Newsmaker: Colin Powell – a soldier, diplomat and transformational figure
Colin L. Powell, who in four decades in public life was the nation’s top soldier, diplomat, and national security adviser, and whose United Nations speech in 2003 saw the United States enter at war in Iraq, died on Monday. He was 84 years old.
He died of complications from Covid-19, his family said in a statement, adding that he was vaccinated and treated at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., Where he died . Powell had undergone treatment for multiple myeloma, which compromised his immune system, a spokesperson said.
Powell was a pioneer as the country’s first black national security adviser, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and secretary of state. From his 35 years in the military, Powell was emblematic of the ability of minorities to use the military as a ladder of opportunity.
It was a classic American success story. Born in Harlem to Jamaican parents, Powell grew up in the South Bronx and graduated from City College of New York, joining the military through the ROTC. Beginning as a young second lieutenant in command on the dawn of a newly desegregated army, Powell completed two decorated combat tours in Vietnam. He then served as National Security Advisor to President Ronald Reagan at the end of the Cold War, helping to negotiate arms treaties and an era of cooperation with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.
As chairman of the Joint Chiefs, he was the architect of the invasion of Panama in 1989 and the Gulf War in 1991, which ousted Saddam Hussein from Kuwait but left him in power in Iraq.
Most Popular Public Figure By the time he retired from the military in 1993, Powell was America’s most popular public figure because of his frankness, leadership skills, and self-expression. in spot colors that Americans liked.
In an interview with the New York Times in 2007, he analyzed himself: “Powell is a problem solver. He was taught as a soldier to solve problems. So he has opinions, but he’s not an ideologue. He has passion but he is not a fanatic. He is above all a problem solver.
Once retired, Powell, a longtime independent in uniform, was courted as a presidential candidate by Republicans and Democrats, and became America’s most political general since Dwight D. Eisenhower. He wrote a bestselling memoir, “My American Journey,” and flirted with running for president before deciding in 1995 that the office campaign was not for him.
He returned to public service in 2001 as Secretary of State to President George W. Bush, whose Father Powell had served as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs a decade earlier. In accepting the post, Powell followed in the footsteps of one of his heroes, General George Marshall, who served as Secretary of State to Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman.
But in the Bush administration, Powell was the intruder, battling internally with Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for Bush’s ear and for dominance in foreign policy.
He left at the end of Bush’s first term under the cloud of the deepening Iraq war that began after 9/11 and growing questions as to whether he could and should have done more to oppose it. These questions revolved in part around his speech at the UN, which was based on false information, and which became the source of lifelong regret.
He kept a low profile for the next several years, but with just over two weeks remaining in the 2008 presidential campaign, Powell, an avowed Republican, gave strong support to Senator Barack Obama, calling him a “transformational figure.” . Powell’s support has been criticized by conservative Republicans. But it allayed doubts among some independents, moderates and even some moderates in his own party, and largely neutralized concerns about Obama’s inexperience to be commander-in-chief.
Support for Democrats When electing Obama’s successor, Powell maintained his support for Democrats, saying he would vote for Hillary Clinton rather than Donald Trump. Ahead of the election, he expressed his distaste for Trump in a leaked batch of emails that a spokesperson for Powell confirmed to be genuine.
“Trump is a national disgrace and an international outcast,” Powell wrote in an email. Trump’s attacks on the issue of Obama’s birth also troubled him, according to the emails. “Yes, the whole birthers movement was racist,” he said.
Powell, in the next election, backed Joe Biden, delivering a message of support to him at the 2020 Democratic National Convention.
Colin Luther Powell was born April 5, 1937 and raised in the ethnically mixed section of Hunts Point in the southern Bronx. Her parents, Luther Powell, a shipping room foreman in Manhattan’s garment district, and Maud Ariel McKoy, a seamstress, were immigrants from Jamaica.
While in service, Powell met Alma Vivian Johnson on a blind date, and they were married in August 1962. In addition to his wife, his survivors include two daughters, Linda Powell and Annmarie Lyons; one son, Michael, who served as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission; and four grandchildren.
Years later, the sting of the United Nations discourse still pained him. Still, he was looking to move on. “Let others judge me,” Powell said in the 2007 interview. “All I want to do is judge myself as a successful soldier who has done his best.”
Eric Schmitt is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist