Reprinted from AlterNet
"We need to deter the Palestinians in any way we can." --Samantha Power, July 17, 2013
A new documentary called "Watchers of the Sky" tells the moving story of Raphael Lemkin, Polish lawyer and resistance fighter who spent his final years seeking to secure legislation against the crime of genocide at the United Nations. Lemkin's struggle to guarantee a legal order capable of preventing the slaughter of civilians is brought to life through the narration of Samantha Power, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and famed diplomat who earned renown with her 2002 book, "A Problem From Hell," documenting the international community's failure to stop genocide in Rwanda.
Power emerges during the film not only as Lemkin's biographer, but as his natural successor. She appears as a towering crusader for human rights using her influence as the US Ambassador to the UN to ensure that the phrase, "Never again," is not just an empty slogan. A tireless advocate for the oppressed described by journalist Tara McKelvey as the "femme fatale of the humanitarian-assistance world," her quest to keep Lemkin's legacy alive seems to transcend American foreign policy objectives.
"The hardest part about my position is having great visibility into a lot of the pain that's out there," Power declares in a voice trembling with emotion. "It's not someone else's responsibility or the fodder for an article. It's the fodder for what we can do about it."
In her five years in government, however, Power has done nothing of substance to prevent atrocities. In fact, her most notable accomplishment might be her enabling of their most ruthless perpetrators, primarily through her protection of Israel, a serial human rights abuser and the world's only active settler-colonial state. In Syria, meanwhile, where one of the greatest atrocities of modern times continues to devour civilian lives, Power's high-profile initiatives have done little more than generate publicity for herself. And in Libya, where Power's demand for military intervention influenced President Barack Obama's decision to authorize force, the US has thrown open the floodgates of chaos, transforming a repressive but functional state into a destabilized battleground for local warlords and jihadists.
Without any mention of her actual accomplishments in government, "Watchers of the Sky" feels like a whitewash of a failure and moral fraud. But perhaps that was the point. Honored with the Ostrovsky Award by an Israeli foundation at the Jerusalem Film Festival during the height of Israel's brutal assault on the Gaza Strip, "Watchers of the Sky" appears to be Power's reward for her role in protecting Israel from international scrutiny and advancing American unilateralism. Through her active participation in the film, Power reveals herself as a dangerous cynic intent on shrouding her real record behind the aura of a long-dead human rights icon.
Indeed, while the film plays in cities around the US, earning critical acclaim along the way, Power remains an active enabler of some of the most egregious crimes against humanity.
Power entered Obama's orbit just as excitement was building around his campaign for president. She endeared herself to the candidate first with a 2007 memo blaming "Washington's conventional wisdom" for the "strategic blunder" of invading Iraq. She claimed that electing Obama would mean "a break from a broken way of doing things," ushering in a new era of "fresh strategic thinking and common sense."
"Barack Obama says we have to turn the page," Power declared. "We cannot afford any more of this kind of bankrupt conventional wisdom. He has laid out a foreign policy that is bold, clear, principled, and tailored for the 21st century."
Elected with a mandate to change Washington, Obama appointed Power as Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights on the National Security Council. The newfangled position sounded like it was custom tailored for a fresh strategic thinker like her. She played basketball with George Clooney and posed for spreads in glossy fashion magazines. Marie Claire declared her "the Smartest Woman in America." Her book on the martyred Brazilian UN diplomat Sergio Vieira de Mello and his "fight to save the world" earned critical raves. Nearly everything Power did was under the media's spotlight -- everything except her actual duties inside the White House.
Described by White House foreign policy speechwriter Ben Rhodes as "the point person at the White House on all issues related to Israel at the UN," Power routinely coordinated with the Israeli government to help protect its occupation of Palestinian territory. It was a decidedly conventional task that began with her leading of the efforts to weaken the impact of the Goldstone Report that found Israel guilty of crimes against humanity during its assault on the Gaza Strip in 2008-09. She then helped shield Israel from legal scrutiny after its commandos massacred eight Turkish activists and one US citizen in international waters on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in 2010. Next, Power spearheaded the US strategy to undermine the Palestinian Authority's bid for statehood at the United Nations.
"Not a week went by without Samantha [Power] and me coordinating on an initiative to defend Israel from being singled out for unfair criticism at the UN or to protect against unilateral moves," said US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro.
So much for breaking with a broken way of doing things.