“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,” the family wrote. “We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American,” they added.
Powell’s family noted that he was fully vaccinated.
Powell was still at risk despite being vaccinated because of both his advanced age and his multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer that inhibits the body’s ability to fight infection. The Centers for Disease Control has noted that immunocompromised adults “may not always build adequate levels of protection” after receiving two vaccine doses.
A Vietnam veteran, Powell’s broke barriers throughout his life in public service. He became the first Black national security adviser, serving under Ronald Reagan; the first Black chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, serving under George H.W. Bush; and the first Black secretary of state, serving under George W. Bush. His time as secretary of state will be most remembered for his role in America’s invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Powell was initially hesitant to go to war in Iraq, but ultimately fell in line with the Bush administration’s push to take out Saddam Hussein. On February 5th, 2003, Powell made the case for war to the United Nations, presenting scores of intelligence laying out the danger posed by Iraq — most notably intelligence that the nation possessed weapons of mass destruction. “Leaving Saddam Hussein in possession of weapons of mass destruction for a few more months or years is not an option, not in a post-September 11th world,” Powell said in the 76-minute presentation.
It wasn’t an option because Hussein never had weapons of mass destruction in the first place. The intelligence was false. The United States invaded Iraq barely a month after Powell’s presentation, setting off a catastrophic conflict that cost U.S. taxpayers nearly $2 trillion and, more importantly, resulted in other 400,000 needless deaths, according to a 2013 study from researchers in the United States, Canada, and Iraq.
Powell has since expressed regret for presenting false information to the U.N. “It’s a blot,” he said in 2006. “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.”