A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide

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Overview

In her award-winning interrogation of the last century of American history, Samantha Power—a former Balkan war correspondent and founding executive director of Harvard's Carr Center for Human Rights Policy—asks the haunting question: Why do American leaders who vow "never again" repeatedly fail to stop genocide? Drawing upon exclusive interviews with Washington's top policy makers, access to newly declassified documents, and her own reporting from the modern killing fields, Power provides the answer in "A Problem...

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Overview

In her award-winning interrogation of the last century of American history, Samantha Power—a former Balkan war correspondent and founding executive director of Harvard's Carr Center for Human Rights Policy—asks the haunting question: Why do American leaders who vow "never again" repeatedly fail to stop genocide? Drawing upon exclusive interviews with Washington's top policy makers, access to newly declassified documents, and her own reporting from the modern killing fields, Power provides the answer in "A Problem from Hell," a groundbreaking work that tells the stories of the courageous Americans who risked their careers and lives in an effort to get the United States to act.

Winner for the 2002 National Book Critics Circle Award and the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction.

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Editorial Reviews

Lawrence H. Summers
“[A Problem From Hell] challenges our conscience and should influence what we do in the future.’’
Aryeh Neier
“[Power] is one of the most striking talents to emerge in the human rights field in a long time.”
Former UN Ambassador - Richard Holbrooke
"One of those rare books that can change one’s thinking...very painful reading, but it has to be read.’’
Doris Kearns Goodwin
“A history of our country that has never before been told... it should change the way we see America..”
Former Senate Majority Leader D-Maine - George J. Mitchell
"This is a moving account of how millions of lives were lost."
Paul M. Kennedy
“A serious and compelling work... should be read by policy makers everywhere.”
Stanley Hoffmann
“Power writes with an admirable mix of erudition and passion... focuses fiercely on the human costs of indifference and passivity....”
Philip Gourevitch
“Samantha Power has written one of those rare books that is truly as important as its subject.”
Time Magazine
"Bracing...Power [is] the new conscience of the U.S. foreign-policy establishment."
Former UN Ambassador Richard Holbrooke
“One of those rare books that can change one’s thinking...very painful reading, but it has to be read.’’
Former Senate Majority Leader George J. Mitchell (D-Maine)
“This is a moving account of how millions of lives were lost.”
New York Review of Books
“Agonizingly persuasive.”
Denver Post
“Brilliantly conceived, superbly researched, mixing passion and erudition—it must be placed in the ‘must read’ category.”
Washington Post
“Forceful… Power tells this long, sorry history with great clarity and vividness.”
Time magazine
“Bracing...Power [is] the new conscience of the U.S. foreign-policy establishment.”
Newsweek International
“A damning indictment of American passivity in the face of some of history’s worse crimes.
The New Republic
“An angry, brilliant, fiercely useful, absolutely essential book.”
Foreign Affairs
“Disturbing...engaging and well written…will likely become the standard text on genocide prevention.”
Newark Star Ledger
“Groundbreaking... Power elegantly makes her case.”
Weekly Standard
“Avoids partisan finger-pointing [and] is a clarion call for America to remain an engaged moral power.”
The New Yorker
“Magisterial.”
Reason
“Compelling…Power leads her readers on a long and often gut-wrenching journey…. Power’s book raises vital questions.”
Newsweek (International Edition)
"A damning indictment of American passivity in the face of some of history’s worse crimes.
Denver Post
“Brilliantly conceived, superbly researched, mixing passion and erudition--it must be placed in the ‘must read’ category.”
Newsweek International
