Colin Powell dies at 84

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This topic contains 6 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  TheEncogitationer 1 month, 1 week ago.

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    After the 911 attack in 2001, I watched President Bush passionately mobilize Americans to find the bad guys and go to war, chant “never forget”, fly American flags on almost every car in the country — not to mention the HUGE America flags planted in the back of pickup trucks (plus some Confederate flags already), and basically blame all kinds of outsiders for the tragedy that killed 3000+ people in NYC and involved additional plane strikes into the Pentagon and one aimed at the White House.

    This widespread fervor worried me to the point of being extra-suspicious of any agenda Bush/Cheney might push forward. Indeed, as the article below shows, they acted on an agenda that had devastating consequences, and that I think even informs some of the autocratic directions we see today in Bannon/Trump strategies, the January insurrection, the self-righteous partisan packing of POTUS and other courts, and the determination of some states to restrict voting rights such as mail-in balloting. The arrogant blurring of separation of powers may diminish rights for decades, including (likely) rights to abortion.

    So I knew that reacting to 911 with an invasion into Iraq was a knee-jerk and/or a “do-good” political distraction, and the seemingly mindless flag waving that helped to feed it worried me too. But I had good feelings for Colin Powell during the Bush II administration. And when he finally turned the corner on invading Iraq by approving of Bush/Cheney’s messages of how dangerous Iraq was and even how “Iraq supports Al Qaeda”, I fell for it. I trusted his integrity, and joined the crowd that was calling for invasion. Wow, was I an idiot! One of many.

    But eventually, evidence on Iraq’s threats to USA (etc.) evaporated, and the next misdirection was for the pro-war powers to blame the CIA for bad intelligence. It still took a loooong time for self-proclaimed “patriots” to admit to a mistake and stop shaming the growing cadre of anti-Iraq-war Americans. We fucked over Iraq really good. I had a brother-in-law who became Minister of Transportation when USA ran the Iraqi government. I asked him about his feelings about how we failed to help Iraq (because people actually felt that we were helping those people), and he basically just said that America deserves the spoils of war. By this time I’d admitted my mistake, and watching the news, I anticipated the day that the number of American troops that died in that war climbed to the the number of people that died in 911. Soon I could say “Hey, ‘patriots’, we’ve now killed more Americans because of this war than Bin Laden did!”, and it’s not over yet. But no, “if you don’t like ‘Merica, just leave”.

    Then came ISIS, and that’s another story. I think it’s largely another unexpected consequence of our invasion. Anyway, Powell apologized for his mistaken support for the invasion. And Trump played his Iraq war blame game too, before winning nomination to run for office.


    His selection by President George W. Bush in late 2000 to be secretary of state transformed Gen. Powell from soldier to statesman and made him the first Black person to lead the State Department. But his four years as secretary proved his most difficult assignment.

    A pragmatist and a strong believer in international alliances, Gen. Powell often found himself the odd man out in an administration dominated by neoconservative ideologues who were dubious about the usefulness of the United Nations and NATO and all too ready to employ U.S. military power.

    Other than his well-known reservations about military intervention, Gen. Powell, as he often acknowledged, was not given to grand principles. He saw himself primarily as a problem-solver and expert manager.

    Gen. Powell harbored deep misgivings about the timing of the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the size of the invading U.S. force. But he ultimately supported the action, lending his considerable credibility to making the public case for war. It was a move he later regretted.

    While hailed on his retirement from public service at the end of Bush’s first term as a figure of honor and distinction, Gen. Powell was also criticized for not pushing harder to block the Iraq War or quitting in protest.

    In his defense, Gen. Powell cited a sense of duty and obedience to presidential authority. “It’s just like in the military — you argue, you debate something, but once the president has made a decision, that becomes a decision for the Cabinet,” he said on CNN’s “Larry King Live” in July 2009.

    Bush had brought Gen. Powell into the Cabinet to lend immediate credibility and gravitas. But Gen. Powell’s power and influence were frequently undercut by more hard-line colleagues, notably Vice President Richard B. Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who viewed him at times as too solicitous of foreign interests and insufficiently supportive of Bush’s vision for the muscular exercise of American power.


    In the weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, when the idea of attacking Iraq first arose, Gen. Powell helped persuade Bush to stay focused on striking al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan.

    Throughout 2002, Gen. Powell continued trying to slow the march to war with Iraq, warning Bush in a meeting in August that an invasion could destabilize the Middle East and shackle the United States with a great reconstruction burden.

    “You break it, you own it,” he recalled saying.

    But Gen. Powell eventually threw his substantial public credibility behind the decision to attack Iraq, agreeing to Bush’s request to present the U.S. case for war to the U.N. Security Council in February 2003.

    His 75-minute speech, asserting that Iraq possessed chemical, biological and perhaps even nuclear weapons, proved deeply embarrassing when no weapons were found after the invasion. He told an interviewer several years later that the speech would remain a “blot” on his career, which was “painful” for him to accept.


    The U.S.-led war and occupation dragged on for nearly a decade amid a grinding insurgency, caused thousands of American deaths and more than 100,000 Iraqi deaths, and left the United States mired in a failed state with hostile neighbors.

    The costly war — in terms of lives and money — helped fuel a backlash against establishment Republican leaders that would contribute eventually to Donald Trump’s outsider win in the 2016 presidential election. Gen. Powell, who walked a thin line between blunt opinion and diplomatic reserve, was careful in 2008 not to publicly criticize Bush while announcing his support for Bush’s Democratic successor, Barack Obama, the first Black president of the United States.

