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powell, colin

Powell, Colin (Luther)

(born April 5, 1937, New York, N.Y., U.S.) U.S. general and statesman. The son of Jamaican immigrants, he entered the U.S. Army after college and served in the Vietnam War (1962–63, 1968–69). After holding various posts in the Pentagon and elsewhere, he was appointed senior military assistant to the secretary of defense in 1983. In 1987 he joined the staff of the National Security Council; in that same year Pres. Ronald Reagan appointed him assistant to the president for national security affairs. In 1989 Powell was promoted to four-star general and, appointed by Pres. George Bush, became the first African American to serve as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He helped plan the invasion of Panama (1989) and the military operations of the Persian Gulf War. Under Pres. George W. Bush he served as secretary of state (2001–05), the first African American to hold that post.

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Colin Luther Powell, KCB (Honorary), MSC, (born April 5, 1937) is a retired General in the United States Army. He was the 65th United States Secretary of State (2001-2005), serving under President George W. Bush. He was the first African American appointed to that position. As a General in the United States Army, Powell also served as National Security Advisor (1987–1989) and as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1989–1993), holding the latter position during the Gulf War. He was the first and, so far, the only African American to serve on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Personal background

Powell was born in Harlem, a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Manhattan in 1937 to Jamaican immigrant parents and was raised in the South Bronx. He also has Scottish, and other ancestries. Powell attended Morris High School, a former public school in The Bronx, New York City, from which he graduated in 1954. While in school, he worked a local shop where he picked up Yiddish from the shopkeepers and some of the customers. He remembers some of his Yiddish to this day. He gained a bachelor's degree in geology from City College of New York attaining a "C" average, according to his 2006 graduation address at Marymount University. He later obtained an MBA from The George Washington University after his second tour in Vietnam in 1971.

In 1962, he married Alma, who is now the co-chair of America's Promise. He is the father of Michael Powell, the former chair of the Federal Communications Commission (Michael Powell was known mostly for a public battle with radio host Howard Stern).

Powell's first name is fairly common in the United Kingdom and Ireland but rare in the United States. He pronounces his name "cole-in"; most other men with this name pronounce it "coll-in" in the United Kingdom. In general, public officials and radio and television reporters have used Powell's preferred pronunciation.

Military career

While at City College Powell joined the Reserve Officers' Training Corps and later described it as one of the happiest experiences of his life: finding something he loved and could do well, he had "found himself." Cadet Powell joined the Pershing Rifles, the ROTC fraternal organization and drill team started by GEN John Pershing. Even after Powell became a General, he still kept on his desk a pen set he had won for a drill team competition. After graduating from City College in June 1958, he was granted a commission as an Army Second Lieutenant. Powell was a professional soldier for 35 years, during which time he held a variety of command and staff positions and rose to the rank of General.

While serving with the Third Armored Division in Germany as a Lieutenant, he met Elvis Presley, then serving in that unit. During the Vietnam War, Powell was a captain, serving as a South Vietnamese Army advisor from 1962 to 1963. While on patrol in a Viet Cong-held area, he was wounded after stepping on a punji stake trap. He returned to Vietnam as a major from 1968 to 1970, where he first served as the executive officer for the Americal Division (23rd Infantry Division), then as the assistant chief of staff of operations for the Americal Division. In that post, he was charged with investigating a detailed letter by Tom Glen (a soldier from the 11th Light Infantry Brigade), which backed up rumored allegations of the My Lai Massacre. Powell wrote: "In direct refutation of this portrayal is the fact that relations between Americal soldiers and the Vietnamese people are excellent." Later, Powell's assessment would be described as whitewashing the news of the massacre, and questions would continue to remain undisclosed to the public. In May 2004 Powell said to Larry King, "I mean, I was in a unit that was responsible for My Lai. I got there after My Lai happened. So, in war, these sorts of horrible things happen every now and again, but they are still to be deplored.

Powell obtained an MBA from George Washington University in 1971 and then served a White House fellowship under President Richard Nixon.

