July 5th, 2009
10:34 AM ET
5 years ago

History will have to make a judgment on Iraq, Powell says


WASHINGTON (CNN) – Former Secretary of State Colin Powell says history will make the ultimate judgment on whether the U.S. war in Iraq was worth its costs – in both taxpayer dollars and American lives.

“A dictator is gone. A despicable regime is gone,” the former Secretary of State under George W. Bush said Sunday in an interview that aired on CNN’s State of the Union. “And the Iraqi people have been given a chance to have a representative form of government, living in peace with its neighbors. We’ll have to see what history's judgment of that will be.”

The retired general also gave his take on recent celebrations in Iraq as a deadline passed for U.S. troops withdrew from the country’s major cities.

“I think we should just pocket this,” Powell told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King about celebrations in the streets that heralded the U.S. pull-back.

“They are happy. They have made it clear from the very beginning that they wanted to be free and independent. And they didn’t want to be an occupied nation, which they were when we were there, and now that is starting to change.

“But this is not yet over. . . . it’s now up to the Iraqis to solidify their representative government system and make sure they have the security forces that can handle all of this.”

“They’re now responsible for their own destiny,” Powell added.

Powell, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the 1991 Gufl War, also provided an explanation of his view of the term "Powell doctrine" - Which has been referred to as the use of overwhelming military force.

“First of all, you will never find in any Army manual something called ‘the Powell Doctrine.’ It was an invention of a reporter,” Powell said.

“It essentially says have a clear political goal and then apply decisive force, is the term I prefer rather than overwhelming because it doesn’t always have to be huge,” Powell said.

The retired general also said that he’s “glad to have a doctrine named after me.”


Filed under: Colin Powell • Iraq • State of the Union
soundoff (35 Responses)
  1. phoenix86

    Ahmadinejad reportedly wants talk with Obama.

    Of course, Obama will comply, thereby fully betraying any cause for democracy in Iran.

    I wasn't a W fan, but I sure do miss him now.

    July 5, 2009 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  2. Franky, Land of Lincoln

    @phoenix86

    I was a W fan and boy, I don't miss him at all, LOL!!! :)

    You know, you're the type of people that says one thing one day and says another day different, after all, you seem to know what you want or expect...oh yeah, I'm that good.

    July 5, 2009 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  3. Dave C - NJ

    Iran is not fighting for "democracy" phoenix.
    They are fighting for a slightly better leader under the same crazy religious regime.

    Just like a conservative: complain about things that don't exist.

    July 5, 2009 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  4. jt

    State of the Union – You mean, State of the GOP, don't you CNN?

    Why has the ticker become ad space for this show?

    July 5, 2009 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  5. Sister Pious

    History will judge Bush on the disaster in Iraq. Saddam Hussein kept that country and its people in check and when we leave, it will eventually become another civil war. Our dollars and precious lives were lost and it is a shame that America is being driven into debt because of this senseless, needless war. Bush and Cheney will get their "awards" after life on Earth is done.

    July 5, 2009 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  6. thetruth

    Even if Iraqi citizens wanted the U.S. to intervene and asked us to oust Saddam it still wouldn't be worth it. We had no right to invade Iraq. Ask many veterans who have seen the horrors of war and they will say that war is the last option–when all else fails. It should only be used when another country or entity attacks us. Yes, Al qaeda attacked us–but not Iraq.
    Bush wanted a war and to set up future control of the oil & wealth for his buddies. He lied to us claiming that Iraq was linked to Al qaeda and Saddam had WMD's. That they were an imminent threat to the U.S. It was the greatest lie in history. As a result, America took its eye off the ball and spent hundreds of billions in an illegal war. Money, which could've been used to spur the economy and stall the inevitable recession. Money which could've been used to pay down on healthcare, future renewable energy initiatives, education...all the things that Obama is trying to fix now. And yet the republicans want to call him a socialist, claims hes robbing them & their future generations, that he's bankrupting the country.? Hello people!, we just wasted the nations surplus money on an illegal war and huge tax cuts for the wealthy and some of us have the nerve to open our mouth's about [ "Tea parties"--taxation w/o representation, big government spending gone amok]–you've gotta be kidding me.

    July 5, 2009 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  7. Denna

    You are absolutely correct Mr. Powell. A dictator is gone but the war was unjustified given the reasons we went in and tore up the country. If we get lucky, something good will come with our unwarranted interference in another country's affairs. No wonder Korea and Iran are saber rattling. Our ham-handed approach to other countries is pretty scary.

    July 5, 2009 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  8. thetruth

    to phoenix86@10:39am–If I had a lousy peso for every time you and other republicans lie, I could've fixed the economy by now. Really!, having to disprove you guys on a daily basis gets to be tiresome after awhile.

    I see that you fail to acknowledge the whole truth about the situation. The U.S. president cannot govern based on the remains of the day. He has to have vision concerning the "now" and the future. He has to negociate with whoever is in power–remember...there is still the issue of Iran's pursuit of weaponized nuclear material. Despite the horrific aftermath of the election, while regrettable, we still must deal with Iran. BTW–the ruling clerics & Supreme leader are the true power in the country. I suspect Ahmadinejad will continue to try to distract Obama with foolish calls for public debates...while trying to avoid a growing resistance movement within the clerical hierarchy.
    Finally, It was Obama's outreach & Cairo speech to the muslim world that inspired the young, educated & tech savvy Iranians–coming off the heels of the pro west election in Lebanon– to want seek a better relationship with the west. Please tell the truth.

    July 5, 2009 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  9. Matt

    You guys are too stupid to understand any of this. Go watch Micheal Moore videos

    July 5, 2009 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  10. Milbs

    History has already judged the Iraq war as a "mistake" conjured up by a weak President, a manipulative Vice-President and weak-minded fools who bought off on "slam dunk" intelligence for weapons of mass destruction. Verdict is in General, by a verdict of over 4,400 dead men and women who trusted you and your leadership.

