Samantha Power signals Syria intervention?

The usual frustrating mess. The ascendance of Samantha Power, longtime advocate of “humanitarian intervention,” as Obama’s new UN ambassador (replacing Susan Rice, named for National Security Advisor), is applauded by Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch (NBC)—and, we may be certain, opposed by both the anti-war left and the paleocon right. Google results reveal that the paleocons have beat the lefties to the punch. A Fox News report picked up by World Net Daily taunts: “‘Nazi’ Problem for Obama’s UN pick?”…

The former White House adviser and longtime Obama friend nominated Wednesday as the next US ambassador to the United Nations has a history of controversial comments that could haunt her in confirmation—including likening US foreign policies to those of the Nazis.

In a March 2003 New Republic magazine essay, Samantha Power wrote that American foreign policy needs a “historical reckoning” which would entail “opening the files” and “acknowledging the force of a mantra we have spent the last decade promoting in Guatemala, South Africa, and Yugoslavia.” [A reference to the reconciliation processes in those countries—WW4R]

She continued: “Instituting a doctrine of the mea culpa would enhance our credibility by showing that American decision-makers do not endorse the sins of their predecessors. When (German Chancellor Willy) Brandt went down on one knee in the Warsaw ghetto, his gesture was gratifying to World War II survivors, but it was also ennobling and cathartic for Germany. Would such an approach be futile for the United States?”

The Lede blog informs us that the Israel Lobby is also opposed to her, because of comments she made in 2002—which she has since disavowed. Asked how her ideas applied to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, she responded:

What we need is a willingness to actually put something on the line in the service of helping the situation. And putting something on the line might mean alienating a domestic constituency of tremendous political and financial import.

Whoops. Meanwhile, the best the lefties have been able to do so far is dredge up a 2008 exchange between Power and Jeremy Scahill on Democracy Now (with an added “Must Watch”). What was mostly at issue in the exchange was the previous decade’s interventions in Bosnia and Serbia—an issue Scahill is deeply confused on (to be as generous as possible). He protests repeatedly that NATO “bombed Yugoslavia for 78 days,” but displays zero concern with the cleansing of the Kosovar Albanians—only complaining about supposed “exaggerations” of the scale of the attacks. He parrots the talking point that only 2,700 had been confirmed killed before the bombing started, and of undetermined ethnicity at that—without mentioning that hundreds of villages had been torched and a quarter of a million Kosovar Albanians (out of a total population of 1.4 million) displaced! (See our Balkan Historical Outline.) After thusly covering up for ethnic cleansing, Scahill relentlessly baits Power for her failure to call the Iraq sanctions “genocide.” What a transparent little creep.

Scahill’s point that the intervention worsened the crisis is an arguable one. But by covering up the extent of the crisis, he has no legtimacy to make it. Which brings us, inevtiably, to Syria. There is, once again, good reason to believe that “humanitarian intervention” will just further enflame things. But failing to acknowledge Bashar Assad’s butchery just dodges the quesiton of what is the world’s responsibility to the Syrians. So what has Scahill had to say about Syria? This, from a May 28 interview on Truthout:

When people are saying, “The US has to intervene in Syria; we have to do something about that,” we are already intervening in Syria. We’re intervening to destabilize the region even further. We’ve destroyed Iraq, Syria’s neighbor. We have no credibility; we can’t be an honest broker in any of this stuff. It’s remarkable how much damage has been done both by the Bush-Cheney administration and the Obama-Biden administration when it comes to the stability of quite a few primarily Muslim countries.

Here we go again. Apart from the absurdity of using the pronoun “we” for the government he supposedly hates, Scahill denies local context—like, um, the tyranny of Bashar Assad—by placing all the blame for Syria’s destabilization on “us.” Scahill may not be quite part of the Idiot Left that is avidly rooting for Assad, but he is certainly loaning them comfort.

It seems likely that Power’s appointment signals a determination on the part of the Obama administration that intervention in Syria is inevitable. So get ready for further polarization, both here in the blogosphere and (more significantly) on the ground in the Middle East. We are happy to watch the interventionist neocons and isolationist paleocons duke it out. But it is demoralizing to see the anti-war “left” so utterly rudderless here. We would sure like to hear from progressive Syrians—those who oppose both Assad and imperialist intrigues—and know their perspectives on these questions, and what solidarity we can loan them. 

  1. US to arm Syrian rebels
    The United States has concluded that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces used chemical weapons against rebel fighters and Washington will supply direct military assistance to the opposition, the White House said June 13. The aid is to start with light arms, not the missiles that the rebels have been pressing for. (Reuters, BBC News, June 14)

    More than 93,000 people, including over 6,500 children, have been killed in Syria’s civil war, which has grown increasingly deadly over the past year, a United Nations study released that same day. (AFP, June 13)