Last week the New York Times ran an article titled “Samantha Power: My Friend, the Russian Ambassador,” in which the former US ambassador to the UN described herself as “heartbroken” over the death of Vitaly Churkin, with whom she had worked closely.
First the good part. I like that Samantha Power recognizes that the late ambassador was doing his job and probably wanted peace:
It is well known that it was Vitaly Churkin who raised his hand six times to veto Syria-related resolutions, but it is less known that it was Vitaly who worked frantically (and in the end futilely) to try to secure enough changes to the drafts that Moscow might support them…
I got the sense that he valued Mr. Putin’s restoration of Russia’s relevance on the global stage, but would have preferred peaceful methods.
This might also be true of Power. Maybe she is consciously or not describing how she sees herself: someone who wants peace but works within the system and covers up or whitewashes the brutal atrocities supported by the government she represents. This piece might be a kind of absolution Power is granting herself.
But whatever subtext might be there, what is actually on the page is self-serving propaganda. She talks about “countless civilians” killed by Russia in Syria. This is a one-sided and frankly dishonest contrast between Russia and the US. She is right that Russia has killed thousands of civilians (not “countless”, whatever that means) in Syria. But according to Airwars, which seeks to tabulate the killings by all sides in a thorough manner, the US has killed a lesser but comparable number of civilians in Iraq and Syria.
Our ally the Saudis have killed thousands of civilians in Yemen with our help. The Israelis killed about 1500 civilians in Gaza in 2014 with no condemnation from its prinicipal ally and arms supplier in DC. In all cases, the parties responsible either deny the facts or blame the other side.
So Power is basically describing herself when she both praises and criticizes her late friend the Russian ambassador.
Sometimes — such as when he ludicrously argued that civilians in Aleppo had simply covered themselves in dust to look like bombing victims for photographers — my abhorrence infected our working relationship.
The bigger issue is how the New York Times can justify giving space to a former government official to indulge in such hypocritical propaganda– with little or no likelihood that a detailed response will ever appear in the paper’s pages. There isn’t even a comment thread available on this article by a former official.
I don’t get why liberals tolerate this hypocrisy. Though perhaps this is the function of the New York Times: dishing out pseudo-liberal tripe that reinforces complacency among its readers about the crimes of the people they voted for.
You would like to think it would stop working. You’d like to think political satirists would turn this kind of piece into an occasion for mockery, so that the readers would wise up.