Colin Powell, the first black secretary of state who saw his legacy tarnished when he made the case for war in Iraq in 2003, died on Monday from complications from COVID-19.
News of his death elicited strong reaction in Iraq, which has paid the price of what they call “never-ending wars”. Many of them wish he had been tried of war crimes.
Iraq’s slow descent into chaos then led to sectarian strife and the rise of ISIS or Daesh.
“In one section of the speech, Powell referred to a Jordanian-born jihadist, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, 21 times, in an effort to prove a link between al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein,” states The Guardian. “According to an investigation by the PBS programme Frontline, it helped raise Zarqawi’s profile and helped give this previously obscure militant a mass following, paving the way for the organization that would become ISIS.”
“Solving many of the world’s problems”
A Saudi Gazette report said:
Saudi Ambassador to the US Princess Reema bint Bandar mourned the death of former US Secretary of State Colin Powell, describing him as ‘friend of the Kingdom.’
Princess Reema said on her Twitter account: “Saddened by the news of the passing of Secretary Colin Powell, who was not only a statesman dedicated to serving his country, but also a friend of the Kingdom and the region.”
The Saudi ambassador at Washington offered her sincere condolences to Powell family and loved ones.
“During my father Bandar bin Sultan’s tenure in Washington, D.C. Colin Powell was a dear friend.”
“He was instrumental in solving many of the world’s problems, a legacy that spans generations. His lifetime of devoted service to his country will not be forgotten,” she added.
Powell’s Role in the Iraq War — A Blot of Lie
He became a household name: General Powell, the man who led the U.S. into war with Iraq, based on lie. That lie was used to garner support from allies across the globe.
His four decades of service will be forever overshadowed by his speech to the UN Security Council in 2003, while he was serving as U.S. secretary of state.
He made the case for the invasion of Iraq, citing spurious evidence Iraqi president Saddam Hussein held weapons of mass destruction and posed an imminent danger to the world. The invasion of Iraq, the start of the second Gulf War, came just six weeks later. It was a pivotal moment that shaped American foreign policy for a decade.
Saddam’s “weapons of mass destruction” (WMD), as the U.S. claimed, were never found. The blight on Powell’s record tarnished U.S. image, and launched the beginnings of a costly and calamitous war in Iraq.
For a man whose namesake philosophy – the Powell Doctrine, based on his experience serving in Vietnam – argued the U.S. must have clear military objectives for war, it stung as a personal failure, one he later described as “a blot” on his record. “I am the one who presented it on behalf of the United States to the world, and [it] will always be a part of my record,” Powell said in 2005. “It was painful. It is painful now.” He admitted in a later interview the presentation was rife with inaccuracies and twisted intelligence provided by others in the second Bush administration.
In 2003, an investigation was conducted by a news outlet on how Australian intelligence was presented to the world as the best evidence Saddam Hussein was building WMDs
The deadly U.S.’s Iraq War would go on to cost the lives of 4,500 Americans and wound a further 32,000 between 2003 and 2011. The total death toll, including Iraqi civilians, remains unknown, but is likely to be in the hundreds of thousands.
The conflict laid the foundations for many of the problems, which have kept Iraq mired in sectarian rivalry, violence and economic crisis for two decades and created lasting challenges for the U.S. in Afghanistan, Syria and beyond.
Iraq was left in ruins, quickly becoming a breeding ground for terrorism, culminating in the rise and fall of Islamic State.
The rise of Trump
With the lie, and the Iraq War, the moral authority of the global superpower, the U.S., was forever compromised. The U.S. public quickly grew weary of conflict offshore, which helped lead to the rise of Donald Trump.
For many Iraqis, the name Colin Powell conjures up one image: the man who as U.S. secretary of state went before the UN Security Council with a lie in 2003 to make the case for war against their country.
An AP report said:
Word of his death Monday at age 84 dredged up feelings of anger in Iraq toward the former general and diplomat, one of several Bush administration officials whom they hold responsible for a disastrous U.S.-led invasion that led to decades of death, chaos and violence in Iraq.
His U.N. testimony was a key part of events that they say had a heavy cost for Iraqis and others in the Middle East.
“He lied, lied and lied,” said Maryam, a 51-year-old Iraqi writer and mother of two in northern Iraq who spoke on condition her last name not be used because one of her children is studying in the U.S.
“He lied, and we are the ones who got stuck with never-ending wars,” she added.
Iraqis remember Powell for his U.N. presentation justifying the invasion of their country by casting Saddam as a major global threat who possessed WMD, even displaying a vial of what he said could have been a biological weapon. Powell had called Iraq’s claims that it had no such weapons “a web of lies.”
But no WMD were ever found, and the speech was later derided as a low point in his career.
“I am saddened by the death of Colin Powell without being tried for his crimes in Iraq. … But I am sure that the court of God will be waiting for him,” tweeted Muntadher al-Zaidi, an Iraqi journalist who vented his outrage at the U.S. by throwing his shoes at then-President George W. Bush during a 2008 news conference in Baghdad.
In 2011, Powell told Al Jazeera he regretted providing misleading intelligence that led the U.S. invasion, calling it a “blot on my record.” He said a lot of sources cited by the intelligence community were wrong.
But in a 2012 interview with The Associated Press, Powell maintained that on balance, the U.S. “had a lot of successes” because “Iraq’s terrible dictator is gone.”
But the insurgency that emerged from the U.S. occupation grew into deadly sectarian violence that killed countless Iraqi civilians, and the war dragged on far longer than had been predicted by the Bush administration and eventually helped give rise to the Islamic State group.
Powell’s U.N. testimony “resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqis. This blood is on his hands,” said Muayad al-Jashami, a 37-year old Iraqi who works with nongovernmental organizations.
While he did not suffer direct losses, al-Jashami said he continues to struggle with stress and panic attacks as a result of growing up with war, displacement, and years of terrorist bombings in the country.
Aqeel al-Rubai, 42, who owns a clothes and cosmetics shop in Baghdad, said he does not care if Powell regretted the faulty information he gave on WMD.
Al-Rubai, who lost his cousin in the war, also blames the U.S. for the death of his father, who had a close call during the sectarian blood-letting that followed the U.S. invasion, and later had a fatal heart attack.
“What does that remorse do for us? A whole country was destroyed, and we continue to pay the price,” he said. “But I say may God have mercy on him.’
Elsewhere, Powell was remembered as “a towering figure in American military and political leadership over many years, someone of immense capability and integrity,” by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who backed the U.S. campaign and invasion.
The Israeli Embassy in Washington praised Powell for his “commitment to Israel and his deep personal connection to the Jewish community.”
Others noted that Powell’s connection to U.S. atrocities goes back to the Vietnam War.
“Colin Powell was a liar and a war criminal,” said anti-war activists Code Pink.
Others, like the Intercept’s Ken Klippenstein, opted for sarcasm, calling Powell “a man of unparalleled integrity and courage” – as caption to the infamous UN vial photo.