Samantha Power – another ‘Good’ Imperialist

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Barack Obama’s nomination of Irish-born academic and writer Samantha Power to the post of US Ambassador to the UN is yet another example of the increasing trend toward ‘humanitarian’ war by the US government’s hawks in sheep’s clothing.

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Samantha Power is, at first glance, a poster-girl for the image the Obama administration has sought to convey since 2009: a caring, liberal woman with a deep passion for human rights and a no-nonsense approach to the evil dictators and tyrants of this world. Born in Ireland in 1970, Power emigrated with her parents to the US in 1979. She subsequently lived the quintessential American Dream, an immigrant girl who worked hard in the Land of the Free to rise to the very top of US academic and political life. She was a journalist from 1993 to 1996, working for various US papers, known chiefly for covering the Yugoslav Wars, during which she saw all the horrors of that conflict that instilled in her a lifelong commitment to the cause of human rights and freedoms. America’s liberal intelligentsia rejoiced when she was appointed to the US National Security Council in 2009 – here at last was someone who would bring a morality, a conscience, nay, even a heart to US foreign policy. That’s the well-polished image, anyway. But as so often with such facades, it hides an ugly reality.

Power rose to prominence in 2002 with the release of her book A Problem from Hell, in which she chided the US for its supposed indifference to genocides that took place from Yugoslavia to Rwanda; she asks “why does the US stand so idly by?”. No mention in the book’s 600-odd pages, of course, of the myriad atrocities perpetrated at the behest of the US government and the CIA since the end of World War Two –  the mass slaughter of communists in Indonesia in 1965 and 66 by the US-backed Suharto regime, or that country’s savage invasion of East Timor, readily approved by US president Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, one of history’s worst war criminals. No mention of the disastrous UN sanctions against Iraq in the 1990s that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children. In fact, not much mention at all of any horrific war crimes and mass killings that were committed with the intention of furthering America’s goals for global hegemony. But of course, one could hardly rise to the top of the US political pyramid by telling the truth.

No, Samantha Power’s solution to the perceived intransigence of the US to international human rights abuses is simple, and dovetails quite nicely with current US geopolitical objectives. She asserts that, in preventing genocide and human rights abuses, America needs to look at ‘all the tools in the toolbox’ – including military force. Power’s idea of spreading human rights and American democracy to the dark, backward world outside its borders is to deliver them on the warhead of a cruise missile.

She was one of the chief influences behind the Obama administration’s decision to intervene militarily in the Libyan conflict in 2011. The NATO bombardment of Libya that followed killed who knows how many civilians. NATO themselves say around 60; this is hardly believable given the ferocity of the assault. In the end the evil dictator (who had the temerity to kick foreign militaries out of his country, nationalise its resources and provide its people with the highest living standards in Africa) was brought down, butchered on the side of a desert road; to Samantha Power and her liberal followers, this intervention was a resounding success, and proof positive for her assertion that America needs to take a more robust role in defending human rights abroad.

What everyone conveniently forgets is that the NATO intervention in Libya just happens to have plunged that country into medieval chaos, its infrastructure destroyed, its government of western puppets barely worthy of the name, the country ruled effectively by the dozens of tribal and Islamic militias that NATO unleashed upon the people of Libya at the start of their programme for regime-change in 2011. Libya can presently be described as an utter mess, if we’re being generous. One doubts whether Samantha Power would leave her comfortable home in the US to go live in the paradise her ideas on spreading ‘freedom’ have created in Libya. Then again, the destruction of Libya was never really about protecting human rights, and Samantha Power knows this very well. In truth Libya was removed from the picture because it was an obstacle to US and western military and economic hegemony in the Middle East and North Africa.

A similar game is being played at the moment in Syria, a vital bulwark against US and Israeli aggression in the region, and a vital ally of Iran and Hezbollah, the US and Israel’s current arch-enemies respectively. No doubt Power would like to see what the rest of the war-hawks in Washington desire to happen in Syria – another Libya-style NATO air bombardment, the decimation of the country, the deaths of thousands of civilians, and a western-compliant client government installed to complete the military encirclement of Iran. And all, as Samantha Power and her hypocritical ilk would have us believe, to promote ‘human rights’. To hell with the actual human cost.

The new trend in US foreign policy towards a  more benevolent-seeming imperialism is a clever move on the part of Barack Obama, a man portrayed by himself and his administration as a champion of peace and diplomacy (and consequently by the lunatic right in America as an evil communist). For the American public during the Bush years, the horrific reality of American imperial adventures abroad came home to them in the form of the thousands of flag-draped coffins, filled with their loved ones, that returned from Iraq and Afghanistan. Not since the Vietnam War was the price of advancing US imperialism so obvious to the docile and pliant American people. It wouldn’t do. So along comes Barack Obama, the man of peace, and the perfect figurehead for ‘good’ imperialism. No more dead American soldiers (well, fewer anyway); instead, the enemies of freedom, young and old, men and women, innocent or guilty, are obliterated by robot killing machines called ‘Predators’ and ‘Reapers’, piloted remotely from US Air Force bases in Nevada by the young soldiers of the first video-game generation, who have no compunction about pressing a button to kill; they’ve grown up doing it after all.

And if the drones won’t do the job – recruit useful idiots like Islamic radicals, malcontents, criminals and mercenaries to destroy the desired target country from within; see Libya and Syria. When the evil government of said country defends itself against such militants, get the media to scream ‘genocide’, and in come the likes of Samantha Power and the good imperialists, to deliver hope and salvation from the ordnance-bay of a B2 stealth bomber.  After all, what better image to portray for the American and western public than the old Hollywood cliche of the brave US cavalry charging to the rescue of the helpless and oppressed. It is a sham. Samantha Power’s lethal ideas for the spreading of human rights are a sham. And that so many people are apparently still fooled by such lies is perhaps the greatest sham of all.