by Iqbal Jassat
Will Colin Powell be remembered as America’s hero or as a war criminal?
Since his death on October 18, there appears to be a rush to profile him as a warm-hearted family man who, against all odds, rose to unimaginable heights within the US empire.
His black background is quoted as proof of success and used to shield him from criticism under the rubric of racism even as he served the Empire’s quest for global domination.
Barack Obama has similarly been lionized because he was the first black president of the United States.
His policies toward people of color worldwide were no less vicious than any white president!
Ignored in the adulation of a war criminal was the fact that in 1991, Powell was the chairman Joint chiefs of staff when he ordered the massive bombing of Iraqi forces fleeing from Kuwait (whose occupation had led to the first Gulf War against Saddam Hussain’s regime).
Tens of thousands of Iraqi troops were butchered on the highway heading out of Kuwait. It was dubbed the “Highway of death”.
At a Washington press conference, when Powell was asked about Iraqi deaths, he tersely replied: “That’s one statistic I am not interested in!”
A servant of Empire—an Uncle Tom—was not interested in the coldblooded murder of brown people!
If the discourse on his life is selectively cherry picked, it is inevitable that Powell will be mourned as an unblemished ‘hero’ worthy of being emulated.
And shockingly, apart from a few exceptions, many South African media platforms who have elicited comments on Powell ignored the most crucial aspect defining his enormous failure and guilt: his allegation of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) in Iraq.
In other words, to bring the issue of WMDs into sharp focus and his central role in it, Powell was the indisputable purveyor of lies that led to America’s destructive war on Iraq in 2003.
It was a bloody war promoted on a pack of lies!
Attempts have been made since the claim of WMDs was exposed as an elaborate lie, to argue that it was “intelligence failure” in order to whitewash the entire scandal and to salvage Powell’s severely damaged reputation.
Pundits who subjected the narrative of “intelligence failure” to intense scrutiny, found that on the contrary, Powell was at the head of an extremely sophisticated campaign of disinformation.
The objective was clear: regime change in Iraq.
The predetermined goal of a full-blown war followed by occupation and regime change had nothing to do with WMDs.
It had everything to do with the neocons’ goal in pursuit of eliminating Arab rulers viewed as impediments.
In the case of Iraq, Saddam Hussain’s usefulness as a faithful lackey had ended and he had to be eliminated, even if hundreds of thousands would die in the process.
Selling the need for war on Iraq required deception.
Powell was thus tasked as the chief deceiver whose lies about Saddam possessing WMDs became the center piece of the CIA coordinated plot.
The fiction of Iraq posing an imminent threat to American interests and security was sold to the public as well as the wider world.
That the false propaganda was successfully bought by US allies was no surprise.
But shockingly and to the utter dismay of millions who poured into the streets of various capitals, mainstream media also bought into it.
Powell’s disgraceful display of fake vials purporting to be “evidence” of mountains of weapons of mass destruction possessed by Saddam, accelerated the hunger for war.
The Tony Blair-led British regime was equally committed to George W Bush’s war on Iraq, despite being fully aware of the truth about the myth of WMDs.
Reports subsequently emerged confirming Blair’s satanic role.
The nature of America’s case for war was aptly summarized in the minutes of a meeting of senior ministers of the British regime on July 23, 2002, the infamous “Downing Street Memo”, which observed: “Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMDs. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”
Any fair reading of Powell’s central role would dispute the narrative that there was an “intelligence failure” nor would it withstand the slightest scrutiny.
It thus begs the question, why Powell has escaped censure if facts point out that top experts in their respective fields within the US intelligence community had correctly assessed that Iraq did not have WMDs or ongoing WMD programs?
Powell was an integral part of the Bush regime’s neocons who subverted intelligence for a specific agenda.
Policy was not based on intelligence, but the CIA’s intelligence products were rather based on the policy.
Though Powell and Donald Rumsfeld died without any accountability for the horrendous war crimes they perpetrated, one hopes that George W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice and other neocons who were the architects of America’s illegal wars will face prosecution.
Iqbal Jassat is Exec Member of the Media Review Network in Johannesburg, South Africa