Creator of Most Effective Anti-War Meme Dead At 84

Any narrative about an empire-targeted nation backed by U.S. officials must be presumed false until it’s been backed by mountains of independently verifiable evidence, Caity Johnstone writes.

By Caitlin Johnstone

Colin Powell, creator of the viral anti-war meme featuring himself holding a stage prop while lying to the United Nations about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, has died at the age of 84.

Over the years Powell’s meme has been an invaluable asset for opponents of western military interventionism and critics of U.S. propaganda narratives about empire-targeted nations, serving as a single-image debunk of any assertion that it is sensible to trust the claims U.S. officials make about any government that Washington doesn’t like.

In online discourse the Powell meme makes the perfect response to anyone regurgitating an unsubstantiated claim about a government that has been targeted for disobeying the dictates of the U.S. empire.

“We must remove Assad by any means necessary because he’s killing Syrians with poison gas!”

Oh yeah? Boom. Powell meme.

“Russian hackers are attacking our democracy!”

Boom. Powell meme.

“Iranian nuclear weapons program!”


“Uyghur genocide!”


“Maduro narco terrorism!”


It stops the conversation in its tracks, using a single image that doesn’t even contain any words. Now the conversation is about what it should be about: the indisputable fact that U.S. officials lie. They lie brazenly. They lie even if it can lead to the deaths of millions of people. Any narrative about any empire-targeted government that is backed by U.S. officials must be presumed false unless and until it has been backed by mountains of independently verifiable evidence.

Other memes have emerged in recent years to criticize the absurdity of western war propaganda which are not without their own charm, like the “Really makes you feel like you’re part of history” one and all its variants:

Or the one about Republican bombs vs Democrat bombs:

Secular Talk? on Twitter: "Can somebody please tweet me that meme where one fighter jet says republican and the other says democrat and they're both bombing but the democrat one has a

But nothing has ever emerged that rises to the level of efficacy and utility as the simple image showing Colin Powell lying to the entire world about a government the Bush administration wanted to destroy.

Powell’s deceitful performance was after all picked up and parroted as “irrefutable” proof about Saddam Hussein’s WMD operations by the very same mass media institutions which tell us we must ramp up aggressions against other foreign governments on equally insubstantial claims today. It was a pivotal moment in the propaganda war the U.S.-centralized empire was waging upon our minds to convince us that it would be good and smart to do something evil and stupid.


Powell’s other contributions to the world include covering up and participating in war crimes in Vietnam, facilitating atrocities in Central America, and destroying Iraqi civilian infrastructure in the Gulf War. But it’s hard to dispute that his greatest lasting legacy will be his immortal reminder to future generations that there is never, ever a valid reason to trust anything U.S. officials tell us about a government they wish to bring down.

Powell’s contribution to the war effort has been considerable. But as time grinds down the tall spires of artificial insanity that the powerful are continually imposing upon our species, when all is said and done his contribution to the anti-war effort will have been greater.

Be sure to remind everyone of Powell’s sociopathic facilitation of human slaughter often and loudly in the coming hours. Public opinion is the only thing keeping western war criminals from The Hague, after all, and those war criminals are keenly aware of this fact. At times like these, they suddenly become highly invested in making sure that regular people “respect the dead,” not because they respect any human alive or dead, but because they cannot allow the death to become an opportunity to amplify and change public opinion about their egregious murderous crimes.

There is a giant narrative management exercise that will be playing out over the next few days. Be sure to enthusiastically disrupt it with the truth.

Caitlin Johnstone is a rogue journalist, poet, and utopia prepper who publishes regularly at Medium.  Her work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, liking her on Facebook, following her antics on Twitter, checking out her podcast on either YoutubesoundcloudApple podcasts or Spotify, following her on Steemit, throwing some money into her tip jar on Patreon or Paypal, purchasing some of her sweet merchandise, buying her books Notes From The Edge Of The Narrative Matrix, Rogue Nation: Psychonautical Adventures With Caitlin Johnstone and Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers.

This article is from and re-published with permission.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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19 comments for “Creator of Most Effective Anti-War Meme Dead At 84

  1. Em
    October 22, 2021 at 09:45

    Two hundred and forty-plus years on and what have some of us only recently begun to learn?

    “Nothing appears more surprising to those who consider human affairs with a philosophical eye than the easiness with which the many are governed by the few, and the implicit submission with which men resign their own sentiments and passions to those of their rulers. When we enquire by what means this wonder is effected, we shall find, that, as force is always on the side of the governed, the governors have nothing to support them but opinion. It is therefore, on opinion only that government is founded, and this maxim extends to the most despotic and most military governments, as well as to the most free and most popular. The soldan of Egypt, or the emperor of Rome, might drive his harmless subjects, like brute beasts, against their sentiments and inclination. But he must at least have led his mamalukes, or prætorian bands, like men, by their opinion.”

