WASHINGTON (AP) — Colin Powell, the trailblazing soldier and diplomat whose sterling reputation of service to Republican and Democratic presidents was stained by his faulty claims to justify the 2003 U.S. war in Iraq, died Monday of COVID-19 complications. He was 84.
A veteran of the Vietnam War, Powell spent 35 years in the Army and rose to the rank of four-star general before becoming the first Black chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. His oversight of the U.S. invasion of Kuwait to oust the Iraqi army in 1991 made him a household name, prompting speculation for nearly a decade that he might run for president, a course he ultimately decided against.
He instead joined President George W. Bush’s administration in 2001 as secretary of state, the first Black person to represent the U.S. government on the world stage. Powell’s tenure, however, was marred by his 2003 address to the United Nations Security Council in which he cited faulty information to claim that Saddam Hussein had secretly stashed weapons of mass destruction. Such weapons never materialized, and though the Iraqi leader was removed, the war devolved into years of military and humanitarian losses.
Powell was fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, his family said. But he faced several ailments, telling Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward over the summer that he had Parkinson’s disease. Powell’s longtime aide, Peggy Cifrino, said Monday that he was also treated over the past few years for multiple myeloma, a blood cancer that impairs the body’s ability to fight infection. Studies have shown that those cancer patients don’t get as much protection from the COVID-19 vaccines as healthier people.
In a Washington where partisan divisions run deep, Democrats and Republicans recalled Powell fondly. Flags were ordered lowered at government buildings, including the White House, Pentagon and State Department.
President Joe Biden said Powell “embodied the highest ideals of both warrior and diplomat.”
Noting Powell’s rise from a childhood in a fraying New York City neighborhood, Biden said: “He believed in the promise of America because he lived it. And he devoted much of his life to making that promise a reality for so many others.”
Powell’s time as secretary of state was largely defined by the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. He was the first American official to publicly blame Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network. He made a lightning trip to Pakistan 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.
But as the push for war in Iraq deepened, Powell sometimes found himself at odds with other key figures in the Bush administration, including Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld also died this year.
Powell’s State Department was dubious of the military and intelligence communities’ conviction that Saddam possessed or was developing weapons of mass destruction. But he presented the administration’s case that Saddam posed a major regional and global threat in a strong speech to the U.N. Security Council in February 2003. The following month, Bush gave the go-ahead for the invasion.
The U.N. speech, complete with Powell’s display of a vial of what he said could have been a biological weapon, was seen as a low point in his career, although he had removed some elements from the remarks that he deemed to have been based on poor intelligence assessments.
The U.S. overthrow of Saddam ended the rule of a brutal dictator. But the power vacuum and lawlessness that followed unleashed years of sectarian fighting and chaos that killed countless Iraqi civilians, sparked a lengthy insurgency, and unintentionally tilted the balance of power in the Middle East toward a U.S. rival, Iran. No Iraqi weapons of mass destruction were ever found.
Still, Powell maintained in a 2012 interview with The Associated Press that on balance, the U.S. succeeded in Iraq.
“I think we had a lot of successes,” he said. “Iraq’s terrible dictator is gone.”
Saddam was captured by U.S. forces while hiding out in northern Iraq in December 2003 and was later executed by the Iraqi government. But the war dragged on. 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 territory.
Bush said Monday that he and former first lady Laura Bush were “deeply saddened” by Powell’s death.
“He was a great public servant” and “widely respected at home and abroad,” Bush said. “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.”
Condoleezza Rice, Powell’s successor at State and the department’s first Black female secretary, praised him as “a trusted colleague and a dear friend through some very challenging times.”
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, a retired Army general and the first Black Pentagon chief, said the news of Powell’s death left “a hole in my heart.”
“The world lost one of the greatest leaders that we have ever witnessed,” Austin said while traveling in Europe.
Vice President Kamala Harris, the highest ranking Black woman in U.S. history, also noted Powell’s racial firsts.
“Every step of the way, when he filled those roles, he was by everything that he did and the way he did it, inspiring so many people,” she said. “Young servicemembers and others not only within the military, but in our nation and around the globe, took notice of what his accomplishments meant as a reflection of who we are as a nation.”
No child of privilege, Powell often framed his biography as an American success story.
“Mine is the story of a black kid of no early promise from an immigrant family of limited means who was raised in the South Bronx,” he wrote in his 1995 autobiography “My American Journey.”
It’s an experience he was fond of recalling later in his life. When he appeared at the United Nations, even during his Iraq speech, he often reminisced about his childhood in New York City, where he grew up the child of Jamaican immigrants and got one of his first jobs at the Pepsi-Cola bottling plant directly across the East River from the U.N. headquarters.
Powell’s path toward the military began at City College, where discovered the ROTC. When he put on his first uniform, he wrote, “I liked what I saw.”
He joined the Army and in 1962 he was one of more than 16,000 military advisers sent to South Vietnam by President John F. Kennedy. A series of promotions led to the Pentagon and assignment as a military assistant to Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, who became his unofficial sponsor. He later became commander of the Army’s 5th Corps in Germany and later was national security assistant to President Ronald Reagan.
During his term as Joint Chiefs chairman, his approach to war became known as the Powell Doctrine, which held that the United States should only commit forces in a conflict if it has clear and achievable objectives with public support, sufficient firepower and a strategy for ending the war.
Though he gained national prominence under Republican presidents, Powell ultimately moved away from the party.
