By ROBERT BURNS, ERIC TUCKER and EILEEN PUTMAN
WASHIINGTON (AP) – Colin Powell, who served both Democratic and Republican presidents during war and peace but whose solid reputation has been forever marred by his flawed claims to justify the United States’ war in Iraq, died Monday complications from COVID-19. He was 84 years old.
A veteran of the Vietnam War, 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 oversaw the US invasion of Panama and later the US invasion of Kuwait to overthrow the Iraqi army in 1991.
But his legacy was tainted when, in 2003, he appeared before the UN Security Council as Secretary of State and advocated for the US war against Iraq at a moment of great international skepticism. He cited misinformation claiming that Saddam Hussein secretly hid weapons of mass destruction. Iraq’s claims that it did not have such weapons represented “a web of lies,” he told the world organization.
Announcing his death on social media, Powell’s family said he had been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.
“We have lost a great and loving husband, father and grandfather and a great American,” the family said. Powell had been treated at Walter Reed National Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
Peggy Cifrino, Powell’s longtime assistant, said he had been treated in recent years for multiple myeloma, cancer of the blood. The Powell family’s social media post did not indicate whether Powell had any underlying illnesses.
Multiple myeloma impairs the body’s ability to fight infection, and studies have shown that these cancer patients do not enjoy as much protection against COVID-19 vaccines as healthier people.
Powell was the first US official to publicly deny responsibility for the September 11 terrorist attacks on Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network and made a whirlwind trip to Pakistan in October 2001 to demand that the then Pakistani president , Pervez Musharraf, cooperates with the United States. United States to attack the group based in Afghanistan, which was also present in Pakistan, where bin Laden was later killed.
As President George W. Bush’s first secretary of state, Powell headed a State Department that questioned the belief of the military and intelligence services that Saddam Hussein possessed or was developing weapons of mass destruction. And yet, despite his reservations, he presented the administration’s argument that Saddam indeed posed a major regional and global threat in a speech to the UN Security Council in the run-up to war.
This speech, filled with his display of a vial of what he said could have been a biological weapon, was later mocked as a low point in Powell’s career, though he removed some elements that ‘he considered to have been based on poor intelligence assessments. .
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.
Powell rose to national prominence under Republican presidents and considered his own presidential bid, but ultimately walked away from the party. He has supported Democrats in the last four presidential elections, starting with former President Barack 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. After the storming of the United States Capitol on January 6, Powell said he no longer considered himself a Republican.
Powell went from a childhood in a failing New York neighborhood to becoming the country’s chief diplomat. “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.”
At City College, Powell discovered the ROTC. When he put on his first uniform, “I liked what I saw,” he wrote.
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.
Secretary of Defense 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 have ever witnessed,” Austin said on a trip to Europe. “Alma lost a great husband and the family lost a great father and I lost a great personal friend and mentor.
Powell’s appearances at the United Nations as Secretary of State, including his address on Iraq, were often accompanied by fond memories of his childhood in the city, where he grew up as a child of Jamaican immigrants. who got one of his first jobs at Pepsi-Cola. bottling plant directly across the East River from the UN headquarters.
Powell argued, in an interview with The Associated Press in 2012, that overall the United States has been successful in Iraq.
“I think we’ve had a lot of success,” said Powell. “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 insurrection grew and the war lasted much longer than expected. Obama withdrew US troops from Iraq in 2011, but fired advisers in 2014 after ISIS invaded the country from Syria and captured large swathes of Iraqi territory.
AP writer Steve Peoples and AP medical writer Lauran Neergaard contributed to this report.