The national news media has been effusive in its tributes to the late Colin Powell, which comes as no surprise. For most Americans he was a war hero, an African American first in so many military and political categories.
But all of his accomplishments are blemished by a decision he backed in 2003 to launch an invasion in Iraq, telling the world that it possessed weapons of mass destruction.
In his memoir, Powell noted that it was a mistake, one that would be a glaring paragraph in his obituary. Well, he was right about this wrong. On several occasions, Powell has admitted that he should have questioned what he was being told. “I am mad…at myself for not having smelled the problem. My instincts failed me,” he said.
At a time in our history when we are still battling against a “Big Lie,” a fabrication authored by Trump, Powell perpetrated one that cost thousands of lives, and no amount of tears and apology can expunge or undo what has been done.
Obviously, none of us are perfect, but when you take command of the mightiest military force in the world you have to be very careful about your decisions, one’s that you have to live with and ultimately will be around long after you’re gone.
We have no idea how history or historians will judge him, whether the good that he did will outweigh his terrible error. Othello, in his parting words in that Shakespearean drama, declared “I have done the state some service and they know’t.”
Yes, Colin you did the state some service, but to what end? That question, another one that you never asked, we hope will be answered fairly by the students who study at your school. As they learn about the world, let them also learn about you and find some valuable lessons from your life to share with others.