Clarence Darrow said that while he never wished a man dead, he had "read some obituaries with great satisfaction." For me, when it comes to the death of Colin Powell, it is not that way. I'm not getting any pleasure reading his obituaries.
My religion and my imam tell me to speak of no ill about the dead. But I'm not a religious man; I stopped going to the mosque for guidance a long time ago. I go to Ayatollah Google instead, where I get more enlightenment much faster.
I typed "Colin Powell death" in search of the event's meaning. I got some 165 million results (in 0.83 seconds). Heading subjects noted that Powell was the first Black secretary of state, a statesman, a military hero, and included a lot about the "man of dignity" thing (editorial, Oct. 19).
But for people in the Middle East, Powell was a dishonest war criminal. Iraqis will not shed tears remembering the two invasions of Iraq that caused the deaths of 100,000 people.
In America, we create our heroes and have been taught to respect them — even when they owned slaves, dropped bombs that killed millions, lied to us and waged unnecessary wars.
So how should we remember Powell, really? This is not a Black history month assignment or a critical race theory project. I understand the "first Black" thing: Barack Obama was the first Black president and got a pass from liberals and progressives when he turned out to be a political window dresser who handed our country to a white cobra in a handbasket.
I never was fond of the "first" sentiment — first woman this, first gay that, first Latino the other thing. With all due respect, these firsts are the empire's window-dressing used to conceal the hurt they inflict on the very same people they represent.
Powell was an imperialist serving the empire. They say he shaped American foreign policy for four decades. A Google search of "Colin Powell war criminal" produces some 3 million results (in 0.64 seconds) — not too shabby! Iraqis still blame him for the destruction of their country. In the 1991 invasion, Powell masterminded the "highway of death" massacre that killed thousands of retreating Iraqi soldiers.
Powell's crimes started in Vietnam, where American troops committed horrific acts of violence against unarmed civilians. During the Reagan administration, Powell was a top deputy to Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger and was deeply involved in the Iran-contra affair, supporting and sending arms to the brutal, right-wing contras in Nicaragua who again targeted thousands of civilians.
People like Condoleezza Rice, Clarence Thomas, Powell, Obama and current Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, among others, have benefited from the civil rights movement. Their success supposedly represents post-racial America. But as we know, representation is not liberation.
The Black Lives Matter movement arose during President Donald Trump's reign — after Obama's two terms, when the conditions of Black Americans did not improve much.
Back when Powell was helping to slaughter people of color in Vietnam, another Black role model chose to do the right thing. Muhammad Ali, the self-proclaimed "greatest," risked prison for refusing to join the military.
"My conscience won't let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor, hungry people in the mud for big powerful America," he explained. "And shoot them for what? They never called me n***; they never lynched me, they didn't put any dogs on me, they didn't rob me of my nationality, rape and kill my mother and father. ... Shoot them for what? How can I shoot them, poor people?"
RIP Ali! The greatest.
Ahmed Tharwat, host and producer of the local Arab American TV show "BelAhdan with Ahmed," writes for local and international publications. He blogs at Notes From America: www.Ahmediatv.com. Follow him on Twitter: @ahmediaTV.