WASHINGTON: Colin Powell, the first black US secretary of state and top military officer, died on Monday at the age of 84 due to complications from Covid-19. He was fully vaccinated, his family said in a statement on Facebook.

“We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American,” his family said, thanking the staff of the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center near Washington who treated Powell, but providing few details about his illness.

Colin Powell served three presidents in senior posts

Powell was one of America’s most prominent Black figures for decades. He served three Republican presidents in senior posts and reached the top of the US military as it was regaining its vigour after the trauma of the Vietnam War.

He was the top US general when US-led forces drove Iraqi troops from Kuwait in 1991 and the chief US diplomat when Washington relied on erroneous intelligence about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction to justify its 2003 invasion of Iraq.

In a brief statement, the Powell family said he had died on Monday morning from Covid-19, had been fully vaccinated against the disease, and thanked the medical staff who cared for him.

The statement did not address such matters as what vaccine he received or whether he had gotten a booster shot, when he fell ill, when he may have been hospitalised and whether he may have had underlying health conditions that contributed to his illness.

US news organisations reported that Powell had multiple myeloma, a cancer of plasma cells that reduces the body’s ability to fight infection. Reuters could not immediately confirm the reports.

Condolences poured in from Democrats as well as Powell’s fellow Republicans, including ex-president George W. Bush.

Powell served as US national security adviser under President Ronald Reagan from 1987 to 1989. As a four-star Army general, he was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President George H.W. Bush during the 1991 Gulf War in which US-led forces expelled Iraqi troops from neighbouring Kuwait.

Powell later served as secretary of state under President George W. Bush and publicly presented erroneous intelligence on which the US based its March 2003 invasion of Iraq.

He considered running for president in 1996 but his wife Alma’s worries about his safety helped him decide otherwise. In 2008, he broke with his party to endorse Democrat Barack Obama, the first Black person elected to the White House.

Powell will forever be associated with his controversial presentation on Feb 5, 2003, to the UN Security Council, making Bush’s case that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein constituted an imminent danger to the world because of Iraq’s stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons.

Published in Dawn, October 19th, 2021

Opinion

Editorial

Covid funds controversy
Updated 01 Dec 2021

Covid funds controversy

A COMPREHENSIVE and detailed report by the auditor general of Pakistan on the utilisation of Covid-19 funds by the...
01 Dec 2021

Sindh LG law

THE Sindh Local Government Act, 2013, introduced by the PPP to roll back the Musharraf-era local bodies system in ...
Monster of circular debt
Updated 01 Dec 2021

Monster of circular debt

The crisis facing the energy sector cannot be tackled sustainably without taming the many elephants in the room.
New Covid danger
30 Nov 2021

New Covid danger

The government’s messaging around the coronavirus and the potential threat of Omicron must be reactivated.
Updated 30 Nov 2021

Saudi conditions

DECADES of fiscal profligacy have trapped the country in a situation where it not only has to borrow more money to...
30 Nov 2021

Mental health concerns

THE economic and psychological effects of Covid-19, combined with the issues of joblessness and inflation, have had ...