Colin Powell

American politician and military officer

Colin Luther Powell (b. 5 April 1937– d. 18 October 2021) was an American politician, diplomat and four-star general who served as the 65th United States Secretary of State from 2001 to 2005. He was the first African-American Secretary of State. Prior to the election of Barack Obama as president in 2008, he and his successor, Condoleezza Rice, were the highest-ranking African Americans in the history of the federal executive branch (by virtue of the Secretary of State standing fourth in the presidential line of succession). He served as the 16th United States National Security Advisor from 1987 to 1989 and as the 12th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1989 to 1993.

Leadership is the art of accomplishing more than the science of management says is possible.
Our strategy in going after this army is very simple. First we are going to cut it off, and then we are going to kill it.
The First Amendment exists to insure that freedom of speech and expression applies not just to that with which we agree or disagree, but also that which we find outrageous.

QuotesEdit

 
I love our flag, our constitution, and our country, with a love that has no bounds. I defended all three for 35 years as a soldier and was willing to give my life in their defense.
 
The only land we ever asked for was enough land to bury our dead. And that is the kind of nation we are.
 
Capital goes where it is welcomed and where investors can be confident of a return on the resources they have put at risk. It goes to countries where women can work, children can read, and entrepreneurs can dream.
 
I don't think I have anything to be ashamed of or apologize for with respect to what America has done for the world.
 
I may be down, but never out. An infantry officer can do anything.
 
There can be no doubt that Saddam Hussein has biological weapons and the capability to rapidly produce more, many more.
 
Success ultimately rests on small things, lots of small things. Leaders have to have a feel for small things- a feel for what is going in in the depths of an organization where small things reside. The more senior you become, the more you are isolated by pomp and staff, and the harder and more necessary it becomes to know what is going on six floors down.

1990sEdit

  • Our strategy in going after this army is very simple. First we are going to cut it off, and then we are going to kill it.
    • Remark made as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, announcing the U.S. gulf war plan against Saddam Hussein's army. Pentagon press briefing (23 January 1991).
  • That's not really a number I'm terribly interested in.
    • Reported as a comment on "the number of Iraqi dead from the combined allied air and ground campaign" by Tyler, Patrick. "After The War; Powell Says U.S. Will Stay In Iraq 'For Some Months.'" New York Times, March 23 1991, pp. 1,4. [1]
  • The United Nations will spearhead our efforts to manage the new conflicts (that afflict our world)....Yes the principles of the United Nations Charter are worth our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.
    • General Colin Powell, 21 April 1993, receiving the UN-USA Global Leadership Award.

My American Journey (1996)Edit

 
The healthiest competition occurs when average people win by putting in above-average effort.
  • The people had fled at our approach, except for an old woman too feeble to move... We burned down the thatched huts, starting the blaze with Ronson and Zippo cigarette lighters... [because] Ho Chi Minh had said the people were like the sea in which his guerrillas swam... We tried to solve the problem by making the whole sea uninhabitable.
  • If a [helicopter] spotted a peasant in black pajamas who looked remotely suspicious, a possible MAM, the pilot would circle and fire in front of him. If he moved, his movement was judged evidence of hostile intent, and the next burst was not in front, but at him.
  • The healthiest competition occurs when average people win by putting in above-average effort.
  • The policies — determining who would be drafted and who would be deferred, who would serve and who would escape, who would die and who would live — were an antidemocratic disgrace ... I am angry that so many of the sons of the powerful and well placed ... managed to wangle slots in reserve and National Guard units. Of the many tragedies of Vietnam, this raw class discrimination strikes me as the most damaging to the ideal that all Americans are created equal and owe equal allegiance to their country.
  • Many of my generation, the career captains, majors, and lieutenant colonels seasoned in that war [Vietnam], vowed that when our turn came to call the shots, we would not quietly acquiesce in halfhearted warfare for half-baked reasons that the American people could not understand.