“A damning indictment of American passivity in the face of some of history’s worse crimes.
Reason
“Compelling…Power leads her readers on a long and often gut-wrenching journey…. Power’s book raises vital questions.”
Washington Post
“Forceful… Power tells this long, sorry history with great clarity and vividness.”
Newark Star Ledger
“Groundbreaking... Power elegantly makes her case.”
The New Yorker
“Magisterial.”
Foreign Affairs
“Disturbing...engaging and well written…will likely become the standard text on genocide prevention.”
The New Republic
“An angry, brilliant, fiercely useful, absolutely essential book.”
Denver Post
“Brilliantly conceived, superbly researched, mixing passion and erudition—it must be placed in the ‘must read’ category.”
Weekly Standard
“Avoids partisan finger-pointing [and] is a clarion call for America to remain an engaged moral power.”
New York Review of Books
“Agonizingly persuasive.”
Time magazine
“Bracing...Power [is] the new conscience of the U.S. foreign-policy establishment.”
Newsweek International
A damning indictment of American passivity in the face of some of history’s worse crimes.
Newsweek (International Edition)
“A damning indictment of American passivity in the face of some of history’s worse crimes.
Doris Kearns Goodwin
Some books elegantly record history; some books make history. This book does both. Power brings a story-teller's gift for gripping narrative together with a reporter's hunger for the inside story. Drawing on newly declassified documents and scores of exclusive interviews, she has produced an unforgettable history of Americans who stood up and stood by in the face of genocide. It is a history of our country that has never before been told, and it should change the way we see America and its role in the world.
Publishers Weekly
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. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The executive director of Harvard's Carr Center for Human Rights Policy presents a superb analysis of the US government's evident unwillingness to intervene in ethnic slaughter. Based on centuries-old hatreds all but inexplicable to outside observers, genocide is indeed "a problem from hell," as then-Secretary of State Warren Christopher put it. In Bosnia, which inspired Christopher's remark, those hatreds resulted in untold thousands of deaths, televised and reported for the world to see. Even so, writes Power (who covered the Balkan conflict for U.S. News and World Report), the Clinton administration was reluctant to characterize the butchery as genocide, preferring instead to cast it in terms of "tragedy" and "civil war" and thus "downplaying public expectations that there was anything the United States could do." The author argues that the Clinton administration's failure to act was entirely consistent with earlier American responses to genocide, which turned on the assumption of policymakers, journalists, and citizens that human beings are rational and in the event of war, innocent civilians can insure their safety merely by keeping out of the line of fire. That failure also fits in with the American government's isolationist tendencies, strong even at a time when the US is the world's sole superpower. Power examines genocide after genocide, including the Turkish slaughter of Armenians during WWI, the Holocaust, and the Cambodian bloodbath of the 1970s, assuring her readers that US officials knew very well what was happening and chose to look the other way. She closes by suggesting that the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, "might enhance the empathy of Americans . . . towardpeoples victimized by genocide," although she also guesses that the government may view intervention as an untenable diversion of resources away from homeland defense. A well-reasoned argument for the moral necessity of halting genocide wherever it occurs, and an unpleasant reminder of our role in enabling it, however unwittingly.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061120145
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/18/2007
  • Series: P.S. Series
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 688
  • Product dimensions: 8.08 (w) x 5.24 (h) x 1.25 (d)

