UN Note: The Missing U.S. Ambassador

Experienced United Nations observers uniformly noted that the US crusade to bury the Goldstone report (holding Israel and Hamas accountable for war crimes) was one of the fiercest of any waged in recent years. But somehow US Ambassador Susan Rice missed the General Assembly vote. Susan Rice, known for her powerful support for accountability regarding war crimes in Darfur, regardless of potential political consequences, had of course reversed herself when the issue was accountability for Gaza. That was no surprise. The call for holding all sides accountable for human rights violations and potential war crimes in Gaza was clearly the kind of human rights issue Rice had publicly dismissed as “anti-Israel crap” just last April.

But still — the US had invested enormous efforts to influence (read: weaken) the General Assembly resolution. So where was the US ambassador last Thursday afternoon when the Assembly culminated its intense two-day debate on the Goldstone report and accountability in Gaza? It was left to the deputy ambassador, Alejandro Wolff, to explain and cast Washington’s negative vote. There was lots of speculation why Rice was not there herself — had she been called to the White House for last-minute consultations? Would her presence somehow give the resolution and thus the Goldstone report itself too much significance? Was her deputy better at playing “bad cop”?

Actually, it was none of the above. The US Ambassador to the United Nations, Her Excellency Susan Rice, was indeed in New York, but not at United Nations headquarters. The defining clue came at 11 p.m. that night, when The Daily Show With Jon Stewart came on the air. Featuring special guest Ambassador Susan Rice.

The hit show of Comedy Central, The Daily Show airs in the late-night slot. But it always tapes the show ahead of time, around 5:00 in the afternoon. The UN vote to endorse the Goldstone report took place at 4:45.

Phyllis Bennis is director of the New Internationalism project at the Institute for Policy Studies.