Letter to Patrick Leahy (1999)Edit

Letter to Sen. Patrick Leahy (18 May 1999) - Full text online
  • Dear Senator Leahy, thank you for your recent letter asking my views on the proposed flag protection amendment. I love our flag, our Constitution and our country with a love that has no bounds. I defended all three for 35 years as a soldier and was willing to give my life in their defense.
  • Americans revere their flag as a symbol of the Nation. Indeed, it is because of that reverence that the amendment is under consideration. Few countries in the world would think of amending their Constitution for the purpose of protecting such a symbol.
  • We are rightfully outraged when anyone attacks or desecrates our flag. Few Americans do such things and when they do they are subject to the rightful condemnation of their fellow citizens. They may be destroying a piece of cloth, but they do no damage to our system of freedom which tolerates such desecration.
  • If they are destroying a flag that belongs to someone else, that's a prosecutable crime. If it is a flag they own, I really don't want to amend the Constitution to prosecute someone for foolishly desecrating their own property. We should condemn them and pity them instead.
  • I understand how strongly so many of my fellow veterans and citizens feel about the flag and I understand the powerful sentiment in state legislatures for such an amendment. I feel the same sense of outrage. But I step back from amending the Constitution to relieve that outrage. The First Amendment exists to insure that freedom of speech and expression applies not just to that with which we agree or disagree, but also that which we find outrageous. I would not amend that great shield of democracy to hammer a few miscreants. The flag will be flying proudly long after they have slunk away.
  • Finally, I shudder to think of the legal morass we will create trying to implement the body of law that will emerge from such an amendment.
  • If I were a member of Congress, I would not vote for the proposed amendment and would fully understand and respect the views of those who would. For or against, we all love our flag with equal devotion.

2000sEdit

  • The sanctions exist — not for the purpose of hurting the Iraqi people, but for the purpose of keeping in check Saddam Hussein's ambitions toward developing weapons of mass destruction ... And frankly they have worked. He has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors. So in effect, our policies have strengthened the security of the neighbors of Iraq.
  • What the hell, what are these guys thinking about? Can't you get these guys back in the box?
    • Remark made to Joint Chiefs of Staff General Shelton regarding comments by Paul Wolfowitz and Donald Rumsfeld, advocating an attack on Iraq, even before the battle plan for attacking the Taliban was formulated, shortly after the “the crucial meeting took place on September 15 in the Laurel Lodge at Camp David, at which Wolfowitz made the case for action against Iraq.” Halper, Stefan; Clarke, Johnathan (2004). America Alone: The Neo-Conservatives and the Global Order. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. p. 149-150. ISBN 0-521-83834-7 hardback Invalid ISBN. . Also see Woodware, Bob (2002). Bush at War. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Simon and Schuster. p. 61. ISBN 0743215389. . (Remark from 9/2001 shortly after 9/11).
  • Far from being the Great Satan, I would say that we are the Great Protector. We have sent men and women from the armed forces of the United States to other parts of the world throughout the past century to put down oppression. We defeated Fascism. We defeated Communism. We saved Europe in World War I and World War II. We were willing to do it, glad to do it. We went to Korea. We went to Vietnam. All in the interest of preserving the rights of people.
    And when all those conflicts were over, what did we do? Did we stay and conquer? Did we say, "Okay, we defeated Germany. Now Germany belongs to us? We defeated Japan, so Japan belongs to us"? No. What did we do? We built them up. We gave them democratic systems which they have embraced totally to their soul. And did we ask for any land? No, the only land we ever asked for was enough land to bury our dead. And that is the kind of nation we are.
  • Capital is a coward. It flees from corruption and bad policies, conflict and unpredictability. It shuns ignorance, disease and illiteracy. Capital goes where it is welcomed and where investors can be confident of a return on the resources they have put at risk. It goes to countries where women can work, children can read, and entrepreneurs can dream.
