Samantha Power to Assad, Russia, Iran: 'Are You Truly Incapable of Shame?'

Susan Jones | December 14, 2016 | 7:32am EST
Font Size
This photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows Syrian troops and pro-government gunmen marching walk inside the destroyed Grand Umayyad mosque in the old city of Aleppo, Syria, Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016. (SANA via AP)

( - As diplomacy continues to fail and the human slaughter accelerates in Aleppo, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations on Tuesday laid the blame squarely on Syria's Assad regime, Russia, and Iran, asking them, "Are you truly incapable of shame?"

"The regime of Bashar Al-Assad, Russia, Iran, and their affiliated militia are the ones responsible for what the UN called 'a complete meltdown of humanity,'" Samantha Power told an emergency session of the U.N. Security Council. "And they are showing no mercy." Power noted than in the last 24 hours, regime forces reportedly had killed 82 civilians, including 11 women and 13 children.

"Aleppo will join the ranks of those events in world history that define modern evil, that stain our conscience decades later," Power said. "Halabja, Rwanda, Srebrenica, and, now, Aleppo.

"To the Assad regime, Russia, and Iran, your forces and proxies are carrying out these crimes. Your barrel bombs and mortars and airstrikes have allowed the militia in Aleppo to encircle tens of thousands of civilians in your ever-tightening noose. It is your noose. Three member states of the UN contributing to a noose around civilians. It should shame you!

"Instead, by all appearances, it is emboldening you. You are plotting your next assault. Are you truly incapable of shame? Is there literally nothing that can shame you? Is there no act of barbarism against civilians, no execution of a child that gets under your skin, that just creeps you out a little bit? Is there nothing you will not lie about or justify?" Power asked.

But shortly before Power spoke, reporters at the White House were asking if the Obama administration could have or should have done more to stop the carnage in Syria, where an estimated 400,000 people have died in the civil war.

"[A] lot of the anger over what's happened in Aleppo (is) directed at this White House and this presidency. Do you think that's fair? Why do you think that is?" a reporter asked White House spokesman Josh Earnest.

"Well, first of all, I think I -- I'm going to refrain from criticizing people who are having an emotional reaction to the terrible violence that they face. And their feelings of anger and frustration, I think, are entirely understandable, given what they've been through. And I think it would be inappropriate, maybe even immoral, for me to stand here and criticize them.

"What I will say is something that you've heard me say before, which is that President Obama has -- and Secretary Kerry -- have been at the leading edge of a tireless effort to try to bring that violence to an end, or at least reduce it enough that humanitarian assistance can get to those people that need it the most.

"And this administration and this president certainly makes no apologies for that tenacious pursuit of the kind of solution that would bring relief to the suffering people of Aleppo. And it's not particularly surprising to me, given this long-running bloody conflict that the people of Aleppo are angry that this hasn't been solved more quickly."

Earnest repeated the Obama administration's insistence that there is no military solution to the civil war in Syria.

"Is the suggestion that somehow the United States should just occupy the nation of Syria?" Earnest asked. "Do we really think that's going to reduce the violence in Syria? I don't think there's any evidence to substantiate that claim, even if that's one that is being made. I haven't heard any other sort of suggestion.

"The only solution is a diplomatic one. And no country in the world has expended more of an effort to pursue that diplomatic solution than the United States of America."

But so far, diplomacy has failed to produce even a viable ceasefire -- the most recent one collapsed before it began on Wednesday -- much less new leadership in the war-torn country.

Retired Admiral James Stavridis, appearing on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Wednesday, said the United States' "big mistake" was withdrawing all U.S. troops from Iraq in 2011.

"If we'd kept 15,000 there -- you can almost drop a plumb line to the rise of ISIS and kind of a great deal of the dissolution in Syria.

"But I think in the Syrian context, it was not taking out Assad's air force as part of the move to get rid of the weapons of mass destruction (chemical weapons), aka the red line. That was the moment where we could have made a difference in the facts on the ground, before Russia came in -- in significant ways, that was, I think, the crucial military mistake."

In her remarks at the U.N. on Tuesday, Power told all nations, "no matter how small," that they have a "responsibility" to denounce the atrocities happening in Syria.

"We have just heard the Secretary-General state it plainly. You have to tell those responsible that they must stop. This isn’t the time for more equivocation, for self-censoring, for avoiding naming names, for diplomatic niceties of the kind that are so well-practiced here on the Council.

"Say who is responsible. Appeal to Moscow, to Damascus, to Tehran, that they have to stop. Use every channel you have – public, private, bankshot, through someone who knows someone. The lives of tens of thousands of Syrians still in eastern Aleppo – between 30,000-60,000 people – and hundreds of thousands more across the country who are besieged, depend on it."

mrc merch