While no one deserves to die from either COVID-19 or complications brought on by COVID and co-morbidities, the eulogies for General Colin Powell—who recently died from COVID and which had been made worse by multiple myeloma and Parkinson’s—have been a bit over the top. Powell had stated that as secretary of state in the George W. Bush administration his having lied to the United Nations Security Council in 2003 over Saddam Hussein’s alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction was a “blot” on his career. Actually, it was one of many.
Powell called the speech a “blot” on his record, adding, “I’m the one who presented it on behalf of the United States to the world, and will always be a part of my record . . . It was painful. It’s painful now.”
Powell’s Security Council speech was chock full of bogus intelligence gleaned from dubious sources—two Iraqi con artists, Ahmad Chalabi and another known as “Curveball” by the CIA because he was known by them to provide false information; Vice President Dick Cheney; Mossad; former CIA director James Woolsey; British Prime Minister Tony Blair; and others. But it wasn’t Powell’s first big fib during his career.
In 1968, 31-year-old Major Colin Luther Powell, the assistant chief of staff of operations for the Americal Division, was dispatched to the village of My Lai, Son Tinh district in South Vietnam. There had been an engagement between U.S. and the South Vietnamese but it had erroneously been described by the U.S. military’s press office in Saigon as with enemy forces in Son Trinh. The official report was: “In an action today, Americal Division forces killed 128 enemy near Quang Ngai City. Helicopter gunships and artillery missions supported the ground elements throughout the day.” It was a lie. In fact, on March 16, 1968, a massacre of over 500 civilians in My Lai by U.S. troops had occurred.
The Pentagon was able to keep a news media lid on the atrocity until it was broken by investigative reporter Seymour Hersh the following year on the wires of the Associated Press—November 12, 1969. Army Lt. William Calley, Jr. would later be convicted by a court-martial for ordering the massacre, but he had been a convenient scapegoat for higher-ups, who were aware of other massacres of South Vietnamese civilians by U.S. troops.
In September 1968, Tom Glen, a soldier with the 11th Light Infantry Brigade in South Vietnam, wrote a letter to the recently-installed Military Assistance Command-Vietnam (MACV) commander, General Creighton Abrams, informing him of “other My Lais.” The letter stated:
“It would indeed be terrible to find it necessary to believe that an American soldier that harbors such racial intolerance and disregard for justice and human feeling is a prototype of all American national character; yet the frequency of such soldiers lends credulity to such beliefs. … What has been outlined here I have seen not only in my own unit, but also in others we have worked with, and I fear it is universal. If this is indeed the case, it is a problem which cannot be overlooked, but can through a more firm implementation of the codes of MACV and the Geneva Conventions, perhaps be eradicated.”
Tasked with investigating the charges of widespread U.S. killing of South Vietnamese civilians in My Lai and other locations was Powell. The following is what Powell reported to his superior officers: “. . . although there may be isolated cases of mistreatment of civilians and POWs, this by no means reflects the general attitude throughout the division . . . In direct refutation of this portrayal is the fact that relations between American soldiers and the Vietnamese people are excellent.”
Thirty-five years later, Powell would go from lying to his superiors in South Vietnam to misrepresenting the truth before the UN Security Council. That is quite a career path—for a professional liar.
And the problem with people like Powell is that their well-rewarded lying ends up in even more losses of human life. Consider that Powell’s big lie before the UN Security Council paved the way for as many as 208,000 civilian deaths in Iraq.
And let us not forget that as deputy national security advisor under Frank Carlucci in the Reagan administration from 1986 to 1987, Powell had found himself knee-deep in the Iran-Contra scandal. One of the military officers working for Powell was Marine Lt. Colonel Oliver North, the then-deputy director for political–military affairs at the National Security Council. North was another military officer who had felt that it was more important to cover up for the chain-of-command than tell the truth, even under a congressional subpoena. And North shared something else in common with Powell.
In 1970, the same year Calley had been court-martialed for the My Lai massacre, North, who had served in South Vietnam, returned to the country to testify as a character witness at the trial of Marine Lance Corporal Randall Herrod. A member of North’s command, Herrod and four other Marines had been charged with murdering 16 South Vietnamese civilians, including 11 children, in the village of Son Thang during 1970′s Operation IMPERIAL LAKE.
So, I will save my tears for Colin Powell as the professional cover-up artist he was. It does remain sorrowful that he, like so many suffering with cancer, Parkinson’s, and other diseases that weaken the immune system, was taken away by a virus that remains rampant because of the acts of a bunch of evil and incompetent Republicans, a party with which Powell had been a member throughout most of his post-military career.
Previously published in the Wayne Madsen Report.
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Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist, author and nationally-distributed columnist. A member of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and the National Press Club. He is the editor and publisher of the Wayne Madsen Report (subscription required).