Quotes from A Problem from Hell, by Samantha Powers

- 'It did not take long to discover that the American response to the Bosnia genocide was in fact the most robust of the century. The United States had never in its history intervened to stop genocide and had in fact rarely even made a point on condemning it as it occurred.' (xv)
- 'The book's major findings can be summarized as follows:
Despite graphic media coverage, American policymakers, journalists, and citizens are extremely slow to muster the imagination needed to reckon with evil. Ahead of the killings, they assume rational actors will not inflict seemingly gratuitous violence…
It is in the realm of domestic politics that the battle to stop genocide is lost. American political leaders interpret society-wide silence as an indicator of public indifference…
The U.S. government not only abstains from sending its troops, but it takes very few steps along a continuum of intervention to deter genocide.
U.S. officials spin themselves (as well as the American public) about the nature of the violence in question and the likely impact of an American intervention. They render the bloodshed two-sided and inevitable, not genocidal. They insist that any proposed U.S. response will be futile. Indeed, it may even do more harm that good, bringing perverse consequences to the victims and jeopardizing other precious American moral of strategic interests. They brand as 'emotional' those U.S. officials who urge intervention and who make moral arguments in a system that speaks principally in the cold language of interests. They avoid use of the word 'genocide.' Thus, they can in good conscience favor stopping genocide in the abstract, while simultaneously opposing American involvement in the moment.' (xvii-xviii)
- 'Before I began exploring American's relationship with genocide, I used to refer to U.S. policy toward Bosnia as a 'failure.' I have changed my mind. It is daunting to acknowledge, but this country's consistent policy of nonintervention in the face of genocide offers sad testimony not to a broken American political system but to one that is ruthlessly effective. The system, as it stands now, is working. No U.S. president has ever made genocide prevention a priority, and no U.S. president has ever suffered politically for his indifference to its occurrence. It is thus no coincidence that genocide rages on.' (xxi)
- 'Our Armenian fellow countrymen,…because…they have…attempted to destroy the peace and security of the Ottoman state,…have to be sent away to places which have been prepared in the interior…and a literal obedience to the following orders, in a categorical manner, is accordingly enjoined upon all Ottomans…' 1915 Turkish proclamation (2)
- 'The Young Turks – Talaat; Enver Pasha, the minister of war; and Djemal Pasha, the minister of public works – justified the wholesale deportation of the Armenians by claiming that it was necessary to suppress Armenian revolts.' (2)
- 'The United States , determined to maintain its neutrality in the war, refused to join the Allied declaration. President Woodrow Wilson chose not to pressure either the Turks or their German backers. It was better not to draw attention to the atrocities, lest U.S. public opinion get stirred up and began demanding U.S. involvement. Because the Turks had not violated the rights of Americans, Wilson did not formally protest.' (5)
- 'We have been reproached for making no distinction between the innocent Armenians and the guilty. But that was utterly impossible, in view of the fact that those who were innocent today might be guilty tomorrow.' Talaat (8)
- 'Morgenthau had to remind himself that one of the prerogatives of sovereignty was that states and statesmen could do as they pleased within their own borders. "Technically," he noted to himself, "I had no right to interfere. According to the cold-blooded legalities of the situation, the treatment of Turkish subjects by the Turkish Government was purely a domestic affair; unless it directly affected American lives and American interests, it was outside the concern of the American Government." The ambassador found this maddening.' (8)
- 'Turkish representatives in the United States predictably blurred the picture with denials and defenses. The Turkish consul, Djelal Munif Bey, told the New York Times, 'All those who have been killed were of the rebellious element who were caught red-handed or while otherwise committing traitorous acts against the Turkish Government, and not women and children, as some of these fabricated reports would have the Americans believe.' But the same representative added that if innocent lives had in fact been lost, that was because in wartime 'discrimination is utterly impossible, and it is not alone the offender who suffers the penalty of his act, but also the innocent whom he drags with him….The Armenians have only themselves to blame.' ' (10)
- 'Because Americans were not endangered by the Turkish horrors and because American neutrality in World War I remained fixed, Washington did not act on Morgenthau's recommendations. Officials urged him instead to seek aid from private sources. Morgenthau did get help from outside the U.S. government. The Congregationalist, Baptist, and Roman Catholic churches made donations. The Rockefeller Foundation gave $290,0000 in 1915 alone. And most notable, a number of distinguished Americans, none of Armenian descent, set up a new Committee on Armenian Atrocities. The committee raised $100,000 for Armenian relief and staged high-profile rallies, gathering delegations from more than 1,000 churches and religious organizations in New York City to join in denouncing the Turkish crimes.' (10-11)
- 'President Wilson, reflecting the overwhelming view of the American people, stayed on the sidelines of World War I as long as he could. And when the United States finally entered the conflict against Germany in April 1917, he refused to declare war on or even break off relations with the Ottoman Empire. 'We shall go wherever the necessities of this war carry us,' Wilson told Congress, 'but it seems to me that we should go only where immediate and practical considerations lead us and not heed any others.' In the end it was Turkey that broke off ties with the United States .' (13)
- 'Time and again though U.S. officials would learn that huge numbers of civilians were being slaughtered, the impact of this knowledge would be blunted by their uncertainty about the facts and their rationalization that a firmer U.S. stand would make little difference. Time and again American assumptions and policies would be contested by Americans in the field closest to the slaughter, who would try to stir the imaginations of their political superiors.' (13)
- ' 'It was knowingly and lightheartedly that Genghis Khan sent thousands of women and children to their deaths. History sees in him only the founder of a state….The aim of war is not to reach definite lines but to annihilate the enemy physically. It is by this means that we shall obtain the vital living space that we need. Who today still speaks of the massacre of the Armenians?' [Hitler] A week later, on September 1, 1939, the Nazis invaded Poland . In 1942 Hitler restored Talaat's ashes to Turkey , where the Turkish government enshrined the fallen hero's remains in a mausoleum on the Hill of Liberty in Istanbul .' (23)
- 'The Allies' suppression of the truth about Hitler's Final Solution has been the subject of a great deal of historical scholarship. Intelligence on Hitler's extermination was plentiful in both classified and open sources. The United States maintained embassies in Berlin until December 1941, in Budapest and Bucharest until January 1942, and in Vichy France until late 1942. The British used sophisticated decryption technology to intercept German communications. The major Jewish organizations had representatives in Geneva who relayed vivid and numerous refugee reports through Stephen Wise, the president of the World Jewish Congress (WJC), and others. In July 1942, Gerhard Riegner, the WJC Geneva representative, informed the State Department of a well-placed German industrialist's report that Hitler had ordered the extermination of European Jewry by gassing. In November 1942, Rabbi Wise, who knew President Roosevelt personally, told a Washington press conference that he and the State Department had reliable information that some 2 million Jews had already been murdered.' (34)
- 'British and U.S. officials and journalists were skeptical about the veracity of 'unsubstantiated information.' In the words of one Swiss foreign editor, 'We received no picture of photographic exactitude, only silhouettes.' In 1944, when John Pehle, the director of Roosevelt's War Refugee Board, wanted to public the report of two Auschwitz escapees, Elmer Davis, the head of the U.S. Office of War Information, turned down his request. The American public would not believe such wild stories, he said, and Europeans would be so demoralized by them that their resistance would crumble.' (35)
- 'Why and how did people live in 'a twilight between knowing and not knowing'? For starters, the threat Hitler posed to all of civilization helped overshadow his specific targeting of the Jews. Widespread anti-Semitism also contributed. It was not that readers' prejudice against Jews necessarily made them happy to hear reports of Hitler's monstrosity. Rather, their indifference to the face of Jews likely caused them to skim the stories and to focus on other aspects of the war. Others did not take the time to process the reports because they believed the Allies were doing all they could; there was no point in getting depressed about something they could not control.' (35)
- 'The vast majority of people simply did not believe what they read; the notion of getting attacked for being (rather than for doing) was too discomfiting and too foreign to process readily. A plot for outright annihilation had never been seen and therefore could not be imagined. The tales of German cremation factories and gas chambers sounded far-fetched. The deportation could be explained: Hitler needed Jewish slave labor for the war effort. During the Turkish campaign against the Armenians, this same propensity for incredulity was evident, but it was even more pronounced in the 1940s because of a backlash against the hyped-up 'Belgian atrocities' of World War I. During that war, journalists had faithfully relayed tales of bloodthirsty 'Huns' mutilating and raping nuns and dismembering Belgian babies. Indeed, they reported claims that the Germans had erected a 'corpse-conversion factory' where they boiled human fat and bones into lubricants and glycerine. In the 1920s and 1930s, the press had debunked many of the Allies' wartime reports of German savagery, yielding a 'hangover of skepticism.' ' (36)
- 'The word that Lemkin settled upon was a hybrid that combined the Greek derivative geno, meaning 'race' or 'tribe,' together with the Latin derivative cide, from caedere, meaning 'killing.' 'Genocide' was short, it was novel, and it was not likely to be mispronounced. Because of the word's lasting association with Hitler's horrors, it would also send shudders down the spine of those who heard it.' (42)
- 'With Nuremberh going so far as to try European officials for crimes committed against their own citizens, future perpetrators of atrocities – even those acting under explicit state authority – could no longer be confident that their government or their borders would shelter them from trial.' (48-49)
- 'Because of [Lemkin's] prior lobbying efforts, the third count of the October 1945 Nuremberg indictment had stated that all twenty-four defendants 'conducted deliberate and systematic genocide, viz., the extermination of racial and national groups, against the civilian populations of certain occupied territories.' (50)
- 'Four years after Lemkin had introduced 'genocide' to the world, the General Assembly had unanimously passed a law banning it.' (59)
- 'Nearly four decades would pass before the United States would ratify the treaty, and fifty years would elapse before the international community would convict anyone for genocide.' (60)
- 'Article 2: In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.' (62)
- 'Some of the opposition to U.S. ratification was rooted in legitimate grievances about the text of the law. The convention's plain wording was not terribly specific about the nature of the violence that needed to occur in order to trigger a global or national response.' (65)
- 'The law's opponents ignored the reasoning that lay behind the ban's provisions. Instead they zeroed in on the possibility of stretching the new law's language to apply to practices too mild to warrant interference in another state's domestic affairs. Some suggested that U.S. ratification would license critics of the United States to investigate the eradication of Native American tribes in the nineteenth century. Southern senators feared the inventive lawyers might argue that segregation in the South inflicted 'mental harm' and thus counted as genocide. Legislators warned that the convention would empower politicized rabble-rousers to drag the United States or the senators themselves before an international court. Reckoning with American brutality against native peoples was long overdue, but the convention, which was not retroactive, could not be used to press the matter.' (67)
- 'The exclusion of political groups from the convention made it much harder in the late 1070s to demonstrate that the Khmer Rouge were committing genocide in Cambodia when they set out to wipe whole classes of alleged 'political enemies.' ' (69)
