Grenell: Where Was Samantha Power?

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Friday, 23 Aug 2013 12:38 AM

By Richard A. Grenell

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For the past several years, President Obama has presided over a U.S. policy on Syria that has made the collective support of the international community a condition of American action. Every answer the president gives on the crisis in Syria includes working through the United Nations.

So when the United Nations Security Council called an emergency meeting on Wednesday about the use of chemical weapons inside Syria, it was perplexing that the newly appointed U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. was nowhere to be found.

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White House Deputy Spokesman Josh Earnest issued a statement on Syria’s use of chemical weapons that emphasized the United Nations as the only U.S. action to the crisis.

The president didn’t call for State Department action or a Department of Defense option plan — he only asked for a U.N. response.

Earnest said, “The United States strongly condemns any and all use of chemical weapons. Those responsible for the use of chemical weapons must be held accountable. Today, we are formally requesting that the United Nations urgently investigate this new allegation.

The UN investigative team, which is currently in Syria, is prepared to do so, and that is consistent with its purpose and mandate. For the UN’s efforts to be credible, they must have immediate access to witnesses and affected individuals, and have the ability to examine and collect physical evidence without any interference or manipulation from the Syrian government.”

So the U.S. policy on Syria is to work through the United Nations. Where was Samantha Power?

Earnest even emphasized the emergency meeting in his statement: “We have also called for urgent consultations in the UN Security Council to discuss these allegations.”

But while the White House was pretending to be in urgent mode, the new U.S. ambassador didn’t think the meeting was worth her time. Her office reportedly told Reuters that she was on a trip. But to where? What was more important?

Samantha Power has been on the job exactly 19 days. In that time, she’s already traveled from New York to Los Angeles to deliver a speech. Her absence from the U.N. on Wednesday sends a terrible message at a time when U.S. credibility in the region is suffering.

While the mainstream media continue to describe Power as a “human rights advocate,” the description seems pro forma and disingenuous. Shouldn’t a human rights advocate have to make human rights a priority?

When President Obama nominated Power for the U.N. job, he called her a “relentless advocate for American interests. . .”

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I don’t think a relentless advocate would miss an emergency U.N. meeting on a chemical weapons attack that killed roughly 1,000 people.

Richard A. Grenell was appointed in 2001 by President George W. Bush to serve as Director of Communications and Public Diplomacy for the United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations. He is a partner with Capitol Media Partners specializing in strategic and crisis communications issues with public policy challenges.

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