Cover image for "A problem from hell" : America and the age of genocide
Title:
"A problem from hell" : America and the age of genocide
Author:
Power, Samantha.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Basic Books, [2002]
Physical Description:
xxi, 610 pages : illustrations, map ; 25 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780465061501
Format :
Book

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Central Library HV6322.7 .P69 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
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Summary

Summary

About this book:In 1993, as a 23-year-old correspondent covering the wars in the Balkans, I was initially comforted by the roar of NATO planes flying overhead. President Clinton and other western leaders had sent the planes to monitor the Bosnian war, which had killed almost 200,000 civilians. But it soon became clear that NATO was unwilling to target those engaged in brutal "ethnic cleansing." American statesmen described Bosnia as "a problem from hell," and for three and a half years refused to invest the diplomatic and military capital needed to stop the murder of innocents. In Rwanda, around the same time, some 800,000 Tutsi and opposition Hutu were exterminated in the swiftest killing spree of the twentieth century. Again, the United States failed to intervene. This time U.S. policy-makers avoided labeling events "genocide" and spearheaded the withdrawal of UN peacekeepers stationed in Rwanda who might have stopped the massacres underway. Whatever America's commitment to Holocaust remembrance (embodied in the presence of the Holocaust Museum on the Mall in Washington, D.C.), the United States has never intervened to stop genocide. This book is an effort to understand why. While the history of America's response to genocide is not an uplifting one, "A Problem from Hell" tells the stories of countless Americans who took seriously the slogan of "never again" and tried to secure American intervention. Only by understanding the reasons for their small successes and colossal failures can we understand what we as a country, and we as citizens, could have done to stop the most savage crimes of the last century.-Samantha Power


Author Notes

Samantha Power is the executive director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. From 1993 to 1996 she covered the wars in the former Yugoslavia as a reporter for U.S. News and World Report and The Economist. In 1996 she worked for the International Crisis Group (ICG) as a political analyst, helping launch the organization in Bosnia. She is a frequent contributor to The New Republic and is the editor, with Graham Allison, of Realizing Human Rights: Moving from Inspiration to Impact. A native of Ireland, she moved to the United States in 1979 at the age of nine, and graduated from Yale University and Harvard Law School. She lives in Winthrop, Massachusetts.


Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Power, a former journalist for U.S. News and World Report and the Economist and now the executive director of Harvard's Carr Center for Human Rights, offers an uncompromising and disturbing examination of 20th-century acts of genocide and U.S responses to them. In clean, unadorned prose, Power revisits the Turkish genocide directed at Armenians in 1915-1916, the Holocaust, Cambodia's Khmer Rouge, Iraqi attacks on Kurdish populations, Rwanda, and Bosnian "ethnic cleansing," and in doing so, argues that U.S. intervention has been shamefully inadequate. The emotional force of Power's argument is carried by moving, sometimes almost unbearable stories of the victims and survivors of such brutality. Her analysis of U.S. politics what she casts as the State Department's unwritten rule that nonaction is better than action with a PR backlash; the Pentagon's unwillingness to see a moral imperative; an isolationist right; a suspicious left and a population unconcerned with distant nations aims to show how ingrained inertia is, even as she argues that the U.S. must reevaluate the principles it applies to foreign policy choices. In the face of firsthand accounts of genocide, invocations of geopolitical considerations and studied and repeated refusals to accept the reality of genocidal campaigns simply fail to convince, she insists. But Power also sees signs that the fight against genocide has made progress. Prominent among those who made a difference are Raphael Lemkin, a Polish Jew who invented the word genocide and who lobbied the U.N. to make genocide the subject of an international treaty, and Senator William Proxmire, who for 19 years spoke every day on the floor of the U.S. Senate to urge the U.S. to ratify the U.N. treaty inspired by Lemkin's work. This is a well-researched and powerful study that is both a history and a call to action. Photos. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Choice Review

Power's convincing and forceful tome goes to the heart of a central paradox of US foreign policy--the interplay of, and conflict between, self-interest, idealism, and reason in pursuing objectives. To some degree, the tension is apparent in the current debate over possible US war with Iraq, in which Iraqi treatment of the national Kurdish minority figures in rationales for this significant US policy shift, along with the more highly touted issues of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism. An experienced journalist, Power examines official US reactions to mass murder of Armenians by Turks, of Jews and others by Nazis, and of Cambodians by the Pol Pot gang, as well as other fully documented mass homicidal obscenities in Iraq, Bosnia, Rwanda, and Kosovo. Separate tales come out similarly. The US has been consistently noninterventionist about genocide. No US chief executive has either "made genocide prevention a priority" or "suffered politically for ... indifference to [genocide's] occurrence." Power concludes by shredding arguments supporting US inaction. She contends that the US must now choose a different, contrasting approach to genocide, even if it has seemed unreasonable to policymakers, politicians, and the public up to this point. All levels and collections. R. N. Seidel emeritus, SUNY Empire State College


