Samantha Power: Liberal War Hawk

by | Jun 16, 2015


Propaganda and genocide almost always go hand in hand, with the would-be aggressor stirring up resentment often by assuming the pose of a victim simply acting in self-defense and then righteously inflicting violence on the targeted group.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power understands this dynamic having written about the 1994 genocide in Rwanda where talk radio played a key role in getting Hutus to kill Tutsis. Yet, Power is now leading propaganda campaigns laying the groundwork for two potential ethnic slaughters: against the Alawites, Shiites, Christians and other minorities in Syria and against the ethnic Russians of eastern Ukraine.

Though Power is a big promoter of the “responsibility to protect” – or “R2P” – she operates with glaring selectivity in deciding who deserves protection as she advances a neocon/liberal interventionist agenda. She is turning “human rights” into an excuse not to resolve conflicts but rather to make them bloodier.

Thus, in Power’s view, the overthrow and punishment of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad takes precedence over shielding Alawites and other minorities from the likely consequence of Sunni-extremist vengeance. And she has sided with the ethnic Ukrainians in their slaughter of ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine.

In both cases, Power spurns pragmatic negotiations that could avert worsening violence as she asserts a black-and-white depiction of these crises. More significantly, her strident positions appear to have won the day with President Barack Obama, who has relied on Power as a foreign policy adviser since his 2008 campaign.

Power’s self-righteous approach to human rights – deciding that her side wears white hats and the other side wears black hats – is a bracing example of how “human rights activists” have become purveyors of death and destruction or what some critics have deemed “the weaponization of human rights.

We saw this pattern in Iraq in 2002-03 when many “liberal humanitarians” jumped on the pro-war bandwagon in favoring an invasion to overthrow dictator Saddam Hussein. Power herself didn’t support the invasion although she was rather mealy-mouthed in her skepticism and sought to hedge her career bets amid the rush to war.

For instance, in a March 10, 2003 debate on MSNBC’s “Hardball” show — just nine days before the invasion — Power said, “An American intervention likely will improve the lives of the Iraqis. Their lives could not get worse, I think it’s quite safe to say.”

However, the lives of Iraqis actually did get worse. Indeed, hundreds of thousands stopped living altogether and a sectarian war continues to tear the country apart to this day.

Power in Power

Similarly, regarding Libya, Power was one of the instigators of the US-supported military intervention in 2011 which was disguised as an “R2P” mission to protect civilians in eastern Libya where dictator Muammar Gaddafi had identified the infiltration of terrorist groups.

Urged on by then-National Security Council aide Power and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Obama agreed to support a military mission that quickly morphed into a “regime change” operation. Gaddafi’s troops were bombed from the air and Gaddafi was eventually hunted down, tortured and murdered.

The result, however, was not a bright new day of peace and freedom for Libyans but the disintegration of Libya into a failed state with violent extremists, including elements of the Islamic State, seizing control of swaths of territory and murdering civilians. It turns out that Gaddafi was not wrong about some of his enemies.

Today, Power is a leading force opposing meaningful negotiations over Syria and Ukraine, again staking out “moralistic” positions – rejecting possible power-sharing with Assad in Syria and blaming the Ukraine crisis entirely on the Russians. She doesn’t seem all that concerned about impending genocides against Assad’s supporters in Syria or ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine.

In 2012, at a meeting hosted by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, former US Ambassador Peter W. Galbraith predicted “the next genocide in the world … will likely be against the Alawites in Syria” — a key constituency behind Assad’s secular regime. But Power has continued to insist that the top priority is Assad’s removal.

Similarly, Power has shown little sympathy for members of Ukraine’s ethnic Russian minority who saw their elected President Viktor Yanukovych overthrown in a Feb. 22, 2014 coup spearheaded by neo-Nazis and other right-wing nationalists who had gained effective control of the Maidan protests. Many of these extremists want an ethnically pure Ukrainian state.

Since then, neo-Nazi units, such as the Azov battalion, have been Kiev’s tip of the spear in slaughtering thousands of ethnic Russians in the east and driving millions from their homes, essentially an ethnic-cleansing campaign in eastern Ukraine.

A Propaganda Speech

Yet, Power traveled to Kiev to deliver a one-sided propaganda speech on June 11, portraying the post-coup Ukrainian regime simply as a victim of “Russian aggression.”

Despite the key role of neo-Nazis – acknowledged even by the US House of Representatives – Power uttered not one word about Ukrainian military abuses which have included reports of death squad operations targeting ethnic Russians and other Yanukovych supporters.

Skipping over the details of the US-backed and Nazi-driven coup of Feb. 22, 2014, Power traced the conflict instead to “February 2014, when Russia’s little green men first started appearing in Crimea.” She added that the United Nations’ “focus on Ukraine in the Security Council is important, because it gives me the chance – on behalf of the United States – to lay out the mounting evidence of Russia’s aggression, its obfuscation, and its outright lies. … America is clear-eyed when it comes to seeing the truth about Russia’s destabilizing actions in your country.”

