Alternative Radio on 09/03/13
Samantha Power on Genocide: A Problem from Hell (lecture)
From Rwanda to Darfur, modern history is haunted by acts of systematic state violence. In 1915 when Turkey sent its Armenian population on death marches into the desert, U.S. ambassador Henry Morgenthau denounced what he called "race murder." Raphael Lemkin, a Polish lawyer, was appalled by the Turkish destruction of the Armenians and tried to get European countries to criminalize the wholesale extermination of ethnic and religious groups. His efforts were unsuccessful. During the Holocaust, Lemkin lost many family members in the German mass murder of Jews. He resolved to devise a word that would convey the horror. He coined the term genocide. He gave the crime a name and it led to the 1948 UN Convention on Genocide. But when do atrocities become genocide? At times for political purposes, the term is invoked promiscuously as a cover to justify intervention.