Colin Powell

Colin Powell Dies at 84 From COVID Complications

Powell was the first African American to serve as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and secretary of state

NBCUniversal Media, LLC Former Secretary of State Colin Powell has died due to complications from COVID-19. He was 84.

Colin Powell, who served Democratic and Republican presidents in war and peace but whose sterling reputation was forever stained when he went before the U.N. and made faulty claims to justify the U.S. war in Iraq, has died of COVID-19 complications. He was 84.

A veteran of the Vietnam War, Powell rose to the rank of four-star general and in 1989 became the first Black chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In that role he oversaw the U.S. invasion of Panama and later the U.S. invasion of Kuwait to oust the Iraqi army in 1991.

But his legacy was marred when, in 2003, he went before the U.N. Security Council as secretary of state and made the case for U.S. war against Iraq at a moment of great international skepticism. He cited faulty information claiming Saddam Hussein had secretly stashed away weapons of mass destruction. Iraq’s claims that it had no such weapons represented “a web of lies,” he told the world body.

While Powell had been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, he was also immunocompromised. Powell underwent prostate cancer treatment in 2003 and his longtime aide Peggy Cifrino said he had been treated over the past few years for multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer. In announcing his death on social media, Powell's family did not address whether he had any underlying illnesses.

Multiple myeloma impairs the body’s ability to fight infection, and studies have shown that those cancer patients don’t get as much protection from the COVID-19 vaccines as healthier people.

“We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father and grandfather and a great American,” the family said. Powell had been treated at Walter Reed National Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

Powell was the first American official to publicly lay the blame for the 9/11 terrorist attacks on Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network and made a lightning trip to Pakistan in October, 2001 to demand that then-Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf cooperate with the United States in going after the Afghanistan-based group, which also had a presence in Pakistan, where bin Laden was later killed.

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Colin Luther Powell, born April 5, 1937, was an American statesman and a retired four-star general with the United States Army. He was the 65th United States Secretary of State (2001-2005) under the George W. Bush administration. He was also the first Black appointee to the position.
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U.S. Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger confers with then-Army Maj. Gen. Colin Powell, right, during testimony before the Senate Budget Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 8, 1985. Powell, who went on to serve as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and later secretary of state, has died from COVID-19 complications, his family said Monday, Oct. 18, 2021. He was 84.
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The newly appointed National Security Council Advisor Colin L. Powell seen in 1988. Powell served as the NSC advisor from 1988 to 1989, before he was appointed Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff by President George H.W. Bush.
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Lt. Gen. Colin Powell seen with his family after his appointment as Ronald Reagan’s National Security Council Advisor in 1988.
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President Ronald Reagan, accompanied by National Security Council advisor Colin Powell, leaves the White House in Washington, Dec. 16, 1988. Powell, former Joint Chiefs chairman and secretary of state, has died from COVID-19 complications. He was 84.
Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney, left, administers the oath of office to General Colin Powell as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Oct. 6, 1989. General Powell’s wife, Alma, is shown holding the Bible.
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Pres. George Bush announces the appointment of Gen. Colin Powell to be Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff in the White House Rose Garden in 1989.
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General Colin Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, right, briefs reporters at the Pentagon Dec. 20, 1989, about the military operation to remove Panama’s General Manuel Antonio Noriega from power and bring him to the US for trial on drug charges. Defense Secretary Dick Cheney is at the left.
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General Colin Powell holds a press conference at the Pentagon to discuss the status of the Persian Gulf War. In August of 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait, causing the United States to lead a coalition of countries to expel Iraqi forces from the region.
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General Colin Powell, head of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, tours the bombed courtyard of the Panaminian Defense Force Comandancia in Panama City to review US troops and receive a briefing on Operation Just Cause, the US invasion of Panama, Jan. 5, 1990.
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General Colin Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at right, sits in a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter with 82nd Airborne Division personnel as he prepares for takeoff. Powell was planning to visit a base camp during Operation Desert Shield, Sept. 13, 1990.
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From left: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Colin Powell, Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney and CENTCOM Commander General Norman Schwarzkopf discuss plans for Operation Desert Storm Feb. 12, 1991, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
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From left: Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Carl Edward Vuono, USA; Gen.Larry D. Welch, USAF; Gen. Colin L. Powell, USA; Gen. Robert T. Herres, USAF; Adm. Carlisle A.H. Trost, USN and Gen. Alfred M. Gray, USMC as seen on Nov. 7, 1989.
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Colin Powell seen at Nelson Mandela’s Inauguration, May 10, 1994.
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Secretary of State Colin Powell, President George W. Bush, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld seen at a NATO summit in Prague, November 2002. The meeting welcomed seven formerly communist nations as members, all pledging to help fight the war in terrorism.
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From left: Former Secretary of State Colin Powell and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Gordon Felt and General Tommy Franks bow their heads in a moment of silence at the 8th anniversary of the Sept. 11 crash of Flight 93, Sept. 11, 2009, in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
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Colin Powell accepts the President’s award onstage at the 42nd NAACP Image Awards held at The Shrine Auditorium on March 4, 2011, in Los Angeles, California.

