‘Humanitarian wars’, Bahrain, and Samantha Power

This is a video about oil corporation BP, its logo, and its pollution.

There is ‘greenwashing‘: polluting corporations like BP or Shell spend lots of money on getting an ‘ecological’ public image, with green logos and other public relations gimmicks.

There is another type of greenwash, where the green is the green of military uniforms. It is the greenwash of rebranding wars ‘humanitarian’ wars. While, in practice, these wars are more and more refugees; more and more people maimed; piles of dead bodies getting higher and higher. No matter how often some NATO spin doctor sticks a “liberal” label on the wars. No matter how often corporate media keep repeating how “humanitarian” the military invasions are.

Let us have a look into how recent developments in United States representation in the United Nations fit into this pattern.

Susan Rice, former US Ambassador to the UN.

Susan Rice, former US Ambassador to the UN. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The United States representative in the UN used to be Ms Susan Rice. There was talk of promoting her to Secretary of State, succeeding Hillary Clinton. The Republican party in the US Congress disliked Rice as “too liberal” (and some Republicans disliked her for being African-American). Ms. Rice was made the scapegoat for the murder of the US ambassador to Libya (while basically the whole US political establishment, including Republican Senator McCain, who had flip-flopped from Gaddafi crony to crony of Gaddafi’s Al-Qaeda-ish enemies, had contributed in setting the scene for that murder and much other violence in Libya).

The US administration then nominated Samantha Power for the UN job. Ms Power did not have Ms Rice’s unpopularity with the Republican right wing. In the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sixteen votes said Yes to her; only two said No.

Who is Samantha Power?

The Irish Left Review writes about her:

Samantha Power – another ‘Good’ Imperialist

June 14, 2013, Alán Cienfuegos

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.

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.

In fact, Ms Power’s position was/is like most of NATO countries’ political and big media establishments: supposedly, all horrors in Yugoslavia were the work of Serbs. While Croatian nationalists, ethnic Albanian nationalists, etc. were supposedly heroic freedom fighters. Not so. And Western countries’ military intervention in Yugoslavia killed many civilians, including children.

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.

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.

More about Ms Power as a ‘greenwasher’ of really very anti-human rights wars.

By Jeff Bachman in the USA:

Samantha Power: Human rights advocate no more?

07/25/13 04:00 PM ET

On July 17, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on Samantha Power’s nomination to be the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations. In order to gain the support of the members of the committee, which it is clear Power did as demonstrated by the committee’s 16-2 vote in her favor, Power disavowed her previous criticism of U.S. foreign policy, ignored President Obama’s own disastrous human rights record and, in the process, undermined her credibility on issues of human rights.

Two of Power’s claims exemplify her detachment from the reality of the Obama administration’s human rights record, a record that has been built largely under Power’s supervision. The first claim deals with how the U.S. responds to human rights violations committed by other members of the international community. In her testimony Power claimed, “If I am given the honor of sitting behind the sign that says ‘United States,’ I will do what America does best: stand up against repressive regimes and promote human rights.” This must be news to protesters in Bahrain.

In Bahrain, a popular protest movement seeking democratic reforms and greater respect for human rights began on February 14, 2011. Nearly two-and-a-half years later, the situation in Bahrain continues to deteriorate. Bahrainis with the courage to openly protest their government’s repression face systematic abuses that include arbitrary detention, torture, and extrajudicial execution. Members of the political opposition and human rights activists have been specifically targeted.

Rather than stand up for the rights of Bahrainis, the Obama administration has done the opposite. In 2011, Congress delayed a planned $53 million arms sale to Bahrain over human rights concerns. The Obama administration resumed arms sales to Bahrain in 2012, using a loophole that allows the executive branch to make arms sales free of congressional oversight when individual sales are under $1 million.

More recently, Juan Mendez, who was seeking to investigate allegations of torture in fulfillment of his mission as UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, was denied, for a second time, entry to Bahrain. These are the actions of a repressive regime that does not respect the rights of its people.

If confirmed, will Power raise the issue of Bahrain’s repression and human rights violations at the Security Council? Is there a Security Council resolution sponsored by the United States condemning Bahrain in our future? Clearly, what Power meant to say in her testimony was that she will stand up against oppressive regimes and in promotion of human rights when the Obama administration and the “national interest” permit.

Power’s second claim deals with the United States’ own human rights practices. According to Power, “The United States is the leader in human rights. It’s the leader in human dignity…We hold people accountable. That’s what we do—because we believe in international humanitarian law and we observe those laws.” Bush and Obama administration officials, you’ve been forewarned. Guantanamo detainees and potential innocent victims of drone strikes, rejoice!

Guantanamo Bay currently holds 166 detainees. 86 detainees have been cleared for release. At least 70 detainees are on hunger strike, with 46 of those designated for force-feeding. The indefinite detention of prisoners cleared for release is a clear violation of human rights law and the force-feeding of detainees on hunger strike is a violation of the UN Convention Against Torture.

President Obama’s targeted killing program violates international humanitarian law in a number of ways. For example, the authorization of so-called “signature strikes” violates the laws of war’s principle of distinction. By targeting individuals and groups based in behavioral characteristics rather than concrete identification, the Obama administration is failing to distinguish between civilians and combatants.

Two recent revelations also undermine claims of drone precision. According to Larry Lewis, a principal research scientist at the Center for Naval Analyses, drone strikes in Afghanistan have been ten times more deadly for civilians than attacks performed by fighter jets. Chris Woods of The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported on a leaked Pakistani document, stating, “The internal document shows Pakistani officials too found that CIA drone strikes were killing a significant number of civilians – and have been aware of those deaths for many years.”

If confirmed, will Power seek to hold members of the Bush and Obama administrations accountable for violations of the Torture Convention and for war crimes? Is there a Security Council resolution referring members of both administrations to the ICC under Rome Statute Article 13(b) in our future?

Bush and Obama administration officials, have no fear. According to Power’s testimony, “serving in the executive branch is very different than sounding off from an academic perch.”

Apparently, whether violations of human rights and humanitarian law are recognized as such depends on who one’s employer is. Until I’m invited to join an administration, I guess I’ll keep chirping away from my academic perch.

Bachman is a professorial lecturer in Human Rights and Director of Ethics, Peace, and Global Affairs at the School of International Service at American University.

Samantha Power, Obama’s Atrocity Enabler. A new documentary whitewashes the U.S. Ambassador to the UN’s record of covering for some of the worst human rights abusers: here.

Bahrain: The Arab Spring Protests You Don’t Know About: here.

The “war on terror” with a liberal veneer by Deepa Kumar and Arun Kundnani: here.


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