Colin Powell is dead. The media claims he is yet another victim of the ongoing COVID-19 plague. I won’t get into the whole vaccine morality play; once a person reaches his biblical three score and ten, diseases that are easily curable in young adults become deadly. After all, Powell’s storming front-line warhorse, Norman Schwarzkopf, fell to pneumonia at the age of 78.
When I heard of Powell’s passing, I paced around a bit to collect my thoughts and then took to my quill. Powell has loomed large in my life. At one point, I genuinely admired the man. But I’ve come to conclude that Powell was a disaster for my people. His career was a brilliant mirage — one that could only have happened in an environment of white dispossession.
In the Year of Our Lord 1991, Colin Powell glittered like gold. Let me take you back to that time, to the ferment and excitement of the Persian Gulf War. For bliss it was in that dawn to be alive; but to be young was very heaven. Well, sort of — to be young but not old enough to enlist by a few months was something of a hell.
The Persian Gulf War was a splendid little war. Fellows just a few years older than me deployed for a few months and then returned heroes. In my family, two of my close relatives served during that conflict: One was deployed to Saudi Arabia and the other worked in a headquarters directly supporting the war. The man in the latter job was doing a precursor job to operations that were innovative then but are today considered routine, where bomber missions against far off-targets begin at an airbase in Missouri rather than a forward airstrip.
What did I do? Watch the damn thing on CNN. I also purchased an Operation Desert Shield t-shirt at Walmart.
Nobody came out of the Persian Gulf War more a hero than Powell, who served as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during it. At the many press conferences that were held, Powell answered every hard question and looked cool in front of the reporters, especially the way he pointed. His point-and-shoot act during those conferences was even parodied in a sketch on Saturday Night Live.
From the end of the Persian Gulf War until Bob Dole was nominated to run against Bill Clinton in 1996, Colin Powell had a very real chance to become President. Ambitious Republicans watched the General closely, fearing he would quickly capture the nomination. Powell’s autobiography, My American Journey, was published in 1995, which would have been perfect timing for a campaign launch. But he didn’t run. I’m uncertain why. More on that later.
Colin Powell’s career can be divided into three parts: the first as an orders-taking soldier, the second as an independent actor as Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff (CJCS) from 1989 to 1993, and then as US Secretary of State in the George W. Bush administration from 2001 to 2005.
Part I: Soldier
Colin Powell’s autobiography details his career up until 1995. The book makes Powell out to be a racial uniter. However, the book is actually crackling with racial resentment. It begins with Powell’s understanding of what happened at his ROTC Advanced Camp.
In the US Army, all ROTC cadets are sent to a camp on some military post and their leadership skills are assessed. This is called Advanced Camp. When Powell went, he came in second out of his entire group. Powell claims that he was told later that he had in fact won first place, but that the Southerners wouldn’t stand for a sub-Saharan getting first place.
I have no idea if this is true or not. Since Powell had a successful career, it is certain that he had solid leadership skills. Leadership rankings at the ROTC Advanced Camp are objective at the platoon level, where a cadre of officers and NCOs can see a group interact and compare apples to apples, but at the regimental level the rankings are highly subjective and prone to being influenced by social trends — such as “civil rights.” Usually, the best cadets are those who have already served an enlistment. In fact, in Powell’s Advanced Camp there might have been veterans of the Korean War looking to get commissioned. Bearing that in mind, Powell probably got the second-place ranking because he had sub-Saharan ancestry, not in spite of it.
Powell’s autobiographical narrative flows from that event. He rises through the ranks fighting structural racism, segregation, Southerners, and so on. When he becomes a Colonel, his brigade’s Equal Opportunity NCO tells him that there aren’t so many racial problems, and the integrated army goes on to win the Gulf War.
Meanwhile, Powell glosses over and nearly apologizes for his role in defeating a cadre of revolutionary sub-Saharans in Korea. Powell doesn’t put the “revolutionaries” in any context. He says nothing about African criminality, fraggings, or other matters involving racial realities in his book.