In his autobiography My American Journey, Powell mentioned several officers he served under that inspired and mentored him. As a Lieutenant Colonel serving in South Korea, for example, Powell was very close to General Henry "Gunfighter" Emerson. Powell said he regarded this man as one of the most caring officers he ever served under. Emerson reputedly had a somewhat eccentric personality. For example, he insisted his troops train only at night and made them repeatedly watch the television film Brian's Song to promote racial harmony. Powell always professed, however, that what set Emerson apart was his great love of his soldiers and concern for their welfare.

In the early 1980s, Powell served at Fort Carson, Colorado. It was there that he had a major clash with General John Hudachek, his commander. Hudachek said in an efficiency evaluation that Powell was a poor leader who should not be promoted. Powell's rising military career was unhindered by Hudachek's evaluation report. After he left Fort Carson, Powell became senior military assistant to Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, whom he assisted during the 1983 invasion of Grenada and the 1986 airstrike on Libya.

In 1986, he took over the command of V Corps in Frankfurt Germany from Robert Lewis "Sam" Wetzel. In 1989, prior to being named Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Powell served as the Commander in Chief, Forces Command headquartered at Fort McPherson, Georgia.

Dates of rank

Badges

Military medals and ribbons

Defense Distinguished Service Medal (with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters)
Distinguished Service Medal, Army (with Oak Leaf Cluster)
Defense Superior Service Medal
Legion of Merit (with Oak Leaf Cluster)
Soldier's Medal
Bronze Star
Purple Heart
Air Medal
Joint Service Commendation Medal
Army Commendation Medal (with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters)
Presidential Medal of Freedom (order of precedence, if worn)
no image Presidential Citizens Medal (order of precedence, if worn)
National Defense Service Medal (with 1 Bronze Service Star)
Vietnam Service Medal (with 1 Silver Service Star)
Army Service Ribbon
Army Overseas Service Ribbon (with numeral 3)

Foreign decorations

Presidential appointments

National Security Advisor

At the age of 49, Powell became Ronald Reagan's National Security Advisor, serving from 1987 to 1989. He retained his Army commission (he was a Lieutenant General at the time of his nomination) while serving as National Security Advisor. After his tenure with the NSC, Powell was promoted to 4-star General under President George H.W. Bush and served as Commander-in-Chief (CINC) of the United States Army's Forces Command (FORSCOM), overseeing all Army, Army Reserve, and National Guard units in the Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

His last military assignment, from October 1, 1989 to September 30, 1993, was as the 12th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the highest military position in the Department of Defense. At age 52, he became the youngest officer, and first Afro-Caribbean American, to serve in this position. In 1989, he joined Dwight D. Eisenhower and Alexander Haig as the third general since World War II to reach four-star rank without ever being a divisional commander. Powell was also the first JCS Chair who was not a collegiate graduate of a United States Service academy, but rather, through ROTC. During this time, he oversaw 28 crises, including the invasion of Panama in 1989 to remove General Manuel Noriega from power in the United States invasion of Panama and Operation Desert Storm in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. During these events, Powell earned his nickname, "the reluctant warrior". He rarely advocated military intervention as the first solution to an international dispute, and instead usually prescribed diplomacy and containment.

Powell mentioned in his autobiography that he is haunted by the nightmare of the Vietnam War. He felt the leadership was very ineffective. Powell served a tour in Vietnam as a military advisor, and was mildly injured when he stepped on a bamboo "punji stick." The large infection made it difficult for him to walk, and caused his foot to swell for a short time, shortening his first tour. It was also during his Vietnam service, his second tour, that Powell was decorated for bravery. He single-handedly rescued several men from a burning helicopter, one of them being Maj. Gen. Charles Gettys, the commander of the Americal Division.

Powell opposed the majority of George H.W. Bush Administration officials who advocated the deployment of troops to the Middle East to force Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to withdraw his armies from neighboring Kuwait, believing the dictator could instead be contained through sanctions and a buildup of forces around Kuwait.

