakistan a month later. clarified. Pakistanis say they should join a US-led coalition or be labeled enemies.

Amid significant security concerns after 9/11, Powell flew to Islamabad, his plane blacked out as it went into a corkscrew landing to avoid potential rocket attacks, telling then-Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. Revenge for the attacks was non-negotiable for that they supported the operation. It worked, at least in the short term.

Powell was personally skeptical of the 2003 Iraq invasion and privately warned against war. But he dutifully presented the administration’s case for the invasion, not only in diplomatic meetings with his counterparts but also in the now-infamous speech before the United Nations Security Council in February 2003.

Faced with widespread doubts about the accuracy of American and British assessments of Saddam’s abilities and intentions, many compared Powell’s speech to former United Nations ambassador Adlai Stevenson’s appointment of the Soviet Union to the Council of Electrification of 1962. To be similar to the presentation. missiles in cuba

In Powell’s speech—which he would later call a “smear” on his record—he branded a vial he said might contain anthrax that intelligence agencies insisted Saddam was mass-producing.

“Less than a teaspoon of dry anthrax, a little bit — about this amount,” she told the council, waving the vial. “It’s just about the amount of a teaspoon. Less than a teaspoon of dried anthrax in an envelope closed the United States Senate in the fall of 2001.

Some, including many critics of the Bush administration, believed that Powell had hit the mark, but much of what he accomplished, unlike Stevenson 41 years earlier, was quickly wiped out.

No anthrax or, indeed, any weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq after the end of the war, leading to the US military occupation of the country, which many believe led to widespread destabilization of the Middle East. …

Credit: / Colin Powell

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