Power continued: “The message of the United States throughout this Moscow-manufactured conflict – and the message you heard from President Obama and other world leaders at last week’s meeting of the G7 – has never wavered: if Russia continues to disregard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine; and if Russia continues to violate the rules upon which international peace and security rest – then the United States will continue to raise the costs on Russia.

“And we will continue to rally other countries to do the same, reminding them that their silence or inaction in the face of Russian aggression will not placate Moscow, it will only embolden it.

“But there is something more important that is often lost in the international discussion about Russia’s efforts to impose its will on Ukraine. And that is you – the people of Ukraine – and your right to determine the course of your own country’s future. … Or, as one of the great rallying cries of the Maidan put it:Ukraina po-nad u-se! Ukraine above all else!” [Applause.]

Power went on: “Let me begin with what we know brought people out to the Maidan in the first place. We’ve all heard a good number of myths about this. One told by the Yanukovych government and its Russian backers at the time was that the Maidan protesters were pawns of the West, and did not speak for the ‘real’ Ukraine.

“A more nefarious myth peddled by Moscow after Yanukovych’s fall was that Euromaidan had been engineered by Western capitals in order to topple a democratically-elected government.”

Of course, neither of Power’s points was actually a “myth.” For instance, the US-funded National Endowment for Democracy was sponsoring scores of anti-government activists and media operations — and NED President Carl Gershman had deemed Ukraine “the biggest prize,” albeit a stepping stone toward ousting Russian President Vladimir Putin. [See’s “A Shadow US Foreign Policy.”]

Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland was collaborating with US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt how to “midwife” the change in government with Nuland picking the future leaders of Ukraine – “Yats is the guy” referring to Arseniy Yatsenyuk who was installed as prime minister after the coup. [See’s “The Neocons: Masters of Chaos.”]

The coup itself occurred after Yanukovych pulled back the police to prevent worsening violence. Armed neo-Nazi and right-wing militias, organized as “sotins” or 100-man units, then took the offensive and overran government buildings. Yanukovych and other officials fled for their lives, with Yanukovych narrowly avoiding assassination. In the days following the coup, armed thugs essentially controlled the government and brutally intimidated any political resistance.

Inventing ‘Facts’

But that reality had no place in Power’s propaganda speech. Instead, she said:

“The facts tell a different story. As you remember well, then-President Yanukovych abandoned Kyiv of his own accord, only hours after signing an agreement with opposition leaders that would have led to early elections and democratic reforms.

“And it was only after Yanukovych fled the capital that 328 of the 447 members of the democratically-elected Rada voted to strip him of his powers – including 36 of the 38 members of his own party in parliament at the time. Yanukovych then vanished for several days, only to eventually reappear – little surprise – in Russia.

“As is often the case, these myths reveal more about the myth makers than they do about the truth. Moscow’s fable was designed to airbrush the Ukrainian people – and their genuine aspirations and demands – out of the Maidan, by claiming the movement was fueled by outsiders.

“Yet, as you all know by living through it – and as was clear even to those of us watching your courageous stand from afar – the Maidan was made in Ukraine. A Ukraine of university students and veterans of the Afghan war. Of Ukrainian, Russian, and Tatar speakers. Of Christians, Muslims, and Jews. …”

Power went on with her rhapsodic version of events: “Given the powerful interests that benefited from the corrupt system, achieving a full transformation was always going to be an uphill battle. And that was before Russian troops occupied Crimea, something the Kremlin denied at the time, but has since admitted; and it was before Russia began training, arming, bankrolling, and fighting alongside its separatist proxies in eastern Ukraine, something the Kremlin continues to deny.

“Suddenly, the Ukrainian people faced a battle on two fronts: combating corruption and overhauling broken institutions on the inside; while simultaneously defending against aggression and destabilization from the outside.

“I don’t have to tell you the immense strain that these battles have placed upon you. You feel it in the young men and women, including some of your family members and friends, who have volunteered or been drafted into the military – people who could be helping build up their nation, but instead are risking their lives to defend it against Russian aggression. …

“You feel it in the conflict’s impact on your country’s economy – as instability makes it harder for Ukrainian businesses to attract foreign investment, deepens inflation, and depresses families’ wages. … It is felt in the undercurrent of fear in cities like Kharkiv – where citizens have been the victims of multiple bomb attacks, the most lethal of which killed four people, including two teenage boys, at a rally celebrating the first anniversary of Euromaidan.

“And the impact is felt most directly by the people living in the conflict zone. According to the UN, at least 6,350 people have been killed in the violence driven by Russia and the separatists – including 625 women and children – and an additional 1,460 people are missing; 15,775 people have been wounded. And an estimated 2 million people have been displaced by this conflict. And the real numbers of killed, missing, wounded, and displaced are likely higher, according to the UN, due to its limited access to areas controlled by the separatists.”

