The education of Samantha Power

Israel/Palestine
on 39 Comments

Samantha Power is Obama’s nominee to be the UN ambassador. I think Power understands the conflict as clearly as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel does: she is a student of human rights atrocities and has described Israel as a “major” human-rights violator backed by an American lobby with “tremendous… financial and political” clout. She surely recognizes the great cost to the U.S. internationally of our support for the militant Jim Crow state. 

But just as Hagel’s obeisance to Israel during his nomination battle this winter lit up the activities of the Israel lobby — resulting in Saturday Night Live’s deathless skit about politicians offering to fellate a donkey for Israel– it looks like we will get more light during Samantha Power’s audition. An Irish immigrant of great personal presence, she is sure to make a feast of every word she’s ever said against Israel. 

Power has backtracked on the issue before.   

Below are testimonials from several power players that chart Power’s arc. Note that she opened up the White House to a loser rightwing Republican supporter of Israel– which shows that the lobby is bipartisan; the same body has its feet planted in both parties and Obama is incapable of running against it. Note that Alan Dershowitz has supplied a powerful endorsement.

Note Power’s early debt to two then-powerful editors whose whole world is Israel: Martin Peretz (now disgraced by his anti-Arab comments) and Leon Wieseltier (a cowboy-boot-wearing rightwing Zionist fixture of AIPAC conferences).

Let’s start with those excellent gentlemen. In her celebrated book, A Problem From Hell (2002), Power said that “four individuals played pivotal roles six years ago in encouraging me to turn an amateur, sweeping survey of U.S. responses to genocide into a book.” They were schoolmate Miro Weinberger, now mayor of Burlington, VT; the late New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis, a great critic of Israel; and: 

“Martin Peretz, whose New Republic had given me a voice during the Bosnia war and given U.S. policy-makers an appropriately difficult time, helped convince Basic books to publish it. And Leon Wieseltier, the wisest man in Washington the most stirring moralist around, offered cherished counsel from start to weary finish.”

Power is a philo-Semite. All four pivotal friends are or were members of the Jewish establishment; and in 2008 she married an accomplished Jew, Harvard prof Cass Sunstein, and Leon Wieseltier delivered a brimming toast at their wedding in Ireland, including these memories/insights:

I first encountered Samantha at a pool table most of two decades ago. She was, of course, startling. She had hot, laughing eyes and a free, probing mind and a chronology of the Bosnian catastrophe: a woman of ardor who made conscience seem sensuous. I resolved immediately to help her, and to helped by her, in our common cause of comprehending the savagery in the world and shaming the powers that could still be shamed into acting against it. Her vitality was extraordinary, even a little pathological. As you know, Samantha is either intense or asleep…

As my own generation has grimly shown, youthful idealism is often more a commitment to youth than a commitment to an ideal; but Samantha remains almost giddily unreconstructed in her imagination of justice. She demonstrates by example that idealism is for adults. The foulest consequence of injustice, aside from the suffering that it inflicts, is the damage that it can do to our sense of possibility; but Samantha has risen up to defend that sense, and to fortify it, and to prove it. Her good cheer, properly understood, is itself a call to action.

I remind you, Wieseltier hangs out at AIPAC conferences and bewails the disaffection of young Jews from Israel. “I’m one of those Jews for whom Zionism remains a beautiful word.”

Lately, Alan Dershowitz has come forward in the Algemeiner to testify to Power’s Israel bona fides, and assure us that she will be all for bombing Iran when that good season arrives:

I have known Samantha since she was my student at HLS, occasionally cutting classes to travel around the world while writing her Pulitzer Prize winning book A Problem From Hell.  In that book, she laid out the difficult choices western democracies face when confronted with internal genocides committed abroad.  If only Samantha had written her book in the 1930s, perhaps the world would not have stood idly by the rise of Nazism and the genocides against Jews, gypsies, gays and others.

Yes, she is an interventionist when it comes to preventing genocide.  But she also cautions prudence in intervening for reasons other than the protection of endangered civilians.

