Colin Powell was remembered by his colleagues and son for his leadership, sense of humour and affection, as well as his love for ABBA and Bob Marley, at a funeral service for the former secretary of state that drew current White House officials, past presidents and military leaders in Washington DC.
Mr Powell, who was vaccinated from Covid-19, died on 18 October at age 84 following complications from the disease; he had Parkinson’s disease and multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer that compromised his immune system.
President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden sat alongside former presidents Barack Obama and George W Bush, along with former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and former first ladies Michelle Obama and Laura Bush inside the Washington National Cathedral for the invitation-only service on 5 November. Bill Clinton, who was hospitalised for an infection last month, was too ill to attend.
A procession led by his family and uniformed military officials carried a casket from a hearse outside the cathedral shortly after noon, after a small military ensemble performed instrumental version of Paul Simon’s “American Tune,” Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” and ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” followed by “Amazing Grace” and “America the Beautiful.”
Former Vice President Dick Cheney, former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, current state secretary Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also were in attendance.
Donald Trump did not attend; The Independent has asked his spokesperson whether he received an invitation.
Former deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage remembered Mr Powell – a four-star general who served under three Republican presidents and was the first Black person to lead the State Department – for his “sense of humour, his insatiable curiosity and his comfort in his own skin.”
Madeleine Albright called Mr Powell “a figure who almost transcended time, for his virtues were Homeric.”
She praised his “unshakable commitment to his calling and word,” values he would instill in the service members under his command, she said.
“Beyond his military and diplomatic success, Secretary Powell became a universally respected north star on the nation’s moral compass,” Randy Hollerith, dean of Washington National Cathedral, said in a statement. “We pray that America will find the courage and capacity to be the nation that Secretary Powell believed us to be.”
Mr Powell – whose service across several administrations helped shape modern US foreign policy – remained a popular figure in Washington in the aftermath of the Gulf War and up until his death, though his defence of the Bush administration’s dubious war in Iraq remained what he called a “blot” on his record.
Under President Bush, Mr Powell led a State Department that doubted intelligence officials’ conviction that Saddam Hussein possessed or was developing weapons of mass destruction in Iraq – yet he defended the administration’s case depicting Iraq’s president as a global threat before the UN Security Council in 2003, a testimony that initiated an invasion leading to the deaths of thousands of US service members and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians.
Following Mr Trump’s presidency, Mr Powell – a longtime Republican – called the former president a “national disgrace,” and the attack on the US Capitol on 6 January by Mr Trump’s supporters prompted him to abandon the party before his death.
In a statement following his death, Mr Trump called him a “classic RINO, if even that, always being the first to attack other Republicans.”
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