Secretary of State Colin Powell holding up a vial that he described as one that could contain anthrax, during his presentation to the U.N. Security Council in New York, February 5, 2003.
Colin Powell in famous photo holding up a vial that he described as one that could contain anthrax, during his presentation to the U.N. Security Council in New York, February 5, 2003 that helped build support for the war in Iraq. [Source: nytimes.com]

Lacking the backbone to stand up to Dick Cheney when it counted, Powell betrayed the world and participated in the deaths of hundreds of thousands

Colin Powell is dead. The 84-year-old former Secretary of State, former National Security Advisor, and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff succumbed to Covid-19 while battling multiple myeloma, a cancer of the bone marrow.

Predictably, the mainstream media self-flagellated over the loss of this “hero-statesman.”

The Washington Post published an editorial about how the current Republican party is no longer the party of Colin Powell. (It never was.) Another Post op-ed said that Americans just don’t trust anybody today the way they trusted Powell. Yet another lamented the fact that he had not run for President against Bill Clinton in 1996.

Just imagine it, the Washington swells said: Powell in 1996 would have meant no impeachment, which would have neutered Newt Gingrich. It would have meant no 2000 Florida recount, no Cheney as Vice President, and no Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense.

Republicans wanted Colin Powell to run for president in 1996, but he  declined - The Washington Post
Powell with his wife Alma in 1995 at a news conference announcing he would not seek the presidency. [Source: washingtonpost.com]

Powell was a “supernova” in the 1990s, the Post said, closely resembling Dwight Eisenhower as the one military man who could unite the country.

But all of that is nonsense, isn’t it?

Like most Americans, I personally liked Colin Powell in the 1990s. As a CIA officer, I had occasion to deal with him a number of times. He was unfailingly polite, intellectual, and highly respected by those around him. But let’s be honest. He was a pretty typical neocon Republican.

In 2014, the Clinton Presidential Library released 10,000 pages of documents, including 34 pages of handwritten notes, detailing the internal debate in 1993 over whether to allow openly gay people in the military. The “don’t ask, don’t tell” debate was highly newsworthy at the time, and it pitted the new president against his military advisors.

Powell, who was a four-star general and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time, said, “Homo(sexuality) is a problem for us.” “Sodomy,” he said, was “banned by the Uniform Code of Military Justice,” and that “an absolute right to privacy for soldiers in such close quarters simply does not exist.” Thus, the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy was born. A decade later, Powell said that his position had been a mistake.

President Clinton shakes hands with outgoing Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Colin Powell. | AP Photo
Colin Powell with Bill Clinton. [Source: politico.com]

Powell over the years has said that his greatest regret was advocating at the United Nations for military action against Iraq when he knew full well that that country did not possess weapons of mass destruction.

I was serving at the time as Executive Assistant to the CIA’s Deputy Director for Operations. My job was to coordinate the CIA’s response to the White House’s demands for support in the upcoming war against Iraq.

I can tell you that Powell was personally opposed to the war, as many of us were. But he did not have the backbone to stand up to Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld and say, “This is wrong. It will cause hundreds of thousands of deaths. I won’t be a part of it. I resign.”

Instead, when told that it would be he who would go to the UN to make the case for war, Powell saluted and said, “Yes, sir.” That’s not leadership.

Dick Cheney and Colin Powell: The Odd Couple - The New York Times
Colin Powell with then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney during 1991 Persian Gulf War briefing. [Source: nytimes.com]

I had a personal experience with Powell that has bothered me for many years. In 2003, while working in that Executive Assistant position, I had occasion to go CIA Headquarters one Sunday evening around 10:00. I did this every Sunday because I had to go through so much cable traffic—as many as 10,000 cables a day—that I didn’t have time to do it on Monday mornings.

I had to be at my desk every morning at 3:45 to prepare to brief the CIA Director at 7:00, so I had a lot of chaff to separate from the wheat. On this particular Sunday night in January 2003, I went to the CIA’s Operations Center to pick up my hard-copy cables. When I walked in, I saw Powell sitting at a small conference room table.

“What’s Powell doing here?” I asked the duty officer. “He’s going through our changes to the State of the Union address,” was the response. (CIA analysts always get a few days to comment on the upcoming State of the Union address. They make their suggestions and then send the draft back to the White House.)

In this case, the “suggestion” was to remove any reference to the Iraqis allegedly trying to buy yellowcake uranium from Niger in furtherance of a nuclear weapons program. It simply had never happened. CIA analysts knew it was a lie. The language was in the original State of the Union draft, CIA analysts had taken it out, and Powell was putting it back in.

A few nights later, when George W. Bush gave his State of the Union address, he said, “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” That was simply untrue, and Powell knew it. We can’t blame everything on Dick Cheney.

The Uranium Hoax that Triggered the Iraq War
Uranium cakes from Niger—which the Bush administration falsely claimed Saddam Hussein was obtaining. [Source: spyscape.com]

On a human level, I’m sorry that Colin Powell is dead. I hope that his death from Covid, after being vaccinated, doesn’t cause vaccine doubters to skip the shots. I understand how popular he was, especially when Bush-era nostalgia began to set in during the Trump Administration.