To be sure, Samantha has said some things she now regrets—about Hillary Clinton, about Israel and about other controversial matters.  She says what she thinks when she thinks it.  As the United States representative to the United Nations, she will articulate the policy of the Obama Administration.  She will have to be more diplomatic than she was while in private life.  I am confident that she will make our country proud.

I have discussed the Israeli-Arab and Israeli-Palestinian conflict with Samantha on many occasions.  As a strong supporter of Israel’s security, I have a high level of confidence that she will do and say the right things.  Indeed, because of her sometimes critical attitude toward certain Israeli policies—some of which I agree with, others of which I do not—she will bring added credibility to her positions at the most anti-Israel location in the world other than perhaps, Tehran.  No one should expect to agree with everything an outspoken person like Samantha has said over the past decades.  But nor should anyone judge her on isolated statements instead of on her distinguished total record.

While serving in the Obama Administration, she has supported Israel’s security and defensive actions against terrorism.  She stands squarely behind President Obama’s pledge never to allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, even if preventive military action is required.  She played a pivotal role in persuading the United States and some of our European allies to boycott the notorious Durban II conference, sponsored by the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, which invited Ahmadinejad to be its keynote speaker.

More cringeworthy moments ahead: Shmuley Boteach is a rabbi who ran for Congress in New Jersey last year as a Republican and lost. His entire platform was pro-Israel. You’d think he’s political roadkill, but you’d be wrong. “Unexpectedly, Samantha got in touch,” he writes in his endorsement at Huffpo:

this week I take my yarmulke off to President Obama for one of the most impressive actions of his presidency, namely, the nomination of Samantha Power to the post of American Ambassador to the United Nations…

I am well aware that many of my colleagues in the pro-Israel camp view Samantha with suspicion and even hostility, accusing her of animus toward the Jewish state.

They are wrong.

In 2011, after being approached by pro-Israel activists in South Africa who were critical of Samantha, I wrote an article expressing my regret that someone whom I respect so deeply could make comments that were unsympathetic to Israel. Unexpectedly, Samantha got in touch. She and I share a close common friend in Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, who, as a Rhodes scholar, was President of my Jewish student organization at the University of Oxford in 1994.

Samantha invited me to the White House where she agreed to go on the record about her comments on Israel and how they had been misunderstood. 

Boteach wrote an article at that time, explaining why Power had uttered the ill-considered judgment that Israel was a major human rights violator and the U.S. might have to defy the lobby and impose a two-state solution. Power made those comments here in 2002. But it turns out she hadn’t meant any of it. The rabbi:

Power, fresh on the national media scene, was baited by the question [from a Berkeley professor] and answered that preventing such a genocide would entail America being prepared to alienate a powerful constituency — by which she meant the American-Jewish community — and sending in a protective force to prevent another situation like Rwanda. From these comments — putting Israel and the possibility of genocide against the Palestinians in a single sentence — Power has been lobbed together with other enemies of Israel.

In our conversation she rejected utterly the notion she had any animus toward Israel. She acknowledged that she had erred significantly in offering hypothetical comments that did not reflect how she felt. She said that opponents of President Obama had unfairly taken her disorganized comments further and characterized them as ‘invade Israel’ talk. She said that if she really believed that Israel could even be remotely accused of practicing genocide against the Palestinians then the correct forum for her to express that view would have been somewhere in the 664 pages of her book wherein she details all the genocides of the twentieth century. She never even hints at Israel being guilty of any such atrocity.

Now back to Shmuley Boteach’s endorsement this week. He relates Power’s abasement to the lobby in the persons of Michael Steinhardt, the former owner of the New Republic, and Elie Wiesel, and 40 members of the American Jewish community, gathered specially to learn of her devotion to the Jewish state:  

But what happened after the publication of [Boteach's earlier] article deserves to be shared.

I approached my close friend Michael Steinhardt, founder of Birthright Israel and one America’s most respected Jewish philanthropists, to tell him that I felt that Samantha was being falsely accused of anti-Israel bias. Michael and I often host small briefings for the American Jewish leadership and have played host recently to Majority Leader Eric Cantor, one of the people I most respect in government, and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s senior aid[e], Ron Dermer, who was my student at Oxford.