- 'The core American objections to the treaty, of course, had little to do with the text, which was no vaguer than any other law that had not yet been interpreted in a courtroom. Rather, American opposition was rooted in a traditional hostility towards any infringement on U.S. sovereignty.' (69)
- 'We are told that the American soldier does not know what he is fighting for. Now, at least, he will know what he is fighting against.' Eisenhower (70)
- 'Lemkin also attempted to mobilize American grassroots groups. The international human rights organizations familiar to us today did not yet exist. Amnesty International was not founded until 1961, and Helsinki Watch, which later grew in Human Rights Watch, was set up only in 1978.' (72)
- 'When a major network sponsor, the American Gas Association, objected to the mention of has chambers in the 1959 teleplay version of [Judgment at Nuremberg], CBS caved in to pressure and blanked out the references. The world 'holocaust' did not appear in the New York Times until 1959.' (73)
- '[Lemkin] simply could not believe that diplomats, drafters, and concerned citizens would attempt to make low-level rights abuses the subject of international law, which he was convinced should be reserved for the most extreme crimes, which were most likely to elude national prosecution. Slavery and genocide were appropriate international crimes: abridgement of speech and press, which were patently unenforceable, were not.' (74)
- 'If every abuse were to become a subject of international concern, Lemkin worried, states would recoil against international law and would not respond to the greatest crime of all.' (75)
- 'Citing fears of further Soviet incursions in Africa and eyeing potentially vast oil reserves in Iboland, U.S. officials stalled effective famine relief measures for much of the conflict. The United States insisted that food be delivered through Lagos , even though Nigerian commanders were open about their objectives. 'Starvation is a legitimate weapon of war,' one said. In the end Nigeriacrushed the Ibo resistance and killed and starved to death more than 1 million people.' (82)
- 'Beginning in March 1971, after Bengali nationalists in East Pakistan's Awami League won an overall majority in the proposed national assembly and made modest appeals for autonomy, Pakistani troops killed between 1 and 2 million Bengalis and raped some 200,000 girls and women. The Nixon administration, which was hostile to India and using Pakistan as an intermediary to China , did not protest.' (82)
- 'In Burundi in the spring and summer of 1972, after a violent Hutu-led rebellion, members of the ruling Tutsi minority hunted down and killed tens of thousands of Hutus…And although the United States was the world's main purchaser of the country's coffee, which accounted for 65 percent of Burundi's commercial revenue, the State Department opposed any suspension of commerce. Melady assured Washington that his response had been 'to follow our strict policy of noninvolvement in the internal affairs and to associate ourselves with urgent relief efforts.' ' (83)
- 'As Lemkin noted, war and genocide are almost always connected.' (90)
- ' U.S. interest in Cambodia during the civil war was completely derivative of U.S. designs on Vietnam . So when U.S. troops withdrew from Vietnam in January 1973, the bombing ofCambodia became harder to justify. In August 1973 Congress finally stepped in to ban the air campaign. President Nixon was furious. He blamed Congress for weakening regional security and 'raising doubts in the mind [sic] of both friends and adversaries' about U.S. 'resolve.' ' (94)
- 'William Shawcross and others have argued that the Khmer Rouge ranks swelled primarily because of the U.S. intervention. Chhit Do, a Khmer Rouge leader from northern Cambodia who later defected, described the effect of U.S. bombing:
Every time after there have been bombing, they would take the people to see the craters, to see how big and deep the craters were, to see how the earth had been gouged out and scorched….The ordinary people…sometimes literally shit in their pants when the big bombs and shells came….Their minds just froze up and they would wander around mute for three or four days. Terrified and half-crazy, the people were ready to believe what they were told….That was what made it so easy for the Khmer Rouge to win the people over….It was because of their dissatisfaction with the bombing that they kept on cooperating with the Khmer Rouge, joining up with the Khmer rouge, sending their children off to go with them.' ' (95)
- 'For the next three and a half years, the American public would piece together a piece of life behind the Khmer curtain from KR public statements, which were few; from Cambodian radio, which was propaganda; from refugee accounts, which were doubted; and from Western intelligence sources, which were scarce and suspect.' (107)
- 'With almost every condemnation or citation of intelligence that appeared in the press about Cambodia in 1975 and 1976, reporters included reminders that they had only 'unconfirmed reports,' 'inconclusive accounts', or 'very fragmentary information.' This caution is warranted, but as it had done during the Armenian genocide and the Holocaust, it blurred clarity and tempered conviction.' (109)
- 'The dropoff in U.S. press coverage of Cambodia was dramatic. During Cambodia's civil war between 1970 and 1975, while the United States was still actively engaged in Southeast Asia, theWashington Post and New York Times had published more than 700 stories on Cambodia each year…Only two or three stories a year focused on the human rights situation under the Khmer Rouge.' (110-111)
- 'With so much confusion about the precise nature of the KR reign, apathy became justified by what journalist William Shawcross later called 'propaganda, the fear of propaganda and the excuse of propaganda.' ' (114)
- 'Many came around once they had personal contact with the traumatized refugees.' (115)
- 'We worked seven days a week without a break. The only time we got off work was to see someone killed.' Seath K. Teng, Cambodian refugee (116)
- 'They could not reminisce. Memories of past life were banned. Families were separated. Children were 'reeducated' and induced to inform on parents who might be attempting to mask their 'bourgeois' pasts. ' Cambodia ,' a colonial term, was replaced by 'Democratic Kampuchea.'
They could not flirt. Only [the political body] could authorize sexual relationships. The pairings for weddings were announced en masse at the commune assemblies.
They could not pray. Chapels and temples were pillaged. Devout Muslims were often forced to eat pork. Buddhist monks were defrocked, their pagodas converted into grain silos.