But let’s not deify this flawed leader. The mistakes he made cost thousands of people their lives. It’s only when we understand this that we can learn from his mistakes.


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13 COMMENTS

  1. Colin Powell, like John McCain and George HW Bush has been praised by the media. When Colin Powell was Secretary of State under George W Bush, he told lies to the UN about Iraq being involved in 9/11 and planning to threaten world peace with WMD’s. Those are like the lies Netanyahu told the UN about Iran threatening world peace with WMD’s.
    Powell said the Iraq War was wrong only after Obama ran for president. He would have been a much better man if never participated in the My Lai Massacre in the Vietnam War,never supported the Iraq War and resigned when that war was about to start and objected to Obama’s continuation of the Afghan War which Obama called “The Good War” and objected to Obama restarted the Iraq War along with a war in Syria and objected to his bombing of Libya.
    George HW Bush was praised by the media after he died and many people say he was much better than W for not continuing the Gulf War after Iraq was out of Kuwait. He destroyed much of Panama when he was looking for Noriega and bombed Iraq from the No-Fly-Zones after the Gulf War ended and had the UN impose sanctions against Iraq which led to starvation of so many people there. The UN’s Oil For Food Program restricted the amount of food Iraq could buy and oil it could sell.
    John McCain was praised by the media and there was a magazine with him on the cover and all of it was about him and it praised him as such a good man when he thought one endless war was not good enough for him and he wanted more and more of them.

  2. Powell was a criminal gangster. We all know. But he retired. He was replaced by a new gangster who is in there right now doing the same things. Until we figure out how to change this we will see new 9/11s and JFK assassinations and wars and continued march to domestic totalitarianism. Voting doesn’t do it because the elected do not hold the real power.

  3. Great article, John. For even more detail about what an a-kissing, no-backbone windsock Powell was, the best place to go is consortiumnews.com, where, among other articles you will find is chapter and verse by CN founder, Bob Parry, putting it all together in 2004 article. Can also go to raymcgovern.com (disclosure: Ray is my brother) who lists a number of pieces, including one of his own, on the REAL Powell.

  4. Great article. Alternative media like Jimmy Dore openly called Powell a war criminal and mocked so-called lefties who say he was a great man.

  5. On August 5, 1937, the same day that Colin Powell was born, a plumber named Allan R.Thieme was born.
    Allan invented the mobility scooter.

    Mobility scooters were invented in 1968 by plumber Allan R. Thieme. His invention came about after he became frustrated about the mobility options for a family member who suffered from multiple sclerosis. He spent many nights building the prototype for the first mobility scooter in his Bridgeport, Michigan garage. His first successful prototype was a small yellow scooter that could travel three to four miles an hour.

    Since then, there have been many companies that developed mobility scooters. This revolutionary piece of technology opened up a wide range of possibilities for seniors and disabled persons.

  6. since when have they not praised their own after death? the same types that own the media are going to allow one of ‘their own’, a servant to their cause, be bad mouthed posthumously? so why the surprise NOW?

    • American soldiers committed war crimes daily in Vietnam. Two million civilians were killed in the conflict, mostly from American firepower. The US Air Force even sprayed Agent Blue over parts of southern Vietnam to destroy rice fields.

  7. Though I could understand why general Powell was so admired as a result of his affability, he was really nothing more than a political soldier. His time in Vietnam was quite brief as even he admitted in his book and even then he did not really engage in much combat if any.

    President Jimmy Carter was really the last president we had that really put his heart into the job though he made some terrible mistakes. After him, all the branches of government increasingly became so politicized and corrupted that we have what we have today. I do not see General Powell as one who could have avoided involving himself with such changes given that he already decided upon politics over morality when it came to the Iraq invasion in 2003…

  8. Without absolving Colin Powell for fulfilling his appointed role as the samesman to the US and the world for the horrendous war that others in Washington had orchestrated, are Americans going to wait for what Powell later described, ruefully, as “the JINSA crowd” to pass on without holding any of them to account?

    I refer to the ceaseless public agitation to remove Saddam going well back to the Clinton administration of those avidely pro-Israel neocons, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith and Lewis Libby whose hands were all over the Bush’s plan to use 9/11, as the Pearl Harbor which JINSA’s cousin, PNAC, had been calling for, to accomplish that objective.

    Had not Bush’s successor, the not yet war criminal, Barrack Obama, decided to bury the origins and originators of the war by declaring early on that “we must look forward not backward,” effectively pardoning all those named above for their actions, the American people might have had some answers and justice would have been done. But there was a sufficient supply of Obama’s Kool Aid to ensure that didn’t happen and Powell becomes the scapegoat.

    • Coolaid, with a major ingredient of Deep State. One wonders what the Deep State had on Obama.
      Don’t forget Schumer’s warning to then President-Elect Trump: in an interview, Schumer said that Trump had better watch out for what we know the Deep State (our phrase, not his) could do to him. Prophetic? Think RUSSIAGATE.

  9. Colin Powell betrayed the world by participated in the deaths of hundreds of thousands, because, like Kissinger, Clinton and others in the job, he was paid to be faithful and loyal to the Pentagon, White House, Capitol and the military industry, or MIC.

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