19 Oct 2008
Gen. Colin Powell, the Republican former US Secretary of State came out of his relative quiet retirement to make a curious endorsement of the Democratic Party presidential flag bearer Barack Obama. “I think we need a transformational figure. I think we need a president who is a generational change and that's why I'm supporting Barack Obama.” Said Powell.
Gen. Powell had been one of the most prominent African Americans within the Republican Party and at one time he was seen as a future presidential material. Observers found it surprising to see the centrist and liberal Powell comfortably seated within the inner circle of the George Bush administration which was generally seen to be ultra conservative. Some black civil rights activists could not hide their feelings about this unusual marriage between Powell and George Bush and Harry Belafonte (musician/activist) did not hesitate to lash out at Powell. Referring to the service that Powell was rendering the Bush Administration esp. with regards to their preparations to invade Iraq, Belafonte likened him to a “house slave” in an interview in October 2002. Said he;
"In the days of slavery there were those slaves who lived on the plantation, and those slaves who lived in the house. You got the privilege of living in the house if you served the master, exactly the way the master intended to have you serve him. Colin Powell is committed to come into the house of the master."
This statement became quite prophetic when in Feb 2003 Powell, the only member in the then Bush administration that Nelson Mandela said he respected, came before the whole world to pave the way for the invasion of Iraq with accusations that later turned out to be false. Thus the most credible face within the administration was employed to convince the world and push the US to commit “the worst foreign policy mistake” in her history according to Sen. Harry Reid.
Gen. Powell took pains to convince the world that Saddam Hussein’s regime had weapons of mass destruction. He held his audience spell bound by using a combination of fear mongering and illustrative techniques like slides, intercepted audio communications, satellite images, the waving of a test tube and schematic illustration of mobile weapons laboratory. He spoke like a convinced believer in what he said and not as someone that was misled by the so-called faulty intelligence as we were later told. (View the complete Powell presentation at this link on the White House website. http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/02/20030205-1.html#21
This type of fiasco was enough to kill the political career of anybody, let alone that of a General and the former chairman of the US Joint chief of Staff who was supposed to know better. The general will always regret this day at the UN for the rest of his life.
As he emerges from the shadows into limelight once more, Gen. Powell is a relatively diminished person. His endorsement of Obama is however a welcome gesture that could possibly also help in Powell’s own redemption or atonement.
Njei Moses Timah