- The Washington Times - Monday, December 15, 2003

Every true soldier hates to be out of the action for long. No matter how badly needed or how well-deserved the down time, there’s the lingering sense that one is letting one’s friends down, leaving his comrades-in-arms in a lurch. Secretary of State Colin Powell should have no such concern.

Yesterday morning, Mr. Powell stepped away from Foggy Bottom to undergo surgery for prostate cancer at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The cancer was diagnosed a few months ago during his annual physical, and he told Mr. Bush about his upcoming surgical leave two weeks ago. We were relieved to hear that Mr. Powell’s prognosis is good — a State Department official said that the cancer “does not appear to be life-threatening.”

There is every indication that Mr. Powell will recover fully. However, he is expected to be in the hospital for several days, and he will be on a reduced schedule for some time after that. Considering the serious nature of his diagnosis and the extraordinary demands of his work, it can only be hoped that this holiday season will be free of serious diplomatic crises so that he has time to heal completely.

As a principal member of the Cabinet, Mr. Powell puts in perfectly appalling hours. Earlier this year, he told a group of students that he is often in the office by 6 a.m., and he does not often leave before 7 p.m. Regardless of whether he is headed to a reception or on the rare occasions he is headed straight home, he still carries briefcases full of briefing material.

His schedule is even worse when he travels — as he must often do. Earlier this month, he visited five countries over the course of four days, and also took time out to visit an American military cemetery, laying a wreath at the tomb of an unknown U.S. soldier killed in the Allied invasion of North Africa.

Even from his hospital bed, Mr. Powell will not be fully out of the action. He has already warned his staff that his room has a high-speed Internet connection. In the meantime, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage has been authorized to act in his stead.

Mr. Armitage will undoubtedly serve well. However, both the State Department and the nation look forward to Mr. Powell being back on his feet. We wish him a full recovery and a speedy return to his post.


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