Colin Powell is an American hero. He’s a patriot who served his country honorably…mostly. He was the first black chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the first black national security adviser, and the first black secretary of state. He should be remembered for his service and accomplishments, including speaking out against Donald Trump and leaving his party to support the campaign of our nation’s first black president. Colin Powell may be the only person in my lifetime who could have been president and turned it down.
America trusted and believed Colin Powell.
Everyone makes mistakes and it would take a huge one to smear the record of General Colin Powell. Unfortunately, there is a big one. Colin Powell took a lie and used it before the United Nations to advocate for an invasion.
In 2003, Colin Powell sat before the United Nation’s Security Council and laid out evidence Iraq had weapons of mass destruction which justified an invasion. He told them, “My colleagues, every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources. These are not assertions. What we’re giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence.”
Yeah, not so much.
Powell played a recording of an intercepted conversation between Iraq army officers about a UN weapons inspection, but the description was embellished. There were UN weapons inspections, but no weapons. Powell laid out graphs, photos, and maps of where the weapons were stored, but they were about as accurate as a Ben Garrison cartoon. He showed photos of trucks, vans, and trailers as if that was proof there weapons of mass destruction. There are WMDs in there, but you’re gonna have to take our word for it.
Colin Powell’s performance did not clear the way for the United States to invade Iraq. George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld had already made that decision by noon, September 11, 2001. But what Powell did was give the bullshit invasion support from a voice Americans trusted.
Powell believed the speech he gave was prepared by the National Security Council led by Condoleezza Rice. Unfortunately, it was created by Dick Cheney’s office. Remember, Dick Cheney is the guy who shoots his friends in their faces. While Powell was snookered by this and exploited by the Bush/Cheney administration, it was he himself who chose to believe the CIA over the state department’s own office of intelligence and research (INR), which submitted two intelligence reports before the speech questioning the solidity of the evidence.
The CIA had about as much evidence of WMDs in Iraq as Donald Trump’s investigation had proving President Obama was born in Kenya.
Diplomats from around the world still use the Powell speech to point out that the United States can’t be trusted…and that was before Donald Trump spoke before the United Nations talking about “Little Rocket Man.”
What Powell did was give his credibility to an illegal war based on lies on the world stage. If anything, you can say Colin Powell, with Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld, created ISIS. During Powell’s speech, he 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. Not only was Powell wrong (there was no link), but he made the future founder of ISIS famous and helped build his profile and following.
Depending on which source you reference, the war killed 150,000 to over 600,000 Iraqis. Additionally, at least 4,300 Americans died in Iraq.
Two years after his speech, and after he left the Bush administration, Powell called it a “blot” on his record and said, “I’m the one who presented it on behalf of the United States to the world, and [it] will always be a part of my record. It was painful. It’s painful now.”
While there are plenty of people writing obituaries and praising Powell’s record, you can’t dismiss this part of it as it may be the most important. He helped start a war…an illegal war based on lies.
It will always be a part of his record.
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