They could not own private property. All money and property were abolished. The national bank was blown up.' Some KR rules (117)
- 'The Khmer Rouge were wiping out 'class enemies,' which meant all 'intellectuals,' or those who had completed seventy grade.' (119)
- 'Too many people in and out of government had staked their reputations, their careers, and their own self-esteem on the positions they took during the [ Vietnam ] war. Each side wanted the postwar era to shore up those old positions and prove them correct. News was [seen]…as potential ammunition against old American opponents, as proof of America 's guilt or honor.' Elizabeth Becker (123)
- 'Because the United States gave the KR regime no support, it could not suspend trade or military aid.' (125)
- 'Although China was the state most likely able to affect KR behavior, the Carter administration was not about to risk normalization by carping about the KR's human rights abuses.' (127)
- 'McGovern argued that the United States should take the lead politically and militarily. To him Vietnam and Cambodia had little, apart from geography, in common. In Vietnam U.S. force had squared off against an indigenous independence movement headed by a popularly backed leader, Ho Chi Minh. In Cambodia , by contrast, Pol Pot and a 'handful of fanatics' were imposing their vision on millions of Cambodians. In light of Pol Pot's 'bloodthirsty' rule, his victimized populace could not possibly support him; indeed, McGovern believed the Cambodians would welcome rescue from the 'murderous, slaughtering regime.' ' (133)
- 'It was Vietnam , the enemy of the United States , that in January 1979 finally dislodged the bloody Communist radicals. In response, the United States, which in 1978 had at last begun to condemn the KR, reversed itself, siding with the Cambodian perpetrators of genocide against the Vietnamese aggressors.' (141)
- ' Vietnam 's invasion had a humanitarian consequence but was not motivated by humanitarian concerns. Indeed, for a long time Vietnam and its Soviet backer had blocked investigation into the atrocities committed by their former partner in revolution. In 1978, however, as KR incursions into Vietnam escalated, Vietnam had begun detailing KR massacres.' (141)
- 'On December 25, 1978, twelve Vietnamese divisions, or some 100,000 Vietnamese troops, retaliated against KR attacks by land. Teaming up with an estimated 20,000 Cambodian insurgents, they rolled swiftly through the Cambodian countryside. Despite U.S. intelligence predictions that the KR would constitute a potent military foe, McGovern's earlier forecast of rapid collapse turned out to be prescient. Lacking popular support, the Khmer Rouge and its leaders almost immediately to the northern jungle of Cambodia and across the Thai border. The Vietnamese completed their lightning-speed victory with the seizure of Phnom Penh on January 7, 1979.' (142)
- 'Some 2 million Cambodians out of a populace of 7 million were either executed or starved to death. National minorities were special targets of the regime. The Vietnamese minority was completely wiped out. Of the 500,000 Muslim Chan who lived in Cambodia before Pol Pot's victory, some 200,000 survived. Of 60,000 Buddhist months, all but a thousands perished.' (143)
- 'The Vietnamese victory presented President Carter with a difficult moral and political choice. Which was the lesser evil, a regime that had slaughtered some 2 million Cambodians or a Communist regime backed by the Soviet Union that had flagrantly violated an international border and that now occupied a neighboring state? After weighing the politics of the choice, Carter sided with the dislodged Khmer Rouge regime.' (146)
- 'The Carter administration's policy choice was made easier because at home no voices cried out to support Vietnam America 's most ardent anti-Communists were still angry at Vietnam for theU.S. defeat. Americans leftists were mostly disengaged.' (148)
- 'For many Cambodians, the occupation by the Vietnamese quickly came to feel like a 'liberation' similar to that of Poland by the Soviets after Nazi rule.' (149)
- 'In 1982 the United States began to provide nonlethal covert assistance [to Cambodia ]. Estimated initially at $5 million a year, this funding grew to $12 million by 1985, when Congress authorized up to $5 million in overt aid. The Khmer Rouge coalition continued to occupy the UN seat as its guerillas battled the Heng Samrin regime from the countryside. KR tactics changed little. KR soldiers captured and executed foreign tourists and inflicted terror upon those Cambodians who had the misfortune to live under KR control.' (153)
- 'Only with the thawing of the Cold War and the visit of Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev to former arch-enemy China in May 1989 did Cambodia cease to be a pawn on the superpowers' chessboard. With the Chinese and the Soviets no longer interested in fighting a proxy war through the KR and the Vietnamese, the United States had no reason to maintain support for the KR. Not until July 1990 did Secretary of State James Baker write a letter to Senate majority leader George Mitchell laying out a new U.S. policy toward the KR at the UN. Henceforth, the United States would vote against the KR coalition at the United Nations and at last support the flow of humanitarian aid into Vietnam and Cambodia .' (154)
- 'Through the years, many American presidents had supported the [Genocide Convention]. But when Ronald Reagan did so sincerely, it undermined the longstanding Republican opposition on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. 'We couldn't have done it without Reagan,' Proxmire says. 'He cut the ground right out from under the right wing.' ' (163)
- 'In April 1984 Nicaragua had sued the United States at the ICJ for mining its harbors. When the court sided with Nicaragua and accepted jurisdiction, the United States walked out of the case. Neither the Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee nor the president was prepared to see the United States judged by an international court, so they now conditioned their acceptance of the genocide convention on a potent reservation, an a la carte 'opt-out' clause. The reservation held that before the United States could be called as a party to any case before the ICJ, the president would decide whether it would appear before the World Court .' (164)
