Eric Alterman Defends Samantha Power

by Stanley Kurtz

Over at the Center for American Progress, Eric Alterman has just published an article criticizing my recent piece on Samantha Power. Alterman makes me out as arguing that Power’s views are identical to Noam Chomsky and Tom Hayden, when I made it clear that Power had significant differences as well as similarities with both men. Alterman wants evidence of the mischief that might be done by recent developments in the international law of warfare. For that I linked an important piece by Jeremy Rabkin. Rabkin’s larger body of writings on the International Criminal Court are also well worth a read. They should be contrasted to Power’s own writings on the court, which I also linked in my piece.

By the way, Alterman has not addressed the very important controversy over Power’s views on Israel, as exemplified by this account of her stance by Martin Kramer (linked in my original piece). Power’s stand on Israel, as described by Kramer, is an important example of both her radicalism and her lack of frankness. Yet Alterman acts as though this important piece of evidence doesn’t exist.

Finally, Alterman chastises me for presenting no evidence of anti-Americanism, anti-capitalism, or bitter criticism of Israel on the part of Power’s hero, United Nations diplomat Sergio Vieira de Mello. Alterman might have tried actually reading Power’s book  Since he apparently did not, I will provide a passage from Chasing the Flame:

When he (Vieira de Mello) spotted an American-made car while walking down the streets of Geneva with friends, he would bend down as if picking up a stone and make the motion of hurling it at the passing vehicle. “Imperialists!” he would exclaim. In restaurants too when he heard an American accent, he occasionally made a show of getting up and moving out of earshot. “You can just hear the capitalism in their voices,” he would say with disdain. (p. 25)

For Vieira de Mello’s bitterness against the Israelis (for an invasion of Lebanon that his own colleagues knew and said had actually been provoked by the Palestinians), see pp. 45-50 of Chasing the Flame.

I explained in the piece that Vieira de Mellow turned later into a “pragmatist” who could deal effectively with American leaders. But in Power’s account, Vieira de Mellow never surrendered his sixties “ideals,” which presumably includes the Marxist and “anti-Imperialist” convictions amply documented by Power.

So it seems to me that Alterman has conveniently ignored what I actually said in the piece, and failed to address the substantial documentation I provided in the links.

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