    ? David Hume, 1711 – 1776

  2. October 20, 2021 at 22:37

    Colin Powell lied his way to greatness, promoting and covering up decades of war crimes.
    He will live on in memory as a role model and inspiration for scoundrels who aspire to undeserved fame and fortune.

  3. October 20, 2021 at 21:44

    I think that Tony Blair and Barack Obama will go down with Powell as the biggest warmongering liars in the last 50 years. Hats off to Donald Trump for telling the truth about Powell . No wonder the media hates Trump with a passion. I can recall when the BBC put Lyndon LaRouche on to tell the truth about these criminal lies to justify AND then Lyndon LaRouche and the BBC editors who had arranged to put Lyndon on came under vicious attack as did Dr. David Kelly. So Powell and Blair and Obama, may they all rot in hell where they belong.

  4. Realist
    October 20, 2021 at 18:40

    “Under the spreading chestnut tree I sold you and you sold me.”

    Collin, Condoleezza, Barrack, Eric, Susan, Loretta and numerous other “courageous and charismatic” people of color from both major parties sold their people a load of insincere campaign promises to get themselves or their bosses elected and then, once in office, turned around and sold them and all the rest of us out to the insider elites per the American political tradition of “nothing ever changes.” You remember, things were gonna be different this time because these were honorable black folk giving you the lowdown and vouching their credibility.

    The parties have used the same come on with with women (whatever your definition of that gender may be) since Geraldine, Sarah, Hilary, Kamala et al., and, predictably, will do the same with a whole smorgasbord of candidates flaunting group identities in coming elections.

    I think they call such sponsoring entities “parties” because because the controlling insiders live large (and aim not for simple respectable survival but full blown whoop-it-up “happy days” to arrive again!) while you, the voters (and legal guarantors of all their shenanigans, like the hapless holders of any insurance policy), pick up the tab for their poor judgement and bad behavior every time.

    Once General Powell took the job proffered by President-elect Dubya Shrub he should have known that he had sold his soul and there was no executing the office of Secretary of State on his own terms. That he was black was just a matter of cosmetics, or optics, in the constant game of PR that permeates American politics. It was all just a performance, like the jobs routinely performed by the coterie of four-star generals and admirals at the Pentagram. He was already a proven pro and knew the chief talent he brought to the Cheney administration was “diversity.” Sorry that’s not the way the establishment wants you to look at the matter. Caitlin at least salvages a lesson to be learned from the man’s unfortunate performance in the spotlight. Sometimes you have to say the things that are not permitted by the weavers of America’s fictitious history because you cannot both deceive yourself and respect yourself.

  5. Roger Milbrandt
    October 20, 2021 at 14:35

    I can’t help but think that Ms. Johnstone vastly and perhaps naively over-estimates the anti-war capability of the Colin Powell meme. It has not stopped any wars so far as I can tell.
    Powell himself was a victim: a ‘good’ soldier doing his dirty duty.
    To expose US lies we need to laboriously elucidate the truth. There is no magical meme that will do our work for us.

    • firstpersoninfinite
      October 20, 2021 at 22:19

      But, as the meme shows, it worked for Powell and Bush jr. So a magical meme does work – it just depends on what level of media is behind its interpretation for it to work as well as Powell’s original meme. “A good soldier doing his dirty duty” is also a meme. Unfortunately, it’s a complete untruth. It means only that the ‘soldier’ in question is a propagandist, not a soldier.

      • RogerMilbrandt
        October 21, 2021 at 16:03

        Your first sentence suggests to me that you did not read Johnstone’s article very carefully. Your second sentence shows me that you did not notice I placed quotation marks around the ‘good’ in ‘good solider’, so as to imply an irony which makes your statement about it being a ‘complete untruth’ beside the point.

  6. TomG
    October 20, 2021 at 07:03

    Daniel Larison summed up Powell’s UN speech as his, “defining act of cowardice.” I am reminded of the repentant jurist, Ernst Janning, in “Judgement at Nuremberg” who says he made his life excrement, adding, “Those people, those millions of people… I never knew it would come to that. YOU must believe it, YOU MUST believe it.” And Judge Haywood responds, “Herr Janning, it came to that the first time you sentenced a man to death you knew to be innocent.”

    What is missing from Powell’s life and Bush’s life and Obama’s and on and on, is repentance. In the end, they too have made their life excrement.

  7. IIC
    October 19, 2021 at 23:18

    The republican vs democrat memes are old as the internet, but the one that stands out most in my mind is one drawn by Tim Kreider from The Pain Comics all the way back in 2002, titled “The Choice.”

    Nothing’s changed.

    • robert e williamson jr
      October 20, 2021 at 12:13

      IIC you are so right, nothing has changed See Jeff Beck’s “Guitar Shop” Oct 1989, song “A Day In The House”,

      Signature line ; “Everyone is talking but nothing is being done!” . Like you say nothing has changed.

      For the record I should have added this to my previous comment here.

