Colin Powell, 1937 – 2021

I was meaning to leave poor Colin Powell alone today — and all future days, too — but I am just the teensiest bit weary of the continuous eulogizing that’s been going on all day.


Powell was a young man who — like far too many of our young men — thought that the best way to solve a problem was by violence. How else do you explain his love for the military? And no matter how much his friends declare him a man of peace, a man who “understood that war was a last resort,” he spent his life in wars in various places around the world, as a young officer and as a four-star general, all of them of extremely dubious value to his country, unless you count gratuitous ass-kicking as “value.”

I have never swallowed the tired cliché that the best way to avoid a fight is to be ready for one. If you raise a massive army, the way the U.S. and other countries have done since the beginning of countries, train everybody to do exactly as they’re told and give them the newest, deadliest weapons, you’ll definitely be ready for a fight, and as history shows, you will most assuredly have one. Sure, it’s a “last resort,” but you’re ready, and it’s coming, after all the diplomatic options are “exhausted.”

Young Colin joined the army, became a good soldier, learned the craft of war, taught it to his underlings, learned never to question orders, rose to a high political position, and in a speech before the United Nations in 2003 he used that position to cause the deaths of over a half million Iraqis and Americans, plus the maiming of another 32,000 Americans and an untold number of Iraqi soldiers and civilians (I literally can’t find a figure for how many Iraqis were injured).

Young Colin wanted the United States to be “ready for a fight,” as a last resort, of course. Secretary of State Colin “regretted” his speech at the U.N. He considered it a “black mark” on his legacy. Maybe that qualifies in some circles as “taking responsibility.” But he went to his death blaming others for the lies he told to the world in that speech. He was given “bad intel,” he said, and he was “disappointed” in whoever gave it to him (Rumsfeld? Cheney? Bush? He does not specify.)

In the end, Powell was just another chump who accepted the ethic of domination, who sold himself to the arms dealers, the oil companies and the power-hungry rulers, no more or less important, no more or less guilty, than the grunts he deployed.

May we one day have leaders who strive for peace and equality, who won’t go to that “last resort.” THEY will be the heroes to me. Until then rest in peace Mr. Powell, and thank you for your service.

Share this: