Colin Powell, a trailblazer general stained by Iraq, dies

Colin Powell, the pioneering soldier and diplomat who lost his sterling reputation for service to Republican presidents and Democratic presidents to false claims to justify the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, died Monday from COVID-19 complications. He was 84.

Colin Powell, a trailblazer general stained by Iraq, dies

Veteran of the Vietnam War. Powell served 35 years in the Army, rising to the rank of four star general. He then became the first Black chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff. He was a household name for his leadership in the U.S. invasion Kuwait to expel the Iraqi army. This led to speculation for almost a decade about whether he would run for president.

Instead, he joined President George W. Bush’s administration as secretary of state in 2001. He was the first Black person to represent America on the international stage. Powell's tenure was marred by his 2003 speech to the United Nations Security Council, in which he claimed that Saddam Hussein had hidden weapons of mass destruction. These weapons did not materialize, and although the Iraqi leader was removed from office, the war turned into years of humanitarian and military losses.

His family confirmed that Powell had been fully vaccinated against coronavirus. He was also diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, according to Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward. Peggy Cifrino Powell's long-time aide said Monday that Powell had been treated for multiple myeloma over the years, which is a blood cancer that affects the body's ability fight infection. Studies show that patients with cancer don't receive the same protection from COVID-19 as people who are healthier.

Democrats and Republicans alike recalled Powell fondly in Washington, where there are deep partisan divisions. Flags were ordered to be lowered at all government buildings, including White House and Pentagon, as well as the State Department.

President Joe Biden stated that Powell "embodied both the highest ideals of warrior and diplomat."

Biden noted Powell's rise from poverty in his childhood in New York City. He said that he believed in America because he had lived it. He devoted so much of his life making that promise a reality for others.

The aftermath of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 shaped Powell's tenure as secretary of state. He was the first American official publicly to blame Osama Bin Laden's al Qaida network. He flew to Pakistan in a hurry to ask that the then-Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf work with the United States to pursue the Afghanistan-based terrorist group. This group also had a presence at Pakistan where bin Laden was later murdered.

As the war in Iraq grew, Powell found himself sometimes at odds with key Bush officials, such as Vice President Dick Cheney or Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld also passed away this year.

Powell's State Department was skeptical of Saddam's conviction by the intelligence and military communities that he had weapons of mass destruction. In a strong speech to U.N. Security Council, he argued that Saddam was a significant regional and global threat. Bush approved the invasion the following month.

Powell displayed a vial of what he claimed could be a biological weapon in his U.N. speech. Although he removed elements from the remarks that were based on poor intelligence assessments, it was still seen as a low moment in his career.

Saddam Hussein was overthrown by the United States. This ended his rule as a dictator. The power vacuum and lawlessness that followed led to years of sectarian violence and chaos, which killed many civilians in Iraq. It also sparked an insurgency that unintentionally tilted power in the Middle East towards Iran. There were never any weapons of mass destruction from Iraq.

Powell stated in a 2012 interview with The Associated Press, that the U.S. had succeeded in Iraq on balance.

He said, "I believe we had many successes." "Iraq's horrible dictator is gone."

Saddam Hussein was captured in Iraq by U.S. forces in December 2003 while he was hiding in northern Iraq. He was later executed in Iraq by the Iraqi government. The war continued. Obama pulled U.S. troops from Iraq in 2011. However, he sent back advisers in 2014 after the Islamic State group invaded the country from Syria. They had captured large swathes of territory.

Bush stated Monday that Powell's death had deeply saddened him and Laura Bush, the former first lady.

Bush stated that he was "a great public servant" who was "widely respected both at home and abroad." "And, most importantly, Colin was a father and friend." Laura and I send Alma, their children, our deepest condolences.

Condoleezza Rice was Powell's successor as State Secretary and was praised by her as a "trusted colleague" and a "dear friend through very difficult times."

Lloyd Austin, the Defense Secretary, was a former Army General and the first Black Pentagon Chief. He said that the news about Powell's death had left "a gap in my heart."

Austin stated that the world had lost "one of the greatest leaders" while he was on a European tour.

Kamala Harris, Vice President of the United States, was also a high ranking Black woman and noted Powell's racial firsts.

She said, "Every step of his journey, when he filled these roles, he was inspired by everything he did and how he did it. Inspiring so many people." Young service members and others, not only in the military but also around the world, were able to see the significance of his achievements as a reflection on who we are as citizens.

Powell was not born into privilege and often presented his life as an American success story.

In his 1995 autobiography, "My American Journey," he wrote that Mine is "The Story of a Black Kid of No Early Promise from an Immigrant Family of Limited Means Who Was Raised in the South Bronx."

He fondly recalled the experience later in life. He often recalled his childhood in New York City as a child of Jamaican immigrants.

Powell began his path to the military at City College. There he discovered ROTC. He wrote that he liked the first uniform he wore.

He joined the Army in 1962 and was among more than 16,000 military advisors that President John F. Kennedy sent to South Vietnam. After a series of promotions, he was assigned as a military assistant for Secretary of Defense Caspar Wineberger, who was his unofficial sponsor. Later, he was commander of the Army's 5th Corps Germany and then became President Ronald Reagan's national security advisor.

His term as chairman of the Joint Chiefs was marked by the Powell Doctrine. This doctrine stated that the United States should not commit troops to a conflict unless it has clear objectives, enough firepower, and sufficient public support.

Powell was a national celebrity under Republican presidents but he eventually left the party.

In the four previous presidential elections, he endorsed Democrats starting with Obama. In recent years, he became a vocal critic of Donald Trump. He called Trump a "national disgrace" and should have been removed from office by impeachment.