Colin Powell, Politely Anguished War Criminal

Some of those in the George W. Bush administration who were most responsible for starting the Iraq War were obvious sickos — the kind of operatives who can make bloodthirsty policy in a democracy, but could probably never get elected to anything because their public statements cause decent humans to cringe in horror.

Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld wanted to go to war with Iraq even though the administration had no good reason for doing so, because, he said, Iraq, unlike Afghanistan, had “a lot of good targets.”

Deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz, similarly, argued for the invasion because it was “doable,” at one point saying he didn’t care about “allies, coalitions, and diplomacy.”

Dick Cheney was literally the mastermind of a global torture apparatus, which is not something your average evil psychopath can say. In 2006, Cheney shot one of his hunting buddies in the face, permanently disfiguring and disabling him, an accident for which he has apparently never apologized.

These ghouls exuded what we now call “toxic masculinity,” and hating them has always been easy. Bush’s secretary of state, Colin Powell, who died today at eighty-four of complications of COVID-19, had quite a different vibe, exuding quiet dignity, deliberative reason, and calm. Yet he was also a war criminal responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of human beings. In that way he was no better than Rumsfeld, Cheney, or Wolfowitz.