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Colin Powell:
A Hawk With Smooth Talons

by Paul Rockwell
Oakland, California

Secretary of State Colin Powell is often portrayed as a war hero, a diplomat, a moderate, who lends balance to the Bush administration. He’s a media darling.

Target Iraq
However, Powell’s actual record in foreign affairs contradicts the good-cop image. According to Reese Erlich and Norman Solomon, authors of “Target Iraq: What The News Media Didn’t Tell You,” Powell has always been a militarist seeking to extend U.S. corporate power through force of arms, with or without U.N. support.

Colin Powell was a key player in the Iran-Contra scandal. As top deputy to Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, Powell supervised the army transfer of 4,508 TOW missiles to the CIA, missiles that became part of the illegal arms-for-hostage swap with Iran. (p. 78) Powell promoted illegal CIA-Contra attempts to overthrow the government of Nicaragua. In defiance of the World Court, he supported the Contra terrorists when they were killing thousands of civilians. As Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Powell led a brutal invasion of Panama. On the first day, when hundreds of civilians died, Powell declared: “We have put a shingle outside our door saying, ‘Superpower lives here.’ (p.79) Three thousand Panamanian civilians -- the same number that died on 9/11 -- were bombed and gunned down in Panama City.

There is nothing moderate or reasonable about Colin Powell’s approach to the First Amendment during wartime. Along with Cheney, Powell played a decisive role in creating a new system of military control of the press in war time. When the air war began in Iraq in 1991, Powell and Schwarzkopf fed carefully selected footage to Washington.

In an essay on the “limitations imposed on reporters on the battlefield,” Pulitzer Prize author Patrick J. Sloyan wrote: “Under rules developed by Cheney and Powell, journalists were not allowed to move without military escorts. All interviews had to be monitored by military public affairs escorts. Every line of copy, every still photograph, every strip of film had to be approved -- censored -- before being filed. And these rules were ruthlessly enforced.”

Under Powell directives, the administration “produced not a single picture or video of anyone being killed. This sanitized, bloodless presentation by military briefers left the world presuming Desert Storm was a war without death.” (p.104)

Powell’s Propaganda Challenged

In September 1995, Colin Powell conducted a national tour to promote his autobiography, “My American Journey.”

In “Target Iraq: What The News Media Didn’t Tell You”, media critics Norman Solomon and Reese Erlich recount an incident that took place in San Francisco. As Powell praised U.S. military invasions abroad, a middle-aged man, hunched in a wheelchair, shouted from the back of the room: “You didn’t tell the truth about the war in the Gulf, General.”

Powell ignored the interruption. He continued to speak about the glory of the wars that brought him fame: “It is very rewarding to see this change in attitude toward the military.”

The man in the wheelchair was Ron Kovac, author of “Born On The Fourth Of July.” Struggling to be heard, he raised his voice: “I want the American people to know what the General hid from the American public during the Gulf War. They hid the casualties. They hid the horror. They hid the violence. We don’t need any more violence in our country … . We need leaders who understand the tragedy of using violence in solving our problems.”

Regarding the issues of race, Powell is duplicitous. He supports affirmative action. Far more important, however, is Powell’s support for world empire, international white supremacy. Powell’s ascendancy is associated with the suffering and deaths of thousands of innocent people of color -- civilians in Grenada whose psychiatric hospital was bombed; the Black Panamanians who lost their lives in Panama City; half a million Iraqi children killed by air raids and years of sanctions. When asked about the number of Panamanians killed by U.S. intervention, Powell said: “It isn’t a figure I think about.”

Under the Bush doctrine, countries of color, nations of the Third World, have no sovereignty, no rights, which the Anglo powers are bound to respect.

Colin Powell is hardly a moderate. He’s a hawk with smooth talons.

Paul Rockwell is a writer in the Bay Area

Published in In Motion Magazine March 11, 2003.

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