  • My heart grieves when I think about the situation in the Middle East. I've worked very hard on this for two years, and for years before that. But trust is broken down. We have to do everything we can in our power — all of us, the United States, the European Union, any other nation that has the ability to influence the situation in the Middle East — to work with the Palestinians to put in place a leadership that is responsible, with representative institutions of government that will clamp down on terrorism, that will say to its people, "Terrorism is not getting us anywhere. It is not producing what we want: a Palestinian state. It is keeping us away from a Palestinian state."
    And we also have to say to our Israeli friends that you have to do more to deal with the humanitarian concerns of the Palestinian people, and you have to understand that a Palestinian state, when it's created, must be a real state, not a phony state that's diced into a thousand different pieces.
  • There is nothing in American experience or in American political life or in our culture that suggests we want to use hard power. But what we have found over the decades is that unless you do have hard power — and here I think you're referring to military power — then sometimes you are faced with situations that you can't deal with.
    I mean, it was not soft power that freed Europe. It was hard power. And what followed immediately after hard power? Did the United States ask for dominion over a single nation in Europe? No. Soft power came in the Marshall Plan. Soft power came with American GIs who put their weapons down once the war was over and helped all those nations rebuild. We did the same thing in Japan.
    So our record of living our values and letting our values be an inspiration to others I think is clear. And I don't think I have anything to be ashamed of or apologize for with respect to what America has done for the world.
    We have gone forth from our shores repeatedly over the last hundred years and we've done this as recently as the last year in Afghanistan and put wonderful young men and women at risk, many of whom have lost their lives, and we have asked for nothing except enough ground to bury them in, and otherwise we have returned home to seek our own, you know, to seek our own lives in peace, to live our own lives in peace. But there comes a time when soft power or talking with evil will not work where, unfortunately, hard power is the only thing that works.
    • Response to a question by George Carey (a former Archbishop of Canterbury), after the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland (26 January 2003), as to whether the US had given due consideration to the use of "soft power" vs "hard power" against the regime of Saddam Hussein; this has sometimes been portrayed as an accusation by an Archbishop of Canterbury that the United States was engaged in "empire building", in which Powell's response has been paraphrased:
Over the years, the United States has sent many of its fine young men and women into great peril to fight for freedom beyond our borders. The only amount of land we have ever asked for in return is enough to bury those that did not return.
  • There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work and learning from failure.
    • As quoted in The Leadership Secrets of Colin Powell (2003) by Oren Harari, p. 164.
  • You break it, you own it.
    • As quoted in Plan of Attack (2004) by Bob Woodward, a book in which he was a key source, cautioning President Bush before the Iraqi war that he would be responsible for the fate of the Iraqi's after the fall of the Hussein regime.
  • I'm also troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the party say. And it is permitted to be said such things as, "Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim." Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he's a Christian. He's always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer's no, that's not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, "He's a Muslim and he might be associated terrorists." This is not the way we should be doing it in America.
    I feel strongly about this particular point because of a picture I saw in a magazine. It was a photo essay about troops who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay was of a mother in Arlington Cemetery, and she had her head on the headstone of her son's grave. And as the picture focused in, you could see the writing on the headstone. And it gave his awards — Purple Heart, Bronze Star — showed that he died in Iraq, gave his date of birth, date of death. He was 20 years old. And then, at the very top of the headstone, it didn't have a Christian cross, it didn't have the Star of David, it had crescent and a star of the Islamic faith. And his name was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, and he was an American. He was born in New Jersey. He was 14 years old at the time of 9/11, and he waited until he can go serve his country, and he gave his life. Now, we have got to stop polarizing ourself in this way.
  • I think he is a transformational figure. He is a new generation coming into the world — onto the world stage, onto the American stage, and for that reason I'll be voting for Senator Barack Obama.
    • Meet the Press (19 October 2008).

