Hanging over the accolades that poured in Monday for Colin Powell, the trailblazing diplomat and soldier who served in the nation’s top national security positions, was his role is cementing the launch of the costly and calamitous U.S. war in Iraq.
The 84-year-old Powell, who died of complications from covid-19, later described his regret at making the case for the 2003 invasion, most famously in a speech before the United Nations that outlined what turned out to be faulty intelligence about Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction program.
He subsequently called the episode a “blot” on his record.
“I’m the one who presented it on behalf of the United States to the world, and [it] will always be a part of my record,” Powell said in 2005. “It was painful. It’s painful now.”
More than 4,000 Americans and potentially hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians died in the insurgent conflict unleashed by the U.S.-led invasion based on the government’s inaccurate claims.
The war laid the foundation for many of the problems that have kept Iraq mired in violence, sectarian rivalry and economic crisis for close to two decades, and created lasting challenges for the United States in Afghanistan, Syria and beyond.
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