Meet the Author

Samantha Power

Samantha Power is a foreign policy columnist at Time magazine. She is the Anna Lindh Professor of Practice of Global Leadership and Public Policy at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, where she was the founding executive director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy. She is a recipient of the National Magazine Award and the Pulitzer Prize, and she lives in Winthrop, Massachusetts.

Biography

Raised in Ireland, nine-year-old Samantha Power emigrated to the U.S. with her parents in 1979. Although the family moved around a lot, Power developed an early love of—and talent for—American sports. She attended high school in Atlanta, Georgia, where her prowess on the basketball court earned her the nickname "Tower of Power." From high school she went to Yale to study history.

Far more interested in athletics than current affairs, Power dreamed of becoming a sports journalist à la Bob Costas. Her great awakening occurred shortly after her freshman year at Yale. Working in Atlanta for a CBS television affiliate, she was preparing sports highlights for a news broadcast when the live feed picked up footage from Tiananmen Square. In a 2002 interview, Power recalled her reaction: "It was one of the most shocking things I had ever seen…and I thought, 'Oh, my God. What am I doing with my life?' [That] was actually the discrete…moment in time when I decided to revisit my career plans." The sports fan had discovered there was a big, bad world outside.

After graduation, Power worked for a year with the Carnegie Endowment for Peace in Washington, D.C., then traveled to Bosnia in 1993 as a war correspondent for U.S. News & World Report, The Economist, and other publications. She took time out to attend Harvard Law School, then "commuted" back and forth to Bosnia from 1995 to 1996. Her experiences there gave rise to the idea for a book about America's (non-)response to 20th-century genocide. Published to universal acclaim, A Problem from Hell won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction.

In 2008, Power published Chasing the Flame, the story of Sérgio Vieira de Mello, the charismatic Brazilian humanitarian and U.N. diplomat who was killed along with 21 members of his staff in a 2003 hotel bombing in Iraq. More than a biography, the ambitious book views the tragic history of humanitarian crises all over the globe through the prism of de Mello's fascinating life.

Power remains a working journalist committed to bringing world's attention to the ongoing problems of genocide, human rights abuse, and health crises around the world. In addition, she has held various academic posts in colleges and universities and serves as a scholar and advisor on foreign policy.

Good To Know

From "Conversations with History," a lively interview series sponsored by the Institute of International Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, here are some of Samantha Power's thoughts...
On writing: "I definitely have heeded Orwell's maxims about simplicity: always avoid the long sentence when the short sentence will do, always avoid the big word when the short word will do; think of what it is that you're seeing in your mind, and try to find the words that describe it, rather than resorting to clichés or metaphors, just think about what you've seen."

On her mother: "She's completely single-minded. She was the Irish squash champ, and played in Wimbledon for tennis, and meanwhile got a Ph.D. in biochemistry and a medical degree, and is just an extraordinary woman."

On what she's learned from sports: "Everything. Everything. I learned to fail, and I learned to keep getting up."

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    1. Date of Birth:
      September 21, 1970
    2. Place of Birth:
      Dublin, Ireland
    1. Education:
      Yale University and Harvard Law School

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


"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 Talaat Pasha, 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 theempire 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:
  1. With the exception of the sick, all Armenians are obliged to leave within five days from the date of this proclamation....

  2. 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.


Recognition


The "international community," such as it was, did little to contest the Turkish horrors, which began nine months into World War I. Germany was aligned with the brutal regime and thus was best positioned to influence it. Instead, German officials generally covered up Talaat's campaign, ridiculing the Allied accounts of the terror as "pure inventions" and "gross exaggerations." The Germans echoed the Turks' claims that any harsh policies were a measured response to Armenian treason during wartime. The German chancellor met in person with German Christian missionaries who presented eyewitness testimony about the slaughter. But he rejected their appeals. Berlin would not offend its Turkish ally.

    Britain and France were at war with the Ottoman Empire and publicized the atrocities. The British Foreign Office dug up photographs of the massacre victims and the Armenian refugees in flight. An aggressive, London-based, pro-Armenian lobby helped spur the British press to cover the savagery. But some had trouble believing the tales. British foreign secretary Sir Edward Grey, for one, cautioned that Britain lacked "direct knowledge" of massacres. He urged that "the massacres were not all on one side" and warned that denunciation would likely be futile. Indeed, when Russia's foreign minister drafted a public threat that he hoped the Allies could issue jointly, Grey said he doubted that the message would influence Turkish behavior and might even cause Turkey to adopt more serious measures against the Armenians. Since Britain was already at war with Turkey, other British officials argued that the most expedient way to end the killings would be to defeat the German-Austrian-Turkish alliance. On May 24, 1915, the Allied governments did deliver a joint declaration that took the unprecedented step of condemning "crimes against humanity and civilization." The declaration warned the members of the Turkish government that they and their "agents" would be held "personally responsible" for the massacres. Generally, though, the Allies were busy trying to win the war. At the same time the Turks were waging their campaign against the Armenian minority, the German army was using poison gas against the Allies in Belgium. In May 1915 the German army had torpedoed the Lusitania passenger liner, killing 1,200 (including 190 Americans). The Germans had also just begun zeppelin attacks against London.

