One of the last people Ronald Reagan saw as his presidency was fading away in early 1989 was Army four star general Colin Powell.
Reagan was in the now stripped-down Oval Office, awaiting it’s next occupant when Powell, doing his daily job as National Security Adviser and later as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff gave Reagan a global conflict project report and said, "Mr. President, the world is quiet today."
Reagan replied, "Thank you General, that’s a nice thing to hear."
Of all the late-comers piling on Reagan, spreading the false stories that he had some sort of malady, Powell was not one of them. He did participate in one shoddy, poorly received documentary by ultra-leftist and one time Dukakis campaign flunky Matt Tyrnauer, but that was it. And the forgettable documentary has faded into obscurity.
Powell had written Reagan just a few days earlier, "For the last time, allow me to say thank you. Thank you for what you did for our country and thank you for letting me be a part of it all. It has been the experience of my life!"
Powell, as always, was a distinguished man.
True, Powell sometimes ventured into politics while still in uniform — as he did with George H.W. Bush, offering a political calculation, rather than a military one, on the possible invasion of Iraq and the taking of Saddam Hussein, but when he stuck to military affairs, he was mostly superb.
His one big blunder was when he was lied to by the neocons about weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and then said Saddam had weapons of mass destruction and said so to the United Nations.
This became the tragic premise for George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq, a mistake costing thousands of lives and billions of U.S. dollars.
The neocons have been banished from the GOP, but at an awful price.
Colin Powell regretted the whole mess.
Another wrong-headed maneuver by Powell as Reagan’s National Security Adviser was to try to stop Reagan from calling on Mikhail Gorbachev to "tear down this wall," one of Reagan’s most enduring and memorable quotes.
Indeed, the wall came down and freedom spread across Warsaw Pact nations.
But he was an outsized proponent of Reagan’s new initiative, SDI.
Powell’s story was all-American.
A kid of hard working, legal immigrants, he grew up in the mean streets of New York City but was attracted to the ROTC as a way out, like a lot of other kids, while attending college.
He worked his way up, not as the military royalty of West Point, but work he did, including a stint in Vietnam where, during which, he was wounded.
He eventually worked his way up the chain to general, earning friendships and respect along the way. All told, he supervised some 34 different crises in his military career.
He eventually had a policy named after him, the "Powell Doctrine."
Have a clear cut mission, go in with overwhelming force and leave.
It fact, he once said that America wasn’t a colonial power; we went in, got out and only asked for a small patch of land in which to bury our dead. He won many awards, all deserved.
For a time, he was even heavily courted to run for president — in 1995.
He wasn’t a close friend of Reagan’s, but was a trusted aide. And Reagan warmed up to him so much, that he often in private called him "Colin" instead of just "general."
Reagan was briefed often by Powell on everything, from aid to the Nicaraguan Freedom Fighters to negotiations with Mikhail Gorbachev.
"The Gipper" always noted such briefings favorable.
Reagan wrote often in his diaries about Powell, once saying, "He’s a good man." Indeed, he was. We are going to miss such a superior human being.
Colin Powell, American hero, RIP.
Craig Shirley is a Ronald Reagan biographer, presidential historian, and four-time best-selling author. His most recent book is ''Mary Ball Washington,'' a definitive biography of George Washington’s mother. Read Craig Shirley's Reports — More Here.
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