    July 5, 2009 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  11. Marc

    phoenix86 – Democracy, true Democracy, will only come to Iran the day the 'Supreme Leader' and the 'Council of Guardians' gave up their powers. Of course they don't plan on doing it.
    What the Iranians want is that the parcial democracy that they have gets stronger enough so these nutjobs in power have no option but, eventually, realize that they have to bend to the people's will.
    Right now they still can make a mockery of the people's will, while remembering the world that they are getting stronger and will have sooner or later a nuke.
    That's what the Iranian government had turned into, a bunch of openly abusing and disgusting blackmailers...

    July 5, 2009 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  12. Gonzo in Houston

    I think history's judgment of Iraq will be very harsh for the politicians and very positive for the troops. Over the course of the entire war, you always saw the pattern; what went well was generally military and run by the military; the great mistakes were invariably the work of the civilian political hacks. The greatest successes of the surge were due to the change in tactics instituted by Gen. Petraeus, who seems to be forgotten my many conservatives.

    July 5, 2009 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  13. Operation Crush Rush

    What do you call it when you have to pay insurgents to not fight,like or more for it.

    July 5, 2009 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  14. Operation Crush Rush

    What do call it when you pay the enemy billions of dollars not to fight back,like they did with the Surge?

    July 5, 2009 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  15. Jan Illinois

    Americans have Long ago made a judgment on the war. Like all wars, this war belongs to men, Men of greed and no conscience. You Mr. Powell are and were right beside these men , you are one in the same. You ran and hide , when you should have told us all , what you knew about no WMDs and the lies of this war. You are One IN THE SAME, no different now or ever. America's judge many things Powell and some of us will never forget .

    July 5, 2009 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  16. Kevin in Ohio

    The war in Iraq was ABSOLUTELY necessary. Though no WMD's were found after the fact, you can be assured that Saddam had them....just ask the Kurds. Had we not toppled this evil dictator, I shudder to think what we would be facing in the Middle East right now. Its too bad Obama is a gutless ego-maniac without a clue..... he will no doubt let the whole region slide backwards with his weak stance on Iran.

    July 5, 2009 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  17. George Synan

    This war was unnecessary.

    Yes, the Kurds can thank the U.S. for giving Saddam chemical weapons, otherwise there were no WMDs. A preponderance of the evidence suggested Saddam did not have WMDs and the evidence suggesting that he did was stretched or outright fabricated. Ask Joe Wilson about Nigerian yellowcake.

    The US was attacked on Sep 11, 2001. On Sep 12, 2001 we should have 140k troops combing Afghanistan looking for Bin Laden. We did not and as a result, he is still at large. Now Pakistan, a known possessor of nuclear weapons, with scientists who have already leaked nuclear secrets, has been infiltrated by the Taliban and other terrorists.

    Oh and by the way, the cost of the Iraq war was somehow kept off the general budget. So this country is even deeper in debt than it realizes, at the exact point more people need financial help than within the last 20 years.

    But all you hawks keep thinking the Iraq war was a good 'war'. It was not.

    July 5, 2009 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  18. Liberals refuse to see the truth

    Attn Bush haters......if Iraq and Afghanistan were so bad, WHY HASN'T OBAMA removed all the troops from both countries already? He's had six months to start the removal but hasn't done A THING. Maybe he has information that you are not aware of. Maybe you believed another Obama lie.

    July 5, 2009 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  19. VON BISMARK,Vienna.

    The judgement is simple: you were wrong!

    July 5, 2009 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  20. George Synan

    Kevin in Ohio... what should the stance on Iran be? Another invasion?

    Obama is handling this correctly. If you remember, but I doubt you do, that in 1953, Mosaddeq, the democratically elected leader of Iran, with Socialist sensibilities was overthrown with assistance from the CIA and the British. "The Shah", a US-friendly dictator, was instated in his place , and he went on to oppress the people of Iran until the '79 revolution. The US's meddling has been a large contributor of US-Iranian friction to this day. Prior to the coup, Iran was actually pro US.

    This coup was perpetrated because the British wanted the oilfields, but Mosaddeq resisted... and the US, frozen in the grip of the right-wing witch hunt for communists, were worried that communism would rise up in Iran. So in an overzealous, scaremongering tactic, the US's intervention produced the exact situation we are trying to extract ourselves from.

    Now we have a situation where the younger generation wants more democracy. They will need to fight for it. The US's meddling has already exhausted any credibility we might otherwise voice in this situation.

    One last question... Tiananmen Square? Should we invade China? What about Zimbabwe? Mugabe is a dictator... perhaps we should invade there, and let's not forget the Sudan and Somalia. We need to invade them too.

    July 5, 2009 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  21. Emma

    Five years of war provides a lot of historical data. The criteria to historically judge it's impact should include the dollars spent, the military and civilian deaths and the number of Iraqi homeless.

    July 5, 2009 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  22. thetruth is duped

    @thetruth – If you really think that one speech caused the uprising in Iran, you would be considered a sheep. Keep following your savior and you'll be in the welfare lines. $11.4 trillion deficit and we are ALL going to pay for it.

    July 5, 2009 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  23. AL

    History says Powell screwed up in Iraq and is irrelevant

    July 5, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  24. Jadie

    I'm sooo sick of Powell. He's "jumped the fence" so many times for his own political gain. He'll agree with anyone who can get him ahead in life. Moron!

    July 5, 2009 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  25. Allison in Atlanta

    Gen. Powell goes where his bread will be buttered.

    July 5, 2009 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
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