    The United States, determined to maintain its neutrality in the war, refused to join the Allied declaration. President Woodrow Wilson chose not to pressure either the Turks or their German backers. It was better not to draw attention to the atrocities, lest U.S. public opinion get stirred up and begin demanding U.S. involvement. Because the Turks had not violated the rights of Americans, Wilson did not formally protest.

    But in Turkey itself America's role as bystander was contested. Henry Morgenthau Sr., a German-born Jew who had come to the United States as a ten-year-old boy and had been appointed ambassador to the Ottoman Empire by President Wilson in 1913, agitated for U.S. diplomatic intervention. In January and February 1915, Morgenthau had begun receiving graphic but fragmentary intelligence from his ten American consuls posted throughout the Ottoman Empire. At first he did not recognize that the atrocities against the Armenians were of a different nature than the wartime violence. He was taken in by Talaat's assurances that uncontrolled elements had simply embarked upon "mob violence" that would soon be contained. In April, when the massacres began in earnest, the Turkish authorities severed Morgenthau's communication with his consuls and censored their letters. Morgenthau was reluctant to file reports back to Washington based on rumors, and the Turks were making it impossible for him to fact-check.

    Although he was initially incredulous, by July 1915 the ambassador had come around. He had received too many visits from desperate Armenians and trusted missionary sources to remain skeptical. They had sat in his office with tears streaming down their faces, regaling him with terrifying tales. When he compared this testimony to the strikingly similar horrors relayed in the rerouted consular cables, Morgenthau came to an astonishing conclusion. What he called "race murder" was under way. On July 10, 1915, he cabled Washington with a description of the Turkish campaign:


Persecution of Armenians assuming unprecedented proportions. Reports from widely scattered districts indicate systematic attempt to uproot peaceful Armenian populations and through arbitrary arrests, terrible tortures, whole-sale expulsions and deportations from one end of the Empire to the other accompanied by frequent instances of rape, pillage, and murder, turning into massacre, to bring destruction and destitution on them. These measures are not in response to popular or fanatical demand but are purely arbitrary and directed from Constantinople in the name of military necessity, often in districts where no military operations are likely to take place.


Response


Morgenthau was constrained by two background conditions that seemed immutable. First, the Wilson administration was resolved to stay out of World War I. Picking fights with Turkey did not seem a good way to advance that objective. And second, diplomatic protocol demanded that ambassadors act respectfully toward their host governments. U.S. diplomats were expected to stay out of business that did not concern U.S. national interests. "Turkish authorities have definitely informed me that I have no right to interfere with their internal affairs," Morgenthau wrote. Still, he warned Washington, "there seems to be a systematic plan to crush the Armenian race."

    Local witnesses urged him to invoke the moral power of the United States. Otherwise, he was told, "the whole Armenian nation would disappear." The ambassador did what he could, continuing to send blistering cables back to Washington and raising the matter at virtually every meeting he held with Talaat. He found his exchanges with the interior minister infuriating. Once, when the ambassador introduced eyewitness reports of slaughter, Talaat snapped back: "Why are you so interested in the Armenians anyway? You are a Jew, these people are Christians.... What have you to complain of? Why can't you let us do with these Christians as we please?" Morgenthau replied, "You don't seem to realize that I am not here as a Jew but as the American Ambassador.... I do not appeal to you in the name of any race or religion but merely as a human being." Talaat looked confused. "We treat the Americans all right, too," he said. "I don't see why you should complain."

    But Morgenthau continued to complain, warning that Talaat and other senior officials would eventually be held responsible before the court of public opinion, particularly in the United States. Talaat had a ready response: "We don't give a rap for the future!" he exclaimed. "We live only in the present!" Talaat believed in collective guilt. It was legitimate to punish all Armenians even if only a few refused to disarm or harbored seditious thoughts. "We have been reproached for making no distinction between the innocent Armenians and the guilty," Talaat told a German reporter. "But that was utterly impossible, in view of the fact that those who were innocent today might be guilty tomorrow."

