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Susan Rice, 'Bystander to Genocide'

11:26 AM, Dec 1, 2008 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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The New York Times profiles Susan Rice today under the headline "Choice for U.N. Backs Strong Action Against Mass Killings." The Times heaps praise on Obama's choice to serve as ambassador to the United Nations, saying that the selection of Rice "will also send to the world organization a prominent and forceful advocate of stronger action, including military force if necessary, to stop mass killings like those in the Darfur region of Sudan in recent years." As the paper notes, Rice has seen mass killing and genocide before:

But her most searing experience was visiting Rwanda after the 1994 genocide when she was still on the N.S.C. staff.

As she later described the scene, the hundreds, if not thousands, of decomposing, hacked up bodies that she saw haunted her and fueled a desire to never let it happen again.

"I swore to myself that if I ever faced such a crisis again, I would come down on the side of dramatic action, going down in flames if that was required," she told The Atlantic Monthly in 2001.

The Times doesn't mention it, but the title of that piece in the Atlantic: "Bystanders to Genocide." Authored by Samantha Power, an Obama adviser and someone who actually has a record of backing strong action against mass killings, the story does not reflect well on Rice:

At an interagency teleconference in late April, Susan Rice, a rising star on the NSC who worked under Richard Clarke, stunned a few of the officials present when she asked, "If we use the word 'genocide' and are seen as doing nothing, what will be the effect on the November [congressional] election?" Lieutenant Colonel Tony Marley remembers the incredulity of his colleagues at the State Department. "We could believe that people would wonder that," he says, "but not that they would actually voice it." Rice does not recall the incident but concedes, "If I said it, it was completely inappropriate, as well as irrelevant."

If one believes that the United Nations is a hopelessly ineffective institution and wants to make sure it stays that way, then perhaps Obama has chosen an appropriate emissary: a woman who prefers to ponder the political implications of inaction -- they're going to love her at Turtle Bay.