Excerpts

Excerpts

A Problem from Hell America and the Age of Genocide "Race Murder" Trial by Fire On March 14, 1921, on a damp day in the Charlottenburg district of Berlin, a twenty-four-year-old Armenian crept up behind a man in a heavy gray overcoat swinging his cane. The Armenian, Soghomon Tehlirian, placed a revolver at the back of the man's head and pulled the trigger, shouting, "This is to avenge the death of my family!" The burly target crumpled. If you had heard the shot and spotted the rage distorting the face of the young offender, you might have suspected that you were witnessing a murder to avenge a very different kind of crime. But back then you would not have known to call the crime in question "genocide." The word did not yet exist. Tehlirian, the Armenian assassin, was quickly tackled. As pedestrians beat him with their fists and house keys, he shouted in broken German," I foreigner, he foreigner, this not hurt Germany ... It's nothing to do with you." It was national justice carried out in an international setting. Tehlirian had just murdered Mehmed Talaat, the former Turkish interior minister who had set out to rid Turkey of its Armenian "problem." In 1915 Talaat had presided over the killing by firing squad, bayoneting, bludgeoning, and starvation of nearly 1 million Armenians. The outside world had known that the Armenians were at grave risk well before Talaat and the Young Turk leadership ordered their deportation. When Turkey entered World War I on the side of Germany against Britain, France, and Russia, Talaat made it clear that the empire would target its Christian subjects. In January 1915, in remarks reported by the New York Times , Talaat said that there was no room for Christians in Turkey and that their supporters should advise them to clear out. By late March Turkey had begun disarming Armenian men serving in the Ottoman army. On April 25, 1915, the day the Allies invaded Turkey, Talaat ordered the roundup and execution of some 250 leading Armenian intellectuals in Constantinople. In each of Turkey's six eastern provinces, local Armenian notables met roughly the same fate. Armenian men in rural areas were initially enlisted as pack animals to transport Turkish supplies to the front, but soon even this was deemed too dignified an existence for the traitorous Christians. Churches were desecrated. Armenian schools were closed, and those teachers who refused to convert to Islam were killed. All over Anatolia the authorities posted deportation orders requiring the Armenians to relocate to camps prepared in the deserts of Syria. In fact, the Turkish authorities knew that no facilities had been prepared, and more than half of the deported Armenians died on the way. "By continuing the deportation of the orphans to their destinations during the intense cold," Talaat wrote, "we are ensuring their eternal rest." "Official proclamations," like this one from June 1915, cropped up around town: Our Armenian fellow countrymen, ... because ... they have ... attempted to destroy the peace and security of the Ottoman state, ... have to be sent away to places which have been prepared in the interior ... and a literal obedience to the following orders, in a categorical manner, is accordingly enjoined upon all Ottomans: With the exception of the sick, all Armenians are obliged to leave within five days from the date of this proclamation ... Although they are free to carry with them on their journey the articles of their movable property which they desire, they are forbidden to sell their land and their extra effects, or to leave them here and there with other people ... The Young Turks -- Talaat; Enver Pasha, the minister of war; and Djemal Pasha, the minister of public works -- justified the wholesale deportation of the Armenians by claiming that it was necessary to suppress Armenian revolts. When Russia had declared war on Turkey the previous year, it had invited Armenians living within Turkey to rise up against Ottoman rule, which a small minority did. Although two prominent Ottoman Armenians led a pair of czarist volunteer corps to fight Turkey, most expressed loyalty to Constantinople. But this did not stop the Turkish leadership from using the pretext of an Armenian "revolutionary uprising" and the cover of war to eradicate the Armenian presence in Turkey. Very few of those killed were plotting anything other than survival. The atrocities were carried out against women, children, and unarmed men. They were not incidental "by-products" of war but in fact resulted from carefully crafted decisions made by Turkey's leaders. In June 1915 Erzindjan, the hometown of Talaat's eventual assassin, was emptied. Soghomon Tehlirian, then nineteen, marched in a column of some 20,000 people, with his mother and siblings -- two sisters of fifteen and sixteen, another of twenty-six who carried a two-and-a-half-year-old child, and two brothers of twenty-two and twenty-six.The journey was harrowing. The gendarmes said to be protecting the convoy first dragged Tehlirian's sisters off behind the bushes to rape them. Next he watched a man split his twenty-two-year-old brother's head open with an ax. Finally, the soldiers shot his mother and struck Tehlirian unconscious with a blow to the head. He was left for dead and awoke hours later in a field of corpses. He spotted the mangled body of a sister and the shattered skull of his brother. His other relatives had disappeared. He guessed he was the sole survivor of the caravan ... A Problem from Hell America and the Age of Genocide . Copyright © by Samantha Power. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide by Samantha Power All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Prefacep. xi
1 "Race Murder"p. 1
2 "A Crime Without a Name"p. 17
3 The Crime With a Namep. 31
4 Lemkin's Lawp. 47
5 "A Most Lethal Pair of Foes"p. 61
6 Cambodia: "Helpless Giant"p. 87
7 Speaking Loudly and Looking for a Stickp. 155
8 Iraq: "Human Rights and Chemical Weapons Use Aside"p. 171
9 Bosnia: "No More than Witnesses at a Funeral"p. 247
10 Rwanda: "Mostly in a Listening Mode"p. 329
11 Srebrenica: "Getting Creamed"p. 391
12 Kosovo: A Dog and a Fightp. 443
13 Lemkin's Courtroom Legacyp. 475
14 Conclusionp. 503
Notesp. 517
Bibliographyp. 575
Acknowledgmentsp. 589
Indexp. 593
About the Authorp. 611

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