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Power’s Glaring Omission: Yemen

Shireen Al-Adeimi comments on the glaring omission of Yemen from Samantha Power’s memoir:

The most striking thing about Power’s memoir is her complete omission of her role in what became the world’s worst humanitarian crisis: the ongoing U.S. intervention in Yemen.

No doubt Power said nothing about Yemen in her memoir because there was nothing she could have said that would not make her seem to be the worst kind of hypocrite and enabler of terrible crimes. Other former Obama administration officials, such as Obama’s speechwriter and Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes, have written books that also leave out Yemen entirely or enough as to make no difference. It is the most shameful episode in Obama’s presidency, and so it is perhaps natural that former officials that were in a position to do something about it pass over it in silence. There is no way for former Obama officials to reckon with U.S. support for the war on Yemen without acknowledging that the president made a disastrous error and that they all failed to challenge the policy for almost two years. If they were to say something about it now, they would have to admit to having supporting the policy at the beginning. Samuel Oakford reported on Power’s support for the war back in 2016:

As Saudi behavior grew more careless publicly, both on the ground in Yemen in the halls of the U.N., the silence from Washington, and at the U.S. mission to the U.N. in New York, continued. Ambassador Power even found herself defending an intervention in Yemen that has killed thousands of civilians, coincided with the spread of Al Qaeda, and undercut her own passionate work to draw attention to the crimes of the Assad regime in Syria.

Al-Adeimi points out that Power was not simply along for the ride. She supported the Saudi coalition’s war and in her role as our ambassador at the U.N., she was involved in helping to provide cover for the Saudi coalition governments’ crimes:

Yemen is mentioned twice in her book, with neither reference having anything to do with the war in Yemen. Such a glaring omission can only be seen as a lack of reckoning and accountability for her actions as a representative of the United States at the UN at the onset of the war in Yemen. During her critical role at the UN, the Obama administration supported the Saudi and UAE coalition militarily through targeting assistance, intelligence, midair refueling, arms sales and training. Furthermore, Power helped provide cover for the Saudis and the Emiratis at the United Nations, allowing them to investigate their own crimes, and enabling them to carry out atrocities against civilians with impunity.

Power’s defense of the intervention was all the more outrageous when she was aware of the disastrous effects on the population that the bombing campaign was having. Like the rest of the administration, Power knew that the Saudi coalition’s military campaign couldn’t succeed, but they all continued to support it anyway. It was only later after the next administration took over and continued the indefensible policy that they started that Power and other former Obama officials discovered their voices to criticize the war and our government’s support for it.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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