     Instead of hiding his achievements, as later perpetrators would do, Talaat boasted of them. According to Morgenthau, he liked to tell friends, "I have accomplished more toward solving the Armenian problem in three months than Abdul Hamid accomplished in thirty years!" (The Turkish sultan Abdul Hamid had killed some 200,000 Armenians in 1895-1896.) Talaat once asked Morgenthau whether the United States could get the New York Life Insurance Company and Equitable Life of New York, which for years had done business with the Armenians, to send a complete list of the Armenian policyholders to the Turkish authorities. "They are practically all dead now and have left no heirs," Talaat said. "The Government is the beneficiary now."

    Morgenthau was incensed at the request and stormed out of Talaat's office. He again cabled back to Washington, imploring his higher-ups to take heed:


I earnestly beg the Department to give this matter urgent and exhaustive consideration with a view to reaching a conclusion which may possibly have the effect of checking [Turkey's] Government and certainly provide opportunity for efficient relief which now is not permitted. It is difficult for me to restrain myself from doing something to stop this attempt to exterminate a race, but I realize that I am here as Ambassador and must abide by the principles of non-interference with the internal affairs of another country.


Morgenthau had to remind himself that one of the prerogatives of sovereignty was that states and statesmen could do as they pleased within their own borders. "Technically," he noted to himself, "I had no right to interfere. According to the cold-blooded legalities of the situation, the treatment of Turkish subjects by the Turkish Government was purely a domestic affair; unless it directly affected American lives and American interests, it was outside the concern of the American Government." The ambassador found this maddening.

    The New York Times gave the Turkish horrors steady coverage, publishing 145 stories in 1915. It helped that Morgenthau and Times publisher Adolph Ochs were old friends. Beginning in March 1915, the paper spoke of Turkish "massacres," "slaughter," and "atrocities" against the Armenians, relaying accounts by missionaries, Red Cross officials, local religious authorities, and survivors of mass executions. "It is safe to say," a correspondent noted in July, "that unless Turkey is beaten to its knees very speedily there will soon be no more Christians in the Ottoman Empire." By July 1915 the paper's headlines had begun crying out about the danger of the Armenians' "extinction" Viscount Bryce, former British ambassador to the United States, pleaded that the United States use its influence with Germany. "If anything can stop the destroying hand of the Turkish Government," Bryce argued, as did the missionaries who had appealed to Morgenthau, "it will be an expression of the opinion of neutral nations, chiefly the judgment of humane America." On October 7, 1915, a Times headline blared, "800,000 ARMENIANS COUNTED DESTROYED." The article reported Bryce's testimony before the House of Lords in which he urged the United States to demonstrate that there were "some crimes which, even now in the convulsion of a great war, the public opinion of the world will not tolerate." By December the paper's headline read, "MILLION ARMENIANS KILLED OR IN EXILE." The number of victims were estimates, as the bodies were impossible to count. Nevertheless, governmental and nongovernmental officials were sure that the atrocities were "unparalleled in modern times" and that the Turks had set out to achieve "nothing more or less than the annihilation of a whole people."

(Continues...)


Excerpted from "A PROBLEM FROM HELL" by Samantha Power. Copyright © 2002 by Samantha Power. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


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Table of Contents

Preface
1 "Race Murder" 1
2 "A Crime Without a Name" 17
3 The Crime With a Name 31
4 Lemkin's Law 47
5 "A Most Lethal Pair of Foes" 61
6 Cambodia: "Helpless Giant" 87
7 Speaking Loudly and Looking for a Stick 155
8 Iraq: "Human Rights and Chemical Weapons Use Aside" 171
9 Bosnia: "No More than Witnesses at a Funeral" 247
10 Rwanda: "Mostly in a Listening Mode" 329
11 Srebrenica: "Getting Creamed" 391
12 Kosovo: A Dog and a Fight 443
13 Lemkin's Courtroom Legacy 475
14 Conclusion 503
Notes 517
Bibliography 575
Acknowledgments 589
Index 593
About the Author 611
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Sort by: Showing all of 18 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 27, 2008