As an officer, Powell also valued loyalty very highly. As a military strategist, he has advocated an approach to military conflicts that maximizes the potential for success and minimizes casualties. A component of this approach is the use of overwhelming force, which he applied to Operation Desert Storm in 1991. His approach has been dubbed the "Powell Doctrine".

Colin Powell's experience in military matters made him a very popular figure with both American political parties. Many Democrats admired his moderate stance on military matters, while many Republicans saw him as a great asset associated with the successes of past Republican administrations. Powell eventually declared himself a Republican, and began to campaign for Republican candidates. He was touted as a possible opponent of Bill Clinton in the 1996 U.S. Presidential Election, but Powell declined.

In 1997 Powell founded America's Promise with the objective of helping children from all socioeconomic sectors. Powell often wears the logo of the organization in the form of a red wagon pin on his lapel.

In the 2000 U.S. Presidential Election Powell campaigned for Texas Governor George W. Bush, serving as a key foreign policy advisor to the campaign. At the same time, it was often hinted that Powell might have been appointed to a position within a Democratic administration, should Al Gore have won. Bush eventually won, and Colin Powell was appointed Secretary of State.

Secretary of State

As Secretary of State in the Bush administration, Powell was perceived as moderate. Powell's great asset was his tremendous popularity among the American people. Over the course of his tenure he traveled less than any other U.S. Secretary of State in 30 years. Powell was unanimously voted in by the United States Senate.

On September 11, 2001, Powell was in Lima, Peru, meeting with President Alejandro Toledo and US Ambassador to Peru John Hamilton, and attending the special session of the OAS General Assembly that subsequently adopted the Inter-American Democratic Charter.

After September 11, Powell's job became of critical importance in managing America's relationships with foreign countries in order to secure a stable coalition in the War on Terrorism.

In April 2002, he visited the site of the alleged Jenin Massacre in the West Bank and later said while testifying to Congress, "I've seen no evidence that would suggest a massacre took place." Details of the events were unclear at the time, Shimon Peres was quoted by Ha'aretz speaking of a massacre and IDF estimates of the dead were in the 100s. Later investigations by human rights organizations and the United Nations placed the number of deaths amongst Palestinians at 52.

Powell came under fire for his role in building the case for the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. In a press statement on February 24, 2001 he had said that sanctions against Iraq had prevented the development of any weapons of mass destruction by Saddam Hussein. As was the case in the days leading up to the Persian Gulf War, Powell was initially opposed to a forcible overthrow of Hussein, preferring to continue a policy of containment. However, Powell eventually agreed to go along with the Bush administration's determination to remove Hussein. He had often clashed with others in the administration, who were reportedly planning an Iraq invasion even before the September 11 attacks—an insight supported by testimony by former terrorism czar Richard Clarke in front of the 9/11 Commission. The main concession Powell wanted before he would offer his full support for the Iraq War was the involvement of the international community in the invasion, as opposed to the unilateral approach some advocated. He was also successful in persuading Bush to take the case of Iraq to the United Nations, and in moderating other initiatives. Powell was placed at the forefront of this diplomatic campaign.

Powell's chief role was to garner international support for a multi-national coalition to mount the invasion. To this end, Powell addressed a plenary session of the United Nations Security Council on February 5, 2003 to argue in favor of military action. Citing "numerous" anonymous Iraqi defectors, Powell asserted that "there can be no doubt that Saddam Hussein has biological weapons and the capability to rapidly produce more, many more. Powell also stated that there was "no doubt in my mind" that Saddam was working to obtain key components to produce nuclear weapons.

Most observers praised Powell's oratorical skills. However, Britain's Channel 4 News reported soon afterwards that a UK intelligence dossier that Powell had referred to as a "fine paper" during his presentation had been based on old material and plagiarized an essay by an American graduate student. A 2004 report by the Iraq Survey Group concluded that the evidence that Powell offered to support the allegation that the Iraqi government possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) was inaccurate.