    During Trump’s tumultuous term in office, Gen. Powell became increasingly outspoken in his criticism of the president, who threatened and encouraged the use of force against racial-justice activists in 2020. He scorched Trump’s ethics and accused other Republicans of accommodating or acquiescing to the president’s divisiveness out of political self-interest.

    “The one word I have to use with respect to what he’s been doing for the last several years is the word I would never have used before, never would have used with any of the four presidents I worked for: He lies,” Gen. Powell said on CNN’s “State of the Union” show. “He lies about things, and he gets away with it because people will not hold him accountable.”

    When Gen. Powell announced his support for Democratic nominee Joe Biden over Trump in the 2020 election, Trump used the Iraq invasion as a cudgel, calling him “a real stiff who was very responsible for getting us into the disastrous Middle East Wars.”

    And when Trump fomented a deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, after months of falsely claiming that Democrats had stolen the election, Gen. Powell announced that he no longer considered the Republican Party his political home. “Right now I’m just watching my country,” he said, “and not concerned with parties.”

    Republicans, he told CNN, “would not stand up and tell the truth or stand up and criticize him or criticize others. And that’s what we need. We need people who will speak the truth, who remember that they are here for our fellow citizens. They are here for our country. They are not here simply to be reelected again.”



    Presidents surround themselves with ‘yes’ men and women who spend their time jockeying for position with the boss instead of gaining even a rudimentary understanding the incredibly complex society they are about to rain hell-fire down upon.

    I was so relieved to learn that little George prayed about Iraq and the lord told him….’yeah do it’.



    I was so relieved to learn that little George prayed about Iraq and the lord told him….’yeah do it’.

    LOL, just like those who piloted those planes.



    Powell seems to have been a pretty straight arrow. If he recited bad intelligence at the U.N. and to the American public, I have to believe that he believed the intelligence he was receiving. Whether that justified the way it was ultimately handled is a different question.

    One thing is for sure is that the fifth part of what has come to be called the Powell Doctrine, the exit strategy, was ignored in Afghanistan:

    Is a vital national security interest threatened?
    Do we have a clear attainable objective?
    Have the risks and costs been fully and frankly analyzed?
    Have all other non-violent policy means been fully exhausted?
    Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement?
    Have the consequences of our action been fully considered?
    Is the action supported by the American people?
    Do we have genuine broad international support?[2]

    • This reply was modified 1 month, 2 weeks ago by  Unseen.


    Is the action supported by the American  Afghan people?

    Answer. No.



    Powell seems to have been a pretty straight arrow. If he recited bad intelligence at the U.N. and to the American public, I have to believe that he believed the intelligence he was receiving. Whether that justified the way it was ultimately handled is a different question.

    The following also comes from the article I cited above:

    In his defense, Gen. Powell cited a sense of duty and obedience to presidential authority. “It’s just like in the military — you argue, you debate something, but once the president has made a decision, that becomes a decision for the Cabinet,” he said on CNN’s “Larry King Live” in July 2009.

    At least part of both my daughters’ livelihoods are based on environmentally-conscious consulting. One daughter turned down an offer years ago as a fresh agricultural science uni grad, from a Monsanto-like (GMO agricultural product) company when my advice might have been something like “try to make changes from within”. (BTW my issue wasn’t with GMO science, but with customizing seeds in a way to eternally suit the companies’ business model.) The other daughter’s currently trying to fill that kind of “internal” role within a Southern California energy utility, and voices the frustration. (I sometimes feel guilty wondering how much my advice may have nudjed her into following a fool’s errand, but at least she was pretty savvy about knowing what she was getting into.) I fell into line with Powell’s support for the war, before I learned for sure how Bush/Cheney et al were embellishing their cherry-picked intelligence reports… the war support for which Powell later apologized for.

    If that sounded tangential, I was voicing support for Powell’s attempt to act with integrity while “on the inside”. In this case, two different kinds of conflicting integrity… that people can be faced with in real life.

    Politicians very rarely apologize for any misjudgements, but Powell did. Looking back, I was often surprised by how long he lasted in the Bush administration.



    Fellow Unbelievers,

    There’s an old saying that “‘Sorry’ doesn’t feed the chickens.” Another addendum to that is that ‘Sorry’ doesn’t bring the dead back to life.

    So what if Colin Powell was sorry for spreading lies about WMDs and the subsequent failed Iraq War? None of that matters to the dead and permanently physically and mentally mangled here and abroad.

    Oh, and when Colin Powell accused Trump (rightly) of being a liar, he spoke from a place of expertise, since Powell got his chops during the My Lai Massacre in Vietnam:

    How Colin Powell’s Service in Vietnam Shaped His Leadership

    “This was still early in the Army’s cover up of what happened, but Powell wrote a pretty simple, glossy overview saying that there was no evidence of any kind of massacre,” says Matthews. “He literally said that relations between the American forces and the South Vietnamese people were ‘excellent,’ which was hardly the truth.”

    Fuck Colin Powell and fuck Joe Biden both for their roles in supporting the Iraq war. And lest anyone use Colin Powell’s pelt as a cover for his assholery, Colin Powell isn’t fit to carry the jocks of the honorable Tuskeegee Airmen of World War II.

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