The Powell Principles (2003)Edit

Quotes of Powell from The Powell Principles (2003) by Oren Harari
  • Leadership is the art of accomplishing more than the science of management says is possible.
  • Being responsible sometimes means pissing people off.
  • If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude.
    • This evokes Will Durant's famous summation of Aristotle: "Excellence then is not an act, but a habit."
  • Every organization should tolerate rebels who tell the emperor he has no clothes.

2010sEdit

  • There's also a dark vein of intolerance in some parts of the party. What do I mean by that? What I mean by that is they still sort of look down on minorities.

It Worked For Me: In Life and Leadership (2012)Edit

  • As you will see, there are no conclusions or recommendations, just my observations. The chapters are freestanding. You can read them straight through or jump in anywhere. Everyone has life lessons and stories. These are mine. All I can say is that they worked for me.
    • p. xii
  • I may be down, but never out. An infantry officer can do anything.
    • p. 6
  • Whenever I'm faced with a difficult choice, my approach has always been to make an estimate of the situation- a familiar military process. What's the situation? What's the mission? What are the different courses of action? Which looks most likely to succeed? Now, follow your informed instinct, decide, and execute forcefully; throw the mass of your forces and energy behind the choice. Then take a deep breath and hope it works, remembering that "hope is a bad supper, but makes a good breakfast."
    • p. 14
  • Success ultimately rests on small things, lots of small things. Leaders have to have a feel for small things — a feel for what is going in in the depths of an organization where small things reside. The more senior you become, the more you are isolated by pomp and staff, and the harder and more necessary it becomes to know what is going on six floors down. One way is to leave the top floor and its grand accoutrements and get down into the bowels for real. Don't tell anyone you are coming. Avoid advance notices that produce crash cleanups, frantic preparations, and PowerPoint presentations.
    • p. 18
  • It is the human gesture that counts. Yes, medals, stock options, promotions, bonuses, and pay raises are fine. But to really reach people, you need to touch them. A kind word, a pat on the back, a "well done," provided one-on-one and not by mob email is the way you share credit. It is the way you appeal to the dreams, inspirations, anxieties, and fears of your followers. They want to be the best they can be; a good leader lets them know it when they are.
    • p. 21
  • When things go badly, it is your fault, not theirs. You are responsible. Analyze how it happened, make the necessary fixes, and move on. No mass punishments or floggings. Fire people if you need to, train harder, insist on a higher level of performance, give halftime rants if that shakes a group up. But never forget that failure is your responsibility. Share the credit, take the blame, and quietly find out and fix things that went wrong. A psychotherapist who owned a school for severely troubled kids had a rule: "Whenever you place the cause of one of your actions outside yourself, it's an excuse and not a reason." This rule works for everybody, but it works especially for leaders.
    • p. 21-22
  • In the "heat of battle"- whether military or corporate- kindness, like calmness, reassures followers and holds their confidence. Kindness connects you with other human beings in a bond of mutual respect. If you care for your followers and show them kindness, they will reciprocate and care for you. They will not let you down or let you fail. They will accomplish whatever you have put in front of them.
    • p. 23
  • Naysayers are everywhere. They feel it's the safest position to be in. It's the easiest armor to wear... And they may be right in their negativity; reality may be on their side. But chances are very good that it's not. You can only use their naysaying as one line in the spectrum of inputs to your decision. Listen to everyone you need to, and then go with your fearless instinct. Each of us must work to become a hardheaded realist, or else we risk wasting our time and energy pursuing impossible dreams. Yet constant naysayers pursue no less impossible dreams. Their fear and cynicism move nothing forward. They kill progress. How many cynics built empires, great cities, or powerful corporations?
    • p. 27
  • Always do your very best. Even when no one else is looking, you always are. Don't disappoint yourself.
    • p. 36
  • When I was a young second lieutenant, I loved my job. I loved the Army. I put everything I had into doing the job well. And I was content. Nothing was promised, and I had few expectations. Count on maybe becoming a lieutenant colonel and retiring with twenty years of service at half pay, I was told. Just be thankful for anything that comes after that and thank your soldiers for making it happen. If you hit the walls of the pyramid, find satisfaction there. Be happy with that prospect. And I was.
    • p. 65
  • In the Army, we are measured constantly and exhaustively. We get evaluation reports annually and every time we change jobs or our supervisor changes jobs. Our immediate supervisor evaluates us. So does our next higher superior, and his evaluation compares us with all our peers who serve under him. Our school performance is graded. Our spouses are silently observed. Our careers are obsessively examined and managed. The reason is simple and obvious. We do not hire from outside. If we need a battalion commander fifteen years from now, we have to grow one now from a promising new second lieutenant. Sergeants major are not hired in from Walmart or Hertz. It takes many years to grow them from basic training recruits.
    • p. 67
  • But leaders are not gods. Their understanding is never totally clear, totally accurate, totally certain. Every leader is human... imperfectly human. Water-walkers sometimes fail, and quiet walkers sometimes end up on top. Leaders need to watch all their subordinate; work with all of them, encourage the hotshots, but invest in the others. Always be prepared to change your mind, however firmly made up, when dealing with those infinitely faceted beings we call people. The leader must never forget that he may end up working for one of them.
    • p. 70
  • I believe that when you first take over a new outfit, start out trusting the people there unless you have real evidence not to. If you trust them, they will trust you, and those bonds will strengthen over time. They will work hard to make sure you do well. They will protect you and cover you. They will take care of you.
    • p. 75