As President George W. Bush’s first secretary of state, Powell led a State Department that was dubious of the military and intelligence communities’ conviction that Saddam Hussein possessed or was developing weapons of mass destruction. And yet, despite his reservations, he presented the administration’s case that Saddam indeed posed a major regional and global threat in a speech to the UN Security Council in the run-up to the war.

That speech, replete with his display of a vial of what he said could have been a biological weapon, was later derided as a low-point in Powell’s career, although he had removed some elements that he deemed to have been based on poor intelligence assessments.

Bush said Monday that he and former first lady Laura Bush were “deeply saddened” by Powell’s death.

“He was a great public servant” and “widely respected at home and abroad,” Bush said. “And most important, Colin was a family man and a friend. Laura and I send Alma and their children our sincere condolences as they remember the life of a great man.”

Powell rose to national prominence under Republican presidents and considered a presidential bid of his own, but ultimately moved away from the party. He endorsed Democrats in the last four presidential elections, starting with former President Barack Obama. He emerged as a vocal Donald Trump critic in recent years, describing Trump as “a national disgrace” who should have been removed from office through impeachment. Following the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol, Powell said he no longer considers himself a Republican.

Powell rose from a childhood in a fraying New York neighborhood to become the nation’s chief diplomat. “Mine is the story of a black kid of no early promise from an immigrant family of limited means who was raised in the South Bronx,” he wrote in his 1995 autobiography “My American Journey.”

At City College of New York, Powell discovered the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). When he put on his first uniform, “I liked what I saw,” he wrote.

He joined the Army and in 1962 he was one of more than 16,000 military advisers sent to South Vietnam by President John F. Kennedy. A series of promotions led to the Pentagon and assignment as a military assistant to Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, who became his unofficial sponsor. He later became commander of the Army’s 5th Corps in Germany and later was national security assistant to President Ronald Reagan.

During his term as Joint Chiefs chairman, his approach to war became known as the Powell Doctrine, which held that the United States should only commit forces in a conflict if it has clear and achievable objectives with public support, sufficient firepower and a strategy for ending the war.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin made brief remarks about his "personal friend" Colin Powell, while traveling in the former Soviet republic of Georgia.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, a retired Army general, said the news of Powell's death left “a hole in my heart.”

“The world lost one of the greatest leaders that we have ever witnessed,” Austin said while traveling in Europe. “Alma lost a great husband and the family lost a tremendous father and I lost a tremendous personal friend and mentor. He has been my mentor for a number of years. He always made time for me and I can always go to him with tough issues, he always had great counsel.”

Powell’s appearances at the United Nations as secretary of state, including his Iraq speech, were often accompanied by fond reminiscing of his childhood in the city, where he grew up the child of Jamaican immigrants who got one of his first jobs at the Pepsi-Cola bottling plant directly across the East River from the UN headquarters.

A fan of calypso music, Powell was the subject of criticism from, among others, singing legend Harry Belafonte, who likened Powell to a “house slave” for going along with the decision to invade Iraq. Powell declined to get into a public spat with Belafonte, but made it known that he was not a fan and much preferred the Trinidadian calypso star the “Mighty Sparrow.”

Powell maintained, in a 2012 interview with The Associated Press, that on balance, U.S. succeeded in Iraq.

“I think we had a lot of successes,” Powell said. “Iraq’s terrible dictator is gone." Saddam was captured by U.S. forces while hiding out in northern Iraq in December 2003 and later executed by the Iraqi government. But the insurgency grew, and the war dragged on far longer than had been foreseen. Obama pulled U.S. troops out of Iraq in 2011, but he sent advisers back in 2014 after the Islamic State group swept into the country from Syria and captured large swaths of Iraqi territory.

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