Samantha Power, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, appeared on ABC’s “This Week” to talk primarily about Ukraine. At the end of the interview, host George Stephanopoulos got a chance to ask her about Syria. This was the exchange:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, some disturbing video coming out of Syria this week — and I think we’re going to show it — right now reports of another poison gas attack, the first since August. The rebels have put out the video. Syrian state television has claimed that actually the rebels are behind the gas attack, not the government. Do we know who is behind this?
POWER: We are trying to run this down. So far, it’s unsubstantiated. But we’ve shown, I think in the past, that we will do everything in our power to establish what has happened and then consider possible steps in response.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And if the government did this after the president draws the red line, after they promised to turn over chemical weapons, will we have any option but to strike militarily?
POWER: Well, I’m not going to get ahead of the president, but the president has made very clear how alarming he finds chemical weapons use, how outrageous he found it, that’s why he put the credible threat of military force on the table, that’s why we’ve been able to destroy and remove more than half of Syria’s chemical weapons up to this point. But certainly the point of what we’ve done so far is to prevent further use. We weren’t just removing for removing sake, it was to avoid use. So we will have to look at our policy on this.
Her disingenuousness is remarkable, even in this administration.
Let’s begin by recalling that Power wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning book on humanitarian intervention, a bold call for action when mass slaughter of innocents is going on. Repulsed by our failure to intervene in genocidal episodes like Rwanda, she received plaudits from liberals and conservatives for her indictment of a policy that, ironically enough, took form under the watchful eye of Susan Rice, who is now national security adviser.
President Obama has not moved — militarily or to aid rebels sufficiently — to prevent a death toll approaching 200,000 in Syria. Someone should ask Power in a future interview what she thinks about that, whether mass murder by conventional means is any less horrible and what she thinks history will say about the administration’s actions. Frankly, many of us would like to know how she sleeps at night, knowing her boss is repeating the grotesque experience of the Clinton administration, which attracted her ire.
She notes “we will do everything in our power to establish what has happened,” but then only “consider possible steps in response.” They consider, and tens of thousands die. They work very hard (but not quickly), we learned last year, in figuring out what occurred. That, however, does not translate into meaningful action.
And it’s good to know that the president finds the use of chemical weapons “alarming” and “outrageous,” because they were used many times, we now know, before he promised to act, then didn’t and finally shoved the whole mess in Russia’s direction. What message does it send when simply giving back part of your chemical weapons haul is the only price to be paid after they are used, and used repeatedly?
Continuing on, Power really must be pulling our leg when she said that the president put out the “credible threat of military force.” Yes, he did. And then looked to Congress to bail him out. And then did not use the threat of force. If this is “credible,” then the word has no meaning.
And finally, she lets on that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has about half his stash of chemical weapons as we come up on the one-year mark of their first suspected use. Obama never disarmed Assad or employed force to deter future use, so it should not be surprising that Assad still has a whole lot of chemical weapons and is very possibly still using them.
Her interview reminds me of a question: Doesn’t anyone resign on principle anymore? I know people get fired. And some people get other, more lucrative jobs. Some people get worn out. But what ever happened to a strongly worded letter explaining why one’s conscience does not allow further service in an administration? I suspect people these days delude themselves into thinking they are making a difference. Or maybe careerism trumps everything.
Power is no worse than others, I guess, but her previous writings and speeches led many (falsely, I guess) to think that she had some moral spine about these issues. I wonder who will write the book about the mass murder that the Obama-Power-Hillary Clinton-John Kerry team couldn’t bestir themselves to end.