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A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide
2003 Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction
2003 J. Anthony Lukas Prize for nonfiction
2002 National Book Critics Circle Award for general nonfiction
Synopses & Reviews
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
"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." Doris Kearns Goodwin
Book News Annotation:
Based on her study of various well publicized incidents of genocide during the 20th century, Power (human rights policy, Harvard U.) concludes that Americans are slow to respond to it, and that the battle to generate US government intervention is lost in the realm of domestic politics. She does not mention American Indians.
Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
A character-driven study of some of the darkest moments in our national history, when America failed to prevent or stop 20th-century campaigns to exterminate Armenians, Jews, Cambodians, Iraqi Kurds, Bosnians, and Rwandans .
From the Armenian Genocide to the ethnic cleansings of Kosovo and Darfur, modern history is haunted by acts of brutal violence. Yet American leaders who vow never again” repeatedly fail to stop genocide. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award, A Problem From Hell draws upon exclusive interviews with Washingtons top policymakers, thousands of once classified documents, and accounts of reporting from the killing fields to show how decent Americans inside and outside government looked away from mass murder. Combining spellbinding history and seasoned political analysis, A Problem from Hell allows readers to hear directly from American decision-makers and dissenters, as well as from victims of genocide, and reveals just what was known and what might have been done while millions perished.
About the Author
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.
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