‘An American icon’: World reacts to death of Colin Powell

Powell was the first Black secretary of state, but his legacy was tarnished in 2003 when he justified the war on Iraq.

The 'Powell Doctrine', named for Powell's approach to war, mandated that the US should only commit its forces in a conflict if it has clear and achievable objectives with public support, as well as a strategy for ending the war [File: Elise Amendola /AP Photo]

Condolences and tributes poured in from leaders in the United States and around the world on Monday, after the announcement that Colin Powell, the son of Jamaican immigrants who became the first Black US secretary of state, had died, due to complications from COVID-19.

He was 84 years old.

A veteran of the Vietnam War, Powell rose to the rank of four-star general in the US army. In 1989, he oversaw the US invasion of Panama and in 1991, the US invasion of Kuwait to remove the Iraqi army. He was named to senior posts by three Republican presidents, and later endorsed Democrat Barack Obama, who became the first Black US president.

But his legacy was forever tainted in 2003, when as President George W Bush’s secretary of state, advanced faulty claims to the United Nations to make the case for war with Iraq, despite international scepticism.

Here are some of the tributes:

Joe Biden

US President Joe Biden said Powell, “embodied the highest ideals of both warrior and diplomat”.

“He was committed to our nation’s strength and security above all. Having fought in wars, he understood better than anyone that military might alone was not enough to maintain our peace and prosperity,” Biden said in a statement.

“From his front-seat view of history, advising presidents and shaping our nation’s policies, Colin led with his personal commitment to the democratic values that make our country strong,” Biden said according to the statement.

George W Bush

Former US President George W Bush said Powell “was such a favorite of Presidents that he earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom – twice. He was highly respected at home and abroad,” he said in a statement on Monday. “And most important, Colin was a family man and a friend.”

Tony Blair

Tony Blair, who was prime minister of the United Kingdom during the war on Iraq said Powell had “immense capability and integrity”.

“He was wonderful to work with, he inspired loyalty and respect and was one of those leaders who always treated those under them with kindness and concern,” Blair said in a statement published on Friday.

Portia Simpson-Miller

Former Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller called Powell, born in the US to Jamaican parents, a “son of Jamaica”.

“He was an outstanding soldier and diplomat,” Simpson-Miller said.

John Major

“Colin Powell was one of the finest men I ever met. And, perhaps, one of the finest Americans never to be president,” former UK Prime Minister John Major said.

“Both in the military and in government he led with calm authority, and was an inspiration to all those who served alongside him,” Major said.

“During the first Gulf War – as Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff – we could not have wished for a stronger ally, nor one who commanded such affection and respect from our own Armed Forces.

“Throughout his long and exceptional career, Colin served with honor and distinction. He was a true public servant, who I was proud to call a friend.”

Colin Powell was twice awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom [Doug Mills/AP Photo]

Emir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah

In a letter addressed to US President Joe Biden, Kuwait’s ruler Emir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad Al Sabah reportedly expressed “his sincere condolences and sympathy” on Powell’s death, according to Kuwait’s news agency Kuna.

The letter recalled Powell’s “honourable stances towards the state of Kuwait and supporting its just causes”, according to the news agency.

Barack Obama

Powell, a Republican, endorsed former President Barack Obama, a Democrat in his 2008 and 2012 presidential runs.

“General Powell helped a generation of young people set their sights higher,” Obama said in his tribute to Powell posted on twitter.

“He never denied the role that race played in his own life and in our society more broadly,” Obama said, “but he also refused to accept that race would limit his dreams, and through his steady and principled leadership, helped pave the way for so many who would follow.”

Antony Blinken

In a video statement, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Powell was “arguably the most respected and celebrated American in uniform”.

“Secretary Powell was simply and completely a leader and he knew how to build a strong and united team,” Blinken said, adding that Powell was approachable, preferred simple lunches and was averse to “formalities”.

“Throughout his long and exceptional career, Colin served with honour and distinction. He was a true public servant, who I was proud to call a friend,” he said.

Heiko Maas

German’s Foreign Minister Keiko Maas said Powell “was very close” to his country.

“With Colin Powell, the United States loses an upright foreign policymaker – and we Europeans a trans-Atlantic bridge builder,” Maas said in a tweet.

“My heart is sad for I have lost a friend,” Maas said, “Colin Powell was an American icon whose career in public service will always be celebrated and remembered, but to me he was simply my friend Colin.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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