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Samantha Power at McConnell Center Cites Burma, No Palestine or Haiti

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 12 -- Common foreign policy positions between Republicans like Mitch McConnell and Democrats in the Obama administration were highlighted by US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power at (what else?) the McConnell Center at the University of Louisville on January 12.

  Power did not mention Palestine.  She mentioned Israel in the context of Obama stopping Iran from getting nuclear weapons. (This portion of the speech, the old news that the Obama administration wants more time to negotiate before new nuclear sanctions, was packaged as breaking news by Reuters.)

  On the fifth anniversary of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Power even while correctly calling the performance of UN Peacekeepers "uneven" did not mention the island, much less the UN bringing cholera there, and the US arguing for the UN's impunity.

  Power started with three issues: Ebola (praising among others Kentuckian Muriel Harris), the fight against ISIS (praising a Kentuckian appropriator) and Burma (she used that name, not Myanmar).

  Myanmar is seems was chosen in order to quote a 2002 letter from Aung San Suu Kyi to McConnell. Power to her credit did bring up the plight of the Rohingya in Rakhine state, but did not mention or opine on part of the UN agreeing to not even use the word "Rohingya."

 (On Myanmar, Power mentioned attacks on the Muslim Rohingya by extremist Buddhist monks. Some wondered if this analysis might stretch to Sri Lanka, where the BBS monks do it too - but no, at least not in this speech. Here in fairness is Power on Sri Lanka.)

  Power recounted a student from Rahkine getting to ask President Obama a question. But when the Q&A at the McConnell Center came, the same person read out all of the questions -- and none mentioned Palestine, or the International Criminal Court much less whether the US should turn over Lord's Resistance Army deputy Ongwen to the ICC.

  It was not that kind of a speech. But how about the Q&A? How could none even mention Palestine, from any perspective? Even in Myanmar - or "Burma" - the Rakhine student got to ask his own question. Why not in Louisville?

Bigger picture, from before: when an activist becomes an ambassador, what happens?

  Back on September 30, 2014 US Ambassador Samantha Power emerged from the UN Security Council and described to the press some of the General Debate week meetings held by President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry and she had in New York.

  She mentioned the Biden-chaired meeting on Strengthening Peace Operations, which came to be described as a pledging conference. But what of particular problems with UN Peacekeeping that need to be strengthened, such as its covering up of attack on civilians in Darfur as alleged by a whistleblower?

  UN inaction amid death in Darfur is the type of issue an activist, including this one, fastens onto and doesn't let go. But right now the Obama administration likes and is using the United Nations, and so offers very little criticism of it.

  Recently the US State Department filed legal papers supporting the UN's immunity -- read, impunity -- for allegedly having brought cholera to Haiti. In the General Debate on September 29, the foreign minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

called on the United Nations to accept itsrole and offer recompense to the victims of the cholera outbreak that its peacekeepers have been proven to introduce to Haiti. A year later, the UN continues to dodge its moral and ethical responsibility. The legitimacy of this body to conduct future peacekeeping missions and the legacy of its leadership at the highest levels, will be irreparably damaged by failure to immediately redress this glaring wrong.

  An activist, including this one, would latch onto such an analysis and not let go. But right now, the US is supporting the UN's impunity.

  Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric about the quote at the September 30 noon briefing, and he said the UN is raising money, and Ban Ki-moon visited Haiti. But what about accountability? How can the UN preach rule of law while dodging the service of legal papers?

  Or a closer question: how can UN Peacekeeping, even to try to belatedly stop the bloodletting in the Central African Republic, use helicopters from the Sri Lankan Army, currently under investigation for war crimes by the UN's own Human Rights Council?

  How about moves against freedom of the press inside the UN, in writing, on video, systemic?

  Or back to Darfur: even in order to carrying corpses in the Ebola red-zone, how can the UN move out 400 four by fours from Darfur, which it is accused of covering up ongoing attacks on civilians?

  There are, of course, smaller or less media-genic issues on which the roles of activist and ambassador don't conflict. The freeing in Burundi, if only on health grounds, of human rights activist Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, would seem to merit some comment from Ambassador Power, given her comments at the beginning of the month and before.

  These type of questions are not taken or at least, were not taken on September 30. Instead the line of the questions taken, some in advance, ranged from a request to criticize Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov's General Debate speech (done), to praise Ban Ki-moon (done), and to disagree with Syrian Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari (done). Even on the perennial issue of Palestine there was little pushing. It is an ecosystem. Watch this site.


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