Washington: Colin Powell, who served Democratic and Republican presidents in war and peace but whose sterling reputation was forever stained when he went before the UN and made faulty claims to justify the US war in Iraq, has died of COVID-19 complications. He was 84.
A veteran of the Vietnam War, Powell rose to the rank of four-star general and in 1989 became the first Black chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In that role he oversaw the US invasion of Panama and later the US invasion of Kuwait to oust the Iraqi army in 1991.
But his legacy was marred when, in 2003, he went before the UN Security Council as secretary of state and made the case for US war against Iraq at a moment of great international skepticism.
He cited faulty information claiming Saddam Hussein had secretly stashed away weapons of mass destruction.
Iraq's claims that it had no such weapons represented a web of lies, he told the world body.
In announcing his death 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.
Powell was the first American official to publicly lay the blame for the 9/11 terrorist attacks on Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network and made a lightning trip to Pakistan in October, 2001 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.
As President George W Bush's first secretary of state, Powell led a State Department that was dubious of the military and intelligence communities' conviction that Saddam Hussein possessed or was developing weapons of mass destruction.
And yet, despite his reservations, he presented the administration's case that Saddam indeed posed a major regional and global threat in a speech to the UN Security Council in the run-up to the war.
That speech, replete with his display of a vial of what he said could have been a biological weapon, was later derided as a low-point in Powell's career, although he had removed some elements that he deemed to have been based on poor intelligence assessments.