I asked Michael if he would host Samantha at his office and he immediately agreed. About a month later Samantha arrived to address a closed-door meeting of about 40 American Jewish leaders who represented a wide spectrum of our communities most important organizations. I introduced Samantha and said that after her remarks on Israel and the Middle East she would be taking questions.

Typical of her erudition and brilliance, Samantha presented a sweeping view of American policy in the world’s most dangerous region. Then, she directly addressed the accusations that she harbored animus toward Israel. And in the presence of the leaders of our community, she suddenly became deeply emotional and struggled to complete her presentation as she expressed how deeply such accusations had affected her. Tears streamed down her cheeks and I think it fair to say that there was noone in the room who wasn’t deeply moved by this incredible display of pain and emotion. More than a few of the leaders of the room came over to me afterward and said that, based on her comments and her unabashed display of emotional attachment to the security of the Jewish people (it bears mentioning that Samantha’s husband is also Jewish), they would never again question her commitment to Israel’s security.

Later that day I took Samantha to meet my friend and hero Nobel Peace Laureate Elie Wiesel, only to discover they already had a long friendship and that Professor Wiesel was a strong admirer of Samantha’s work.

Samantha would go on to become a dear friend with whom I would end up discussing parenting even more than the Middle East.

Awed as I always have been by Samantha’s commitment to the infinite value of human life, I suggested that we study Jewish and Biblical sources together related to her famous doctrine of R2P, Responsibility to Protect. She invited Dan Shapiro in to join us at her White House office and explained that he had just been chosen as the new United States Ambassador to Israel. We studied the Torah’s words together…

Tears streamed down her cheeks. I can’t wait for her performance in Congress. 

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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39 Responses

  1. PeaceThroughJustice
    June 9, 2013, 12:58 pm

    Good reporting. (I love that “Unexpectedly, Samantha got in touch.”) This tracing of the tentacles of power is what the site is best at.

    BTW, when Marty Peretz was working to get her book published, it may have helped that Basic Books is owned by investor Frank Pearl and its president and CEO is David Steinberger. (Jus sayin.)

    • Krauss
      June 10, 2013, 11:14 am

      Samantha may have a genuine committment to stop astrocities.
      But her lust for power is even greater.

      A sad story of how corruption in Washington works.
      I’m disgusted to read how an American official and someone who claims to be moral would have “tears running down her cheeks” in defence of an Apartheid state.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if she managed those tears as an actress, but that would say even more about her.

  2. American
    June 9, 2013, 1:19 pm

    You can put every philo semite in existence in the US government and it wont matter in the end. The dye is already cast. The US and Israel are swirling down the toilet together.

    And many other people and countries are coming out to play….in many amusing and provocative ways. No point in watching what the US does, it’s all re runs of the same movie. Watch what everyone *except the US is doing….lol

    link to guardian.co.uk border

    ”Russia offers to send replacements for Austrian troops on Israel-Syria border
    Putin stuns world with offer of peacekeepers on demilitarised border despite Russia’s open support for Assad regime”

    The Guardian, Friday 7 June 2013 11.15 EDT

    A UN convoy patrols the Israel-Syria border, where Austria is withdrawing its peacekeepers after heavy fighting between Syrian government forces and rebels. Photograph: Atef Safadi/EPA

