Colin Powell, a former US Secretary of State, has died from COVID complications, his family has announced. He was 84 years old.
“General Colin L. Powell, former U.S. Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, passed away this morning due to complications from Covid 19. He was fully vaccinated,” his family said in a statement published on Facebook.
“We want to thank the medical staff at Walter Reed National Medical Center for their caring treatment. We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American.”
Powell was the first African-American to hold the post of chief of staff for the armed forces, before becoming head of US diplomacy under the Republican presidency of George W. Bush.
Although he believed that war should only be a last resort, the result of his experience of the Vietnam War.
Yet he became inexorably linked to his controversial support for the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.
On February 5 that year, he infamously made a long speech on the weapons of mass destruction (WMD) allegedly held by Iraq, arguments which served to justify the invasion of the country.
The weapons were never found. Powell later admitted that this performance was a “blot” on his record.
“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,” he was quoted as saying two years later.
He was portrayed as having been caught between the hawkish Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and Bush himself. Powell later said he warned the president to think of the aftermath as well as the invasion, reportedly using the phrase: “If you break it, you own it.”
Born on April 5, 1937 in Harlem, Colin Powell grew up in New York City, where he studied geology.
He started his military career in 1958. First stationed in Germany, he was then sent to Vietnam as military adviser to President John F. Kennedy.
In 1989 Powell became the first Black chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In that role he oversaw the US invasion of Panama and later the US invasion of Kuwait to oust the Iraqi army in 1991.
Ahead of the 2016 US presidential election, an email leak revealed that Colin Powell described Republican candidate Donald Trump as “a national disgrace and an international pariah”.
Former President George W. Bush said 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.”