Powell: Bush's Fall Guy?

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Powell, a son of Jamaican immigrants, struggled in his political career to win the hearts of people in the Third World and he emerged bruised and wounded from various international foras that sought to address the plight of poor countries. At the September 2002 Earth Summit, Powell was repeatedly jeered and booed by delegates who described his speech as “shameless and inadequate� at this summit which President Mugabe brought his personal duel with Britain to the gathering.

The resignation of Colin Powell, the United States secretary of states from the Bush administration has largely been dismissed as non-event by political analysts in Africa and abroad who say Powell found it more rewarding to ‘please his White House masters’ than to represent the interests of African people.
 The politics of Iraq is so raw and analysts say Powell’s resignation will not receive the thoughtful debate it deserves because the 67-year-old retired general never readily identified himself with Africans both at home and abroad. News of his resignation filtering from across the Atlantic was received with indifference, mellowed enthusiasm and guarded optimism with observers saying after all, Powell should not have accepted that post in this Republican party administration which has opposed affirmative action designed to push minorities into better jobs among other placements.
“He is a man who has not been guided by conscience and history of his origin,� says Dr Godfrey Chikowore, the head of international relations and social development at the Institute of Development Studies here.
 â€œHe did nothing for Africa and the Diaspora. Powell did everything to demean the real concerns of Africans. For Zimbabwe and Africa, he did much harm than good.â€? He says Powell was used by the Republicans to prop up their image as an ‘inclusive and broad-based’ party and yet the reality pointed to something different in the case of minority communities and the case of the African American. “Powell never understood his roots,â€? Dr Chikowore argues. “He never understood the real interest of African Americans and the role he had to play for Africa in world affairs.â€?
 Throughout his tenure as secretary of state, Powell was always at pains to explain his case for Africans and instead believed equal opportunities existed in America. Political observers here and abroad say Powell will be remembered most for his verbal crusades against Zimbabwe, left wingers and political foes opposed to the Iraq invasion. “We have been very tough, frankly, on Zimbabwe from the very beginning of the administration,â€? he said then in 2003 just before President George W Bush’s whirl wind tour of Africa. “Early in my tenure as secretary of state, when I gave a speech in South Africa, I called for reform in President Mugabe’s regime in Zimbabwe and unfortunately, the situation has just continued to deteriorate. And so, we believe that change is appropriate there, too, to help the people of Zimbabwe,â€? he said.
 He drew heavy criticism from Zimbabwean officials and political observers abroad who denounced him for peddling false accusations about human rights violations and for calling for the violent removal of President Mugabe. “Powell, just like other Uncle Toms the worldover, is still satisfied with eating crumbs left over by his masters,â€? wrote one political observer in 2003 in a stinging a attack on Powell. “Unlike Uncle Toms like Powell and their ilks, sane thinking Black people want their freedom. We are fighting for the cause of the Black man and we will not tolerate the recolonisation of our country like what has happened to Iraq,â€? wrote the observer in a highly charged letter.
 In the US, Blacks were also irked by his utterances calling for regime change in Zimbabwe. During the same period, celebrated US singer Harry Belafonte said Powell had not taken heart of his history and likened his political actions and commentaries to that of a “House Negroâ€? who found it more rewarding to carry out the wishes of his master –in this case President Bush than to represent the interests of African people. This political theatre between the singer/activist and the first Black secretary of state helped to bring out into the open the concerns of African American who felt strongly that Powell, despite having made a break through to become one of few high ranking officials, he was being used as ‘window dressing’ in an administration that rarely put the interests of Blacks at the forefront but ignored them.
 â€œAmerica and Britain did not bring democracy to Zimbabwe,â€? said a group of US Black activists voicing their concern over utterances by Powell. “A nation of people fought for it. President Mugabe is returning the land to the people. Mugabe is right.â€? Dr Chikowore says Powell if anything sought to reverse the understanding of real African history by collaborating with the Bush administration to peddle the false doctrines of democracy, human rights and equality which on the ground the American government never practiced. “He need to not have been part of this administration,â€? he noted.
 Powell, a son of Jamaican immigrants, struggled in his political career to win the hearts of people in the Third World and he emerged bruised and wounded from various international foras that sought to address the plight of poor countries. At the September 2002 Earth Summit, Powell was repeatedly jeered and booed by delegates who described his speech as “shameless and inadequateâ€? at this summit which President Mugabe brought his personal duel with Britain to the gathering.
 With a ‘blend of  passion’ and a rare display of his oratory skills, Mugabe fired a salvo at prime minister Tony Blair. “We have not asked for any inch of Europe or nay square inch of that territory so, Blair, keep your England and let me keep my Zimbabwe,â€? Mugabe said to an enraptured audience with this enduring quote. “We wish no harm to anyone, we are Zimbabweans, we are Africans, we are not English, we are not Europeans. We love Africa, we love Zimbabwe, we love our independence.â€?
 Powell emerged wounded from the summit in which Bush deliberately sent him, fearing protests from delegates and others who had camped in Johannesburg by then. Elome Brath of the US-based Patrice Lumumba Coalition in 2002 said Powell never had any love or appreciation for Africa and therefore would never do or say anything positive about the continent. On the international front Powell struggled to convince US allies to support the Iraq invasion and his weaknesses were further exposed during a presentation to the UN Security Council in February 2003 on weapons of mass destruction that were never found in Iraq.
 The international community remained sceptical of his utterances justifying the Iraq invasion and suspicion has grown after the US failed to find any weapons of mass destruction. But on the contrary, Bush has spoken highly of Powell describing him on his appointment in 2000 as “an American hero, an American example and a great American story.â€? By then, he said, Powell had “qualities that will make him a great representative of all people of this country.â€? In the end, his own people –African-Americans abroad and Africans here at home, will remember Powell as a black man who was closer to white values and culture than those of his people.
 James Baldwin’s messages will reverberate powerfully and judge Powell harshly.
“History is not about the past. Its about the present. We take it with us, we cannot escape our history….It is through the prism of our history that we see the world...What was done in the past and the present affects us now whether directly or indirectly,� he wrote.

Mr. Tsiko is The Black Star News's Senior Africa Correspondent based in Harare. Comments can be sent to Sifelani@blackstarnews.com

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