    Russia has stunned the international community by offering to replace Austrian troops withdrawn from the peacekeeping forces on the Israeli-Syrian border in the Golan Heights, despite its open political and military support for the Assad regime.
    “Given the complicated situation in the Golan Heights, we could replace the leaving Austrian contingent in this region on the border between Israeli troops and the Syrian army,” Vladimir Putin announced during a televised meeting with Russian military officers.
    “But this will happen, of course, only if the regional powers show interest, and if the UN secretary general asks us to do so,” the president added.
    The decision to approve this offer sits with the UN security council, currently chaired by the UK, which is unlikely to judge Russia a neutral party in the Syrian conflict and suitable peacekeepers.
    “That’s Putin for you – just divorced and already looking for new adventures,” one Israeli diplomat quipped.
    Russia’s application to provide boots on Syrian soil has been interpreted in Israel as an act of provocation to the US and its British and French allies, with whom it has engaged in a tense power struggle for influence in the Syrian civil conflict, rather than a viable offer.
    The dispute reached its height last week after an EU decision to lift the arms embargo on Syria to allow the arming of rebel groups, when Russia insisted on honouring a deal to provide the Assad regime with “game-changing” S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems.
    “That delivery of S-300 missiles is a $1bn deal – big money. But there are many other deals going on inside Syria through which Russia is trying to establish a foothold in the Middle East,” another Israeli official said, on condition of anonymity.
    Austrian soldiers have made up more than a third of the 1,100-strong United Nations Disengagement Force [UNDOF] employed to ensure that the cold peace between Syria and Israel brokered in 1974 holds. After an intense battle for the strategic border town of Quneitra, Vienna announced its decision to remove its troops due to the severity of the fighting. Israel has requested that the UN replace these troops as quickly as possible.
    On Friday, the Philippines announced that it too was considering the withdrawal of its 341 troops from the border, after a Filipino soldier was injured during Thursday’s intense shelling. Should the Filipino force follow the Austrians, only 352 Indian troops would be left – a situation Israel considers unthinkable given the security council’s commitments to regional security.

    Austrian troops withdrawn from the peacekeeping forces on the Israeli-Syrian border in the Golan Heights, despite its open political and military support for the Assad regime.
    “Given the complicated situation in the Golan Heights, we could replace the leaving Austrian contingent in this region on the border between Israeli troops and the Syrian army,” Vladimir Putin announced during a televised meeting with Russian military officers.
    “But this will happen, of course, only if the regional powers show interest, and if the UN secretary general asks us to do so,” the president added.
    The decision to approve this offer sits with the UN security council, currently chaired by the UK, which is unlikely to judge Russia a neutral party in the Syrian conflict and suitable peacekeepers.
    “That’s Putin for you – just divorced and already looking for new adventures,” one Israeli diplomat quipped.
    Russia’s application to provide boots on Syrian soil has been interpreted in Israel as an act of provocation to the US and its British and French allies, with whom it has engaged in a tense power struggle for influence in the Syrian civil conflict, rather than a viable offer.
    The dispute reached its height last week after an EU decision to lift the arms embargo on Syria to allow the arming of rebel groups, when Russia insisted on honouring a deal to provide the Assad regime with “game-changing” S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems.
    “That delivery of S-300 missiles is a $1bn deal – big money. But there are many other deals going on inside Syria through which Russia is trying to establish a foothold in the Middle East,” another Israeli official said, on condition of anonymity.”

    • RoHa
      June 10, 2013, 1:59 am

      “After an intense battle for the strategic border town of Quneitra, Vienna announced its decision to remove its troops due to the severity of the fighting.”

      What is the point of “peacekeepers” who run away as soon as there is any fighting?

      • piotr
        June 10, 2013, 11:35 am

        There are many aspects of the situation, but equally well you could complain what kind of a sitting duck does not want to sit? If I were employed to be a sitting duck I would view it as my professional duty to sit there, come hell or high water.

        Concerning the attacks on the peacekeepers, it seems that the attack on the Filipino contingent was perpetrated by the rebels, I do not know what happened to the Austrians.

  3. Cliff
    June 9, 2013, 1:36 pm

    Nauseating.

    I bet she pulled a Glen Beck.

  4. MichaelSmith
    June 9, 2013, 3:18 pm

    Power lost her chance of getting into President Obama’s first administration because of her comments about Hillary Clinton, but her earlier remarks about Israel didn’t help. This time around she’s going to guarantee that there’s no daylight between her position and that of Israel’s militant supporters.

    See the wildly satirical Exile article from 2009 about the Power-Sunstein-Nussbaum romantic triangle (warning on some dirty language in there).

    It’s so cutting and cruel and spot-on, it almost makes me feel sorry for Power and her whole privileged and entitled UChicago circle.

