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"A Problem from Hell": America and the Age of Genocide [Paperback]

Samantha Power
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

15 May 2003
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
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Product details

  • Paperback: 620 pages
  • Publisher: HarperPerennial; Reprint edition (15 May 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060541644
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060541644
  • Product Dimensions: 20.1 x 13.2 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,080,703 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Samantha Power is the executive director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy atthe 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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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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. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why Genocide Is Repetitive 29 Oct 2002
By taking a rest HALL OF FAME
Format:Hardcover
It should be the easiest subject to have universal agreement on; Genocide is reprehensible and cannot be defended. The reality is of course much different for our species is the only one that kills, tortures, and maims its members without cause. Differences in religion, the desire to control land, natural resources, or hunger for power are not reasons to kill entire groups. The title of the book is, "A Problem From Hell", and it is an outstanding work by Samantha Power. She is not only a competent historian she spent years in the midst of one of the more recent examples of what could also be called, a problem of human nature. This Nation's Congress took 40 years to ratify the treaty on Genocide. It seems some Southern Congressmen were worried about culpability from Jim Crow that was still alive and well, others for the millions of Native Americans slaughtered because they were in our way.
She specifically covers the massacre of Armenians by Turkey, Hitler's murder of the Jews, Pol Pot's slaughter of Cambodians, Saddam Hussein gassing minorities in Iraq, the 1994 murder of 800,000 people in Rwanda, and most recently the Serb Nationalist's bid to join the roster of those who kill almost for sport. The mass killing is not sport however the individual conduct of the sadists who enjoy inventive killing is hard to read.
In 1915 The United States was not in a position to impose on Turkey. It is now 2002 and The United States deems Turkey an ally, a country that has refused to admit any Genocide took place. The United States has a congress that killed a vote condemning the Turkish Government because hours before the vote President Clinton, a lame duck President asked them too.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliantly informative 16 Dec 2004
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Samantha Power won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for her book and after reading it, you'll understand why. She must have put years of research into this book, in fact tome is more accurate. It is near obsessively thorough and she explains how the term genocide was created and where and by whom it was perpetrated from 1915 up to 2001. I consider myself pretty well versed in 20th century history but I confess to feeling dumbstruck at the scale and scope of the last century's attrocities. It is a thought provoking and enormously valuable guide to those of you who want to find what lies behind the "spin", lies and disinformation propagated by most governments. Highly recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'Never again' should mean something... 5 Feb 2011
By C. Ball TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
If there was ever a book I would make required reading for all heads of state and government leaders, this would be that book. Despite making much-vaunted claims of 'never again' when speaking of the Holocaust, Power shows that America and the West has indeed allowed genocide to occur, over and over again - in Iraq, in Bosnia, in Cambodia, in Rwanda. Only once has the West intervened to prevent genocide from occuring, in Kosovo, and then only largely because the world had already seen Milosevic commit genocide against the Muslims in Bosnia.

She argues that America repeatedly refuses to intervene unless the situation becomes politically untenable in not doing so. If American interests are not threatened, America is not interested - despite its moral repugnance at the acts occuring. America repeats ducks its responsibilities by arguing that there is no consensus to act, no movement from its European allies, no pressure on the home front - but should a government with the power to prevent a genocide from taking place wait until its hand is forced by outside intervention?

Power doesn't solely attribute blame to the U.S., but she is quite adamant that when a country positions itself as the leader of the free world, it is expected to, well, lead. And it's hard to argue with her, when this powerful, angry book shows time and again that American governmental officials have sat back and allowed genocide to happen. So much for 'never again'.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic History 17 Dec 2003
Format:Paperback
This passionately and eloquently argued book is an essential work of 20th century history. It is compelling from first page to last, written with academic precision in brilliant prose, and it well deserves the praise it has been awarded. Chronicling and scrutinising U.S. involvement in the genocides of the last century, Power paints a startling and damning picture of countless administrations and government officials in their employ. It is a vast, chilling, and important account of an aspect of our world that won't go away until we choose to do something about it. It is also a book about the many, many individuals who have worked assiduously to try and prevent genocides; here there is hope. With bravery and persistence people can make a difference, and intervention - whether NATO bombing or a simple phone-call - can, and frequently has, saved lives. Very highly recommended.
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