He does offer up some good advice for those in a large organization. He advises that bad news doesn’t get better with age, that optimism is a force multiplier, not to trust the experts, make your boss look good, and don’t tie up your ego in your proposed policy. While such advice isn’t bad, it is intended for a bureaucratic ladder-climber, it’s not advice on what to do in the event of a great moral crisis. There is no advice on how to manage African crime, for instance.
There were two incidents that could have sunk his career. The first happened when he was the G-3 (Operations Officer) of the 23rd Infantry Division during the My Lai incident, where a platoon of American infantrymen murdered Vietnamese civilians. The second was when he received a bad Officer Evaluation Report from his Commanding Officer while serving as the Assistant Division Commander of the 4th Infantry Division.
Powell’s only role at My Lai would have been to organize the operation in which the action happened and arrange for supports in the form of helicopter flights or artillery fire. He’d have been doing that for every platoon in the division by means of operations orders to the battalions. In the second affair, Powell claims that evaluations for general officers don’t matter as much as for lower ranking officers. Either way, his political and professional enemies never used these things against him. They could have; every military career is swiftboatable.
Soldiers do what they are told. Powell clearly did that. However, as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State, he was an independent actor who could have shaped American policy. There are several things that stand out in his career, however, and should be considered problems.
Part II: Independent Actor
Powell was highly regarded by the American public after the Gulf War, and for a time, he certainly acted as though he might run for President. For example, his autobiography takes a few digs at George H. W. Bush’s Vice President, Dan Quayle. The VP was on the ticket so that Bush could appease the Religious Right portion of his base. The mainstream media heaped scorn upon Quayle, which increased in intensity as the 1992 Presidential Campaign heated up. Quayle was not deserving of this scorn, but by joining in, Powell could have been seeking to capture non-religious voters. They were cheap shots, though.
During the Clinton administration, Powell acted the social conservative in the “gays in the military” controversy and opposed the idea. Bill Clinton had pledged to end the ban on gays serving in the military during his first campaign, and this created a firestorm once he was in office. Powell organized a brass hat mutiny against Clinton’s proposal.
Powell wasn’t wrong about homosexuality. But the real issue is whether the military is constitutionally obligated to follow the elected Commander-in-Chief’s orders. Regardless of whether it was right or wrong, this mutiny set the precedent for later, more damaging military mutinies, including:
- Pentagon officials attempting to pressure President Obama into deploying more troops to Afghanistan when he wished to do the opposite. This pressure included leaks to the press and collusion with Obama’s domestic political enemies in the Congress.
- General Stanley McChrystal’s ill-judged remarks to a Rolling Stone reporter regarding his disagreements with the Obama administration’s policies.
- The Defense Department’s lies to President Trump regarding the number of troops engaged in Syria.
- The failure of the military to defend American cities during the BLM/Antifa rioting in 2020.
- General Mark Milley’s suspicious calls to China in the final weeks of the Trump administration.
One of Powell’s ideas was the so-called “Powell Doctrine.” The basic idea was that American military force should only be employed in an overwhelming way, where there was a recognized exit strategy and a clear vital interest, and when there was public support for such an action. He famously got into an argument with then-Secretary of State (((Madeline Albright))) when she proposed using the military for various brushfire wars that were then ongoing in the wake of the Cold War.
This so-called doctrine is a curious one given that operations in Somalia were launched while Powell was the CJCS. There was, and is, no vital interest for America in Somalia other than to make sure that Somalis can’t go anywhere else to make trouble. Moreover, the mission in Somalia actually intensified even as the combat power of the American forces there was decreased. And indeed, within days of Powell’s exit the “Black Hawk Down” incident took place, which was a disaster on many levels.