  • You can't make good decisions unless you have good information and can separate facts from opinion and speculation.
    • p. 113
  • Facts are verified information that is then presented as objective reality. The rub here is the verified part. How do you verify verified? Facts are slippery, and so is verification. Today's verification may not be tomorrow's. It turns out that facts may not really be facts; they can change as the verification changes; they may only tell part of the story, not the whole story; or they may be so qualified by verifiers that they're empty of information.
    • p. 113
  • Verified facts don't always come pure, but with qualifiers. My warning radar always goes on alert when qualifiers are attached to facts. Qualifiers like: My best judgement... I think... As best I can tell... Usually reliable sources say... For the most part... We've been told... and the like. I don't dismiss facts so qualified; but I'm cautious about taking them to the bank.
    • p. 115
  • Don't get me wrong. I don't look down on intelligence gatherers, and I don't mean to condemn any specific intelligence staff or the intelligence community. It's a hard, stressful, vitally necessary job. During my career I've worked with intelligence agencies and experts of every kind, from a young lieutenant, battalion-level intelligence officer to all sixteen branches of the U.S. intelligence community. With rare exceptions, intelligence analysts do all they can to give you the information and facts you need to understand the enemy and the situation and come up with the best decision. I found over the years that my intelligence staffs told the best story when I worked with them as they were putting it together. I questioned them constantly; I sent written analyses back, loaded with scribbles in the margins; I challenged them to defend their analyses. Staffs appreciated the challenge. They wanted to get the story right as much as I did.
    • p. 115
  • As successes come your way, remember that you didn't do it alone. It is always we.
    • p. 266
  • The people in my life made me what I am.
    • p. 279


2020sEdit

  • It’s just like in the military — you argue, you debate something, but once the president has made a decision, that becomes a decision for the Cabinet.
    • As quoted from CNN's ‘Larry King Live’ in Colin Powell Leaves Many Leadership Lessons For Corporate Executives, Forbes, October 18, 2021


Quotes about PowellEdit

 
Why didn't the doubts reach Powell? Perhaps because then he wouldn't have given the speech at all? "That's right," Wilkerson says, shooting a hard, solemn stare across the restaurant table. "That's right... I am prepared to entertain the idea that they used him."
 
