Colin Powell, who made the false American case for the deadly war on Iraq to the United Nations in 2003, has died from COVID-19 at the age of 84.
Powell was subsequently excoriated by opponents of the war for misleading the public in the lead up to the U.S. invasion as the Bush administration sought to build international support.
In a controversial presentation on February 5, 2003 to the United Nations Security Council, Powell said that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein constituted an imminent danger to the world because of Iraq’s stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons.
He told the UN: “Today, Iraq still poses a threat and Iraq still remains in material breach. Indeed, by its failure to seize on its one last opportunity to come clean and disarm, Iraq has put itself in deeper material breach and closer to the day when it will face serious consequences for its continue defiance of this Council.
“My colleagues, we have an obligation to our citizens. We have an obligation to this body to see that our resolutions are complied with. We wrote (resolution) 1441 not in order to go to war. We wrote 1441 to try to preserve the peace. We wrote 1441 to give Iraq one last chance.
“Iraq is not, so far, taking that one last chance. We must not shrink from whatever is ahead of us. We must not fail in our duty and our responsibility to the citizens of the countries that are represented by this body.”
No weapons of mass destruction were ever found in Iraq and the country was subsequently destroyed by invasion, occupation and internecine warfare.
Powell later admitted that his presentation was rife with inaccuracies and twisted intelligence provided by others in the Bush administration, telling Al Jazeera it represented “a blot” that will “always be a part of my record.”
Powell, a four-star general, died on Monday, his family said in a statement on Facebook.
“He was fully vaccinated. We want to thank the medical staff at Walter Reed National Medical Center for their caring treatment. We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American,” the Powell family said.
Powell served two tours in Vietnam in the 1960s, first as an adviser to the South Vietnamese army and later as an operations chief with a U.S. infantry division.
He served as national security adviser to former President Ronald Reagan from 1987 to 1989 and was the first black chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under former Republican President George HW Bush and former President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, from 1989 to 1993.
The former United States Secretary of State was the first black person in the country’s history to fill the position.
In a statement on Monday, former President Bush called Powell a “great public servant,” adding that he was “such a favourite of presidents that he earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom, twice.”