"A Problem From Hell": America and the Age of Genocide

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Former UN Ambassador Samantha Power's Pulitzer Prize-winning analysis of America's repeated failure to stop genocides around the world
In her Pulitzer Prize-winning examination of the last century of American history, Samantha Power asks the haunting question: Why do American leaders who vow "never again" repeatedly fail to stop genocide? Power, a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School and the former US Ambassador to the United Nations, draws upon exclusive interviews with Washington's top policymakers, thousands of declassified documents, and her own reporting from modern killing fields to provide the answer. "A Problem from Hell" shows how decent Americans inside and outside government refused to get involved despite chilling warnings, and tells the stories of the courageous Americans who risked their careers and lives in an effort to get the United States to act. A modern classic, "A Problem from Hell" has forever reshaped debates about American foreign policy.
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize
Winner of the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award
Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award
Winner of the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize
Winner of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award
Winner of the Raphael Lemkin Award
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About the author

Samantha Power, the Anna Lindh Professor of the Practice of Global Leadership and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, served as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations from 2013 to 2017 and was previously Special Assistant to President Barack Obama and the Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights at the National Security Council. She was the founding executive director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and is also the author of Chasing the Flame: Sergio Viera de Mello and the Fight to Save the World--the basis for the award-winning HBO documentary, Sergio--and the co-editor of The Unquiet American: Richard Holbrooke in the World. Power is a former Balkan war correspondent and a recipient of the National Magazine Award and the Pulitzer Prize, among numerous other honors.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Basic Books
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Published on
May 14, 2013
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Pages
640
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ISBN
9780465050895
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Holocaust
History / Modern / 20th Century
History / Modern / 21st Century
History / United States / 20th Century
History / United States / 21st Century
Political Science / Genocide & War Crimes
Political Science / Human Rights
Political Science / International Relations / Diplomacy
Political Science / International Relations / General
Social Science / Violence in Society
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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An unforgettable firsthand account of a people's response to genocide and what it tells us about humanity.

This remarkable debut book chronicles what has happened in Rwanda and neighboring states since 1994, when the Rwandan government called on everyone in the Hutu majority to murder everyone in the Tutsi minority. Though the killing was low-tech--largely by machete--it was carried out at shocking speed: some 800,000 people were exterminated in a hundred days. A Tutsi pastor, in a letter to his church president, a Hutu, used the chilling phrase that gives Philip Gourevitch his title.

With keen dramatic intensity, Gourevitch frames the genesis and horror of Rwanda's "genocidal logic" in the anguish of its aftermath: the mass displacements, the temptations of revenge and the quest for justice, the impossibly crowded prisons and refugee camps. Through intimate portraits of Rwandans in all walks of life, he focuses on the psychological and political challenges of survival and on how the new leaders of postcolonial Africa went to war in the Congo when resurgent genocidal forces threatened to overrun central Africa.

Can a country composed largely of perpetrators and victims create a cohesive national society? This moving contribution to the literature of witness tells us much about the struggle everywhere to forge sane, habitable political orders, and about the stubbornness of the human spirit in a world of extremity.

We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families is the winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction.

Why was the UN a bystander during the Rwandan genocide? Do its sins of omission leave it morally responsible for the hundreds of thousands of dead? Michael Barnett, who worked at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations from 1993 to 1994, covered Rwanda for much of the genocide. Based on his first-hand experiences, archival work, and interviews with many key participants, he reconstructs the history of the UN's involvement in Rwanda. In the weeks leading up to the genocide, the author documents, the UN was increasingly aware or had good reason to suspect that Rwanda was a site of crimes against humanity. Yet it failed to act. In Eyewitness to a Genocide, Barnett argues that its indifference was driven not by incompetence or cynicism but rather by reasoned choices cradled by moral considerations.

Employing a novel approach to ethics in practice and in relationship to international organizations, Barnett offers an unsettling possibility: the UN culture recast the ethical commitments of well-intentioned individuals, arresting any duty to aid at the outset of the genocide. Barnett argues that the UN bears some moral responsibility for the genocide. Particularly disturbing is his observation that not only did the UN violate its moral responsibilities, but also that many in New York believed that they were "doing the right thing" as they did so. Barnett addresses the ways in which the Rwandan genocide raises a warning about this age of humanitarianism and concludes by asking whether it is possible to build moral institutions.

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