Learn more about Colin Powell
General Colin Luther Powell, United States Army (Ret.) (born April 5, 1937) was the 65th United States Secretary of State, serving from January 20, 2001 to January 23, 2005 under President George W. Bush. Nominated by Bush on December 16, 2000 and unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate, Powell became the third highest ranking non-Caucasian government official in the history of the United States behind only Supreme court justices Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas. He became the highest ranking African-American in the executive branch and was the highest ranking African-American in the military in the history of the United States. As a general in the United States Army, Powell also served as National Security Advisor (1987–1989) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1989–1993).
 Personal background
Colin Powell was born in the New York City neighborhood of Harlem in 1937, and was raised in the once-infamous Hunts Point neighborhood of the South Bronx. He always spoke warmly of his parents, Luther Theophilus Powell and Maud Ariel Powell, as loving and hard-working. They had emigrated from Jamaica to the United States and worked in Manhatten's Garment District, Manhatten.
Powell was educated at Morris High School, a former public school in The Bronx, New York City, from which he graduated in 1954. 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.
 Military career
While at City College Powell joined the ROTC. He later described it as one of the happiest experiences of his life: finding something he loved and could do well, he had "found himself". While serving with the Third Armored Division in Germany as a Lieutenant, he met Elvis Presley, then serving in the Cavalry. Cadet Powell joined the Pershing Rifles, the ROTC drill team started by 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. 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.
During the Vietnam War, Powell's first tour served as an advisor from 1962 to 1963. He later returned to Vietnam from 1968 to 1969 where he served as the executive officer and later the as assistant chief of staff of operations for the Americal Division (the 23rd Infantry Division) with the rank of Major, 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 American 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. On May 4, 2004, United States Secretary of State Colin L. 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.". 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. Many of Powell's supporters have said this was pettiness and spite on Hudachek's part. Nonetheless, 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 Casper Weinberger, whom he assisted during the invasion of Grenada and the raid on Libya. 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 in Atlanta Georgia.
 Dates of rank
- Second Lieutenant: 9 June 1958
- First Lieutenant: 30 December 1959
- Captain: 2 June 1962
- Major: 24 May 1966
- Lieutenant Colonel: 9 July 1970
- Colonel: 1 February 1976
- Brigadier General: 1 June 1979
- Major General: 1 August 1983
- Lieutenant General: 1 July 1986
- General: 4 April 1989
 Awards and Decorations
- Expert Infantryman Badge
- Combat Infantryman Badge
- Ranger Tab
- Parachutist Badge
- Pathfinder Badge
- Air Assault Badge
- Presidential Service Badge
- Secretary of Defense Identification Badge
- Joint Chiefs of Staff Identification Badge
- Army Staff Identification Badge
 Medals and Ribbons
- Defense Distinguished Service Medal (with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters)
- Distinguished Service Medal, Army (with Oak Leaf Cluster)
- Distinguished Service Medal, Air Force
- Distinguished Service Medal, Navy
- Distinguished Service Medal, Coast Guard
- Defense Superior Service Medal
- Legion of Merit (with Oak Leaf Cluster)
- Soldier's Medal
- Bronze Star Medal (with "V" Device)
- 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)
- 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
- Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation
- Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal
- Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath-Honourary
- French Republic Légion d'honneur
 Presidential appointments
 National Security Advisor
At the age of 49, Powell became Ronald Reagan's last National Security Advisor, 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 U.S. 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 to serve in this position. In 1989, he joined Eisenhower and Alexander Haig as the third general since World War II to reach four-star rank without ever being a divisional commander. 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 badly injured when he stepped on a bamboo "punji stick". The massive infection nearly killed him and it shortened 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.
He was opposed to the majority of George H.W. Bush Administration officials who advocated the deployment of troops to the Middle East to force Iraqi president 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, and as a result, did not usually "undermine force" to achieve a military objective while minimizing U.S. casualties. These sentiments have become central tenets of what has since been dubbed the "Powell Doctrine".
Another controversial part of his career is that Powell also had an operational role in the illegal Iran-Contra affair, acting as the initial coordinator for selling missiles to Iran in exchange for American hostages.
 Civilian career
Following his retirement from the armed services, Powell wrote a best-selling memoir, My American Journey. In addition, he pursued a career as a public speaker, addressing audiences across the country and abroad.
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, it is rumored, at the advice of his wife.
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.
Colin Powell was serving on the board of America Online when it announced its intention to merge with Time Warner in January, 2000. Powell's son, Michael, was a member of the Federal Communications Commission at the time, and he was the only commissioner who advocated letting the AOL-Time Warner deal go through without scrutiny. Powell's stock in the company reportedly increased in value by US$4 million. The affair caused some controversy as it called into question the Powells' impartiality in the matter.
