Daily Beast Female Elites Denounce Global Human Rights Violations While Ignoring U.S. Crimes
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On the last day of the Daily Beast's Women in the World summit in Manhattan, a weekend-long conference offering "stories and solutions" to some of the most serious human rights problems faced by women across the globe, "60 Minutes" reporter Lesley Stahl sat down with Barack Obama's senior adviser and confidant, Valerie Jarrett, for a pleasant conversation. After some initial "hard news" questions on health care -- no mention of Stupak or the public option -- Stahl invited Jarrett to provide some biographical bullet points tracing her early career as a Chicago real estate lawyer (the job made her so "miserable" she would sit in her office and cry), to the Daley administration (she was "scared to death" of the mayor), to the White House, asking her at one point, as a single mom, "How do you do it?"
As a preface to a broader discussion of the White House and its policies, all this would be fine and good. Jarrett is a public figure, and, as some of the conference speakers eloquently demonstrated over the weekend, personal narrative has its value (especially given the tough reality for single moms). But before long, the interview devolved into something resembling a PR show. Stahl gave Jarrett ample room to wax poetic about the great privilege of working for Barack Obama, an "extraordinary" man full of "tenacity," "empathy," "inner strength," and so on, without asking her a single substantive question about the policies his administration has adopted -- policies with significant implications for the rest of the world. "Every day I pinch myself," Jarrett mused.
Yes, Stahl touched on the uncomfortable fact that many Obama supporters are "disappointed" with the president. But she didn't offer much of a hint as to why, and Jarrett took the opportunity to say that it's not about Obama so much as the mess he inherited from George W. Bush. (Never mind that Obama has continued some of Bush's worst policies; the real issue is that the White House has had problems "getting the message out.")
Barack Obama is the most powerful man in the world. Jarrett is one of his closest advisers, "the person who gets the boss," as Stahl put it. This is an administration making life and death decisions every day -- not just on health care, but on Afghanistan and Pakistan as well. A basic question Stahl might have asked at an event titled "Women in the World" could have considered the real-life impact the Obama White House's policies have on women in the world, especially those under U.S. occupation or U.S. drone attacks.
An example: On Saturday, March 13, just one day before this genial conversation in midtown Manhattan, an investigation by Jerome Starkey of the Times of London reported that a "botched" nighttime raid last month carried out by U.S. and Afghan soldiers led to the deaths of two pregnant women and a teenage girl, which NATO then attempted to cover up.
Bibi Shirin, 22, had four children under the age of 5. Bibi Saleha, 37, had 11 children. Both of them, according to their relatives, were pregnant. They were killed instantly.
[...] Shirin was four months pregnant and Saleha was five months. The other victim, Gulalai, 18, was engaged. She was wounded and later died. "We had already bought everything for the wedding," her soon-to-be father-in-law, Sayed Mohammed Mal, the Vice-Chancellor of Gardez University, said.
Not only did this story apparently go unreported in the U.S., thousands of miles away, in the Bizarro World of the Stahl/Jarrett interview, the U.S. is not waging war in Afghanistan, or if it is, it's not worth asking the president's top adviser about it. Aside from an audience member's suggestion that Michelle Obama meet with African first ladies, the single question on U.S. foreign policy came from a different audience member, who asked whether the fact that Jarrett was born in Iran informs her sense of foreign policy.
Yes, Jarrett answered, noting that both she and President Obama spent "our formative years outside of the United States." Reminiscing about when the two first met, she said, "… I think one of the things that we both recognized is just how extraordinary the United States is and sometimes you see that a little bit better when you have some distance from it."
"... When you think of the human rights violations that occur in other parts of the world," she went on, "we are ahead on that."
In the era of U.S. indefinite detention, waterboarding and other "enhanced interrogation techniques" -- not to mention drone strikes that kill people at wedding parties -- this claim is more than a little hard to swallow.
To be fair, Jarrett went on to acknowledge that "it's not to say that we don't have our own challenges here, we do." But, she maintained, in the United States, we don't see the sorts of human rights violations described by other women at the conference.