    • PeaceThroughJustice
      June 9, 2013, 6:15 pm

      Thanks for the Exile link, Michael–
      “Samantha Power, the ‘Bob Geldof of academia’ ” :)

    • MRW
      June 10, 2013, 3:20 am

      MichaelSmith,

      The Ames article was great, just the laugh I needed. [I became a big fan of eXile during the Kosovo War. It was Mark Ames and Matt Taibbi out of control and piercing.] Loved Limonov’s advice, and this.

      Every Orwell-swooning middlebrow secretly cursed under their breath that they’d never be able to duplicate his moral outrage and moral courage without a perfectly defined cause like his—so when Bosnia presented its tragedy on a bloodied platter, Samantha, along with all the David Rieffs and Peter Maas’s and you-name-‘em-if-they-read-Orwell-they-were-in-Sarajevo’s all entered the “watch me being morally outraged on behalf of humanity” competition in Bosnia, then took the “lesson” that “defined” them there, and came away with this: in the future, if America sees slaughter going on in some part of the world we don’t understand, we should bomb the bad guys and save the good guys. Now, don’t get Samantha wrong—she ain’t no George Bush. No no no, she’s totally, totally different. I mean sure, both went to Harvard and all, but really—Samantha Power is soooo smart, and George W. Bush is sooooo stupid.

      • Donald
        June 10, 2013, 4:03 pm

        MRW–Thanks for pointing out Michael Smith’s link. Wow. I never had any interest in reading novels about pompous academics droning on about moral issues while they dump their wives or break up someone’s marriage, but if there are any as nasty/funny as that exile piece, I may have to reconsider.

        I don’t know much about Martha and Cass beyond the names and the vague sense that Cass is a neoliberal and therefore uninteresting, but I think Ames nailed Power.

      • Shingo
        June 10, 2013, 8:35 pm

        I agree Donald,

        A very entertaining article.

        I can’t help but wonder if it’s really a coincidence that the female darlings of selective foreign interventionism – Samantha Power and Anne-Marie Slaughter – were not named as such to serve their said purpose.

  5. Justpassingby
    June 9, 2013, 4:41 pm

    Someone that is applauded by Dershowitz have of course no sense of international law and will of course not pressure Israel.

    Just wait for her first israel-veto in the UN. People here must stop apologizing for these people.

    • seafoid
      June 10, 2013, 1:06 pm

      She prolly stands behind Obomba’s NSA facebook snooopers as well. Feeding American paranoia 24/7. Hope and change – read the terms and conditions carefully.

  6. LanceThruster
    June 9, 2013, 4:50 pm

    This always comes to mind when OI see the likes of Dershowittz, Boteach, et al giving their seal of approval –

    Lt. Col. Korn, XO: [speaking to Yossarian] All you have to do is be our pal.

    Colonel Cathcart: Say nice things about us.

    Lt. Col. Korn, XO: Tell the folks at home what a good job we’re doing. Take our offer Yossarian.

    Colonel Cathcart: Either that or a court-martial for desertion.

  7. pabelmont
    June 9, 2013, 5:01 pm

    Phil, you are so soft (or polite): “the great cost to the U.S. internationally of our support for the militant Jim Crow state”. Israel’s occupation is not a Jim Crow state — unless frequent lynching and other unpunished violence against the racial underdog was a recognized part of “Jim Crow” — but a murderously apartheid state.

  8. Shingo
    June 9, 2013, 6:53 pm

    Tears streamed down her cheeks. I can’t wait for her performance in Congress.

    The mind boggles. She’ll probably bring a knife and cut off her left breast.

  9. Keith
    June 9, 2013, 6:53 pm

    Samantha Power will say and do whatever is necessary to get approved so she can be in a position to influence policy in order to kill lots and lots of people in an effort to ‘save lives.’ Will Western feminists support her efforts to make the White Man’s Burden the White Woman’s as well? Nothing like a unisex humanitarian bombing to appeal to liberal interventionists. I suspect that Phil is rooting for Samantha to become part of team Obama, the more effective imperialists and warmongers.

    • Shingo
      June 9, 2013, 8:05 pm

      I suspect that Phil is rooting for Samantha to become part of team Obama, the more effective imperialists and warmongers.

