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‘He lied’: Iraqis still blame Powell for role in Iraq war

Former US secretary of state Colin Powell listens to a question from a reporter outside the front doors of the State Department  in Washington, DC, on September 8, 2003. (Tim SLOAN / AFP / File)
Former US secretary of state Colin Powell listens to a question from a reporter outside the front doors of the State Department in Washington, DC, on September 8, 2003. (Tim SLOAN / AFP / File)

For many Iraqis, the name Colin Powell conjures up one image: the man who, as US secretary of state, went before the UN Security Council in 2003 to make the case for war against their country.

Word of his death Monday at age 84 dredges up feelings of anger in Iraq toward the former general and diplomat, one of several Bush administration officials whom they hold responsible for a disastrous US-led invasion that led to decades of death, chaos, and violence in Iraq.

His UN testimony was a key part of events that they say had a heavy cost for Iraqis and others in the Middle East.

“He lied, lied, and lied,” says Maryam, a 51-year-old Iraqi writer and mother of two in northern Iraq who speaks on condition that her last name not be used because one of her children is studying in the United States.

“He lied, and we are the ones who got stuck with never-ending wars,” she adds.

As chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Powell oversaw the Persian Gulf war to oust the Iraqi army in 1991, after Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait.

But Iraqis remember Powell more for his UN presentation justifying the invasion of their country more than a decade later by casting Saddam as a major global threat who possessed weapons of mass destruction, even displaying a vial of what he said could have been a biological weapon. Powell had called Iraq’s claims that it had no such weapons “a web of lies.” No WMD were ever found, however, and the speech was later derided as a low point in his career.

“I am saddened by the death of Colin Powell without being tried for his crimes in Iraq…. But I am sure that the court of God will be waiting for him,” tweets Muntadher al-Zaidi, an Iraqi journalist who vented his outrage at the US by throwing his shoes at then-president George W. Bush during a 2008 news conference in Baghdad.

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