By Jakob Stein
Last week, Colin Powell, best known as the Secretary of State under George W. Bush during the initiation of the imperialist wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, died in a military hospital due to complications related to COVID-19. In the wake of his death, politicians and the monopoly media have put forth a narrative of his ‘achievements’ in an effort to paint him as a heroic military commander rather than what he truly was: a bloodthirsty imperialist.
Both Republicans and Democrats have been singing Powell’s praises, with Joe Biden calling him a “dear friend” and claiming that he had earned “the universal respect of the American people.” While he was aligned with Republicans throughout his career until retirement, he broke with the Republican Party during the 2008 election when he endorsed Barack Obama for president.
Powell went on to endorse both Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden in subsequent elections, ultimately stating that he was no longer a Republican after the reactionary riot at the US Capitol in January 2021. After his death, he is still popular among both major imperialist political parties and is portrayed as a ‘moderate’ because of his cultivated air of being above inter-party squabbling. Powell’s identity as a Black man is also one of the imperialists’ favorite facts, revealing the bankruptcy of liberal identity opportunism that claims that minority representation in this brutal system should be celebrated. To those people he bombed and invaded, Powell’s racial background offers nothing progressive.
Powell used his manufactured ‘respectable’ image to obscure the reality that the imperialist system he serves is a slaughterhouse which butchers the people in order to sustain itself. For this reason, Powell is even more twisted than the more outwardly despicable imperialists, as he lends his supposed respectability to distract from the crimes of US imperialism.
The most infamous moment from Powell’s blood-stained career was his presentation to the United Nations (UN) in 2003, where George W. Bush deployed him to lie to the entire world that the US had evidence that Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi government had weapons of mass destruction as well as a “massive clandestine nuclear weapons program.” He presented an air of confidence as he deliberately misrepresented intercepted communications from Iraqi officials and testimony of government defectors to say that the Iraqi government was hiding forbidden ammunition and chemical weapons.
The UN presentation culminated with Powell holding up a small glass vial of powder as a demonstration of the potential danger of anthrax, a substance which terrified people as the US government was playing up the possibility of terror attacks, implying that the Iraqi government had vast quantities it intended to use on Americans.
These same lies from his UN presentation were used to justify the war with Iraq while the US military was already occupying Afghanistan. The war in Iraq and Powell’s role in it have been rewritten as a simple mistake, a blot on his reputation and career that is outshined by his supposed ‘heroism’; however, this is only one small example in a long career in service to imperialism.
Powell’s history as an agent of imperialism began long before the Bush administration—he started his military career as a soldier in the Vietnam War, serving two tours in the imperialist invasion of southern Vietnam that was an attempt to stop the spread of Communism internationally. He served as an assistant to the secretary of defense during the invasion of the tiny island nation of Grenada in 1983, the bombing of Libya in 1986, and the Iran-Contra Affair, in which the US secretly facilitated the sale of missiles to Iran in order to fund right-wing death squads in Nicaragua.
Powell was later promoted to National Security Advisor under the ultra-reactionary Ronald Reagan before eventually becoming the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the highest-ranking position in the imperialist military. During that time, he oversaw the 1989 invasion of Panama, in which the US ousted Manuel Noriega from power. The Central American Human Rights Commission estimated the US killed between 2,000 to 3,000 Panamanian civilians in order to defend its control over the Panama Canal. Under George Bush Sr., Powell directed the 1991 invasion of Iraq, known as Operation Desert Storm, which initiated two decades of US invasions, bombings, deadly sanctions and occupation of the country. The combined death toll from all of the US’s activities from 1991 until 2011 (the official end date of the Iraq War) is estimated at around 3 million Iraqis.
The list of imperialist military actions that Powell has participated in goes on and on—he has been a dedicated agent of US imperialism since graduating college, rising to the highest ranks of the military and overseeing some of the worst crimes the US has committed against the people of the world. His death is mourned by the ruling class because he was one of them. But the people shouldn’t shed a tear for him—Powell was an unrepentant servant of the imperialist system, and his death due to COVID-19 is too generous for someone who has the blood of millions on his hands. Regardless, the people of the world will have justice against his fellow imperialists in the times to come, as the masses wipe the system that Colin Powell served off the face of the earth.
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