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Former Secretary of State Colin Powell dies from COVID-19
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell died Monday morning from complications related to COVID-19, his family said in a Facebook post.
Colin Powell, who climbed the ranks, while breaking color barriers, to become the nation’s top military official and later served as secretary of state, died Monday morning from complications related to COVID-19, his family said in a Facebook post. He was 84.
“We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American,” his family wrote.
The statement said Powell was treated at Walter Reed National Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, and that he was fully vaccinated.
A New York City native, Powell was an Army veteran who rose to the rank of four-star general and later served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He was also, while still in the military, national security adviser to President Ronald Reagan from 1987-89. Powell served as secretary of state under President George W. Bush from 2001-05.
He was the first Black national security adviser, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman and secretary of state.
As secretary of state in 2003, Powell gave a presentation to the United Nations Security Council making the case for a U.S. invasion of Iraq by saying the Middle Eastern country had a program for developing weapons of mass destruction, an assessment that turned out not to be true.
“Iraq's behavior demonstrate that (former Iraqi President) Saddam Hussein and his regime have made no effort — no effort — to disarm as required by the international community,” Powell said then. “Indeed, the facts and Iraq's behavior show that Saddam Hussein and his regime are concealing their efforts to produce more weapons of mass destruction.”
Powell later called it a “great intelligence failure on our part” and said he regretted his testimony, calling it a “blot” on his record.
Powell, however, 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. President Barack 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.
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.
Powell served in the military for 35 years, including in the Vietnam War, where he was wounded by a punji-stick booby trap. He was commander of the U.S. Army Forces Command in 1989 before being appointed Joints Chief of Staff chairman in 1989, a position he held for four years before retiring.
As chairman, he oversaw major military operations including the invasion of Panama in 1989 and Operation Desert Storm in 1990-91.
Powell’s popularity among both Democrats and Republicans led to his name being floated as a potential presidential candidate in 1996 and 2000, but he declined to run.
"Such a life requires a calling that I do not yet hear," Powell, a Republican, said in November 1995 after taking time to consider a possible candidacy. "And for me to pretend otherwise would not be honest to myself, it would not be honest to the American people.”
Bush released a statement Monday morning saying he and wife Laura are “deeply saddened” by Powell’s death.
“He was a great public servant, starting with his time as a soldier during Vietnam,” the former president said. “Many Presidents relied on General Powell's counsel and experience. He was National Security Adviser under President Reagan, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under my father and President Clinton, and Secretary of State during my Administration. He was such a favorite of Presidents that he earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom — twice. He was highly respected at home and abroad. 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."
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters that “the world lost one of the greatest leaders that we have ever witnessed.” Austin called Powell “a tremendous personal friend and mentor.”
“A man who was respected around the globe,” Austin said. “And, quite frankly, it is not possible to replace a Colin Powell."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.