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 be appointed to a position within a Democratic administration, should Al Gore win. Bush eventually won, and Colin Powell was appointed as the first African American 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. However, over the course of his tenure he travelled less than any other U.S. Secretary of State in 30 years.
In April 2002, he visited the site of the alleged Jenin Massacre in the occupied West Bank and later said while testifying to Congress, "I've seen no evidence that would suggest a massacre took place." At the time details of the events at Jenin were still unclear, and were initially overblown by anti-Israeli groups. Later investigations by human rights organizations and the United Nations confirmed the Israeli estimate for the number of Palestinians, including militants, dead in the fighting, placing the figure 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 of the hawks were advocating. 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.
While Powell's oratorical skills and personal conviction were acknowledged, there was an overall rejection of the evidence Powell offered that the regime of Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). 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.  The administration is currently 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."<ref>Karen DeYoung, "Falling on His Sword: Colin Powell's Most Significant Moment Turned Out to Be His Lowest," Washington Post (1 October 2006) W12.</ref>
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." 
Because Powell is seen as more moderate than most figures in the administration, he has been 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.<ref>Karen DeYoung. "Falling on His Sword: Colin Powell's most significant moment turned out to be his lowest", Washington Post, October 1, 2006, p. W12. Retrieved on 2006-10-01.</ref> 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 information indicating that Iran was adapting missiles for a nuclear delivery system. The New York Times indicated that the accusation was founded on a single, unreliable source. 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 politics
After retiring from the role of Secretary of State, Powell returned to private life, but in April 2005 he telephoned Republican senators Lincoln Chafee and Chuck Hagel to express his opposition to the nomination of John R. Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations (Powell had clashed with him 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 The Guardian reported 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. It 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 September 2006, Powell sided with more moderate Senate Republicans in supporting more rights for detainees and opposing President Bush's terrorism bill  He backed the 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 US in the name of fighting terrorism. The former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff thinks the world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of America's fight against terrorism.<ref name=gulftimes-09-17>"Veterans’ defiance a nightmare for Bush", 2006-09-17. Gulf Times</ref>
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 Guiliani. In his speeches on the tour, he openly criticized the Bush Administration on a number of issues.
 Political views
A moderate Republican, Powell is well known for his willingness to support liberal or centrist causes. He is pro-choice regarding abortion,  in support of affirmative action, and in favor of "reasonable" gun control. However, Powell is opposed to allowing homosexuals to serve openly in the military and played a crucial role in derailing President Clinton's 1993 plans on that matter.
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 auto-biography "My American Journey". The Powell Doctrine, as the views became known, were a central component of US policy in the Gulf War (the first US war with 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. US policy in the Iraq War (the second US war with Iraq) often conflicted with the Powell Doctrine which most likely was a primary driver behind Powell's eventual departure from the Bush Cabinet.
Powell was the subject of controversy in 2004 when, in a conversation with British Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, he reportedly referred to neocons within the Bush administration as "fucking crazies". In addition to being reported in the press (though generally, the expletive was censored in the US 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 S. McCain III, 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."
 Civilian awards
Powell's civilian awards include two Presidential Medals of Freedom, the President's Citizens Medal, the Congressional Gold Medal, the Secretary of State Distinguished Service Medal, and the Secretary of Energy Distinguished Service Medal. 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, (www.horatioalger.com) 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."
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-1970's). 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 Honourable 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.
 Related information
Several fictional characters in film and television are generally believed to be inspired by Colin Powell. For example, the character of General Casey, played by Paul Winfield, in the 1996 film Mars Attacks! is widely regarded to have been based on Powell.   . Another is the character of Gen. Warren Boutwell played by Billy Dee Williams in the 2002 film Undercover Brother.     . John Amos' character on the The West Wing, Admiral Percy Fitzwallace, is also widely believed to have been based on Powell.
In Season 2 of Chapelle's Show, Colin Powell is drafted by white people in the Racial Draft sketch. However, the move is challenged by the black delegation, who only give up Powell when the white delegation agree to also take Condoleezza Rice and to renounce all claim to O.J. Simpson. This portion of the sketch highlights Powells wide acceptance by all Americans, regardless of race.
Powell underwent surgery in 2003 for prostate cancer and made a full recovery.
 See also
- Pottery Barn rule
- Plame affair
- Henry "Gunfighter" Emerson
- Lawrence Wilkerson, Powell's Chief of Staff 1989-2003
 Further reading
- Powell, Colin A. and Joseph Persico, My American Journey, Ballantine, ISBN 0-345-40728-8
- DeYoung, Karen, Soldier: The Life of Colin Powell, Knopf, October 10, 2006, ISBN 1-4000-4170-8
 External links
- Colin Powell: America's Best Leaders from US News & World Report
- Remarks to the United Nations Security Council, February 5, 2003
- Karen DeYoung, "Falling on His Sword", The Washington Post, 1 October 2006 (excerpted from Soldier: The Life of Colin Powell by DeYoung)
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