General Colin Powell (1937-2021)

octogenarian with multiple myeloma

Colin PowellThe first substantial story about the death of Colin Powell that I saw appeared in Common Dreams. “Colin Powell, Who Helped George W. Bush Lie Nation Into Iraq War, Dead at 84.”

Further: “It’s crucial to remember just how important Colin Powell was to selling the Iraq War, and how deliberately he used his public credibility to boost the lies that pushed us into the war. That is his biggest legacy.”

Certainly, as someone who was vigorously active in opposing the Iraq war for months before it began in 2003, I recognize the outsized role his United Nations presentation played in “legitimizing” the 2003 invasion. They never did find those weapons of mass destruction that Saddam Hussein was supposed to have had.

Still, I’m uncomfortable defining most people over their biggest mistake. It is especially so when Powell acknowledged and regretted the speech repeatedly, calling it the biggest blunder in his career.

From Daily Kos: “Born in Harlem, New York, to Jamaican parents, Powell was a retired four-star general who served in multiple administrations. He was an icon of the Republican Party, serving as the youngest and first Black national security adviser under former President Ronald Reagan and first Black national security adviser and as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President George H.W. Bush.”

“In 2008, during then-candidate Barack Obama’s presidential run, Powell stood up to decry those who falsely called Obama a Muslim in order to discredit him… In his later years and during former President Donald Trump’s presidency, Powell began to move away from the party he had affiliated himself with for so long.”

Vaccine disinformation

It is true that Powell died of complications from COVID-19, though he was fully vaccinated. But it’s also accurate that the octogenarian was being treated for multiple myeloma, cancer that forms in certain white blood cells.

So when John Roberts, Fox News‘ co-anchor of “America Reports,” tweeted news of Powell’s death to promote vaccine disinformation, he was rightly blasted.

“According to… Roberts, Secretary Powell’s [breakthrough] death ‘raises new concerns about how effective vaccines are long-term,’ which is both manipulative and false, given the facts surrounding his health – namely that he was 84 and battling cancer that impacts the body’s ability to fight infections… Roughly 7,100 such deaths have been reported in the US, with 85% occurring in patients 65 and older.

“Vaccine disinformation is ‘a big reason behind low inoculation rates,’ the L.A. Times recently reported… Fox News aired claims that undermine COVID-19 vaccines on 99% of days in the last six months, according to research by progressive media watchdog group Media Matters for America. Only two days from April through September didn’t feature the sowing of doubt about the safe and effective shots.”