Colin Powell: Former US secretary of state dies from Covid-19 complications

Colin Powell, the first African-American secretary of state and national security adviser to the US president, passed away on Monday. He was 84
In this December 30, 1986 file photo, US Lieutenant General Colin Powell, commander of the 5th US corps, salutes while his wife Alma stands in attention during a farewell ceremony in Frankfurt. Powell, who went on to become the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and US secretary of state, has died from Covid-19 complications. (AP/File)
In this December 30, 1986 file photo, US Lieutenant General Colin Powell, commander of the 5th US corps, salutes while his wife Alma stands in attention during a farewell ceremony in Frankfurt. Powell, who went on to become the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and US secretary of state, has died from Covid-19 complications. (AP/File)
Published on Oct 18, 2021 11:47 PM IST
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ByYashwant Raj

Colin Powell, the first African-American secretary of state and national security adviser to the US president, died on Monday of complications related to Covid-19. He was 84.

Over four decades of life in US government, Powell would be remembered most distinctly for his speech, as secretary of state, at the UN Security Council that paved the way for the US invasion of Iraq in March 2003, wrongly alleging that Saddam Hussein, then Iraqi leader, had built a stockpile of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). No WMD was ever found in Iraq.

“A failure will always be attached to me and my UN presentation,” Powell wrote in It Worked For Me, his 2012 book. “I am mad mostly at myself for not having smelled the problem. My instincts failed me.”

“General Colin L. Powell, former US secretary of state and chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, passed away this morning due to complications from Covid-19,” the Powell family said a statement on his official Facebook page.

“He was fully vaccinated [against Covid-19]. We want to thank the medical staff at Walter Reed National Medical Center for their caring treatment. We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American.”

CNN reported that Powell had been diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a cancer of plasma cells, which left him immunocompromised.

Colin Powell visited India four times as secretary state, the first of which took place in October 2001, just days after the US invaded Afghanistan in search of Osama bin Laden and others responsible for the September 11 terror attacks.

Powell’s last visit came months after India turned down a request from the Bush administration to send peacekeeping troops to Iraq. The US had expected the deployment of a full Indian army division of 17,000 troops, according to reports at the time.

A cabinet committee of the Vajpayee government decided in July 2003 to turn down the request after months of intense discussions.

Colin Powell’s visit in March 2004 was dominated by outsourcing and trade. “My previous visits here in India were during times of great tension, crisis when people worried about the possibility of conflict,” he had said a town hall hosted by NDTV. “But now I am here at the time when people are talking about peace. We are talking about economic and trade issues for most of the day, not tension and conflict and the likelihood of war.

“And I think this is a tribute to the leaders, a tribute to your Prime Minster and the members of this government, a tribute to President [Pervez] Musharraf, but really a tribute to the desire on the part of the Indian people to find a way forward, to find a way towards lasting peace in this part of the world. And for you young people, it’s especially important that you be advocates for peace as well, because it is your country that you’re going to be inheriting and leading.”

A four-star general, Colin Powell made history in 1987 when then president Ronald Reagan named him his national security adviser, the first African-American to hold that position.

He was followed years later by Condoleezza Rice.

In 2001, then president George W Bush named him his secretary of state, once again the first African-American named as the top US diplomat.

Born to parents from Jamaica, Powell fought in the Vietnam war and went to become the youngest and first African-American chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, a post he held during the 1990 Gulf War, when his strategy of using overwhelming force - after exhausting diplomatic, politician and economic means - came to be called the “Powell Doctrine”.

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