A Senate report on intelligence failures would later detail the intense debate that went on behind the scenes on what to include in Powell's speech. State Department analysts had found dozens of factual problems in drafts of the speech. Some of the claims were taken out, but others were left in, such as claims based on the yellowcake forgery. The administration came under fire for having acted on faulty intelligence. Reports have indicated that Powell himself was skeptical of the evidence presented to him. Powell later recounted how Vice President Cheney had joked with him before he gave the speech, telling him, "You've got high poll ratings; you can afford to lose a few points." Larry Wilkerson later characterized Cheney's view of Powell's mission as to "go up there and sell it, and we'll have moved forward a peg or two. Fall on your damn sword and kill yourself, and I'll be happy, too."

In September 2005, Powell was asked about the speech during an interview with Barbara Walters and responded that it was a "blot" on his record. He went on to say, "It will always be a part of my record. It was painful. It's painful now.

Mr. Powell's longtime aide-de-camp Colonel Lawrence B. Wilkerson said that he participated in a hoax on the American people in preparing Mr. Powell's erroneous testimony before the United Nations Security Council.

Because Powell was seen as more moderate than most figures in the administration, he was spared many of the attacks that have been leveled at more controversial advocates of the invasion, such as Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz. At times, infighting between the Powell-led State Department, the Rumsfeld-led Defense Department, and Vice President Dick Cheney's office had the effect of paralyzing the administration on crucial issues, such as what actions to take regarding Iran and North Korea.

After Saddam Hussein had been deposed, Powell's new role was to once again establish a working international coalition, this time to assist in the rebuilding of post-war Iraq. On September 13, 2004, Powell testified before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, acknowledging that the sources who provided much of the information in his February 2003 UN presentation were "wrong" and that it was "unlikely" that any stockpiles of WMDs would be found. Claiming that he was unaware that some intelligence officials questioned the information prior to his presentation, Powell pushed for reform in the intelligence community, including the creation of a national intelligence director who would assure that "what one person knew, everyone else knew".

Colin Powell announced his resignation as Secretary of State on Monday, November 15, 2004. According to the Washington Post, he had been asked to resign by the president's chief of staff, Andrew Card. Powell announced that he would stay on until the end of Bush's first term or until his replacement's confirmation by Congress. The following day, George W. Bush nominated National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice as Powell's successor. News of Powell's leaving the Administration spurred mixed reactions from politicians around the world—some upset at the loss of a statesman seen as a moderating factor within the Bush administration, but others hoping for Powell's successor to wield more influence within the cabinet, and thus be a more credible negotiator.

In mid-November, Colin Powell stated that he had seen new evidence suggesting that Iran was adapting missiles for a nuclear delivery system. The accusation came at the same time as the settlement of an agreement between the IAEA, the European Union and Iran.

On December 31, 2004, Powell rang in the New Year by throwing the ball in Times Square with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, ushering in the year 2005. He appeared on the networks that were broadcasting New Year's Eve specials and talked about this honor, as well as being a native of New York City.

Life after diplomatic service

After retiring from the role of Secretary of State, Powell returned to private life. In April 2005, he was privately telephoned by Republican senators Lincoln Chafee and Chuck Hagel, at which time Powell expressed reservations and mixed reviews about the nomination of John R. Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations, but refrained from advising the senators to oppose Bolton (Powell had clashed with Bolton during Bush's first term). The decision was viewed as potentially dealing significant damage to Bolton's chances of confirmation. Bolton was put into the position via a recess appointment because of the strong opposition in the Senate.

On 28 April 2005, an opinion piece in the The Guardian by Sidney Blumenthal (a former top aide to President Bill Clinton) claimed that Powell was in fact "conducting a campaign" against Bolton because of the acrimonious battles they had had while working together, which among other things had resulted in Powell cutting Bolton out of talks with Iran and Libya after complaints about Bolton's involvement from the British. Blumenthal added that "The foreign relations committee has discovered that Bolton made a highly unusual request and gained access to 10 intercepts by the National Security Agency. Staff members on the committee believe that Bolton was probably spying on Powell, his senior advisers and other officials reporting to him on diplomatic initiatives that Bolton opposed.