- 'Iraqi president Saddam Hussein appointed his cousin Ali Hassaan al-Majid as secretary-general of the Northern Bureau, one of five administrative zones in Iraq….Al-Majid ordered Kurds to move out of the homes they had inhabited for centuries and into collective centers, where the state would be able to monitor them. Any Kurd who remained in the so-called 'prohibited zones' and refused to resettle in the new government housing complexes would henceforth be considered a traitor and marked for extinction. Iraqi special police and regulars carried out al-Majid's master plan, cleansing, gassing, and killing with bureaucratic precision. The Iraqi offensive began in 1987 and peaked between February and September 1988 in what was known as the Anfal campaign….In eight consecutive, carefully coordinated waves of the Anfal, they wiped out (or 'Saddamized') Kurdish life in rural Iraq….Hussein did not set out to exterminate every last Kurd in Iraq, as Hitler had tried against the Jews. Nor did he order all the educated to be murdered, as Pol Pot had done. In fact, Kurds in Iraq 's cities were terrorized no more than the the [sic] rest ofIraq 's petrified citizenry. Genocide was probably not even Hussein's primary objective. His main aim was to eliminate the Kurdish insurgency. But it was clear at the time and has become even clearer since that the destruction of Iraq 's rural Kurdish population was the means he chose to end that rebellion. Kurdish civilians were rounded up and executed or gassed not because of anything they as individuals did but simply because they were Kurds. In 1987-1988 Saddam Hussein's forces destroyed several thousand Iraqi Kurdish villages and hamlets and killed close to 100,000 Iraqi Kurds, nearly all of whom were unarmed and many of whom were women and children.' (171-172)
- 'It was not until September 1988 that the flight of tens of thousands of Kurds into Turkey forced the United States to condemn the regime for using poisonous gas against its own people.' (173)
- 'The Bush administration, instead of suspending the CCC program or any of the other perks extended to the Iraqi regime, in 1989, a year after Hussein's savage gassing attacks and deportations had been documented, doubled its commitment to Iraq, hiking annual CCC credits above $1 billion.' (173)
- 'Beginning in 1975 and continuing intermittently through the late 1970s, the Iraqis established a 6-12-mile-wide 'prohibited zone' along their border with Iran. Iraqi forces destroyed every village that fell inside the zone and relocated Kurdish inhabitants to the mujamma'at, large army-controlled collective settlements along the main highways in the interior.' (175)
- ' Iran 's Khomeini in turn began urging Iraqi Shiites to rise up against Hussein. Iraq countered by pledging to support Iranian rebel movements. Border skirmishes commenced. In April 1979Iraq executed the leading Shiite clergyman, Ayatollah Muhammad Bakr al-Sadr. And on September 4, 1980Iran began shelling Iraqi border towns. To this day, when Iraqis celebrate the war, they mark its beginning as September 4. But it was not until September 22 that Iraq launched a strike into the oil-rich Iranian province of Khuzistan .' (176)
- 'In its senselessness and savagery, the conflict between Iran and Iraq bore striking parallels with World War I. The Iraqis employed chemical weapons against the Iranians; the front remained static for years; and in vicious trench warfare, wave after wave of Iranian soldier went over the top, obliterating a generation of young men and boys. The ayatollah encouraged martyrdom, which gave him spiritual cover to mask the ridiculous losses and the hollow cause. He famously deployed Iranian children as minesweepers, tying them together to walk across fields and across no-man's-land. He instructed them to wear around their necks plastic keys that would enable them to unlock the gates of paradise. Often the children were sent with no training in full frontal charge across open terrain against enemy machine-gun posts.' (184-185)
- 'In May 1987 Iraq became the first country ever to attack its own citizens with chemical weapons.' (186)
- 'States are constantly signaling one another. One can often discern moments before genocide in which outside powers, by reacting timidly or invitingly to initial abuses, reveal a lack of concern about the repressive tactics of a friend or foe.' (187)
- 'Halabja quickly became known as the Kurdish Hiroshima. In three days of attacks, victims were exposed to mustard gas, which burns, mutates DNA, and causes malformations and cancer; and the nerve gases sarin and tabun, which can kill, paralyze, or cause immediate and lasting neuropsychiatric damage. Doctors suspect that the dreaded VX gas and the biological agent aflatoxin were also employed. Some 5,000 Kurds were killed immediately. Thousands more were injured. Iraq usually justified its attacks against the Kurds on the grounds that it aimed to destroy the saboteurs aligned with the Iranians.' (189)
- 'Al-Majid's forces were fairly predictable. Jets began by dropping cluster bombs or chemical cocktails on the targeted villages. Surviving inhabitants fled. When they reached the main roads, Iraqi soldiers and security police rounded them up. Then they often looted and firebombed the villages so they could never be reoccupied. Some women and children were sent to their deaths; others were moved to holding pens where many died of starvation and disease. Many of the men simply disappeared, never to be heard from again. In the zones that Saddam Hussein had outlawed, Kurdish life was simply extinct.' (190)
- ' Iraq had its cover: Kurdish rebels had fought alongside Iranians, Iraq was at war with Iran , and the war, everyone knew, was brutal. The fog of war again obscured an act of genocide.' (193)
- 'Kurdish refugees were adamant about what they witnessed and experienced. David Korn, a State Department Middle East specialist who later interviewed dozens of Kurdish survivors, recalls, 'The facts were available, but you don't get the full facts unless you want the full facts.' ' (195)
- 'Iraqi gas attacks received public attention, but most Kurds who died in the Anfal were killed in mass executions.' (195)
- 'Although it did not sell Baghdad weapons, the United States provided intelligence gathered from AWACS early-warning aircraft, which included damage estimates on Iraqi strikes and reports of Iranian troop movements.' (200)
- 'More than 1 million soldiers and civilians on both sides had died in the war. Not an inch of land had changed hands. On August 20, 1988Iran and Iraq signed an armistice ending their bloody struggle.' (200)
- ' U.S. officials reluctant to criticize Iraq again took refuge in the absence of perfect information.' (208)