One-Sided Account

Pretty much everything in Power’s propaganda speech was blamed on the Russians – along with the ethnic Russians and other Ukrainians resisting the imposition of the new US-backed order. She also ignored the will of the people of Crimea who voted overwhelmingly in a referendum to secede from Ukraine and rejoin Russia.

The closest she came to criticizing the current regime in Kiev was to note that “investigations into serious crimes such as the violence in the Maidan and in Odessa have been sluggish, opaque, and marred by serious errors – suggesting not only a lack of competence, but also a lack of will to hold the perpetrators accountable.”

Yet, even there, Power failed to note the growing evidence that the neo-Nazis were likely behind the crucial sniper attacks on Feb. 20, 2014, that killed both police and protesters and touched off the chaos that led to the coup two days later. [A worthwhile documentary on this mystery is “Maidan Massacre.”]

Nor, did Power spell out that neo-Nazis from the Maidan set fire to the Trade Union Building in Odessa on May 2, 2014, burning alive scores of ethnic Russians while spray-painting the building with pro-Nazi graffiti, including hailing the “Galician SS,” the Ukrainian auxiliary that helped Adolf Hitler’s SS carry out the Holocaust in Ukraine.

Listening to Power’s speech you might not even have picked up that she was obliquely criticizing the US-backed regime in Kiev.

Also, by citing a few touching stories of pro-coup Ukrainians who had died in the conflict, Power implicitly dehumanized the far larger number of ethnic Russians who opposed the overthrow of their elected president and have been killed by Kiev’s brutal “anti-terrorism operation.”

Use of Propaganda

In my nearly four decades covering Washington, I have listened to and read many speeches like the one delivered by Samantha Power. In the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan would give similar propaganda speeches justifying the slaughter of peasants and workers in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala, where the massacres of Mayan Indians were later deemed a “genocide.” [See’s “How Reagan Promoted Genocide.”]

Regardless of the reality on the ground, the speeches always made the US-backed side the “good guys” and the other side the “bad guys” – even when “our side” included CIA-affiliated “death squads” and US-equipped military forces slaughtering tens of thousands of civilians.

During the 1990s, more propaganda speeches were delivered by President George H.W. Bush regarding Panama and Iraq and by President Bill Clinton regarding Kosovo and Yugoslavia. Then, last decade, the American people were inundated with more propaganda rhetoric from President George W. Bush justifying the invasion of Iraq and the expansion of the endless “war on terror.”

Generally speaking, during much of his first term, Obama was more circumspect in his rhetoric, but he, too, has slid into propaganda-speak in the latter half of his presidency as he shed his “realist” foreign policy tendencies in favor of “tough-guy/gal” rhetoric favored by “liberal interventionists,” such as Power, and neoconservatives, such as Nuland and her husband Robert Kagan (whom a chastened Obama invited to a White House lunch last year).

But the difference between the propaganda of Reagan, Bush-41, Clinton and Bush-43 was that it focused on conflicts in which the Soviet Union or Russia might object but would likely not be pushed to the edge of nuclear war, nothing as provocative as what the Obama administration has done in Ukraine, now including dispatching US military advisers.

The likes of Power, Nuland and Obama are not just justifying wars that leave devastation, death and disorder in their wake in disparate countries around the world, but they are fueling a war on Russia’s border.

That was made clear by the end of Power’s speech in which she declared: “Ukraine, you may still be bleeding from pain. An aggressive neighbor may be trying to tear your nation to pieces. Yet you … are strong and defiant. You, Ukraine, are standing tall for your freedom. And if you stand tall together – no kleptocrat, no oligarch, and no foreign power can stop you.”

There is possibly nothing more reckless than what has emerged as Obama’s late-presidential foreign policy, what amounts to a plan to destabilize Russia and seek “regime change” in the overthrow of Russian President Putin.

Rather than take Putin up on his readiness to cooperate with Obama in trouble spots, such as the Syrian civil war and Iran’s nuclear program, “liberal interventionist” hawks like Power and neocons like Nuland – with Obama in tow – have chosen confrontation and have used extreme propaganda to effectively shut the door on negotiation and compromise.

Yet, as with previous neocon/liberal-interventionist schemes, this one lacks on-the-ground realism. Even if it were possible to so severely damage the Russian economy and to activate US-controlled “non-governmental organizations” to help drive Putin from office, that doesn’t mean a Washington-friendly puppet would be installed in the Kremlin.

Another possible outcome would be the emergence of an extreme Russian nationalist suddenly controlling the nuclear codes and willing to use them. So, when ambitious ideologues like Power and Nuland get control of US foreign policy in such a sensitive area, what they’re playing with is the very survival of life on planet Earth – the ultimate genocide.

Reprinted with permission from


  • Robert Parry

    Robert Parry was an American investigative journalist. He was best known for his role in covering the Iran-Contra affair for the Associated Press (AP) and Newsweek, including breaking the Psychological Operations in Guerrilla Warfare (CIA manual provided to the Nicaraguan contras) and the CIA involvement in Contra cocaine trafficking in the U.S. scandal in 1985.

    View all posts