WASHINGTON - Colin Powell, a former and the first African-American secretary of state, has died at 84 of COVID-19 complications, his family said Monday.
Powell's family said in a statement on Facebook that Powell, who also served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff before his role as the top US diplomat, died Monday morning despite being fully vaccinated.
A professional soldier, Powell became the first African-American national security advisor during the end of Ronald Reagan's presidency and the youngest and first African-American chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under former President George H. W. Bush.
Yet he was best known and most controversial when he served as secretary of state under former President George W. Bush between January 2001 and January 2005, regarding his push for the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 under the excuse that the Middle Eastern country possesses weapons of mass destruction, which was never proven.
In an address to the United Nations (UN) in February 2003, Powell presented what the US intelligence community claimed was proof that Iraq had cheated on inspectors and hidden the WMDs.
"There can be no doubt," Powell said then, "that (then Iraqi President) Saddam Hussein has biological weapons and the capability to rapidly produce more, many more."
The United States launched a war against Iraq six weeks after Powell's speech and eventually toppled Hussein's government.
Such WMDs, it turned out, were never found in Iraq, and a report published in 2005 by a presidential commission said the intelligence community's assessment that Iraq had WMD capabilities before the US invasion was "dead wrong."
"This was a major intelligence failure," said the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction in the report.
In September 2005, Powell, who had stepped down from the post of secretary of state, confessed in a television interview that his 2003 UN speech was a "blot" on his record that would never go away.
Born in New York City to Jamaican immigrants, Powell is survived by his wife and three children.