Colin Powell retired from the Army in 1993. In 1994, he joined Senator Sam Nunn and former President Jimmy Carter on a last-minute peacekeeping expedition to Haiti, which resulted in the end of military rule and a peaceful return to elected government in that country. In 1995, he published a best-selling autobiography, My American Journey, which chronicles his life and its influences, the ins and outs of military bureaucracy, and what he learned in his life about personal rules and character. From 1997 to 2000, he was chairman of America’s Promise, a nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering character and competence in young people. Powell and his wife, Alma, now co-chair the organization, which has a presence in more than 500 communities in all 50 states.
In 2000, President George W. Bush appointed Colin Powell secretary of state, and Powell was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate. At that time, this was the highest rank in civilian government ever held by an African-American. During his tenure, Powell came under fire for his role in building the case for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Initially, Powell had serious misgivings about President Bush’s plan to invade Iraq and overthrow Saddam Hussein. Powell believed the policy of containment was sufficient to control the Iraqi regime. He warned Bush that a military invasion would consume the president’s first term and that if an attack were to occur, it should use overwhelming force and have broad international support. This support would be key to the rebuilding of Iraq.
Bush decided to go to war and, in a crucial moment, Powell agreed to support the president. To advance the case for war with the international community, Powell appeared before the U.N. Security Council in February 2003 to present evidence that Iraq had concealed an ongoing weapons development program. Powell’s reputation for integrity helped convince many in Congress and the country that Iraq posed an imminent threat.
For the remainder of Bush’s first term, Colin Powell tried to establish an international coalition to assist in the rebuilding of Iraq. In September 2004, he testified before Congress that the intelligence sources he used in his February presentation to the United Nations were “wrong” and it was unlikely that Saddam had any stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. Powell advised the committee of the necessity to reform the intelligence community in order to improve its gathering and analysis. In 2004, after acknowledging it was unlikely that Iraq possessed stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, Powell announced his resignation as secretary of state. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice was his successor.