My favorite example of chutzpah used to be the man who killed his parents and then, at his murder trial, threw himself on the mercy of the court as an orphan. Hilarious in the way of black comedy, it denotes a complete lack of self-awareness.
This week, I got an even better example.
Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted out, “The days of America looking the other way from the Iranian regime’s oppression are over. America stands with the Iranian people.”
In response, former U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power tweeted, “We stand with the Iranian people so much that we won’t let them come here.”
When I saw Power’s tweet, I did a double take. Could this be the same woman who wrote “A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide”?
Why, yes, it was.
Could this also be the same woman who was our face and our voice at the United Nations during the destructive civil war in Syria, the one where Bashar al-Assad murdered his own people under the eyes of the western world after having crossed that “red line” President Barack Obama had drawn with eloquent, empty words?
Yup, one and the same.
And when I saw that her response to Sanders had garnered 29,000 likes and 9,000 retweets, I couldn’t stop myself from tweeting back to her: “Sorry, Ambassador Power, but your acts at the UN were in opposition to your moving book ‘A Problem From Hell.’ As an attorney who daily handles asylum cases, I was disgusted with the Obama policy on Syria, where another Rwanda took place, and is still taking place.”
What I really wanted to say was, “Hey lady, you’ve got some nerve comparing a debatable immigration policy (with which I disagree, by the way) to your spineless abdication of responsibility and compassion for victims of genocide. You know, the ones you spent 600 pages writing about? The one that nabbed you a Pulitzer? Hello?”
Of course, people never like to point out to progressive human rights activists the obvious shame of their hypocrisy.
And that’s exactly what Power is being: hypocritical.
The fact that Iran was, and still is, a strategic ally of Syria cannot have been completely irrelevant to the U.S. failure to save thousands of innocent Syrian lives. Bombing Syria or otherwise acting to prevent Assad from gassing his own people clearly caused Obama a problem resolving that pesky nuclear squabble, but you would still expect the world’s preeminent expert on genocide to have opened her mouth, or resigned, when she saw that her boss was going to do absolutely nothing to save the innocent.
I think the reason I’m so annoyed with Power’s hypocritical tweet is that she, of all people, should know better.
The former ambassador spent a decade reporting from war zones and had visited war crimes tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. She invested years studying the U.S. response to not only these horrific examples of inhumanity (where generations were lost) but other holocausts like the Cambodian killing fields, Saddam Hussein’s annihilation of the Kurds, the Armenian genocide at the hands of the Ottomans and, of course, the neutralization of Europe’s Jewish populations under Hitler. Add to this the fact that she was raised in Ireland at a time when Catholics and Protestants were murdering each other and her tweet becomes that much more embarrassing.
That’s because her boss did nothing to stop the murder in Syria, and it is not unreasonable to assume that it was because they wanted to seal that deal with Iran, the same country that is now cracking down on protesters with increasing brutality. Yes, Power did engage in a little “have you no shame” theatrics when Aleppo exploded, but it was too little, too late.
In a Wall Street Journal profile a few weeks before she left office, Power tried to excuse her diplomatic and moral malfeasance by saying, “There’s lots of room, I think, for reflection on what we might’ve done differently, but it is extremely difficult to believe that there was some panacea out there.”
That’s a cop-out. The 2013 sarin gas attack in Damascus killed 1,500 people, more than 400 of whom were children. They didn’t need a panacea, they needed the action promised by Obama, which never came. Power predicted that in her book when she wrote, “We have all been bystanders to genocide.”
One thing is certain.
For Samantha Power to try to shame Donald Trump for a flawed immigration policy when she herself was a bystander to genocide is chutzpah of the highest order.
Christine Flowers is a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News. Readers may email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.