    An Uneven Beginning but an Excellent End

    Prof. Power's Study of Genocide is excellent from the time she picks up Lemkin's and Sen. Proxmire's diplomatic efforts to fix Genocide as a world treaty and as a UN defined crime. However, the beginning of the book, covering the Armenian Genocide by the Young Turk element of the Ottoman Empire, is very disappointing on several levels. First, it fails to note the important role played by President Wilson's 12th of the 14 points, in favor of the Christian Minorities of Asia Minor. This was in favor of the Kurds, the Armenians and the Aegean as well as Pontian Greek Chriatian 'Rumi' Greeks of Asia Minor collectively, these outnumbered the Turks as of 1915 and as of 1919. Second, she misses completely President Wilson's championing of the Armenians at Versailles, and his carving out of an Armenian state as neutral arbitrator composed of one quarter of the extant Asia Minor portion of the Ottoman Empire in 1919, which was submitted as a mandate to be administered together with the coastal black sea portion of the Ottoman Empire mandate to the senate, only to be rejected in the spring of 1919. Only later was the Versailles Peace Treaty also rejected. Third, she misses the earlier genocides of 1895 against the Armenians, which were well-publicicized in the world newspapers and in the media, and noted by President Cleveland as well as later Presidents, and by other world leaders. As early as 1878, Gladstone was railing against the 'Terrible Turk'. The oppression of the christian minorities in the Ottoman Empire had a long history, but a wiser starting point would have been 1821 and the Greek war of Independence, and the 1822 slaughter of more than 100,000 innocent greeks on the island of Chios, immortalized in the painting by Delacroix, and the killing of the Patriach and the Phanariotes by the Turks in 1821-22. The so-called 'Eastern Question' which Prof. Power only catches the end of with the 'Armenian Genocide' is really a very complex matter, and she only covers approximately five percent (5%) of the details in a very cursory and limited fashion. Furthermore, her numbers are wrong one and one half million Armenians perished in 1915, not one million as she cites an additional one and one half million Armenians perished subsequent to 1915 when the Soviet Union partitioned Armenia with the new Turkish state, in an agreement reached between Attaturk and Lenin. Another error that Power makes is that she is unable to distinguish between the new turkish state, represented by the rebellious Attaturk, who is making treaties with the insurgent soviet union and Lenin, and the old Ottoman Empire, which actually signs a peace treaty with France, England and Greece, called the Treaty of Sevres (1920), in which Constantinople and Smyrna were ceded to French, English and Greek rule. Also, that Armenia and coastal black sea would be under American mandate, and the Kurds and Armenians would be given their own states. Attaturk and the young turks disputed their own Sultan, and the Sultanate, and disregarded that treaty, and went to war over the Treaty of Sevres. They killed and executed Armenians and Greeks alike from 1920-22 along the Black Sea Coast when America failed to execute its mandate, notwithstanding that President Wilson urged the US and the US Senate to send troops. Power mistakenly says that no US President wanted to prevent genocide in Turkey, but Wilson wanted to send US troops, wanted to participate in the League of Nations, and wanted US Troops to be sent to the black sea and to armenia to protect the armenians and christian greeks from 1919-23, and if necessary, to protect the nascent armenian state. It is worth noting that the british sent troops to protect and foster the new Iraqi state from 1919-23. Otherwise it would never have existed. American presidential leadership was there it was the isolationist republican congress who opposed intervention. The result was the

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 13, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    A call for wars across the world, to serve US interests

    Powers' book is a call for intervention wherever the US state unilaterally decides that it wants to interfere in other countries on spurious 'humanitarian' grounds.
    Read instead David N. Gibbs' First do no harm, which argues for a new, noninterventionist model for U.S. foreign policy, one that deploys non-military methods for addressing ethnic violence.

    He asserts, "in most instances, the legacy of military intervention has been appalling." And, "alleged humanitarian interventions in the Balkans helped establish a new rationale - however spurious - for militarism. The Yugoslav case served to define US intervention as a benevolent and even altruistic activity, and this image has proven useful as a justification for virtually all overseas action."

