Year in Review: the death of Colin Powell

October 2021: Colin Powell passed away from COVID-19
Colin Powell: first African-American Secretary of State, defender of Iraq war
Born in Harlem, raised in the Bronx
Vietnam veteran
A conservative African American
George W. Bush and the Iraq war
Powell at the UN
A dove among hawks
He went to war unconvinced
End of his political career
From Republican to Democrat
Support for Obama
Support for Biden
Trump (of course) attacked him
A shadow in his biography
Colin Powell's family
Death of a historical icon
October 2021: Colin Powell passed away from COVID-19

On October 18, 2021, former Secretary of State Colin Powell died in a Washington hospital. He was infected with the coronavirus, and his health - already fragile at 84 years old - suddenly worsened until he passed away.

Colin Powell: first African-American Secretary of State, defender of Iraq war

The world came to know Powell in 2003, when he tried to convince the United Nations with flimsy evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. The military man, then Secretary of State for George W. Bush, struggled to defend an invasion in the Middle-Eastern country, but war was waged any way.

Born in Harlem, raised in the Bronx

Colin Powell was born in the New York neighbourhood of Harlem in 1937. His roots were Jamaican and Scottish. Raised in the Bronx, he had a humble background from which he managed to depart through a career in the military.

Vietnam veteran

Having been promoted, Powell participated in the Vietnam War with the rank of captain. He earned a Purple Heart for his heroic acts in the conflict and then went on to work with the Nixon administration. He climbed step by step until he reached the rank of general.

A conservative African American

Typically, African-Americans were in the progressive orbit and voted for the Democratic Party, but Colin Powell was one of the exceptions. As a conservative, he came to work closely with Ronald Reagan. This image, for example, shows him in Panama, a country invaded by the United States to remove its leftist ruler, Manuel Antonio Noriega.

George W. Bush and the Iraq war

George W. Bush appointed Colin Powell as his Secretary of State. After 9/11, he decided that Powell would convince the world that it was just and necessary to invade Iraq and bring down Saddam Hussein. The problem with that argument was that the supposed 'weapons of mass destruction' of the Hussein regime were actually never found.

Powell at the UN

Colin Powell's presentation at the UN, with photographs and graphics, would become material for the history books. He continued to insist that there were 'weapons of mass destruction' in Iraq, but analysts always had the impression that he himself did not believe what he was saying.

A dove among hawks

Despite being the man who presented the case for war to the UN, Powell was considered a 'dove' (meaning, careful in foreign policy, avoiding violence) among the 'hawks' of the Bush government. One of these infamous warmongers was Vice President Cheney, in the image to the right of Powell.

He went to war unconvinced

Various testimonies and chronicles have confirmed the impression that Colin Powell was not convinced of the soundness of invading Iraq. However, as a military leader he believed it was his duty to contribute to the invasion. And so he did. The Iraq war officially lasted from 2003 to 2011, but in reality the country's instability and violence have continued until today.

End of his political career

The Iraq war was the end of Colin Powell's political career. The non-existence of 'weapons of mass destruction' stained his record. At the same time, the conservative flank of American politics found him insufficiently strong in defending the heavy hand to avenge 9/11.

From Republican to Democrat

Colin Powell had always considered himself a bona fide Republican. However, little by little, he became closer to the Democratic Party.

Support for Obama

He initially supported Barack Obama in 2008 because of his connections with the African-American community. Powell considered that it would be fair to have an African-American president for the United States.

Support for Biden

In recent years, he supported the presidential run of Joe Biden. The former Secretary of State could not stomach Trump's populist, xenophobic and radical drift. He preferred Joe Biden who was a political veteran with a thousand battles in Washington DC under his belt.

Trump (of course) attacked him

Trump was quick to say that Colin Powell was "overrated" and reminded him in big capital letters on Twitter that he had led the United States into a war with false evidence.

A shadow in his biography

The Iraq war always formed a shadow in his biography. Colin Powell had the grace not to deny his guilt entirely, but he did say that George W. Bush's administration deceived him with the alleged evidence of 'weapons of mass destruction'.

Colin Powell's family

Colin Powell left behind Alma Vivian Johnson whom he married in 1962. They had a son, Michael, and two daughters: Linda (pictured) and Anne.

Death of a historical icon

Colin Powell remains a contradictory figure in American history. He was the first African-American Secretary of State and a highly successful military leader, but he also helped lead the United States into a less than heroic war. In any case, it is a good thing to remember his life and passing.

Read more: Protagonists of 9/11 and its aftermath - who were they and where are they now?

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