WASHINGTON (REUTERS) – Colin Powell, the first Black US secretary of state and top military officer, died on Monday (Oct 18) 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, offering thanks to the staff of the hospital near Washington, DC who treated Powell but providing few details about his illness.
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 United States military as it was regaining its vigor after the trauma of the Vietnam War.
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 it thanked the medical staff at Walter Reed National Medical Center near Washington.
It 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.
Condolences poured in, including from former President George W. Bush.
«Many presidents relied on General Powell’s counsel and experience,» Bush wrote in a statement. «He was such a favorite of presidents that he earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom – twice.»
MODERATE AND PRAGMATIST
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 U.S.-led forces expelled Iraqi troops from neighboring Kuwait.
A moderate Republican and a pragmatist, Powell later served as secretary of state under President George W. Bush and was the public face of the erroneous intelligence that the United States cited to justify its March 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Powell 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.
Illustrating his deep misgivings about the evolution of the Republican Party as it moved to the right in recent years, Powell endorsed Democrats Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election and Joe Biden last year against Donald Trump. Powell called Trump a liar who presented a danger to the United States.
Powell will forever be associated with his controversial presentation on Feb 5, 2003, to the UN Security Council, making President George W. Bush’s case that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein constituted an imminent danger to the world because of its stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons.
He admitted later that the presentation was rife with inaccuracies and twisted intelligence provided by others in the Bush administration and represented «a blot» that will «always be a part of my record».
Said Robert Charles, who served as assistant secretary of state under Powell: «This was probably one of the greatest men to live during my lifetime. He was both a good and a great man… He had a great sense of humor. He deeply cared about people … He was a friend to all; he did not take things personally. That was probably one of the ways that he got to the points in life that he got to.»
Charles told Fox News: «He was an incredibly compassionate person. He cared about everyone.»
«He was decent and honest with people. Integrity was always at the forefront… this was a guy who truly walked the walk; he lived the words that he spoke… always optimistic.»
Said retired US General Mark Hertling on CNN: «He was a terrific soldier, a phenomenal leader.»
Wrote US Senator of Virginia, Mark Warner, on Twitter: «General Powell was a patriot and a public servant. May he rest in peace.»
In other reactions, US Senator Mitt Romney wrote on Twitter: «Today, the nation lost a man of undaunted courage and a champion of character. A statesman & trailblazer, devoted to America and the cause of liberty, Colin Powell’s legacy of service & honor will long inspire. Ann & I offer our love & sincere condolences to Alma and his family.»
Ex-British prime minister Tony Blair said: «Colin was a towering figure in American military and political leadership over many years, someone of immense capability and integrity, a hugely likeable and warm personality and a great companion, with a lovely and self-deprecating sense of humor.
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