U.S. mourns death of ‘trailblazer’ Colin Powell as tributes pour in

US Secretary of State Colin Powell, Prime Minister John Howard and US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld shake hands in Howard's office at Parliament House in Canberra on July 30, 2001. (Paul Harris)

Political leaders from Tony Blair to Dick Cheney praise the former soldier and diplomat in the wake of his death from Covid.

Colin Powell, the first Black US secretary of state whose leadership in several Republican administrations helped shape American foreign policy in the last years of the 20th century and the early years of the 21st, has died from complications from COVID-19, his family said on Facebook. He was 84.

Leading praise from the US and around the world, Joe Biden hailed “a dear friend and patriot of unmatched honor and dignity” on behalf of himself and the first lady, Jill Biden.

In a statement issued by the White House, the US president, formerly Democratic US senator for Delaware before he was vice-president, continued: “As a Senator, I worked closely with him when he served as National Security Advisor, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and as Secretary of State. Over our many years working together – even in disagreement – Colin was always someone who gave you his best and treated you with respect.

General Colin Powell, pictured in 1991, will also be remembered for making the case that Saddam Hussein constituted an imminent danger to the world. He called it a “blot” on his record.(AP: Marcy Nighswander, file photo)

“Colin embodied the highest ideals of both warrior and diplomat. He was committed to our nation’s strength and security above all. Having fought in wars, he understood better than anyone that military might alone was not enough to maintain our peace and prosperity. From his front-seat view of history, advising presidents and shaping our nation’s policies, Colin led with his personal commitment to the democratic values that make our country strong.”

Biden went on to talk about Powell’s milestone as the first Black US secretary of state.

“Having repeatedly broken racial barriers, blazing a trail for others to follow in Federal Government service, Colin was committed throughout his life to investing in the next generation of leadership,” he said.

Secretary of State Colin Powell receives a pat on the cheek from National Security Adivisor Condoleezza Rice in the Oval Office during the meeting between President Bush, and Prime Minister of Israel Ariel Sharon at the White House May 7, 2002. (AP)

“We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American,” the family said, noting he was fully vaccinated.

Powell was a distinguished and trailblazing professional soldier whose career took him from combat duty in Vietnam to becoming the first Black national security adviser during the end of Ronald Reagan’s presidency and the youngest and first African American chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President George HW Bush.

The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, said the world had lost an “extraordinary leader and a great man” in Powell, the retired four-star general who preceded him as America’s top diplomat, as the public learned on Monday morning of Powell’s unexpected death, from complications related to Covid-19, which he contracted while being treated for cancer.

Blinken added that Powell had been beloved at the state department because he had trusted officials and empowered them.

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