“Old soldiers never die, they just fade away” – Gen. Douglas MacArthur
Luther and Maud Powell were a young Jamaican couple who migrated to Harlem at some point before the Great Depression. Like all immigrants, they came to the states in search of the promise of a brighter tomorrow. Their search culminated in a child that was destined to enter into history as one of the greatest military minds of the modern era.
Colin Luther Powell came into this world on April 5, 1937 in the capital of Black America: Harlem. Although he came from hard working parents, he came of age on the rough streets of the South Bronx. He attended Morris High School in New York City before graduating and moving onto City College where he found his destiny awaiting him.
He enrolled in the ROTC Program and never looked back. He immediately responded to the Army’s code of rigid discipline. He received his commission upon graduating from college in 1958. As a Second Lieutenant in the Army, Powell had a stable future. Handsome, upright, and ambitious, he could have easily had women hanging from the rafters. But his military discipline combined with his traditional family upbringing kept him on track.
He subsequently married Alma Johnson and had three children. Alma, a child of the American South, went back to Birmingham, while Powell was deployed in the jungles of Southeast Asia. While fighting in those jungles, Powell’s wife was in the midst of another war back in the United States.
The Civil Rights Movement exploded as Powell was wounded by a booby trap 8,000 miles away in the cause of democracy. In the middle of this terrible irony Powell would achieve the Rank of Major after he survived a chopper crash during his second tour in Vietnam. Though wounded, Powell managed to pull others from the crash before a heavy counter assault by the North Vietnamese. He received a purple heart for valor.
Although he served with unwavering fidelity and courage, patriotism didn’t blind him to the fact that there were serious mistakes made in Vietnam. Powell would later recall,”you’d better have a strategy and an objective before you go into something like Vietnam. We didn’t”
Although he earned a Masters Degree in Business Administration in 1972, he realized that he was a soldier and not an entrepreneur. So he continued his military career and in 1979, he achieved the rank of Brigadier General.
On duty during the period that is nostalgically remembered as the Reagan Years, he became the First Black National Security Adviser in 1987. Two years later, he became the First Black Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. But the winds of war were on the horizon and Gen. Powell would once again make muster and step into immortality.
In 1990 when Iraq invaded Kuwait, the U.S. declared war on the regime of Saddam Hussein. When faced with the prospect of a million man opposition, Powell simply responded: “we’re gonna cut it off, and then we are gonna kill it.”
Powell’s strategy was total offense. He hit his enemy with lightening speed and overwhelming force. And though initially the press gave the majority of the credit to General Norman Swartzkoff, Washington insiders knew that the true mastermind of what would come to be known as Operation Desert Storm, was none other than General Colin Powell. It should be noted that although he served during the Reagan and Bush years, he had no party affiliations.
He eventually became a Republican 2 years after retiring from active duty; in 1995. But 5 years later, Powell would once again make history when he became the First Black Secretary of State under George W. Bush. If one thought that Gen Powell was an obedient, capitulating, lackey for the administration due to his accolades, they would have been wrong. Powell’s battles with the deferment loving Former Vice President Dick Cheney was legendary all over Washington.
Powell was, and is not the standard reactionary Tea Party Republican. He was for Affirmative Action but against massive government spending. Fiscally conservative but socially liberal, Powell was in the mold of the old Eisenhower Republican.
His credibility was so impeccable that when the Bush Administration needed a false premise for the Second Invasion of Iraq after 9/11, there was only one man in the entire cabinet with the integrity to speak and be believed: Gen. Colin Powell.
Based on bogus intelligence, the General went before the UN Security Council to make the case for another war. But this time, it would be his final swan song from public office. Disgraced and compromised, Powell left office with the grace and quiet dignity befitting an old soldier.
But even in retirement, Powell was no punk bitch. In 2004, Powell in a conversation with the British Foreign Secretary, reportedly referred to the neocons in the Bush administration as “fucking crazies.” In 2005, he criticized his former boss’s response to Hurricane Katrina and backed a statement by John McCain, Lindsay Graham, and John Warner against President Bush’s terrorism bill.
Powell supported the election of Barack Obama both in 2008 and 2012. When asked why he was still a Republican, Powell remarked that the Republican Party needed him more than the Democratic Party. He subsequently supported Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in the 2016 Presidential Campaign. He would later remark that Donald Trump is “national disgrace”, with “no sense of shame.”
Yet despite his fall from public office in later years, Gen Colin Powell’s achievements were nothing short of herculean. His journey from the South Bronx into history as American’s greatest soldier turned diplomat, is epic to say the least. While his party descends into the abyss of suicidal reaction, at 82 years of age, Gen Powell stands as a lone dissenting voice against the forces of reaction that threaten apart both his party, and the Republic for which it stands.
TONY MACEO is a senior blogger for the Negromanosphere. Support by paypal@firstname.lastname@example.org or on Patreon at powerofstrategies. TILL NEXT TIME, I’ll HOLLA!!!