The entire global community was against the invasion.... There’s no way to kind of pretty it up. It was atrocious. And again, hundreds of thousands — in some estimates, up to a million — people died as a result of that war. ~ Clarence Lusane
  • After touring the South, General Colin Powell concluded that there was no impediment to a black being elected president in America, noting that he received his strongest support from white Southerners.
    • Ann Coulter, How To Talk To A Liberal (If You Must) (2004), p. 175-176
  • I can tell you that having been intimately involved in the preparation of Secretary Powell for his five February 2003 presentation at the UN Security Council, neither of those dissents in any fashion or form were registered with me or the Secretary by the DCI, George Tenent, by the DDCI, John McLaughlin, or by any of their many analysts who were in the room with us for those five, six days and nights at the Central Intelligence Agency... In fact it was presented in the firmest language possible that the mobile biological labs and the sketches we had drawn of them for the Secretary's presentation were based on the iron clad evidence of multiple sources.
  • Powell’s penchant for playing footsie with atrocity dates back more than 50 years. His ability to look the other way when doing otherwise might hamper his career began with the massacre at My Lai, when he whistled past reports of civilians being slaughtered by U.S. forces in Vietnam without tarnishing his own brass-to-be.
    Powell was up to his eyeballs in the Iran/Contra scandal but again emerged unscathed, despite having served as top deputy to Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, who was indicted for his role in the scandal but later pardoned by George H.W. Bush...
    While serving as chairman of the joint chiefs, Powell’s endorsement of a more active U.S. military engagement in Somalia toward the end of the first Bush’s lone term led directly to the shootdown of two Blackhawk helicopters in Mogadishu in the summer of 1993... As chairman of the joint chiefs under the first President Bush, Powell first gained public gravitas as a military man during the 1990 invasion of Panama, which took the lives of thousands of civilians. He went on to famously preside over the first Gulf War, which we are still fighting in various forms some 28 years later. After spending the Clinton administration on the shelf, Powell was welcomed back into the circles of Republican power when he became secretary of state under George W. Bush.
  • *Powell, like so many other Republican “Never Trumpers,” doesn’t criticize Trump for his policies, which are mostly in line with what has been mainstream Republican thinking since Barry Goldwater’s time. Powell doesn’t like Trump because he is bad for the Republican brand, period. Colin Powell has been living in a glass house since 1968. It’s high time someone shattered it, if only to spare the rest of us the image of yet another Republican war criminal being treated like a Respected Man on television. One Henry Kissinger is enough.
  • Colin Powell had a long career in which he implemented key imperialist policies — from Vietnam in his youth, to working with Ronald Reagan and both Bush presidencies. His imperialist record is too long for this article, but here are some highlights: Colin Powell was a senior tactical adviser during the Vietnam War, where he committed numerous brutal war crimes. In his [2003] memoir My American Journey, Powell explains that he led South Vietnamese soldiers in an attack on a village full of families, elderly people, and other non-combatants: The people had fled at our approach, except for an old woman too feeble to move... We burned down the thatched huts, starting the blaze with Ronson and Zippo cigarette lighters... [because] Ho Chi Minh had said the people were like the sea in which his guerrillas swam... We tried to solve the problem by making the whole sea uninhabitable. Powell also stated that If a [helicopter] spotted a peasant in black pajamas who looked remotely suspicious, a possible MAM, the pilot would circle and fire in front of him. If he moved, his movement was judged evidence of hostile intent, and the next burst was not in front, but at him.
    These were not violent tactics that Powell himself invented, of course; it was the strategy of the United States in the war. And of course, Powell executed that strategy well, rising through the ranks of power.
  • It’s a terrible paradox in the life of Colin Powell, who died Monday, that the most important moment of his celebrated career came not when he led troops under fire in Vietnam, or when he orchestrated the successful expulsion of Iraqi invaders from Kuwait in 1991, or when he became the nation’s first African American national-security adviser and Secretary of State.
    It came, instead, on the dais of the United Nations Security Council, in 2003, when Powell, who was then Secretary of State, made the case for the invasion of Iraq, based on the conclusion that Saddam Hussein possessed nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, and thus had to be removed by force. The enduring image from that moment is Powell holding up a tiny vial of white powder, which stood for what was supposed to be Saddam’s anthrax, and, mortgaging his esteemed reputation and all the credibility of the U.S. government, telling the world that the U.S. had no choice but to go to war.
  • Powell was used. Bush, Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld, who was then the Secretary of Defense, cynically enlisted him and his enormous credibility to make the flimsy, and ultimately faulty, case for war. As Powell recounted to one of his aides, according to Robert Draper, the author of “To Start a War: How the Bush Administration Took America Into Iraq,’’ Cheney had said to him, “You’re the most popular man in America. Do something with that popularity.” And so Powell did. Draper makes clear that Powell harbored doubts about the invasion of Iraq from the get-go. Powell might have resigned before the March 2003 invasion; if he had done that, he would have almost certainly have delayed the invasion, or scuttled it entirely. But, in the most fateful decision of his career, Powell chose to remain what he always aspired to be: the good soldier.
  • At the personal level, Colin Powell was a nice man. He was also a trailblazer. But he was also a military leader and key strategist of an empire that killed countless people and undermined the sovereignty of multiple nations. In our memorials, we must be honest about all of this.
  • Powell’s friends in America tend to briefly note, in the soft glaze of his own regret, the most consequential act of his life. On February 5, 2003, Powell made a 76-minute speech to the United Nations Security Council in which he argued the Bush administration’s case for invading Iraq. He insisted that Iraq’s leader, Saddam Hussein, was overseeing a secret program to make weapons of mass destruction. Powell brandished satellite photos of what he confidently said were decontamination trucks, aluminum tubes, and other WMD paraphernalia. He even held up a vial that he said could contain anthrax.