Part III: US Secretary of State
Then there is the infamous vial of “anthrax.” As Secretary of State, Colin Powell gave a speech to the United Nations claiming that Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction,” holding up a vial of what he claimed was weaponized anthrax and stating that, while only a small amount of it had killed and injured several people in the US anthrax mail attacks during the autumn of 2001, Iraq had thousands of liters of it in its arsenal. He further claimed that Iraq had attempted to purchase yellowcake uranium from Niger in pursuit of building nuclear weapons. Both claims were later proven to be false, and intelligence officials even had doubts about them at the time. But Powell’s speech had not been intended to change anyone’s mind at the UN; it was to convince the American public of the necessity of invading Iraq.
Powell resigned as Secretary of State after President George W. Bush was re-elected in 2004. He went on to wage a whispering campaign against Bush and the Iraq War. He claimed that he had been offering prudent counsel against the invasion all along and that his advice was ignored. We may never know what really happened behind closed doors, but Powell’s anthrax speech undoubtedly helped to convince Middle America to support invading Iraq. This isn’t so easily excusable. Powell had experience reading intelligence reports and therefore should have had a sense for what was true and what was not.
It is of course possible that Powell genuinely believed those intelligence reports. All those who believe in “civil rights” misread data. It is also possible that Powell recognized that his extraordinary career was the result of being picked by powerful Republicans for higher offices. He may have simply felt obligated to be a team player.
It wasn’t always this way. Back when America won wars and didn’t believe in “civil rights,” Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan resigned rather than support a policy that he felt would lead America into an ill-advised war — namely, Woodrow Wilson’s refusal to warn American citizens against travelling on ships to Britain that he knew full well were being targeted by German U-Boats.
In May 1915, the RMS Lusitania was sunk by a U-Boat, killing 128 American citizens. Bryan believed that Americans who chose to travel on British vessels during wartime knew the risk they were taking and that the US shouldn’t treat their deaths as an attack against America. When Wilson chose to treat the incident as an act of war against Bryan’s advice, he resigned. His resignation should not be considered either disloyalty to President Wilson or cowardice. Indeed, his resignation probably gave Wilson the political top-cover to keep out of a terrible war for nearly two more years.
Bryan’s resignation was the honorable culmination of the public career of a man who had pondered moral issues throughout his life. Bryan also had his own supporters. He didn’t advance only because of the favors of others.
The Friend/Enemy Distinction & One Drop of Sub-Saharan Blood
Colin Powell probably had as much Scottish ancestry as presidents Woodrow Wilson and Donald Trump, but he also had African ancestors. Only one drop of Negro blood puts a person on the other side of an intractable conflict. If the United States had no large and troublesome African population, Powell’s background would merely be exotic — but there is such a population. Powell is therefore an agent of white dispossession, and his legacy is being weaponized in today’s low-level civil war.
There is no doubt that the Army had white officers every bit as intelligent and hardworking as Powell. They were displaced as Powell’s star rose, aided by the “civil rights” regime and Republicans wishing to shield themselves from being called racist. What did we lose as a result of Powell’s career wins? We will never know.
We certainly do know that the environment which aided Powell’s career eliminated things like Confederate flags in the barracks, and those flags were replaced by a system that destroyed promotion by merit, tolerated sub-Saharan crime, and created a culture of lying and misreading data. We now have women in the barracks being raped by sub-Saharans while senior officers are on the lookout for Klan “raiders” who don’t exist.
The neighborhood in which Powell’s immigrant parents settled eventually became an African ghetto so dangerous that its police station became known as Fort Apache. In that regard, Powell was thus something of a trailblazer for Third World pathologies. Because Powell became the CJCS, we got someone like Major Nidal Hasan later. Everyone knew Hasan was trouble before his attack, but the same Equal Opportunity bureaucracy and affirmative action policies that had helped Powell to climb also protected Hasan. As a result, 13 people were murdered.
There will be bipartisan praise for Powell in the wake of his death. Flags will fly at half-staff, cannons will fire a 21-gun salute, and much more — but I won’t feel the emotions ordinarily generated by such pageantry. Powell glittered briefly in 1991, but otherwise he was merely the greatest Third World mercenary in the Empire of Nothing.
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