On Monday, May 1 at AARP’s National Leadership Conference in Baltimore, General Colin Powell will be presented with an Andrus Award (named in honor of AARP founder Ethel Percy Andrus), which is given biennially to distinguished individuals for significant contributions to society.
AARP The Magazine sat down with Powell, one of the most decorated and respected leaders of our time, for some surprisingly frank conversation about how he rose from an average, ambitionless kid in the South Bronx to become the most powerful man in the U.S. military; how he really feels about the war in Iraq and the threat of terrorism; why it’s important to give kids the opportunity to win; and the burning question: on the cusp of 70, what does he plan to do with the rest of his life?
"I was surprised at how candid and open General Powell was during the nearly two hours we spent together," says AARP The Magazine Deputy Editor Nancy Perry Graham, who conducted the interview. "He didn’t flinch at a single question, whether I was asking him about Iraq, his relationship with Vice President Dick Cheney, or his future political plans. And his answers were fascinating."
Included are excerpts from the article. We only request that you mention the article is found in the July/August issue of AARP The Magazine.
Powell on being wrong about the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq:
"It hurt. Let me point out that the same intelligence I provided that’s subject to so much controversy—that’s the same intelligence that the Senate and House used four months earlier to vote for a resolution... And it was the same kind of intelligence that President Clinton used to bomb Iraq in 1998. But nevertheless there was no spotlight on this issue like the spotlight I had on me at the UN. I wasn’t alone in believing those stockpiles were there—our commanders believed they were there... and our President believed it and Congress believed it. So when it turned out that part of that information was wrong, the spotlight was on me. And I’m disappointed. I’m sorry it happened and wish those who knew better had spoken up at the time. But there isn’t anything else I can say about it. When people ask me, 'Is this a blot on your record?' Yeah, okay, fine, it’s a blot on my record. But do you want me to walk around saying I have a blot on my record every day? I have a blot on my record. There it is. It’s there for everybody to see forever."
"The only part that kind of annoys me is, 'Well, did you lie? Or were you misleading?' No, I didn’t lie and I wasn’t misleading. If I was lying and knew what the truth was, which has to be the basis of a lie—you know the truth—we wouldn’t have sent 1,400 people wandering around Iraq looking for the stuff. They didn’t find it. So the intelligence was wrong. And that’s all you can really say about it. Yeah, it comes up almost every day."
Powell on behind-the-scenes decision-making about Iraq: