WASHIINGTON — Colin Powell, who served Democratic and Republican presidents in war and peace but whose sterling reputation was forever stained when he went before the United Nations and made faulty claims to justify the U.S. war in Iraq, has died of COVID-19 complications. He was 84.
In 1989, Powell became the first Black chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In that role, he oversaw the U.S. invasion of Panama and later the U.S. invasion of Kuwait to oust the Iraqi army in 1991.
But his legacy was scarred when, in 2003, Powell went before the U.N. Security Council and made the case for U.S. war against Iraq. He cited faulty information claiming Saddam Hussein had secretly stashed away weapons of mass destruction. Iraq claimed that it had not represented "a web of lies," he told the world body.
In an announcement on social media, Powell's family said he had been fully vaccinated.
"We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father and grandfather and a great American," the family said. Powell had been treated at Walter Reed National Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
In concurrence with President Joe Biden’s order, U.S. and Delaware flags were lowered to half-staff Monday at all state facilities and buildings until sunset on Friday.
U.S. Sen. Thomas Carper, D-Del., offered his thoughts on Powell's passing.
“I am deeply saddened to hear about the passing of my friend Secretary Colin Powell – a truly decent man and a shining example of what American leadership can be,” Sen. Carper said.
“He was an honorable military official, a principled national security advisor, and a trailblazing secretary of state. Secretary Powell was also an avid advocate for youth mentoring programs – giving back to communities large and small all across our country.
Former President George W. Bush said 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 (his wife,) Alma, and their children our sincere condolences as they remember the life of a great man."
Powell maintained, in a 2012 interview with The Associated Press, that on balance, U.S. succeeded in Iraq.
"I think we had a lot of successes," Powell said. "Iraq's terrible dictator is gone."
U.S. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued the following statement Monday on the passing of Powell.
“I had the honor to know Secretary Powell over many years, and I deeply grieve his passing. America needs more leaders like him at this moment, people willing to put nation over party and to call us together. I always admired his strategic insight, his principled service, and his humor and warmth.
"From the first time I met him at the America’s Promise Summit in 1997, to a wonderful dinner conversation earlier this year, I learned many lessons from his advice and example. Colin was truly a class act, who loved our nation deeply and who worked diligently in service to our country in key diplomatic, national security and public service roles over several decades. His loss will be felt by all who served with and learned from him. My prayers are with Alma and their family.”