- 'They all wear the Kurdish costume, and so you can't distinguish between one who carries a weapon and one who does not.' Iraqi defense minister Adnan Khairallah (211)
- 'In many cases the Senators and their staffs overreact in terms of what they feel needs to be done to placate the special interests. They go one better. Or they anticipate a problem even before somebody has complained. They are so sensitive. They don't say to themselves, 'We vote with this lobby nine out of ten times, so we can afford to go our own way this time.' It is not a rational calculation. They feel that nothing is worth the risk of losing the support.' Committee Staff Director Christianson (222)
- 'On April 16, 1991 [after the Gulf War], the United States joined with its allies and launched Operation Provide Comfort, carving out a 'safe haven' for Kurds north of the thirty-sixty parallel in northern Iraq. Allied ground forces would set up relief camps in Iraq , and U.S. , British, and French aircraft would patrol from the skies. Provide Comfort was perhaps the most promising indicator of what the post-Cold War world might bring in the way of genocide prevention. Under the command of Lieutenant General John M. Shalikashvilli, some 12,000 U.S. soldiers helped patrol the region as part of a 21,000-troop allied ground effort. This marked an unprecedented intervention in the internal affairs of a state for humanitarian reasons. Thanks to the allied effort, the Iraqi Kurds were able to return home and, with the protection of NATO jets overheard, govern themselves.' (241)
- 'In July 1995 Secretary of State Warren Christopher signed a communiqué that found Iraq had committed genocide against Iraq's rural Kurds and that endorsed Human Rights Watch's efforts to file a case against Iraq. To this day, however, no Iraqi soldier or political leader has been punished for atrocities committed against the Kurds.' (245)
- 'By late 1991 it was clear that Bosnia (43 percent Muslim, 35 percent Orthodox Serb, and 18 percent Roman Catholic Croat), the most ethnically heterogeneous of Yugoslavia 's republics, was in a bind.' (248)
- 'Bosnian Serb soldiers and militiamen had compiled lists of leading Muslim and Croat intellectuals, musicians, and professionals. And within days of Bosnia 's secession from Yugoslavia , they began rounding up non-Serbs, savagely beating them, and often executing them.' (249)
- 'The armed marauders sought to sever permanently the bond between citizens and land. Thus, they forced fathers to castrate their sons or molest their daughters.' (251)
- 'Despite unprecedented public outcry about foreign brutality, for the next three and a half years the United States, Europe, and the United Nations stood by while some 200,000 Bosnians were killed, more than 2 million were displaced, and the territory of a multiethnic European republic was sliced into three ethnically pure statelets.' (251)
- 'Human rights groups were quicker than they had ever been to document atrocities. Helsinki Watch, the European arm of what would become known as Human Rights Watch, had begun dispatching field missions to the Balkans in 1991.' (257)
- 'The images of wilting Muslims behind barbed wire concentrated grassroots and elite attention and inflamed public outrage about the war like no postwar genocide. In July 45 percent of Americans had disapproved of U.S. air strikes and 35 percent approved. Now, without any guidance from their leaders, 53 percent of Americans approved, whereas 33 percent disapproved.' (276)
- 'First, senior officials viewed and spun the violence as an insoluble 'tragedy' rather than a mitigatable, deliberate atrocity carried out by an identifiable set of perpetrators. The war, they said, was fueled by bottom-up, ancient, ethnic or tribal hatreds (not by the top-down political machinations of a nationalistic or opportunistic elite), hatreds that had raged for centuries (and, by implication, would rage for centuries more).' (282)
- 'Asked directly in November 1990 if the United States should go to war, 58 percent said no. Some 62 percent considered it likely that the crisis could 'bog down and become another Vietnamsituation.' When the prospect of U.S. casualties was raised, support dropped further. Yet when U.S. troops battled the Iraqi Republican Guard, more than 80 percent backed Bush's decision to fight.' (305)
- ' 'Policy – good, steady policy – is made by the 'tough-minded.'…To talk of suffering is to lose 'effectiveness,' almost to lose one's grip. It is seen as a sign that one's rational arguments are weak.' He had urged that policymakers elevate human costs and benefits to the category of 'one of the principal and unashamedly legitimate considerations in any decision.' ' National SecurityAdvisor Lake (315)
- 'In the Bosnian war, the truth had never been in short supply. What was missing was U.S. willingness to risk its own soldiers on the ground or to convince the Europeans to support NATO bombing from the air. As a result, the ethnic cleansing and genocide against the country's Muslims proceeded apace, and more than 200,000 Bosnians were killed.' (327)
- ' 'The first response to trouble is, 'Let's yank the peacekeepers.' But that is like believing that when children are misbehaving the proper response is, 'Let's send the babysitter home,' so the house gets burned down.' (secondary source) (347)
- 'On April 9 and 10, in five different convoys, Ambassador Rawson and 250 Americans were evacuated from Kigali and other points. 'When we left, the cars were stopped and searched,' Rawson says. 'It would have been impossible to get Tutsi through.' All told, thirty-five local employees of the U.S. embassy were killed in the genocide.' (352)
- 'While the United States evacuated overland without an American military escort, the Europeans sent troops to Rwanda so that their personnel could exit by air. On April 9 [commander of UN peacekeeping forces] Dallaire watched covetously as just over 1,000 French, Belgian, and Italian soldiers descended on the Kigali airport to begin evacuating their expatriates. These commandos were clean-shaven, well fed, and heavily armed, in marked contrast to Dallaire's exhausted, hungry, ragtag peacekeeping force.' (353)
- ' 'By 8 a.m. the morning after the plane crash, we knew what was happening, that there was systematic killing of Tutsi,' Joyce Leader, the deputy chief of mission, recalls. 'People were calling me and telling me who was getting killed. I knew they were going door-to-door.' Back at the State Department, she explained to her colleagues that three kinds of killing were going on: casualties in war, politically motivated murder, and genocide.' (354)
