For the Western media, the passing of Colin Powell, the former US secretary of state, is nothing short of a tragedy. Powell, the first black Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and secretary of state, was one of the most revered individuals in US public life, an inspiration to the African-American community, and someone who commanded respect across party lines.
In many ways, Powell does deserve the tributes he is receiving, because his achievements are undoubtedly formidable. And yet, a glaring absence from many of these tributes is Powell's role in starting one of the bloodiest conflicts in the 21st century, something that continues to impact our lives even now.
For many who have directly and indirectly suffered because of US military misadventures, Colin Powell will be starkly remembered as the man who sat before the UN security council to conclude "based on solid intelligence," that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.
The infamous speech of 5th February 2003 was one of the decisive moments that justified the invasion of Iraq. Unfortunately, it turned out a few years later that the speech was based on false intelligence and Powell had been specifically picked by the Bush administration to make that speech because of the popularity he enjoyed with the American people.
Before that moment that will forever taint his legacy, Powell was an illustrious figure with an exemplary career.
Born in Harlem to Jamaican parents, Powell graduated with a bachelor in Science in 1958 and completed two tours of duty in the Vietnam war. He was tasked with investigating the Mỹ Lai massacre during his second tour in 1968.
During the 1980s he steadily climbed the ranks in the military while making a name for himself. In 1989, after serving as Ronald Reagan's National Security Advisor, he was promoted to four star general and afterwards briefly worked as Commander in Chief.
It was his experience in Vietnam that birthed one his most famous legacies: the Powell Doctrine. It expanded on already honoured American military traditions of "pragmatic internationalism." The philosophy was that war should only be fought with overwhelming force while keeping clear political objectives and an exit strategy on hand. It also stresses the importance of having allied support for the US.
It was this doctrine that gave him fame in the public eye. During his tenure as the first black Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff between 1989-1993, he became the face of the 1991 Gulf War. His employment of the Powell Doctrine during the war made him a powerful figure in the American spotlight. His reputation as a straight edged, American leader grew to towering heights. His name commanded respect even in a room full of stars.
His popularity grew massively and at one point he considered running for presidency. Both Republicans and Democrats saw him as a coveted figure and although there was significant support to launch a bid, in the end he declined the chance to run.
After retiring from the army in 1993, Powell did not fade into obscurity. Instead in 2001, newly elected President George Bush appointed him as secretary of state. Powell, a household name by then, was unanimously supported both publicly and politically. But the carefully crafted reputation came under threat soon after the September 11th 2001 attacks.
In the aftermath of a United States desperately trying to make sense of 9/11, Colin Powell was pushed to become the moderate face of a war-seeking Bush administration. While Bush and Cheney were adamant on waging the Iraq war, Powell reportedly opposed it.
Powell stressed the importance of going to the UN and building a coalition. But as Zeeshan Aleem for MSNBC points out, the UN eventually "became the site of the United States' most powerful and agenda-setting case for the Iraq War, and it was Powell who made that argument."
And so going back to his 2003 presentation to the UN, it was Powell who in the end, with this oration, drummed up a significant amount of support for a war that was later proven to have started under false premises. Powell's presentation too was later reported to have contained inaccuracies, according to a 2004 report by the Iraq Survey Group.
Powell did not manage to get the coalition he wanted but he instead garnered support within the US. After all, when Colin Powell says there's WMD's, who wouldn't believe him?
Since then Powell has expressed his regret for the part he played but was still glad to see the end of the Saddam regime. But regret does not wash away the part he played in one of America's worst foreign policy decisions.
The Powell Doctrine created in the aftermath of the Vietnam War was thought up by him to make sure such a costly war did not occur again. But in the face of thousands dead in the Iraq war, his failure to live by his own doctrine is rather ironic.
With the Bush administration's explicit misleading of the public, one can say the war had no clear political objectives, once again going against one of the main tenets of the Powell doctrine.
The failure of the USA (and Powell) in adhering to the doctrine he himself created led to the twin failures of Iraq and Afghanistan. US troops are now long gone but the destabilisation of the region still exists, in fact it was only made worse by the meandering wars.
And even if US interests were to be solely considered, then the war came at the cost of trillions of dollars and thousands of lives. Alongside that, US reputation in the public sphere have arguably suffered following the disastrous retreat.
After the war Powell sought to make amends. He expressed regret and pitched his support for Democratic nominees. He retained his pragmatic, moderate character. He had even in 2009 advised Obama against a US surge of force in Afghanistan, an advice that was not heeded.
Despite his actions in the twilight years, the tainting of Powell's legacy by the Iraq war cannot be denied. But should it be allowed to tarnish h