      I suspect your pharmacy got your prescription mixed up with that of a paranoid schizophrenic.

  10. Blank State
    June 9, 2013, 7:44 pm

    There seems to be a disconnect between Obama’s choice of Powers, and Philip’s optimistic stance about Obama seeking to avoid war with Iran. Why nominate a liberal hawk, Powers, to this position if he wants to avoid the military option in regards to Iran??

    • Shingo
      June 9, 2013, 8:07 pm

      There seems to be a disconnect between Obama’s choice of Powers, and Philip’s optimistic stance about Obama seeking to avoid war with Iran.

      I don’t think so. Power’s job will be the same as Suzanne Rice – to veto any resolution against Israel. he could have simply written a software application to do it.

      As Phil has pointed out, Obama is placating Netenyahu in return for avoiding war with Iran.

  11. DICKERSON3870
    June 9, 2013, 7:51 pm

    RE: “Then, she [Samantha Power] directly addressed the accusations that she harbored animus toward Israel. And in the presence of the leaders of our community, she suddenly became deeply emotional and struggled to complete her presentation as she expressed how deeply such accusations had affected her. Tears streamed down her cheeks . . .” ~ from Shmuley Boteach’s endorsement

    PHIL OCHS, 1966:

    I cried when they shot Medgar Evers
    Tears ran down my spine
    I cried when they shot Mr. Kennedy
    As though I’d lost a father of mine
    But Malcolm X got what was coming
    He got what he asked for this time
    So love me, love me, love me, I’m a liberal

    I go to civil rights rallies
    And I put down the old D.A.R.
    I love Harry and Sidney and Sammy
    I hope every colored boy becomes a star
    But don’t talk about revolution
    That’s going a little bit too far
    So love me, love me, love me, I’m a liberal

    I cheered when Humphrey was chosen
    My faith in the system restored
    I’m glad the commies were thrown out
    of the A.F.L. C.I.O. board
    I love Puerto Ricans and Negros
    as long as they don’t move next door

    So love me, love me, love me, I’m a liberal . . .

    Phil Ochs — Love me, I’m a liberal [VIDEO, 4:40] – link to youtube.com

  12. atime forpeace
    June 9, 2013, 8:22 pm

    You do some remarkable writing Phil. The American Jewish community could learn something from you if you can get them to remember that they have a myth about themselves to live up to.

    “Anarchism is not a romantic fable but the hardheaded realization, based on five thousand years of experience, that we cannot entrust the management of our lives to kings, priests, politicians, generals, and county commissioners.” — Edward Abbey

  13. Sin Nombre
    June 9, 2013, 10:15 pm

    Shmuley Boteach wrote:

    “I asked Michael if he would host Samantha at his office and he immediately agreed. About a month later Samantha arrived to address a closed-door meeting of about 40 American Jewish leaders….”

    Well of *course* she did. Of *course* she had to. No mere further silence on her part regarding the Israeli/Palestinian situation would do. Her book had made her too public and her comments concerning same were already too noticed. Nor even would any mere private recantation of this to some mere member of the tribe suffice. If she wanted to go anywhere on the coattails of her book—a professorial appointment, tenure, government service, use of the faculty restrooms—and above all as a person who saw herself dwelling on some moral Mount Olympus she most certainly wanted to go somewhere, she had to *crawl.* And not just via some simpering, pathetic paragraph in a letter to an editor somewhere saying she had been “misunderstood” with her previous comments, no matter how blatantly false or disingenuous or embarrassing. She had to *abase* herself in front of a Sanhedrin of sorts. Get down on her hands and knees and right in front of them and at their leisure and straight off the carpet eat up the shit she had previously emitted, with a smile on her face showing the sincerity of her acceptance to never ever ever come close to ever emitting anything like same again….

    • seafoid
      June 10, 2013, 1:17 pm

      Boteach is such a fake. Obama reminds me of that joke about squirrels – just rats with decent PR.

  14. dbroncos
    June 9, 2013, 10:20 pm

    “Tears streamed down her cheeks and I think it fair to say that there was noone in the room who wasn’t deeply moved by this incredible display of pain and emotion.”