In July 2005, Powell joined Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers, a well-known Silicon Valley venture capital firm, with the title of "strategic limited partner".

In September 2005, Powell criticized the response to Hurricane Katrina. Powell said that thousands of people were not properly protected, but because they were poor rather than because they were black.

On January 5 2006, he participated in a meeting at the White House of former Secretaries of Defense and State to discuss United States foreign policy with Bush administration officials. In September 2006, Powell sided with more moderate Senate Republicans in supporting more rights for detainees and opposing President Bush's terrorism bill. He backed Senators John Warner, John McCain and Lindsey Graham in their statement that U.S. military and intelligence personnel in future wars will suffer for abuses committed in 2006 by the U.S. in the name of fighting terrorism. Powell stated that "The world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of [America's] fight against terrorism.

Also in 2006, Powell began appearing as a speaker at a series of motivational events called Get Motivated, along with former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. In his speeches for the tour, he openly criticized the Bush Administration on a number of issues. Powell has been the recipient of mild criticism for his role with Get Motivated which has been called a "get-rich-quick-without-much-effort, feel-good schemology.

Most recently he joined the Board of Directors of Steve Case's new company Revolution Health. Powell also serves on the Council on Foreign Relations Board of directors.

Powell, in honor of Martin Luther King Day, dropped the ceremonial first puck at a New York Islanders game at Nassau Coliseum.

Recently, Powell has encouraged young people to continue to use new technologies to their advantage in the future. In a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies to a room of young professionals, he said, "That’s your generation…a generation that is hard-wired digital, a generation that understands the power of the information revolution and how it is transforming the world. A generation that you represent, and you’re coming together to share; to debate; to decide; to connect with each other. At this event, he encouraged the next generation to involve themselves politically on the upcoming Next America Project, which uses online debate to provide policy recommendations for the upcoming administration.

In 2008, Powell served as a spokesperson for National Mentoring Month, a campaign held each January to recruit volunteer mentors for at-risk youth.

Political views

A moderate Republican, Powell is well known for his willingness to support liberal or centrist causes. He is pro-choice regarding abortion, and in favor of "reasonable" gun control. He stated in his autobiography that he supports affirmative action that levels the playing field, without giving a leg up to undeserving person because of racial issues. Powell was also instrumental in the implementation of the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy.

The Vietnam War had a profound effect on Powell's views of the proper use of military force. These views are described in detail in the autobiography My American Journey. The Powell Doctrine, as the views became known, was a central component of US policy in the Gulf War (the first U.S. war in Iraq) and U.S. invasion of Afghanistan (the overthrow of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan following the events of "9/11"). The hallmark of both operations was strong international cooperation, and the use of overwhelming military force.

Powell was the subject of controversy in 2004 when, in a conversation with British Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, he reportedly referred to neoconservatives within the Bush administration as "fucking crazies". In addition to being reported in the press (though generally, the expletive was censored in the U.S. press), the quote was used by James Naughtie in his book, The Accidental American: Tony Blair and the Presidency, and by Chris Patten in his book, Cousins and Strangers: America, Britain, and Europe in a New Century.

In a letter to Sen. John McCain, General Powell expressed opposition to President Bush's push for military tribunals of those formerly and currently classified as enemy combatants. Specifically, he expressed concern of Bush's plan to "amend the interpretation of Article III of the Geneva Conventions." He also pointed out that perception of the War on Terror may be losing moral support saying, "The world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism. In the beginning of 2008, his name was mentioned as a possible running mate of Republican nominee John McCain for the 2008 U.S. presidential election. In the summer of 2007, Powell donated the maximum to John McCain's campaign. However, some have speculated that Powell may ultimately endorse Barack Obama.

