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March 7, 2003

Author and Critic of U.S. Response to Genocide to Speak

Samantha Power

Samantha Power is a woman who, in the words of the New York Times, "began as a reporter and ended up with a mission." In 1993, just one year out of college, she was working as a freelance writer for U.S. News & World Report and the Economist, covering the war in Bosnia. She was shocked by the "ethnic cleansing" that was being perpetrated there, but even more shocked by what seemed to her the unwillingness of the U.S. government to act.

Her determination to influence a change in U.S. policy led her to write A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide, a 610-page book that details how Americans inside and outside the government failed to respond to genocide around the world during the twentieth century. Late last month, A Problem from Hell, published in 2002 by Basic Books, was awarded the prestigious National Book Critics Circle award for general nonfiction, edging out competition that included William Langewiesche's highly regarded best-seller, American Ground: Unbuilding the World Trade Center.

On Wednesday, March 12, Power, founding executive director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University, will visit MHC to give a talk titled "U.S. Foreign Policy in the Age of Terror: Can American Power Be Harnessed for Good?" Her lecture will be held at 7 pm in Clapp Hall's Hooker Auditorium and is part of a series on political violence sponsored by the Mount Holyoke politics department, the Five College International Relations Program, the MHC Program on Critical and Social Thought, and the Harriet L. and Paul M. Weissman Center for Leadership.

"Samantha Power's book on American
responses to genocide is a story that we all should hear," says Jon Western, Five College Assistant Professor of International Relations. "It is a direct and powerful message: The United States more often than not simply does not live up to its rhetoric—with deadly consequences. Her insights on American foreign policy in an age of terror are certain to be equally direct and powerful."

A Problem from Hell "is an account of how American foreign policy—despite the Holocaust—stayed largely silent in the face of atrocities in Cambodia, Iraq, Bosnia, and most recently and dramatically in Rwanda," said the New York Times. The paper notes that the book "has stirred debate in foreign policy circles as diplomats and experts deal with the question of when and how American power, military and diplomatic, should be deployed on behalf of humanitarian goals."

Power won the 2001 National Magazine Award for her Atlantic Monthly article, "Bystanders to Genocide," an investigation of the Clinton Administration's handling of the 1994 Rwanda genocide. From 1993 to 1996, Power covered the wars in the former Yugoslavia as a reporter for U.S. News & World Report and the Economist. In 1996 she worked for the International Crisis Group as a political analyst. She is a frequent contributor to the New Republic and edited, with Graham Allison, Realizing Human Rights: Moving from Inspiration to Impact (St. Martin's, 2000). She is a graduate of Yale University and Harvard Law School.


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