    The “American Jewish leaders” thought is was her unrestrained love for Israel that sent the tears rolling down her cheeks. Ha! The advancement of her promising career as a moralist required the sacrifice of her morals. That’s what made her cry.

    “display of pain and emotion” – indeed

  15. Sycamores
    June 9, 2013, 10:50 pm

    “Tears streamed down her cheeks. I can’t wait for her performance in Congress.”

    SNL skit part deux coming to you live this summer!

  16. piotr
    June 9, 2013, 11:02 pm

    Weasel-tier: ” The foulest consequence of injustice, aside from the suffering that it inflicts, is the damage that it can do to our sense of possibility; but Samantha has risen up to defend that sense, and to fortify it, and to prove it. Her good cheer…”

    And I thought that the aspect of injustice that someone is totally screwed up is so overwhelming that one should be really careful before arriving at “good cheer”. Not to be flippant, “injustice” is like a wave, so what follows is a series of waves. And sometimes it is not possible to put Humpty Dumpty together again. More precisely, what follows a screw up is in most cases another screw up. To avoid it, or to recognize if it can be avoided, a very deep examination is necessary and not some “good cheer”. And for a deep examination we need to consider hard, inconvenient cases.

    Was US government oblivious during the slaughter of Communists in Indonesia in 1965? Not really, CIA allegedly supplied lists of people who should not be overlooked etc. Mind you, it was not the awful crime of genocide because 500,000 people were slaughtered for political reasons, and the event had actually benign geo-strategic consequences. Plus, while subjectively the slaughtered ones could be idealistic, they objectively were following a sinister ideology.

    More recently, USA were involved in smaller massacres, like Dasht-i-Leili. link to en.wikipedia.org
    Only a few thousand people (it is one of the hallmarks of major massacres that the numbers are never known), but here USA was not oblivious at all: busy giving fat bags of money to the perpetrators. And around that time Power published articles with titles “Bystanders to genocide” and “Witness to horrors” but apparently, atrocities in Afghanistan were not the topic.

    But at least she restored our sense of possible and the good cheer.

  17. Donald
    June 10, 2013, 12:07 am

    ” she is a student of human rights atrocities ”

    Anyone who knew anything about human rights and American foreign policy could see the careful choices she made in what to cover in her wildly overpraised “A Problem From Hell”. I’m a broken record on this, but if you know what she has chosen to write about then her cave-in on Israel is just more of the same. Richard Holbrooke is one of the heroes in her book because Holbrooke advocated military intervention in the Balkans, and that was her theme–America should intervene to prevent genocide. But she says nothing about his role in determining US policy towards East Timor during the Carter Administration, or how Holbrooke praised himself and Paul Wolfowitz for keeping the issue of East Timor out of the 2000 Presidential election (Joseph Nevins “A Not So Distant Horror–Mass Violence in East Timor, pages 150-151).

    The book is about sins of omission–she wrote no chapters about US policy where the point was we actively supported those committing mass atrocities. She mentions how the definition of genocide was politicized from the start, because Stalin didn’t want his politically motivated killings (killing people who were allegedly members of a certain class, for instance) counted as genocide. A genuinely honest scholar would have noted that some actions taken by our allies, like the Salvadoran government in the early 80’s, would have amounted to genocide by the definition Stalin wanted to exclude, since people were killed simply on the suspicion of being leftist.

    • MRW
      June 10, 2013, 3:27 am

      Donald, read the article MichaelSmith links to. ;-)

  18. Citizen
    June 10, 2013, 7:44 am

    I apologize for posting this comment here, on this thread. I’m doing so because the debate under a recent article here (Hannah Arendt & The Hungarians) regardng the infamous Iranian president’s quote “wiped off the map” left the question of what he actually said (and in what context) open. And comments are closed. This article seems definitive to me:

    link to antiwar.com

    And note the actual words are posted on Iran’s web site, which is linked:

  19. Dan Crowther
    June 10, 2013, 10:09 am

    yeah, yeah, sure Phil – she “knows” whats right but will do the opposite because of “the lobby”

    No mention of course that Phil agreed with Power when it came to the illegal war in Libya. But, I guess, you can be a “humanitarian interventionist” if you can prove “the lobby” doesn’t have it’s hooks in you……

  20. piotr
    June 10, 2013, 10:50 am

    I would like to point out that the entire discussion of what Iranian leaders say and did not say is beside the point, or absolutely central, dependent on your world view. I call it “morality versus ethics”. I must stress that I use “morality” here as a derogatory term.