He endorsed Democrats in the past four presidential elections, starting with Obama. He emerged as a vocal Donald Trump critic in recent years, describing Trump as “a national disgrace” who should have been removed from office through impeachment.
Florida House Democratic Leader-Designate Fentrice Driskell Announces Leadership Team
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida House Democratic Leader-Designate Fentrice Driskell (D-Tampa) today announced the appointment of the following Democratic Representatives to serve on the House Democratic Caucus leadership team for the 2022-24 legislative term:
- Leader Pro Tempore: Representative Dotie Joseph (D-Miami);
- Policy Chair: Representative Kelly Skidmore (D-Boca Raton);
- Floor Leader: Representative Michael “Mike” Gottlieb (D-Davie); and
- Whip: Representative Christine Hunschofsky (D-Parkland).
“The House Democratic Caucus is made up of some of the strongest, most fierce champions of the people in the entire state,” said Leader-Designate Driskell. “It is an honor and great pleasure to work with these individuals in this new capacity, and all of them are prepared to lead the Caucus in the face of the challenges that lie ahead of us.”
As Leader Pro Tempore, Representative Joseph will assist the Democratic Leader in carrying out designated responsibilities and perform such Leadership responsibilities as are assigned, including stepping in for the Leader as needed.
“I have had the distinct pleasure of knowing Representative Joseph for over 20 years. From the time we were at Georgetown Law to now, she has always been a consistent champion for justice. The issues she advocates for on behalf of all Floridians makes Representative Joseph an invaluable asset in defending Floridians against extremist Republican policies,” said Leader-Designate Driskell. “I look forward to Representative Joseph’s leadership as a key member of my team over the next two years.”
In her role as the Caucus Policy Chair, Representative Skidmore will be responsible for ensuring the Caucus continues to champion legislation that positively impacts all Floridians, and will lead discussions about bills before the House at Caucus meetings.
“As the previous Policy Chair for the Caucus, I know what is needed to do this job. Appointing Representative Skidmore as Policy Chair was an easy choice,” said Leader-Designate Driskell. “She stood out as a prime member in understanding policy during the last legislative term. Representative Skidmore also brings with her a wealth of experience as both a former House and Senate staffer and House member. Applying her unique skillset to this new role will benefit the Caucus and all Floridians.”
In his role as Floor Leader, Representative Gottlieb will be responsible in interpreting the House Rules, ensuring the Caucus adheres to the agreed upon rules, and working with his Republican counterpart in advocating for fair amounts of time be allotted to the Caucus in debating different pieces of legislation.
“Two things I greatly appreciate about Representative Gottlieb are his refreshing candor and strong fortitude,” said Leader-Designate Driskell. “As the minority party in the Legislature, we’re aware of the challenges that lie ahead of us. What we need right now is someone who is unwavering under extreme pressure to help guide our Caucus during difficult moments. Representative Gottlieb is perfectly suited for this role.”
As Whip, Representative Hunschofsky will be responsible for keeping all Democratic Caucus members apprised of Caucus policy on any bills or issues before the House.
“Representative Hunschofsky has an amazing ability to get things done,” said Leader-Designate Driskell. “Not only does Representative Hunschofsky possess a wealth of knowledge due to her experience as the former mayor of Parkland, Florida, she is also a champion of many initiatives close to Floridians’ hearts, such as expanding access to quality mental health care. I know Representative Hunschofsky’s knowledge and ability will help prepare our Caucus for the challenges of the next two year.”
The Florida House Democratic Caucus will convene during Organizational Session taking place Nov. 21-22, 2022 in advance of the 2023 Legislative Session scheduled to begin on March 7, 2023.
VIDEO: State Rep. Dianne Hart elected chair of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus
ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN) – State Representative Dianne Hart (D-Tampa), incoming Chair of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus, talks briefly with Florida National News on the importance of the Florida Blue Florida Classic at Camping World Stadium in Orlando Saturday. The Florida Classic is an annual college football rivalry game between Bethune–Cookman University and Florida A&M University.
Hart’s Twitter Statement:
Hart’s statement: “I’m honored to have been elected as the Chair of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus.” “I’m grateful to my colleagues for their support and for trusting me to move this important caucus forward.”
During the 2021 and 2022 Legislative Sessions, Rep. Hart served on the following House committees, including Democratic Ranking Member of the Infrastructure and Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee, Judiciary Committee, Joint Committee on Public Counsel Oversight, Ways & Means Committee, Criminal Justice & Public Safety Subcommittee, State Legislative Redistricting Subcommittee and Select Subcommittee on Authorized Gaming Activity.
Hart was first elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 2018. She is also the CEO of the East Tampa Business and Civic Association.
Former State Rep. Bruce Antone Ready To Rejoin Florida House
ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN) – Former Florida State Representative Bruce Antone served 12 years (six terms) in the Florida House of Representatives and defeated incumbent Democratic Rep. Travaris McCurdy during the August primary election to represent Orange County in the newly draw District 41 House seat.
Antone was among eleven candidates seeking election to county, state and Congressional seats participating in a candidate forum hosted by CFABJ, NAACP and the Florida Voters League, Wednesday, October 19, 2022.
Green Party nominee Robin Denise Harris is the only potential road block in Antone’s return to Tallahassee and faces off with him in the November general election. The District 41 House seat has an overwhelmingly Democratic voter base.
During his time in the Florida House, Antone was elected by his colleagues to serve as the Chairman of the 29-member Florida Legislative Black Caucus.
The general election is Tuesday, November 8, 2022.
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