    As he writes, "external intervention was one of the principal causes of the conflict. Interventions helped to trigger the breakup of Yugoslavia and the various wars that followed the breakup; later intervention served to intensify the war, and to spread the fighting." And, "US officials deliberately undercut a potential diplomatic solution to the Kosovo war."

    NATO "was nominally a military alliance to guard against external military threats. But its real function was to maintain US predominance in Europe." As the 1992 Defense Planning Guidance document, by Wolfowitz and Cheney, said, "we must seek to prevent the emergence of Europe-only security arrangements which would undermine NATO."

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2008

    WOW AWESOME

    Very well researched book, its pretty nice

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2005

    SHAME

    I can only cringe at the standard policies of nonintervention that Powers clearly demonstrates and applaud the brave few who sacrificed to be heard. As a nation of vast resources, we owe something back to our global community. Furthermore, such action may have saved us from the difficult conflicts we face today. The international community must decide that the loss of any culture or people is devastating to all. We ALWAYS have a dog in this fight.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 18, 2004

    Impressive historical account

    Eye opening book on genocide, from the coining of the term to its occurrences since the Holocaust. Includes in depth research on happenings at the site as well as the response (or lack there of) of international leaders and support of the public. I thought it dragged out just a little at the end which is why I didn't give it 5-stars.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2004

    Disurbing but necessary reading

    Samantha Power has written,in my opinion, an extremely important book. I was practically angered and dissapointed at the information this work asserted. Noninterventionism in the face of genocide should be unacceptable under any circumstance. Goood job Powers

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 25, 2003

    valid but outdated now

    The author brilliantly traced a long history of inaction on the part of American leaders in the face of genocide. But it is no longer accurate in view of the subsequent US military actions/invasions in Afghanistan and Iraq under the Bush Administration. One wonders whether this book was one of the cause of recent US interventionist policy as her indictment of US policy would have been read by US policy makers.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 19, 2002

    The impact of US inattention abroad

    A thorough and accurate report on the poorly justified political decisions behind U.S. intervention and non-intervention in major ethnic conflicts, and the devastating (genocidal) impact of both on the local populations. For a well- and recently researched political history of one of the U.S.'s best-orchestrated "legal" manipulations of a people, and the ensuing genocide of this people--the American Indians--see Jesse Larner's "Mount Rushmore: An Icon Reconsidered."

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2002

    A Book that needed to be written.

    In honour of those who suffer the least that can be done is to listen, or read. This book helps fulfill the human duty to know. Hopefully, I hope those who should read it will, and after becoming aware try to stop it in the future. The voice I wanted is in this book. It is a history journey that I hope touches the heart of our innocense to slaughter. I wish this could become a book taught in schools. There is a side to human nature that is automatic when people are in trouble, there are those who care. THIS BOOK SHOWS HOW NECESSARY THIS IS TO CARE I AM GRATEFUL FOR THE OPPORTUNITY TO HAVE READ IT

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 20, 2002

    Clear,concise coverage of why the US must learn and be active in foreign policy

    Did you know that Osama was operating in the Balkans war fighting Christains who were cleansing Muslims. Is this how he formed his view on the USA? This book discusses the issues of problems and how they ultimatley impact the USA and why every American should be actively interested in what happens in the world.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2002

    The Facts

    The author did a very good job in presenting an important problem which threatens the human life throughout the history of the world. I agree on the point that whoever is responsible for any kind of genocide and crime should get what he deserves. However, in presenting some of the historical events,especially related with the Ermanian issue, the writer is far from being objective. I think she giving some inconsistent ideas to the readers. On one side she is critizing crime and on the other side she is teeling about a violent terrorist as a hero. In my opinion, this book is not a successful and mainly depends on subjective informations rather than historical facts.

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    Posted October 10, 2009

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    Posted December 5, 2008

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    Posted December 31, 2010

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    Posted March 28, 2009

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    Posted March 23, 2011

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