    Ethics provides rules for conduct, and the judgements, rewards and penalties are applied to actions. Morality renders judgements, rewards and penalties for individuals (or organizations, like corporations or states). The distinction is profound.

    Ethical person argues if a particular action was good or bad. Moral person argues if a particular individual is good or bad. In the case of “Iran/Israel” and “doing stuff with uranium” and ethical person tries to figure out what those two actors are doing with uranium. A moral person tries to figure out which of the two is good and which is bad.

    Mind to, when a moral person renders judgements on actions these judgements follow a-priori judgement on the individual. So the intelectual effort has to be devoted to that and therefore we have copious discussion how badly Iranians are shooting their mouth and how Israelis bestowed upon us innumerable inventions, cures and other blessings. Plus they did not collaborate with Hitler (the guy was an anti-Semitic idiot and refused reasonable offers, oops! the argument strays toward forbidden).

    Once we establish that Iran is bad and Israel is good than whatever Iran does with uranium is bad (bad guys touch such nice stuff like uranium! how awful!) and whatever Israel does is none of our interest (you would not intrude on intimate affairs of good people).

    In the context of American complicity with various massive crimes, our elite is strictly moralist: we are the good guys!

    • Philip Weiss
      June 10, 2013, 11:14 am

      I remember asking in my college newspaper memo book 40 years ago, What’s the difference between ethics and morality? No one answered. At last. Thanks Piotr

      • piotr
        June 10, 2013, 3:02 pm

        One issue which bewildering if you do not understand the distinction is the issue of “moral relativism”, the infraction that “ethical” people often commit. For example: “well, if we are supposed to attack Saddam for possessing and developing some forbidden junk than it matters if he did it or not” which gets this reply “so you would support Saddam? but he is absolutely not good!”.

        A more recent but related example: torture. To ethicals, it is a no-no but to moralist, it is highly context dependent. First, if we are good AND torture is bad than it follows that whatever we did was not torture. Second, if someone was subjected by us to something unpleasant (like being beaten for 5 days until death) than it is important to know that since we are good the people on the receiving end were really really bad (a poor taxi driver, so it is better to switch the topic to relatively anodyne water boarding of the most celebrated terrorist suspect).

        So we have those dialogues of the deaf.

  21. StephenKMackSD
    June 10, 2013, 4:11 pm

    Thank you for this most informative post, it should appear on the editorial pages of the ‘Paper of Record’ if it were a publication that honored that heavy ethical/political responsibility, implied in those three words.
    What can one say as we see the political realization of a sometime alliance between the National Security State Liberals and the Neo-Conservatives, made politically real,viable with the nomination of Ms. Power. All this against the historical scrim of the Obama Scandals of 2013 real, imagined and the product of the mind of Darrell Issa and the other Jacobins. The National Security State has swallowed the Republic whole: there is no ‘decline’ just the grim, bitter reality of that engulfment.
    StephenKMackSD

  22. LanceThruster
    June 10, 2013, 7:36 pm

    I had thought of her previous standinng up to Israel as being notably admirable, but upon being reminded of her connection (by marriage) to Cass Sunstein, I couldn’t make any predicitions on her positions as Sunstein is on record to promote disinformation in service of the state.

    “I may agree with some of the things I’ve written, but I’m not exactly sure. I’m just going to do what my boss wants me to do.” —Cass Sunstein

  23. Blank State
    June 10, 2013, 10:34 pm

    If something should happen to Obama, imagine Biden, Rice, Kerry, and Powers determining policy towards Israel.

    (Oh my gosh, did I just give Hophmi an orgasm?)

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