Former US Secretary of State Colin Powell dies of complications from COVID-19

Colin Powell, the son of Jamaican immigrants who became America’s first black secretary of state and senior military officer, but whose reputation was tarnished in 2003 when he touted false information at the United Nations to advocate in favor of war with Iraq despite deep concerns. , died at the age of 84.

Powell died of complications from COVID-19, his family announced Monday morning on his Facebook page. He was 84 years old.

In the message, his family said Powell had been fully immunized and was receiving treatment at Walter Reed National Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

During a long military career which included service in the Vietnam War, Powell rose to prominence as a National Security Advisor under President Ronald Reagan starting in 1987, becoming two years later the President of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In the latter role, he oversaw the US invasion of Panama and later the US invasion of Kuwait to overthrow the Iraqi army in 1991.

Powell, who resisted calls to run for president himself later in the decade, was to be appointed by President George W. Bush as Secretary of State in 2001. Powell was the first black person to run for president. serve as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Personnel and Secretary of State.

Bush called him a “great official” in a statement mourning his death.

“He was such a favorite of presidents that he won the Presidential Medal of Freedom – twice,” said Bush.

Powell, as the U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visits a bombed-out yard in Panama City on January 5, 1990 (Bob Pearson / AFP / Getty Images)

Powell represented the administration at the United Nations, arguing that US intelligence confirmed Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction, which ultimately turned out to be incorrect.

During his tenure as Secretary of State, he underwent surgery to treat prostate cancer.

Democrats supported

He later split from the Republican Party, supporting Democrats Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden in their presidential campaigns, although he stressed in interviews that he had not changed party affiliation.

In 2020, Powell called President Donald Trump’s foreign policy a “mess” and criticized his personal character.

“He lies about things, and he gets away with it because people won’t hold him responsible,” he said in an interview.

Powell is shown November 14, 2002, representing the Bush administration in Ottawa ahead of a meeting with Liberal Foreign Minister Bill Graham, left. (Tom Hanson / The Canadian Press)

Lloyd Austin, Secretary of Defense to US President Joe Biden and the first black man to hold the post, called Powell a mentor and a great leader.

“I feel like I have a hole in my heart,” Austin said Monday.

Powell is survived by his wife of 59 years, Alma, and three children, including Michael Powell, who served as chairman of the United States Federal Communications Commission under George W. Bush.

“We have lost a great and loving husband, father and grandfather and a great American,” the family said.

Injured in Vietnam

Powell was born in New York City on April 5, 1937 and raised in the South Bronx, the son of a shipping clerk and seamstress from Jamaica who arrived in the United States in 1920.

Powell’s own ticket to success was the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), a program for college students that engaged his energies while he was, by his own admission, an otherwise uninspired student. at City College of New York.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell receives flowers from a Vietnamese woman in traditional dress upon arrival at Hanoi Noi Bai Airport on July 24, 2001. Powell was on his first trip to Vietnam since her wartime service. (REUTERS)

He was appointed second lieutenant in the United States Army in 1958.

He served 35 years in the military, including two combat missions in Vietnam and postings in West Germany and South Korea. In Vietnam, he was injured by a trap near the Vietnamese border with Laos and injured in a helicopter crash.

He earned a White House scholarship while in the military during Richard Nixon’s presidency and earned the respect of officials who would later serve in senior positions under Reagan. He was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1989 to 1993.

It will be impossible to replace General Colin Powell. He was a great personal friend and mentor to me, and there is a hole in my heart right now as I reflect on his loss. My thoughts and prayers are with his family today and I want them to know that I will be dearly missed.


Powell became a celebrity during the 1991 Gulf War with crisp TV briefings, at one point saying of the Iraqi military, “We are going to cut it first, then we are going to kill it.”

As the highest ranking officer in the US military, he objected to gay men being able to serve openly in the military, but reversed his view in 2010 after Obama became the first president to approve. same-sex marriage.

“These are not assertions”

Powell will be forever associated with his controversial presentation on February 5, 2003 to the UN Security Council, arguing in President George W. Bush’s case that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein posed imminent danger to the world due to stockpiles of his country of chemical and biological weapons.

“These are not assertions. What we are giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence,” he told the panel.

In the Security Council Chamber, he posted photographs and diagrams believed to detail Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, as well as translations of US intelligence interceptions.

Powell holds up a vial he described as possibly containing anthrax during its presentation to the UN Security Council in New York on February 5, 2003, as part of the Bush administration’s attempt to gain support for a US-led invasion of Iraq. (Reuters)

At one point, Powell held up a small vial containing a teaspoon of simulated anthrax, warning that Iraq had not counted “tens and tens of thousands of teaspoons” of the deadly pathogen. .

The invasion took place six weeks later, but no such weapon was found, undermining American credibility for years. US forces fought in Iraq from 2003 to 2011, with nearly 4,500 US troops killed and 32,000 wounded.

Years later, Powell said he and his staff spent days “cleaning up the trash” that Vice President Dick Cheney’s staff provided as evidence of Saddam’s weapons programs and his alleged ties to al -Qaida.

He later admitted that the presentation was riddled with inaccuracies and twisted information provided by other members of the Bush administration and was “a blemish” that will always be on his record.

“There were people in the intelligence community who knew at the time that some of these sources were not good and should not be relied on, and they did not speak up. It devastated me,” he said. Powell told interviewer Barbara Walters in 2005.

Powell is shown in Washington, DC on December 4, 2018, paying his respects to George HW Bush who was lying on the United States Capitol. Powell served under George HW Bush during his only term as president. (Alex Edelman / AFP / Getty Images)

Powell announced his resignation in “mutual agreement” with Bush after the president’s reelection victory in 2004.

One of his major military accomplishments was the development of the so-called Powell Doctrine on the Use of American Force, which arose out of ambiguous objectives and the erratic build-up of troops during the Wartime War. Vietnam.

The doctrine states: War should be a last resort; force, when used, should be overwhelming; there must be strong public support and a clear exit strategy.

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