Son Of Jamaican Immigrants, Colin Powell Would Go On To Make Bogus Case For US War In Iraq Over WMDs
13:55 GMT 18.10.2021 (Updated: 14:23 GMT 18.10.2021)
The former US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, has died of complications from COVID-19. Powell, 84, was the first African-American in the post but decided against a presidential bid.
Born to Jamaican immigrants in the tough Harlem and South Bronx districts of New York, Colin Luther Powell would rise almost to the very top of the US establishment. On the way he bought into one of the biggest lies of modern history.
became a four-star general in the US Army and retired in 1993 but eight years later the new Republican President George W Bush recruited him as the first coloured Secretary of State.
Nine months later, 9/11 happened and suddenly the Bush administration was at war with militant Islam.
But not content with simply marching into Afghanistan to neutralise al-Qaeda and their hosts - the Taliban - the Americans went gunning for Iraq’s President Saddam Hussein.
Bush was frustrated that Saddam - whom his father had decided not to topple after the first Gulf War - continued to be a key player in the Middle East and would not comply with UN resolutions to reveal whether or not he had Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD).
So in February 2003 Powell went before the UN and made a powerful speech in an attempt to persuade that august body to sanction an invasion of Iraq, claiming that not only did Saddam have WMDs but he was in cahoots with al-Qaeda.
During that speech Powell mentioned Abu Musab al-Zarqawi 21 times and claimed he was a key link between Saddam and al-Qaeda.
He also claimed an unnamed captive had told the US that Saddam had given al-Qaeda operatives WMD training.
That captive was later revealed to be Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, later held at Guantanamo, who had made the claim while under torture. He later admitted he lied.
Powell also invented claims that Saddam’s son, Qusay, had ordered WMDs be removed from key palace complexes.
The UN would not sanction an invasion of Iraq.
But the US, backed by Tony Blair, the UK's prime minister, went in anyway and so began more than a decade of bloodshed and chaos.
It was later revealed the US and Britain had acted on faulty intelligence.
Powell, who has died aged 84, never publicly regretted his speech or US policy towards Iraq.
An intelligent child, Powell attended a city college in New York and joined the Army after graduating, serving two tours of Vietnam as a “grunt”.
He then went to George Washington University in Washington DC before getting a job as an assistant to the deputy director of the federal Office of Management and Budget.
Powell served in various posts in the Pentagon and elsewhere in Washington and worked closely with Ronald Reagan’s Defence Secretary Caspar Weinberger.
In 1987 he was appointed assistant for national security affairs to President Reagan and two years later became head of the Army Forces Command.
George H Bush, Reagan's successor and George W Bush's father, nominated him as head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in which role he played a key role in the invasion of Panama in 1989 and the first Gulf War in Kuwait and Iraq.
After the invasion of Iraq turned sour, Powell's influence in the White House began to wane and he resigned in 2004 and to be succeeded by Condoleezza Rice.
Colin Powell was born on 5 April 1937, wrote an autobiography, 'My American Journey', in 1995 and helped produce more memoirs in 2012.