      Between the death of JFK and now the thing I see most in partisan politics is the Republicans scheme and plan playing offense constantly and the Democrats stand around pretending to hold the high ground and do damned little else but wink and nod at the republicans efforts. Johnson, Carter, Clinton, Obama and now Biden, all administrations that seemed helpless to act on their own to improve life for poorest in the country right up to those in the lower half of the middle class.

      ICC please be informed at this point that partisan politics have almost finished the murder of our country.

      I love the comics wish I found the particular one you refer to here @ The Pain Comics , The Choice 11/20/02 thanks for the tip. Simple a simple elegant and graceful effort, driving home the scary truth! I’ll be seeing you in the funny papers.

      Thanks CN

  8. robert e williamson jr
    October 19, 2021 at 23:07

    Yup! The Village Idiot from Crawford Texas lied on prime time TV and Powell, already solidly bagged by CIA years ago was all-in , backed up the dunce by lying to the UN on TV.

    Exposing true irony. Why lie to an organization that is deemed a worthless, waste of time and money by the majority of conservatives. Maybe because it makes for good TV ratings or more likely because the administration was pushing to solidly support fix that had been in since 43 got elected.

    Things were not as they seemed.

    Easy to believe when one knows all the same people have been lying since the Nixon administration. Hell they still are living on lies.

    Thanks CN

    • jeff montanye
      October 20, 2021 at 11:26

      since the johnson administration and the murder of jfk to facilitate the six day war.

      • robert e williamson jr
        October 20, 2021 at 16:54

        IMHO, much influenced by the surrounding historical facts, Israel and the CIA developed an unnatural relationship from day one. You have the know the history of CIA’s JJ Angleton and Israel, their special relationship, that is. JJ Chief of Counterintelligence was Head of CIA’s Israeli Desk. Favored status as it were.

        I believe the Israels had the most to gain from JFK’s death of all other nations / countries / foreign states and mobs.

        James Jesus Angleton, CIA’s Chief of Counterintelligence, never caught a spy and is revered as a super hero in Israel.

        Kennedy was hated buy the hard line right wing Israelis who felt they deserved to have the A-bomb.

        Kennedy was dead set against them getting it.

        Kennedy was naive to personal danger. Especially hard line anti-communist right wingers. He was surrounded by enemies, people had serious problems with his agenda. His strong push for a non-proliferation treaty before Israel had the bomb was a huge problem for the Israelis. The banning of atmospheric testing did no go unnoticed by many and the U.S. military was for the most dead set against this banning of testing.

        I think the fix against Kennedy was “In”, Nov 22, 1963 and I suspect a very similar situation with respect to the “fix being in” with the election “Shrub”, 200, simply a different deal for a different means to an end.

        In fact I’m thinking that Israel has had CIA over a barrel for quite some time now and it seems that now maybe the Saudis do also. Must be some reason why the Israel and the Saudi’s are allowed to demand more and more aid from the U.S. with less and less U.S. interference in their activities.

        Seems to me something is up! IMHO United States policies on Israel or Saudi Arabia are neither reasonable or justified, exactly as I feel about the war in Iraq.

        Since CIA and NSA and those 15 other intelligence agencies desire total power authority over secrecy I figure I’ll believe what I feel the best information available to me indicates I should believe.

        Thanks for the set-up Jeff and thanks to CN.

  9. Richard Lemieux
    October 19, 2021 at 20:59

    I am pretty sure that many who had followed the Iraq saga at that time and then heard Colin Powel’s speech at the U.N. knew that he was lying. I watched the speech and I knew Colin Powell was either very naive or he was plainly lying. That wouldn’t have been my feeling of course if the WP had been my daily news source back then! The PBS NewsHour did a better job, but that didn’t save Iraq from a deadly war.

    And yes, sadly I remember him mostly for that speech.

  10. Tom Kath
    October 19, 2021 at 19:46

    I see Donald Trump has been reading your mail Caitlin.

    • Dfnslblty
      October 20, 2021 at 08:58

      ¿Twice-indicted ex-potus45 is able to read truths?

  11. October 19, 2021 at 19:45

    Seems improbable that media behavior in that moment was worse than Powell’s deception but true. Remember the “we’re all neocons now”” on air and the Washington Post’s noted article. It was a watershed period that left hundreds of millions feeling helpless and bitter in the face of raw power that lasts until now.

  12. Larry McLaughlin
    October 19, 2021 at 18:21

    Hi. I am so confused :) I am just started to follow different groups on Telegram. I have been reading about deep state, great awakening, white hats, black hats, cabal, Nesera, Gesera and all the other events to happen in this great movie ? If Powell was a black hat then why is former president Trump praising him. Isnt Trump supposed to lead us out of this mess according to Q ? I put very little faith and credence in what I am told or read. I prefer to search and come to my own conclusions. I am a 16 year get and love this country, my oath has no expiration. Who are we to believe ? Are there any believable contacts on telegram ? Thankyou

      October 19, 2021 at 19:52

      Trump actually said critical things about Powell after his passing.

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