- 'Reports from Rwanda were severe enough to distinguish Hutu killers from ordinary combatants in civil war. And they certainly warranted a heightened intelligence gathering operation to snap satellite photos of large gatherings of Rwandan civilians or of mass graves, to intercept military communications, and to infiltrate the country in person.' (354)
- 'On April 10 a New York Times front-page article quoted the Red Cross claim that 'tens of thousands' were dead, 8,000 in Kigali alone, and that corpses were 'in the houses, in the streets, everywhere.' The Post the same day led its front-page story with a description of 'a pile of corpses six feet high' outside the main hospital.' (356)
- 'On April 19 Human Rights Watch, which, through Des Forges, had excellent sources on the ground in Rwanda, estimated the number of dead at 100,000 and called on the Security Council to use the term 'genocide.' The 100,000 figure (which proved to be a gross underestimation) was picked up immediately by the Western media, endorsed by the Red Cross, and featured on the front page of the Washington Post.' (357)
- 'When the president of the Security Council drew up a statement that named the crime 'genocide,' the United States objected. The original draft read: 'The Security Council reaffirms that the systematic killing of any ethnic group, with intent to destroy it in whole or in part constitutes an act of genocide….The council further points out that an important body of international law exists that deals with perpetrators of genocide.' But the United States was having none of it. In  cable sent from New York to the State Department, a political advisor wrote: 'The events in Rwandaclearly seem to meet the definition of genocide in Article II of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. However, if the council acknowledges that, it may be forced to 'take such action under the charter as they consider appropriate for the prevention and suppression of acts of genocide' as provided for in Article VIII.' ' (361)
- 'Some 25,000 Rwandans eventually assembled at positions manned by UNAMIR personnel. The Hutu were generally reluctant to massacre large groups of Tutsi if foreigners (armed or unarmed) were present.' (368)
- 'When Dallaire's troops had first arrived, in the fall of 1993, they had done so under a fairly traditional peacekeeping mandate known as a Chapter VI deployment – a mission that assumes a cease-fire and a desire on both sides to comply with a peace accord. The Security Council now had to decide whether it was prepared to move from peacekeeping to peace enforcement – that is, to a Chapter VII mission in a hostile environment. This would demand more peacekeepers with greater resources, more aggressive rules of engagement, and an explicit recognition that the UN soldiers were there to protest civilians.' (377-378)
- 'It was Tutsi (RPF) rebels under the command of Paul Kagame who eventually brought the genocide to a halt.' (380)
- 'Dallaire says he got a phone call. A U.S. officer was wondering precisely how many Rwandans had died. Dallaire was puzzled and asked why he [sic] wanted to know. 'We are doing our calculations back here,' the U.S. officer said, 'and one American casualty is worth about 85,000 Rwandan dead.' ' (381)
- 'On July 11, 1995, a year after Tutsi rebels finally halted the Rwandan genocide and a full three years into the Bosnian war, Bosnian Serb forces did what few thought they would dare to do. They overran weak UN defenses and seized the safe area of Srebrenica, which was home to 40,000 Muslim men, women, and children.' (391)
- 'A major difference between Srebrenica and previous genocides in the twentieth century was that the massacres strengthened the lobby for intervention and the understanding, already ripening within the Clinton administration, that the U.S. policy of nonconfrontation had become politically untenable. Thus, in the aftermath of the gravest single act of genocide in the Bosnian war, thanks to America's belated leadership, NATO jets engaged in a three-week bombing campaign against the Bosnian Serbs that contributed mightily to ending the war.' (392-393)
- 'Evidence gathered later indicates that the Serbs did in fact begin their offensive intending only to seize the southern section. But when they realized, to their amazement, that the Western powers would not resist, they opted to plow ahead and gobble the whole pocket.' (397)
- 'The United States has a tendency to 'fight the last war' in response to genocide. U.S. officials processed Cambodia through the prism of Vietnam , the Kurdish slaughter through the Iran-Iraq war, and Rwanda through Somalia .' (409)
- 'The United States and its European allies responded generously to the 20,000 Muslim refugees who were arriving harried but alive in Muslim territory. They erected a sprawling tent city on the Tuzla air case, where Muslim women and children were fed, sheltered, and given medical care. Muslim men were conspicuously absent.' (410)
- 'Just as the Iraqi government had done while it was gassing the Kurds, the Serbs stalled brilliantly during this period, employing tactics that they had mastered in the war. They never refusedaccess to international observers; they granted it so as not to arouse suspicious but then blocked or 'postponed' it on the grounds that they could not guarantee the safety of visitors. Despite the repetitiveness of the sequence, diplomats and ICRC officials joined the pantomime, failing to grasp that they had a very short time to influence Serb behavior.' (411)
- ' 'The failure was not an intelligence failure,' says Assistant Secretary Gati. 'Ethnic cleansing was not a priority in our policy….When you make the original decision that you aren't going to respond when these kinds of things happen, then, I'm sorry, but these things are going to happen.' ' (420)
- 'If Dole might pick up a stray political point or two, his long track record of concern for the suffering of people in the Balkans indicated that the prime reasons he hounded Clinton about his Bosnia policy was that he [sic] wanted to see it changed.' (424)
- 'Op-ed writers, human rights activists, former diplomats, and journalists had spoken out quite forcefully throughout the war in opposition to Clinton's policy, but nothing ignited their fury quite like the fall of the so-called safe area. The events of mid-July provoked a rare degree of unanimity on the editorial pages in the United States , and those in Paris and London as well.' (430)
