From 'Favourite of Presidents' to 'Test Tube Secretary': World Responds to Colin Powell's Death
The first African-American to hold the post of secretary of state died on 18 October due to complications from COVID-19. Although he was fully vaccinated, apparently his immune system was compromised by his battle with bone marrow cancer.
The death of Colin Powell from COVID-19 sparked reactions around the world, especially in the US, where Powell was known as a distinguished general who had also served as national security advisor, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and secretary of state under three different presidents. One of them, George W. Bush
, was among the first to offer his condolences to the family and praise Powell as a "great public servant".
"Laura and I are deeply saddened by the death of Colin Powell. He was a great public servant, starting with his time as a soldier during Vietnam […] He was such a favorite of Presidents that he earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom – twice. And most important, Colin was a family man and a friend".
Incumbent US President Joe Biden
, in turn, hailed Powell as a man who embodied "the highest ideals of both warrior and diplomat". He stressed that the ex-secretary of state understood that "military might alone
was not enough to maintain our peace and prosperity". Ex-POTUS Barack Obama
joined the public commemoration of the late general, praising him for helping young Americans "set their sights higher".
Another former US President, Jimmy Carter, also extended his condolences to Powell's family, calling him a "true patriot and public servant" whose courage and integrity will be an inspiration for generations to come. Current Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin noted that the US lost one of its greatest leaders, while he himself lost a "tremendous friend and mentor".
"I feel as if I have a hole in my heart just learning of this just recently. First African-American chairman of the Joint Chiefs, first African-American secretary of State, a man who was respected around the globe".
US lawmakers on both sides of the aisle joined former and current officials in commemorating the late ex-secretary of state. Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell
said that America lost "a trailblazing leader" on this day, while fellow GOP Senator Lindsey Graham praised him as both a "great military leader" and a man who "had a passion for diplomacy". Republican Senator Mitt Romney
also remarked on Powell's "undaunted courage":
Democratic Senator Mark Warner, in turn, called Powell a patriot and a public servant. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi praised Powell as a patriot who left a "blazing a trail for generations to come" with his servitude to the country.
"His leadership strengthened America and his life embodied the American Dream", Nancy Pelosi concluded.
Powell Viewed Differently Abroad
Colin Powell was commemorated not only at home but also in the foreign countries he worked with in his capacity as secretary of state. Former British Prime Minister John Major
called the late US general "the finest men [he] ever met". Another former UK head of government, Tony
Blair praised Powell's "hugely likeable and warm personality" while noting his "lovely and self-deprecating sense of humour".
The former head of NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen admitted that he was deeply saddened by the news of the passing of his "friend", underscoring his immense positive image in the US and his contribution to "the cause of freedom around the world".
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett
also commemorated Powell's passing and called him a friend of Israel, noting his "legacy" as a man who fought for freedom and democracy. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas
, in turn, noted that with Powell's death the US lost a "straight-talking foreign policy official
", acclaiming him as a "trans-Atlantic bridge-builder".
Igor Ivanov, who served as Russia's foreign minister when Powel was the US secretary of state, called the late general a "worthy partner" who acted with dignity even in the complicated situations both found themselves in.
"But for all the disagreements [we had…], he emphasized the need to and, for his part, did everything possible to avoid aggravating relations between the US and Russia".
Russian Foreign Ministry's spokeswoman Maria Zakharova commemorated the late secretary of state as a man who will go down in history as having made his way through the ranks to the top positions in the government. She praised his professionalism and the ability to listen to the other side as a diplomat – a "skill that modern US politicians lack so much".
However, not everyone had only positive things to recall in the context of Powell's passing. Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Russian Federation Council, Konstantin Kosachev, noted that for all his achievements as a public servant, Powell will still be remembered as the "test-tube secretary", referring to the late secretary of state's speech at the UN where he brandished a tube with white powder - an alleged Iraqi weapon of mass destruction. That speech, which Powell himself called a "blot" on his record, led to the bloody war in Iraq in 2004, Kosachev recalled.
18 October 2021, 13:55 GMT
Many Iraqis can't forgive Powell for that speech to this day. A member of the Iraqi Party of Progress and Socialism, which holds 22 seats in the country's parliament, Abdulkarim Abtan accused the late general of being part of the US administration that planned and executed "Iraq's destruction". Powell himself, despite regretting his UN speech, insisted that the US achieved a lot of good in Iraq by ousting the "terrible dictator" Saddam Hussein.
Muntadher al-Zaidi, an Iraqi journalist who is widely remembered as the man who threw shoes at then-US President George W. Bush at a 2008 press conference, commented on Powell's passing, saying he regretted that he never stood trial "for his crimes in Iraq". He also expressed confidence that "the court of God" is waiting for him.