To Comfort The Afflicted
And Afflict The Comfortable

To Comfort The Afflicted And Afflict The Comfortable

Saturday, August 15, 2020

New Observercast

Champion Of Human Rights? Not Exactly

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BY JEREMY KUZMAROV

On Oct. 29, Samantha Power, the former United States Ambassador to the United Nations, is scheduled to speak at B’nai Emmunah synagogue in Tulsa in conversation with Dr. John Schumann, the president of OU-Tulsa.

An advertisement for the event claims that Power is widely known as a “relentless advocate for promoting human rights” and has been heralded by President Barack Obama as “one of America’s foremost thinkers on foreign policy.”

Left out of the glowing praise is Power’s dubious role in championing the 2011 U.S.-NATO bombing of Libya, which transformed Africa’s wealthiest country into a failed state.

Power first gained fame as a result of her 2002 Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “A Problem From Hell:” America in the Age of Genocide, which claimed that America failed to prevent genocides in the past when it had a moral responsibility to do so.

Power’s study, however, is selective in its case studies, leaving out mass killings in which the U.S. government was not simply a bystander, but actively collaborated with the perpetrators or directed the slaughter.

Power’s analysis of the Bosnian and Kosovo war in the 1990s blames only Serb leader Slobodan Milosevic for “stoking nationalist flames” and igniting the conflict when its origins were more complex.

She lambastes the Bush and Clinton administrations for “failing to save Bosnia” through military intervention, ignoring their role in covertly arming Croat rebels and al Qaeda-backed Islamists whom she compares with antifascists in the Spanish civil war.

Power’s discussion of Rwanda promotes the myth that the Clinton Administration stood by idly while Hutu extremists slaughtered Tutsi in one of the world’s worst genocides.

The mass killings of 1994 ensued following a civil war, however, instigated by the Tutsi-Rwandan Patriotic Front [RPF] invasion from Uganda, which was supported by the United States and Britain.

The UN Human Rights Commission [UNHCR] determined that RPF soldiers carried out terrorist bombings and massacred an estimated 10,000 Hutu civilians per month.

A UN investigation also found Kagame and the RPF responsible for shooting down Hutu President Juvenal Habyarimana’s airplane on April 6, 1994 – the crime that triggered Rwanda’s descent into barbarism.

Power advanced to the highest reaches of power not on the strength of her scholarship but rather on the ideological serviceability of her message to what C. Wright Mills termed the “power elite.”

The U.S. political economy is dominated by defense industries who command billions of dollars for the manufacture of arms and weapons. Their profitability depends on a permanent war footing.

When Cold War pretexts for intervention lost their viability, government officials began to claim that military intervention was necessary on humanitarian grounds, appropriating some of the language used by the 1960s anti-Vietnam War protestors.

Power’s book came just at the right time to help advance the message that America had not done enough to prevent genocide and needed to intervene militarily to save people.

Power was predictably selective in her concern for human rights during her time in Washington.

Like contemporaries such as Hillary Clinton and Susan Rice, she fixated on the plight of Afghan women and Syrian refugees from the Bashar al-Assad regime, while ignoring the victims of U.S. supported violence such as the 2014 Israeli assault in Gaza, Rwandan occupation of North Kivu, Saudi attack on Yemen, Ugandan occupation of South Sudan and Ukrainian military assault on its eastern provinces.

Power’s role in support of the 2011 U.S.-NATO war in Libya was particularly harmful to the cause of human rights.

After protests had broken out in Benghazi against Libya’s long-standing ruler Muammar Qaddafi in February 2011, Power stated that the people “were taking tremendous risks; coming to the square and reading poetry.”

Most of the protesters were Islamic fundamentalists, however, who supported restoration of the old Sanussi monarchical order, even adopting its flag.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned against military intervention in Libya, saying it would result in another Middle East quagmire.

Power’s view, by contrast, was that military intervention was necessary to halt a bloodbath resulting from Qaddafi’s drive on Benghazi.

However, Qaddafi had not perpetrated any bloodbaths in any of the cities his forces had recaptured after violent protests had broken out.

Qaddafi’s Foreign Minister, Khaled Kaim, had asked for a delay of NATO bombing to allow for inspection and was rebuffed.

Libyan tanks on the road to Benghazi were bombed not when they were advancing, furthermore, but during their retreat.

The London Daily Telegraph reported that a bloodbath took place when the Sanussi rebels took control of Benghazi, after which Al Qaeda flags were seen flying over the courthouse.

Black African migrants who supported Qaddafi were dragged from apartments, beaten and killed.

Nine-hundred million dinars [$500 million U.S. dollars] was stolen from the Libya’s state-owned central bank, as the rebels quickly established a new central bank and oil company.

According to the Telegraph, “so-called ‘revolutionaries’ and ‘freedom fighters’ [were] in fact rampaging gunmen committing atrocities airbrushed from mainstream reports.”

Among their victims were Tawherga, black-skinned peoples living on the outskirts of Misrata who were subjected to an ethnic cleansing operation. Graffiti on the walls of their abandoned homes read abeed,” a slur for blacks.

The Tulsans who brought Samantha Power to town want to present her as a great champion of human rights.

They overlook that she has provided ideological rationalization for pre-emptive military strikes and championed wars that proved detrimental to human rights.

Jeremy Kuzmarov
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Jeremy Kuzmarov is a member of the Tulsa Peace Fellowship and author of four books on U.S. foreign policy including The Russians are Coming, Again: The First Cold War as Tragedy, the Second as Farce, with John Marciano [New York: Monthly Review Press, 2018]; Obama’s Unending Wars: Fronting the Foreign Policy of the Permanent Warfare State [Atlanta: Clarity Press, 2019]; and The Myth of the Addicted Army: Vietnam and the Modern War on Drugs [Massachusetts, 2009].