On August 13, 2008, Fox News analyst Bill Kristol stated that Powell will endorse Barack Obama for president and may give a speech at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Powell has said in response that "I do not have time to waste on Bill Kristol's musings." Powell told CNN News in February 2008 that "I will vote for the candidate I think can do the best job in America—whether that candidate is a Republican or Democrat or an independent". But on August 23, The Politico reported that Powell was considered by John McCain for the vice-presidency. In the end, Powell did not give a speech at the Democratic National Convention and was not nominated to be the Vice Presidential candidate under John McCain.

View of the U.S. war in Iraq

In July 2007 Powell revealed that he spent two and a half hours trying to persuade George W. Bush not to invade Iraq but that he did not prevail. At the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado Powell stated, "I tried to avoid this war. I took him [Bush] through the consequences of going into an Arab country and becoming the occupiers.

Powell went on to say that he believed Iraq was in a state of civil war. "The civil war will ultimately be resolved by a test of arms. It's not going to be pretty to watch, but I don't know any way to avoid it. It is happening now." He further noted, "It is not a civil war that can be put down or solved by the armed forces of the United States," and suggested that all the U.S. military could do was put "a heavier lid on this pot of boiling sectarian stew".

Civilian awards

Powell's civilian awards includes two Presidential Medals of Freedom, the President's Citizens Medal, the Congressional Gold Medal, the Secretary of State Distinguished Service Medal, the Secretary of Energy Distinguished Service Medal, and the Ronald Reagan Freedom Award. Several schools and other institutions have been named in his honor and he holds honorary degrees from universities and colleges across the country.

  • In 1991, Powell was inducted into the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, which "honors the achievements of outstanding individuals in U.S. society who have succeeded in spite of adversity and of encouraging young people to pursue their dreams through higher education."
  • On November 9, 1993, Powell was awarded the second Ronald Reagan Freedom Award, by President Ronald Reagan. Powell served as Reagan's National Security Advisor from 1987-1989.
  • On December 15, 1993, Colin Powell was made an honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath by Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom.
  • In 1998, he was awarded the prestigious Sylvanus Thayer Award by the United States Military Academy for his commitment to the ideals of "Duty, Honor, Country."
  • The 2002 Liberty Medal was awarded to Colin Powell on July 4th in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In his acceptance speech, Powell reminded Americans that "It is for America, the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, to help freedom ring across the globe, unto all the peoples thereof. That is our solemn obligation, and we will not fail.
  • The Coat of Arms of Colin Powell was granted by the Lord Lyon in Edinburgh on February 4, 2004. Technically the grant was to Powell's father (a British subject) to be passed on by descent. Scotland's King of Arms is traditionally responsible for granting arms to Commonwealth citizens. Blazoned as:
    Azure, two swords in saltire points downwards between four mullets Argent, on a chief of the Second a lion passant Gules. On a wreath of the Liveries is set for Crest the head of an American bald-headed eagle erased Proper. And in an escrol over the same this motto, "DEVOTED TO PUBLIC SERVICE."
    The swords and stars refer to the former general's career, as does the crest, which is the badge of the 101st Airborne (which he served as a brigade commander in the mid-1970s). The lion may be an allusion to Scotland. The shield can be shown surrounded by the insignia of an honorary Knight Commander of the Most honorable Order of the Bath (KCB), an award the General received after the first Gulf War.
  • In 2005 Powell received the Bishop John T. Walker Distinguished Humanitarian Service Award for his contributions to Africa.
  • AARP honored Powell with the 2006 AARP Andrus Award, the Association’s highest honor. This award, named in honor of AARP’s founder, Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus, is presented biennially to distinguished individuals who have generated positive social change in the world, and whose work and achievements reflect AARP’s vision of bringing lifetimes of experience and leadership to serve all generations.
  • In 2005 Colin and Alma Powell were awarded the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars of the Smithsonian Institution.
  • Colin Powell was initiated as an honorary brother in Sigma Phi Epsilon.
  • Powell is a recipient of the Silver Buffalo Award, the highest adult award given by the Boy Scouts of America.

References

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