Colin Powell, former U.S. secretary of state, died from COVID-19 complications on Oct. 18. He was 84 and had a weakened immune system due to cancer. Behind him, he left a long and complicated legacy.
Powell was secretary of state for the Bush administration from 2001 to 2005. A four-star general, Powell was the 65th U.S. secretary of state and the first African American to hold that position. A child of Immigrants, Powell was a trailblazer for underrepresented minorities.
The positive side of his legacy is a long life of civil service. Powell served in the Army for 35 years, and he served two tours in Vietnam and was President Ronald Reagan’s national security advisor during the Cold War.
His role in the Iraq war made him a household name yet also gained him notoriety. His victory in the elimination of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein made him a decorated public figure. Powell’s speech tainted this legacy to the United Nations Security Council in 2001. Using Satellite photos and drawings, Powell forcefully argued that Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. This assertion relied on vastly faulty intelligence. So faulty that many believe the assertions were flat-out lies.
This led to Bush approving the invasion of Iraq the following month. Many innocent lives were lost and destroyed by this invasion. The Iraq war was a significant loss of public trust in the United States, and Powell’s involvement in this forever tarnished his legacy of service.
When honoring a person’s death, it is essential to acknowledge them as a whole. Powell was a trailblazer who served as a role model for many Americans. He was loyal to his country and left a lasting impact on foreign policy. However, he was not a perfect man, and his actions came with heavy repercussions that must be respected as much as his achievements. If we refuse this truth, then we fail to honor the entirety of his life.