YouTube video

David Swanson: Samantha Power advocated regime change in Libya when UN resolution was specifically restricted to defense of Benghazi

Story Transcript

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay.

On Wednesday, President Obama nominated Samantha Power has the new American representative to the United Nations. She was taking the place of Susan Rice, who he appointed as his new national security adviser.

Now joining us to talk about the appointment of Power–I should say nomination of Power to the United Nations is David Swanson. David is the author of the book War Is a Lie, and he works with

Thanks for joining us, David


JAY: So what do we know about Samantha Power?

SWANSON: She is a humanitarian interventionist. She wants to eliminate genocide from the world and believes that one of the best tools with which to do so is war.

JAY: What’s wrong with that?

SWANSON: What’s wrong with it? There’s very little worse than war that you can use war to eliminate. There is a very difficult time, actually, drawing a distinction between genocide and war. Samantha Power notably does it by distinguishing between massive killing by other nations and massive killing by this nation, the United States. She was pointedly asked on Democracy Now! by Jeremy Scahill whether she believed killing a million Iraqis was genocidal, and she did not.

This is someone who comes out of Harvard, who comes out of a progressive liberal background. She’s an Irish American. She was a reporter in the former Yugoslavia during the time of U.S. interventions there, which she supported and still does. She backed Wesley Clark in ’04. She backed Obama after working for him in the Senate.

She backed–in fact, she worked for Obama in ’08 and then had to quit the campaign after calling Hillary Clinton a monster. And, of course, when I hear the phrase Hillary Clinton is a monster, I think of Hillary Clinton saying, we came, we saw, he died, and laughing about [incompr.] Muammar Gaddafi, which hadn’t happened yet, or Hillary Clinton threatening obliterate Iran, which did happen at that time. But these are not the sort of positions Samantha Power objects to. She was objecting to campaign shenanigans.

JAY: She had a specific role to play in terms of Libya. If I’m correct, she and Susan Rice had a lot to do, apparently, with influencing President Obama for the Libyan intervention.

SWANSON: Very, very much so. She was in favor of intervening, as we call it, in Libya, switching sides, attacking, bombing Libya, and still is, and thinks that that was and is a good model. And this is someone who will now be, if confirmed, ambassador to the United Nations.

The invasion of Libya, of course, went against the will of the U.S. Congress and used a UN resolution for intervention to prevent an alleged danger to people in Benghazi that was immediately used as a supposed justification for overthrowing the government of a nation with massive bombing. This is someone who supported the bombing of Kosovo without UN authorization. This is someone who said an intervention in Iraq–said this in 2003–would probably benefit the people of Iraq. This is someone whose position on the power of the United Nations and the legality of the UN Charter is extremely disturbing for a nominee for that position.

JAY: Yeah, I think it’s one of the interesting things about Power and Rice and the similarity in some ways to the Bush administration’s attitude towards international law, which is that it’s okay to violate it if you supposedly have, quote-unquote, higher objectives. So, you know, Bush-Cheney could essentially violate international law by invading Iraq without a UN resolution and without any imminent danger to the United States, all under the rationale that, you know, essentially we’re going to overthrow this bad dictator, and that’s worth doing, and the world will be better off, and even if there weren’t weapons of mass destruction, well, so what, we got rid of the bad guy, which justifies violating international law. I interviewed Susan Rice in 2008, and I asked her about does Iran have a right to enrich uranium.


JAY: But you do agree that the nonproliferation agreement, they do have the right.

SUSAN RICE, FOREIGN AFFAIRS ADVISER TO SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: Yeah, the proliferation treaty says countries have the right to enrich for civilian, peaceful purposes. But the reality is the nonproliferation regime needs to be updated, that there are many loopholes in it. Iran is only the latest to demonstrate those loopholes.

JAY: But would he accept an enrichment program guaranteed or overseen by the IAEA in Iran?

RICE: I don’t think it makes good sense for us to preclude or include any specific aspects of the contours of a potential negotiation.


JAY: In other words, international law, if it doesn’t work, we don’t get what we want out of it, we can change it, rewrite it, or ignore it.

SWANSON: That’s exactly right. But other nations should not. The International Criminal Court should go on prosecuting Africans. Other nations should not have the right or the responsibility, as is described, to invade and overthrow other governments. But the United States should and NATO should and our coalitions of the willing or the bribed and threatened should have that right and indeed that responsibility to go in and overthrow dictatorships that we’ve turned against, regardless of whether there’s any record of such overthrows benefiting the people in the long run.

It’s interesting for someone who’s going to have the job of supporting vetoes of anything to hold Israel to the rule of law going to the United Nations, because Samantha Power has commented on the Israeli abuse of the Palestinian people. But her proposal has never been to stop arming Israel or to hold Israel to a rule of law; rather, it has been to invade with a massive peacekeeping force.

JAY: Something she knows will never happen. So it’s kind of rhetoric.

SWANSON: Well, I don’t know whether she dreams it might happen someday. But she seems to have this hammer of humanitarian war-making in her hand and everything looks like a nail. And she gives some rhetoric to the idea of multiple tools and we’ll use diplomacy too, but it always seems to be war that she chooses as the tool that needs to be employed more frequently.

JAY: And just you mentioned it, but I think maybe we should just highlight it again. The UN resolution on Libya, clearly, without any ambiguity, was about the defense of Benghazi. And David Cameron was asked specifically at the time, does this include any kind of regime change; he said, absolutely not. Most of the countries that voted for the resolution clearly, at the time, at least, said this does not, cannot lead to regime change. But as far as I know, Power was all for regime change. And, of course, that’s exactly what they turned the resolution into.

SWANSON: That’s right. And this was an abuse of the United Nations. This is not someone who is qualified to be an ambassador to the United Nations, to work with it and within it. It ought to be considered outrageous by that body and by the rest of the world and by the U.S. public. This is someone who supported an overthrow of a government in Libya that was murderous, illegal, and disastrous and has resulted in instability and violence overflowing the borders of that nation and back into that nation from others, and who holds that up as a model, and who was then subsequently, last year, put in charge of an atrocity prevention board, meaning a board to study how the United States might prevent other nations committing atrocities, it being understood that atrocities are not things that the United States is capable of.

JAY: Yeah, it’s this vision that you can drop a bomb on Japan, and atomic bomb, and there’s a rationalization that somehow that’s a defense of freedom and democracy. Her ideology, as President Obama’s, actually says, when he’s asked what are the roots of your foreign policy, starts with Truman. It doesn’t start with Roosevelt, which is interesting, a more nuanced position. But he starts with Truman, the man that dropped the bomb. And so, you know, you can commit these kinds of facts in the name of civilization, democracy, freedom, I guess whatever label you want, and it’s not an atrocity, because we’re doing it.

SWANSON: Truman was arguably the worst president we have, the worst model to look to. This is where we got the CIA, where we got the national security adviser, where we got the expansion of secretive and abusive military units, where we got the expansion of global military bases, where President Truman decided that the inhabitants of islands like the Bikini Atoll had no right to their island–we needed it to test our weapons; they had to go. This is an extremely abusive and power-mad president who did not act on humanitarian impulses, who had famously said in the Senate as a senator that as long as the Russians were killing the Germans and the Germans killing the Russians, we should help out whichever side was losing so that more people would die. You know, this is not a model that ought to be appealed to in the 21st century by people who use the term humanitarian to describe themselves.

JAY: Alright. Thanks very much for joining us, David.

SWANSON: Thank you.

JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.


DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.