Friday, January 15, 2010
On the birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as we reflect on the life and tragic end of the most important African American of another era, we are drawn to the story of the most important African American of another time, Colin Powell. In the run up to the presidential elections of 2000, it seemed for a time that General Powell would seek the presidency as an independent candidate. He was, at that point, perhaps the best known and most popular public figure in the good old USA, based on the lasting impression he had made as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the first Gulf War. When he passed on the presidency, threw in his lot with George W. and Co., and was named Secretary of State, one could hope that he would be a voice of reason in the Bush Administration, and perhaps provide the conscience that was so evidently lacking in its other principals. How sad to watch this proud man die the death of a thousand cuts over the next four years as he was progressively marginalized, used, and discarded.
The incomparable Adlai Stevenson, one of the best governors the State of Illinois ever had, an orator second only to Winston Churchill in his time, and a two time Democratic Party nominee for the presidency, is most remembered for his performance in the U.N. as US Ambassador during the Cuban Missile Crisis. As the world teetered on the brink of nuclear war, Stevenson calmly but resolutely called out the Soviet Representative on worldwide TV with proof in hand (U-2 surveillance photos of Russian Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile Sites in Cuba). Colin Powell will likewise be remembered, in spite of his brilliant military career, admirable personal qualities, and lifetime of public service, as the man who in the same U.N. building made his President's case for the invasion of Iraq based on junk intelligence that he knew (or should have known) was spurious (his own State Department intelligence unit was at odds with George Tenet's "slam dunk" fantasies, and surely had told him so).
Perhaps, like another four-star general who made a wrong turn half a century ago, Colin Powell will just fade away into the shadows of history, certainly not the last in a line of tragic figures.
William's Whimsical Words:
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Last updated on January 14, 2010