Samantha Power – USA

Biography: Samantha Power was born in Ireland, grew up in America, became a journalist and war correspondent, and is the author of the acclaimed book: A PROBLEM FROM HELL, exploring why our country did nothing to stop the genocides of the 20th century.

Samantha Power – USA

Ms. Power is Lecturer in Public Policy and was Founding Executive Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.

From 1993-1996, Power covered the wars in the former Yugoslavia as a reporter for US NEWS AND WORLD REPORT and the ECONOMIST. In 1996 she joined the International Crisis Group (ICG) as a political analyst, helping launch the organization in Bosnia.

Her article on the Rwandan genocide, “Bystanders to Genocide” appeared in the September 2001 issue of the ATLANTIC MONTHLY. She is the editor, with Graham Allison, of REALIZING HUMAN RIGHTS (2000). Samantha Power is a Professor of Practice in Public Policy. Her book, A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide, was awarded the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction and the 2003 National Book Critics Circle Award for general nonfiction. She was the founding executive director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy (1998-2002).

From 1993 to 1996, Samantha Power covered the wars in the former Yugoslavia as a reporter for the U.S. News and World Report, the Boston Globe, and the Economist. She is the editor, with Graham Allison, of Realizing Human Rights: Moving from Inspiration to Impact. A graduate of Yale University and Harvard Law School, she moved to the United States from Ireland at the age of nine. She has written a new introduction to Hannah Arendt’s Origins of Totalitarianism and has begun work on a book on the causes and consequences of historical amnesia in American foreign policy. Samantha Power, Professor of Practice, Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, Rubenstein-217.


Samantha Power: A Problem from Hell, America and the Age of Genocide, Genocide and U.S. Foreign Policy, April 29, 2002;

Samantha Power: Dying in Darfur, Can the ethnic cleansing in Sudan be stopped, August 30, 2004;

Spend just one hour with human-rights activist, lawyer, scholar, and writer Samantha Power, and you’re bound to come away either exhausted or exhilarated. (See the rest of this article on the atlantic com).

In March of 1998, on a visit to Rwanda, President Clinton issued what would later be known as the “Clinton apology,” which was actually a carefully hedged acknowledgment. He spoke to the crowd assembled on the tarmac at Kigali Airport: “We come here today partly in recognition of the fact that we in the United States and the world community did not do as much as we could have and should have done to try to limit what occurred” in Rwanda.

This implied that the United States had done a good deal but not quite enough. In reality the United States did much more than fail to send troops. It led a successful effort to remove most of the UN peacekeepers who were already in Rwanda. It aggressively worked to block the subsequent authorization of UN reinforcements. It refused to use its technology to jam radio broadcasts that were a crucial instrument in the coordination and perpetuation of the genocide. And even as, on average, 8,000 Rwandans were being butchered each day, U.S. officials shunned the term “genocide,” for fear of being obliged to act. The United States in fact did virtually nothing “to try to limit what occurred.” Indeed, staying out of Rwanda was an explicit U.S. policy objective. (See the rest of this article on

More by and about Samantha Power: “Bystanders to Genocide”, “Never Again, Again:” An ATLANTIC MONTHLY interview,
“Genocide and U.S. Foreign Policy: A Conversation with Samantha Power”, “The Narrative Thread: Interview with Samantha Power”;

And many other books from Samantha Power on

“American foreign policy is a case of historical amnesia. Why haven’t we ever stopped torture or genocide? The answer is embarrassingly simple: We haven’t wanted to.”

For the past 10 years, Pulitzer Prize winning Harvard professor Samantha Power has attempted to explain the apathy reflected in American foreign policy, which leads to gross human rights violations.

Last Thursday and Saturday, students and faculty eagerly gathered to see Power, who came to the University to address the issues of the torture of Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib and the failure of American foreign policy to prevent genocide. Her Thursday lecture on “historical amnesia” in American foreign policy was the penultimate installment in the Center for International Studies’ “World Beyond the Headlines” series. Power’s Saturday lecture on “tyranny and human rights” was sponsored by the John Olin Center for Inquiry into the Theory and Practice of Democracy.

Power, a lecturer in Public Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, received the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction and the 2003 National Book Critics Circle Award for her recent book, “A Problem from Hell:” American and the Age of Genocide. She was the founding executive director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy and from 1993 to 1996 covered the wars in former Yugoslavia as a reporter for U.S. News and World Report, The Boston Globe, and The Economist.

Samantha Power’s book, “A Problem from Hell,” chronicles the American government’s reactions to cases of genocide in the 20th century. Power argues that America favors inaction. Her book condemns almost all American responses, or lack thereof, to some of the most heinous acts committed over the past century.

Power explained that the idea for her book came to her during the war in Bosnia: “I was in Bosnia; Bosnian Muslims were being allowed to die. I came back to America; everywhere I went there were Holocaust memorials and remembrances and a lot of talk of ‘never again’ and no sense of dissonance between these two events,” she said. “So the question was initially, how can it be that the Bosnian Muslims fall outside this universe of obligation, and how do they differ from past victims of genocide, who, presumably, somewhere along the line, must have been aided for us to say ‘never again,’ as if we’ve meant it?”

The American allowance of genocide, Power claimed, resulted from apathy.: “Before we can prevent and suppress genocide, we must understand why we have allowed and at times even abetted it,” Power added. “We have been bystanders not because we lacked information or because we lacked the resources to achieve anything. Most of us, when confronted with the facts, prefer the ‘twilight between knowing and not knowing.’”

In the wake of the Iraqi-prison scandal, Power noted the administration has a narrow-minded approach, which is undermining its strategic interests in the long run. “There is a shift in classical realist intervention to something bordering on American liberation theory. The National Security Strategy in 2002 misuses the word ‘freedom,’ which is repeated 47 times in the document—very ironic.”

She described how other elements direct the force of American foreign policy in Washington. “Somewhere there is the recognition that among the 19 hijackers involved in the 9/11 attacks, all but one did not come from an American-friendly nation.” Recently, American foreign policy has come under scrutiny. Power’s claims that even if the U.S. turned around and genuinely advocated human rights, America’s previous wrong doings would never be totally recognized.

“In Iraq, why didn’t the US look at what happened to the British in the Middle East? In 1980, the U.S. was loosely tied to Iraq and gave them millions in foreign aid to combat Iran. Saddam used U.S.-funded chemical weapons to kill his own people and America actually rejected nearly every resolution to condemn such actions,” Power said.

Additionally, in the wake of the Gulf War, the U.S. had taken no action to apologize or acknowledge the fact that it called upon Iraqi Shiites to rise up against the government, only to abandon them when the U.S. had promised to provide aid. “There was never a public acknowledgement or prospective reparation,” Power responded. “To act as though history isn’t happening—this adds up.”

Now, as more Iraqi prisoner-abuse photos surface everyday, questions arise regarding what the American government should do about the situation. (Read more about this article on Chicago Maroon online edition).


berkeley interview;

The New Yorker;;

Armenian Tale;

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