    There was, of course, a big problem with all of his assertions: They were lies. The intelligence behind his speech was the opposite of emphatic — it was false, manipulated, and fabricated. The trucks were just trucks. The tubes were just tubes. There was no anthrax. There was, more fundamentally, no reason to invade Iraq. Nonetheless, thanks to Powell’s presentation, the Bush administration went ahead with its plans, and in the ensuing catastrophe, at least several hundred thousand Iraqis lost their lives, as well as more than 4,000 U.S. soldiers.
  • Powell resigned from the Bush administration in 2004 and never really owned up to what he had done. He recognized that his U.N. speech was inaccurate and described it, in an interview with celebrity journalist Barbara Walters, as “painful” and a “blot” on his career. Those comments, not long after he left office, were pretty much as far as he would ever go in terms of introspection or criticism. He was unable to admit the truth that his chief of staff Lawrence Wilkerson now acknowledges. “I participated in a hoax on the American people, the international community, and the United Nations Security Council,” Wilkerson has said.
    The “blot” did not matter that much to Powell’s reputation in the U.S., because after the Iraq disaster, he continued to blaze a lucrative path in the corporate world, joining the board of directors of Salesforce and Bloom Energy and becoming a “strategic adviser” to the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins. (He was already very rich — he had received a $6 million advance for his 1995 memoir “My American Journey.”) He was a trailblazer, in this way, for a generation of retired generals who have coasted into 1 percent status thanks to the flattering reviews they receive in cultural and political circles no matter the actual consequences of their government service.
  • But let’s be very clear about Powell’s total failure once he became one of the Washington wise men. He accepted the false WMD narrative and put his prestige behind it. Now, to be fair, I believed it too – I worked in that field during Gulf War 1.0 and understood the capabilities Saddam had then. But it turned out to be baloney a decade later, sparking the disaster that was Gulf War 2.0. From his public actions afterwards, Powell seemed outraged not so much by the war itself than the fact that being caught falsely pushing the meme damaged his credibility.
  • Powell became a reliably Democrat-voting Republican, the kind CNN would wheel out every election cycle to explain how actual Republicans are terrible. He was beloved in Washington as one of the wisemen because of this; it certainly helped wash off some of the stink of being caught up in the mustard gas fraud. Grimly, at the end, his passing exemplified the worst of the people he thought were the best and enjoyed being one of, with focus on his race and his taking of the vaxx sacrament and a soft-pedaling of his flaws.
  • President Biden ordered flags at the White House to be flown at half-staff in honor of General Colin Powell, who died Monday at the age of 84. Powell was the first Black secretary of state, the first Black and youngest chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the first Black national security adviser. On Monday, tributes poured in from both Republican and Democratic leaders. President Biden called Powell a, quote, “patriot of unmatched honor and dignity.”
    But in other parts of the world, Powell is remembered very differently. In Iraq, the journalist Muntadhar al-Zaidi, who famously threw a shoe at President George W. Bush, tweeted that he was sad Powell had died before being tried for his crimes in Iraq. While serving as secretary of state under Bush, General Powell played a pivotal role in paving the way for the U.S. invasion. It was February 5th, 2003, that Powell addressed the United Nations Security Council and made the case for a first strike on Iraq. Powell’s message was clear: Iraq possessed extremely dangerous weapons of mass destruction, and Saddam Hussein was systematically trying to deceive U.N. inspectors by hiding the prohibited weapons....All of Colin Powell’s main claims about weapons of mass destruction turned out to be false.
  • Powell was one of the Reagan administration’s point people in Central America and, as the point person, helped to tee up and then legitimate, when necessary, the Salvadoran military dictatorships and the Guatemalan and other militaries in the region that were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocents — and so, in the case of Guatemala, like 200,000 or more mostly Mayan Indigenous people. And so, like, in 1983, for example, Powell was part of a fact-finding kind of mission, that included Jeane Kirkpatrick and Weinberger...to go confirm the Salvadoran military and government were doing the right thing under Duarte. And, you know, they found that they were doing the right thing and that the U.S. should continue heavily funding and training these murderous militaries. He never said anything about...the massacre of El Sumpul, where about 600 people were killed, was perpetrated by the U.S.-backed Salvadoran government; the massacre of El Mozote, where a thousand people were killed, an entire town wiped out, half of the victims under age 12.. Powell seemed to have amnesia about that...and other massacres were completely ignored....
    Now, some historians will call Powell a peacenik almost, a liberal, which, I mean, if you’re comparing him to like Alexander Haig or some just uber fascist like that, then, yeah, but in the larger scheme of empire and militarism, Colin Powell has been, you know, was always, a loyal cadre to mass-murdering empire.
  • So, the thing to remember about that period is that the entire global community was against the invasion. So, when Colin Powell and the Bush administration says that they were vetting this information, they were not listening not only to their allies, they were not listening to what the United Nations itself was actually doing and had essentially proven that there were no weapons of mass destruction. But the administration was determined to go, and Colin Powell basically acceded to that, as he would do both prior to that speech, as he did with the World Conference Against Racism, when the United States and Israel were the only two countries that pulled out... So, there does have to be an accounting for that record. There’s no way to kind of pretty it up. It was atrocious. And again, hundreds of thousands — in some estimates, up to a million — people died as a result of that war.
    • Clarence Lusane in A Reluctant Warrior? An Examination of Gen. Colin Powell’s Bloody Legacy from Iraq to Latin America, Democracy Now!, October 19, 2021

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