Samantha Power and international justice
In New Hampshire in December of 2003, Samantha Power introduced Wesley Clark upon his return from the Hague. Clark had gone there (without suspending his primary campaign) to testify against Slobodon Milosevic, a genocidal tyrant whom Clark brought to justice without the combat death of a single American soldier. I transcribed her intro from VHS tape, since there were limited other options then. I particularly like the words she uses in the second paragraph to speak about international justice and the Hague. Maybe she’ll convey these sentiments to Obama.
Good afternoon. It’s a real honor for me to be here with General Clark, and with Edita Tahiri. My name is Samantha Power. I spent about seven years looking into American responses to genocide in the twentieth century, and discovered something that may not surprise you but that did surprise me, which was that until 1999 the United States had actually never intervened to prevent genocide in our nation’s history. Successive American presidents had done an absolutely terrific job pledging never again, and remembering the holocaust, but ultimately when genocide confronted them, they weighed the costs and the benefits of intervention, and they decided that the risks of getting involved were actually far greater than the other non-costs from the standpoint of the American public, of staying uninvolved or being bystanders. That changed in the mid-1990s, and it changed in large measure because General Clark rose through the ranks of the American military. The mark of leadership is not to standup when everybody is standing, but rather to actually stand up when no one else is standing. And it was Pentagon reluctance to intervene in Rwanda, and in Bosnia, that actually made it much, much easier for political leaders to turn away. When the estimates started coming out of the Pentagon that were much more constructive, and proactive, and creative, one of the many deterrents to intervention melted away. And so I think, again, in discussing briefly the General’s testimony, it’s important to remember why he was able to testify at the Hague, and he testified because he decided to own something that was politically very, very unfashionable at the time.
Now, of course, it wasn’t enough to intervene, it was also essential that the United States won. And one of the things that I think made General Clark a little unpopular, perhaps, with some of his colleagues, and something he can talk about, was that he actually wanted to make sure every option was left on the table. This is risky, but it is the way to defeat an adversary, as again, he can testify far better than I. And he understood that success in Kosova was not just about returning making sure the Kosovars returned to their homes, and the genocide was prevented, but it was also about preserving the future of humanitarian intervention; a very, very fragile future with ground troops left off the table. Third point, just finally, before introducing the General, and our esteemed Kosovar guest, I’d just like to say a word about the testimony that General Clark just offered at the Hague tribunal, and I do say offered because I think he is the only US official on either the political or military side who has actually been banging on the Hague’s door rather than the other way around. And again, this isn’t something that is terribly useful, the timing could not be worse, and I don’t mean just because Saddam Hussein was arrested while the General was in the Hague, but because there’s actually an election, and a primary season back in America, and testifying at an institution like that, while admirable, isn’t always something that enhances your relationship with the American voter. And again, I think it’s a testament to the integrity and the independence of General Clark, and his desire to make sure, not only that the case against Slobodon Milosevic is airtight, and to aid in the prosecution, but also to validate what’s going on at the Hague. With his presence there as the only senior US military officer ever to do such a thing, to grace an international tribunal with his presence, he draws attention to a tribunal that has been forgotten, and to a trial that has unfortunately faded, but that is essential, not only for the people of the Balkans, but for the future international justice. And finally, and crucially, by his presence, he also reminds us of the importance of international justice, not only for American values, and for the sake of the victims and people who had to suffer under tyrants like Milosevic or Saddam Hussein, but also for American interests, to understand that America has to be engaged with international institutions, and that ultimately, nobody on the earth has more to gain from enforceable rules of the road and compliance with international law than the United States of America