Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Non-fiction 2003 A shattering history of the last hundred years of genocidal war that itemises in authoritative, persuasive manner exactly what the West knew and when, and what it chose to do, and what not to do, with that knowledge. Winner of the US National Book Critics Circle Award 'The United States has never ...
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Non-fiction 2003 A shattering history of the last hundred years of genocidal war that itemises in authoritative, persuasive manner exactly what the West knew and when, and what it chose to do, and what not to do, with that knowledge. Winner of the US National Book Critics Circle Award 'The United States has never in its history intervened to stop genocide and has in fact rarely even made a point of condemning it as it occurred.' In this convincing and definitive interrogation of the last century of American history and foreign policy, Samantha Power draws upon declassified documents, private papers, unprecedented interviews and her own reporting from the modern killing fields to tell the story of American indifference and American courage in the face of man's inhumanity to man. Tackling the argument that successive US leaders were unaware of genocidal horrors as they were occurring - against Armenians, Jews, Cambodians, Kurds, Rwandans, Bosnians - Samantha Power seeks to establish precisely how much was known and when, and claims that much human misery and tragedy could readily have been averted. It is clear that the failure to intervene was usually caused not by ignorance or impotence, but by considered political inaction. Several heroic figures did work to oppose and expose ethnic cleansing as it took place, but the majority of American politicians chose always to do nothing, as did the American public: Power notes that 'no US president has ever suffered politically for his indifference to its occurrence. It is thus no coincidence that genocide rages on.' This riveting book makes a powerful case for why America, as both sole superpower and global citizen, must make such indifference a thing of the past.
The comedian Eddie Izzard, in his "Dress to Kill" performance, manages to have a very funny but biting look at genocide, saying, among other things, that we don't seem to have a problem with governments killing their own people. "We've been trying to kill you for years," he cracks.
Samantha Power's book gives a sweeping overview of the times we have attempted to intervene in internal genocides, as well as discussing the Holocaust. I love this book, but it's so depressing I had to take it one horror at a time with extended breaks between atrocities.
Power does a fabulous job of looking at the bipartisan faliures of the US in dealing with genocide, starting with the Armenian massacres of the early 20th century and working her way through Kosovo, where she was an eyewitness to various events.
Not all is doom and gloom, however. Power makes recommendations for better strategies of dealing with genocide without becoming overly entangled in the internal politics of the nation involved. I found it cheering when I saw Power was one of the people who testified before Congress regarding Darfur, and it seems as a people we may actually learn something from her.
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