NYU, Susan Rice Superstar Is Cheered But Still No Questions from Press,
Quiet on Reform
Matthew Russell Lee
YORK, August 12 -- The Obama administration's Ambassador to the UN
Susan Rice on August 12 gave a speech at New York University
outlining the "global challenges" facing the
United States. Surprisingly none of those mentioned at the top were in
or about Africa. As
has happened for months uptown at the UN, she took no questions from
the press, and only four from the audience. Nonetheless the hall was
packed and high security, testament to the near
cult-like status Obama and some around him have in New York City.
speech, Ambassador Rice listed nuclear weapons in Iran and North
Korea, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, "cyber attacks on our
digital infrastructure... and a climate that is warming by the day."
How serious, then, is the U.S. about the African issues which make up
the majority of the UN Security Council's agenda, from the Congo
through Zimbabwe to Somalia?
boss Hillary Clinton, at the beginning of her recent rocky trip to
Africa, simultaneously announced increases in weaponry to Somalia's
weak Transitional Federal Government, which controls very little
territory in the country, while denouncing Eritrea for interfering in
Somalia. The seeming contradiction should be explained, one assumes
by the American Ambassador to the UN where Somalia is discussed. But
so far there's been no chance.
Rice's speech was any real reform of the UN mentioned. American
taxpayers, it was revealed this year, were ripped off by the UN in
Afghanistan. What has been the follow-up? In the
peacekeeping, what is the American proposal on how to try and
discipline soldiers accused os sexual abuse? Ambassador Rice has not
of nepotism is a theme at the UN this summer, from
the UN Development Program to the UN Office of Project Services. The
US Mission to the UN has had nothing to say on these topics.
If the U.S.
stops pushing for reform and clean up the UN, who will?
Susan Rice in agreement with UN's Ban: immunity =
they promoted to the UN press corps Susan Rice's speech at NYU, as if
it would answer questions.
the run-up to the event, Inner City Press was told that if there were
time, there would be a Q & A. Of course, Ambassador Rice would be
the one to choose if there was time. Nevertheless in good faith Inner
City Press went and arrived on time. In a half-filled overflow room,
Ambassador Rice spoke on a video screen, reading verbatim from a
previously circulated speech. Inner City Press' renewed request to be
present for the Q&A was finally granted, to the US Mission's
credit -- at first they'd responded that since the questions would
not be from the press, it made no difference where one was. In fact,
it did: inside the room, in front of both UN and US flags, Amb. Rice
held forth at length.
questions were taken. Former Congressman Brademas who runs NYU asked
if Rice has had any problems with Russia and China. Surprisingly few,
she answered. One wondered: what about Sri Lanka and the carnage
there? What about Zimbabwe and now Myanmar? Amb. Rice said that her
Russian counterpart -- Vitaly Churkin -- had called her as she drove
to give the speech to ask about it. Can you say, Abkhazia?
concerned Iraqi refugees; the third was about terrorism. In response,
Amb. Rice said she will be sponsoring an Iftar dinner at her
residence, which is in the Waldorff=Astoria. The security in the room
was surprisingly tight. For the final question, Amb. Rice picked the
questioner, in the name of gender balance. Partisan balance too, at
least on paper: the questioner said she'd worked for former
Ambassador Khalilzad, and asked if Rice knew how to "break the
voting blocks" in the General Assembly. Rice said if she
answered honestly, it wouldn't help the breaking. And then it was
* * *
UN, Rice on Peacekeeping But Not UN Reform, Obama's Lack of Engagement
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, August 5 -- In a rare press availability at the UN, US
Ambassador Susan Rice made much of recent Congressional action which
will allow the U.S. to make up its peacekeeping payment arrears, to
the tune of $2.2 billion. Neither to the Press nor in her Security
Council speech, however, did she mention the problem
of sexual abuse
and exploitation by peacekeepers nor the lack of transparency when
disciplinary action is meted out, if ever.
This lack of focus on
issues of reforming the UN contrasts not only to previous U.S.
advocacy in and about the UN, but even with Secretary of State Hilary
Clinton's stated goals for her trip to Africa, particularly Goma in
Eastern Congo. To talk about UN peacekeeping without any focus on
"first do no harm" is a strange position for the U.S. to be
taking. Then again, the U.S. hardly contributes any personnel, even
military observers or police.
by Susan Rice, and presence of the U.S. Mission's spokesman were both
rare enough these days that they drew attention and comment from
the UN press corps. Journalists
speculate that Susan Rice, so often in Washington these days, would
like to return there full time. Some say she's gunning for Hilary
Clinton's job, but may have to wait some time.
of the Obama administration's seeming lack of engagement with the
UN so far this year is that, as with Myanmar and North Korea, they
have been conducting a review before doing anything.
US's Susan Rice and spokesman in previous too rare stakeout
visit to the UN next month, on climate change and non-proliferation
sandwiched around a trip to Pittsburgh where and when the
Administration chose to locate the G-20 meeting, smack in the middle
of the UN general assembly meeting but hundreds of miles away, will
mark a new beginning.
Some say more
will be demanded of Secretary
General Ban Ki-moon. Perhaps even UN reform issues will finally be
raised. Watch this site.