- Human Rights Watch decided that henceforth anytime that 'genocide or mass slaughter' could be diagnosed around the world, the group would have to put aside its mistrust of military power and recommend armed intervention.' (435)
- ‘Backed by the newly credible threat of military force, the United States was easily able to convince the Serbs to stop shelling civilians. In November 1995, the Clinton administration brokered a peace accord in DaytonOhio .’ (440)
- ‘Beginning on March 24, 1999, NATO jets under the command of General Clark, supreme allied commander for Europe, began bombing Serbia. Allied leaders said they would continue bombing until Milosevic accepted the autonomy compromise. It was the first time in history that the United States or its European allies had intervened to head off a potential genocide.’ (448)
- ‘The NATO jets had little success deterring the Serbs’ cleansing operation. They flew at 15,000 feet so as to elude feisty Serbian air defenses.’ (450)
- ‘In 1995 Milosevic had given in to allied demands over Bosnia after a two-week burst of NATO bombing. Remembering the Serbs’ paltry resistance and quick concessions, Pentagon officials and Clinton cabinet members predicted NATO would need to bomb for a week at most.’ (451)
- ‘…the bombing gave the Serbs a pretext to intensify their killings and expulsions.’ (454)
- ‘In phase one NATO jets had struck Serb antiaircraft defenses and command bunkers. On March 29, 1999, NATO entered phase two, increasing the number of planes from 400 to 1,000 and broadening its list of targets to include Yugoslavia ’s infrastructure below the forty-fourth parallel, far south of Belgrade . On April 3, day eleven of the war, NATO moved into phase three, which permitted attacks on targets in Belgrade .’ (456)
- ‘The more determined the allies became, the more they took the war to the Serbian people. On April 23, at the NATO summit, NATO leaders agreed to target the personal property and businesses of Milosevic and his closest associates and to strike targets that would affect millions of civilians by disrupting transportation, water, and electricity.’ (456)
- ‘NATO’s desire to avoid risks to its pilots appeared to increase the civilian toll of war.; (458)
- ‘On May 24, 1999, two months into NATO’s campaign, the UN war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, which had been set up originally to respond to atrocities committed in Croatia and Bosnia, indicted Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in the previous two months in Kosovo. It was the first time a head of sate had been charged during an armed conflict with violations of international law.’ (458)
- ‘But when NATO helped bring about a role reversal and empowered Albanians to realize their rights and control their own destinies, many Albanian returnees behaved brutally. In the year after the NATO victory, while some 50,000 NATO troops patrolled Kosovo, Albanian extremists expelled more than 100,000 Serbs from their homes in Kosovo and killed some 1,500.’ (463)
- ‘As high as the death toll turned out, it was far lower than if NATO had acted at all. After years of avoiding confrontation, the United States and its allies likely saved hundreds of thousands of lives.’ (472)
- ‘Conducting complex investigations in foreign lands through interpreters years after the crimes and without much pertinent international legal precedent was no easy chore.’ (497)
- ‘The trials have also belied a second claim made by the perpetrators (and, incidentally, by Western policymakers) – that the ‘ethnic’ violence simply exploded spontaneously. Mounds of detailed evidence have demonstrated sophisticated planning and organization behind the bloodiest operations. Elaborate requisitioning of men, vehicles, ammunition, and remote locations were indispensable to most large-scale massacres.’ (500)
- ‘Over the course of the last century, the United States has made modest progress in its responses to genocide. The persistence and proliferation of dissenters within the U.S. government and human rights advocates outside it have made a policy of silence in the face of genocide more difficult to sustain.’ (503)
- ‘We are responsible for our incredulity.’ (505)
- ‘A bias toward belief would do less harm than a bias toward disbelief.’ (506)
- ‘In most of the cases of genocide documented in this book, U.S. officials who ‘did not know’ or ‘did not fully appreciate’ chose not to.’ (506)
- ‘When they ignored genocide around the world, U.S. officials certainly did not intend to give the perpetrators the go-ahead. But since at least some killers thought they were doing the world a favor by ‘cleansing’ the ‘undesirables,’ they likely interpreted silence as consent or even support.’ (507)
- ‘Simply put, American leaders did not act because they did not want to.’ (508)
- ‘One mechanism for altering the calculus of U.S. leaders would be to make them publicly or professionally accountable for inaction.’ (510)
- ‘The United States should stop genocide for two reasons. The first and most compelling reason is moral. When innocent life is being taken on such a scale and the United States has the power to stop the killing at reasonable risk, it has a duty to act. It is this belief that motivates most of those who seek intervention.’ (512)
- ‘The United States should not frame its policy options in terms of doing nothing or unilaterally sending in the marines [sic]. America ’s leadership will be indispensable in encouraging U.S.allies and regional and international institutions to step up their commitments and capacities.’ (513)
- ‘When the dynamics on the ground warrant it, the United States should establish economic sanctions, freeze foreign assets, and use U.S. technical resources to deprive the killers of their means of propagating hate. With its allies, it should set up safe areas to house refugees and civilians, and protect them with well-armed and robustly mandated peacekeepers, airpower, or both.’ (514)
- ‘Few of those who attempted to get the leaden machinery of the U.S. government to respond to genocide began as crusaders or even messengers. Most experienced some moment of recognition that improved their vision and moved them out of a state of denial.’ (514)
- ‘It is easy to view these individuals as overly credulous or politically obtuse. But how many of us who look back at the genocides of the twentieth century, including the Holocaust, do not believe that these people were right?’ (516)

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