Letters 11-23-2015

Cheering From Petoskey While red-eyed rats boil fanatically up from the ancient sewers of Paris to feast on pools of French blood, at the G20 meeting the farcical pied piper of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue thrusts a bony finger at the president of the Russian Federation and yells: “liberté, égalité, fraternité, Clinton, Kerry--Obamaism!”

The Other Mothers And Fathers Regarding the very nice recent article on “The First Lady of Yoga,” I have taken many classes with Sandy Carden, and I consider her to be a great teacher. However, I feel the article is remiss to not even give acknowledgement to other very important yoga influences in northern Michigan...

Drop The Blue Angels The last time I went to the National Cherry Festival, I picked the wrong day. The Blue Angels were forcing everyone to duck and cover from the earsplitting cacophony overhead...

Real Advice For The Sick In the Nov. 16 article “Flu Fighters,” author Kristi Kates fails to mention the most basic tool in our arsenal during Influenza season... the flu vaccine! I understand you might be afraid of being the victim of Jenny McCarthyism, but the science is there...

Keeping Traverse City in the Dark Our environment is our greatest asset. It sustains our lives; it drives our economy. We ignore it at our peril. Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC) has submitted letters of concern to both the city commission and planning commission regarding the proposed 9-story buildings on Pine Street. We have requested an independent environmental assessment with clear answers before a land use permit is granted...

All About Them Another cartoon by Jen Sorensen that brings out the truth! Most of her cartoons are too slanted in a Socialist manner, but when she gets it correct, she hits the nail on the target! “Arizona is the first state to put a 12-month lifetime limit on welfare benefits.” That quote is in the opening panel... 

Unfair To County Employees It appears that the commissioners of Grand Traverse County will seek to remedy a shortfall in the 2016 budget by instituting cuts in expenditures, the most notable the reduction of contributions to various insurance benefits in place for county employees. As one example, the county’s contributions to health insurance premiums will decrease from ten to six percent in 2016. What this means, of course, is that if a county employee wishes to maintain coverage at the current level next year, the employee will have to come up with the difference...

Up, Not Out I would like to congratulate the Traverse City Planning Commission on their decision to approve the River West development. Traverse City will either grow up or grow out. For countless reasons, up is better than out. Or do we enjoy such things as traffic congestion and replacing wooded hillsides with hideous spectacles like the one behind Tom’s West Bay. At least that one is on the edge of town as opposed to in the formerly beautiful rolling meadows of Acme Township...

Lessons In Winning War I am saddened to hear the response of so many of legislators tasked with keeping our country safe. I listen and wonder if they know what “winning” this kind of conflict requires or even means? Did we win in Korea? Did we win in Vietnam? Are we winning in Afghanistan? How is Israel winning against the Palestinians? Will they “take out” Hezbollah...

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A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide

Nancy Sundstrom - May 1st, 2003
This year‘s coveted Pulitzer Prize for General Non-fiction went to Samantha Power’s “A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide,“ a gripping, heartbreaking saga of the years she spent as a journalist covering the grisly events in Bosnia and Srebrenica, circa 1993-1996.
This is a masterful work, written with authority, command, and insight by Power, a native of Ireland who moved to the United States in 1979 at the age of nine, and graduated from Yale University and Harvard Law School.
She is now the executive director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Prior to that, though, she covered the wars in the former Yugoslavia as a reporter for U.S. News and World Report and The Economist. Her harrowing, life-changing stint there led to her working for the International Crisis Group (ICG) as a political analyst, and helping launch the organization in Bosnia, as well as writing this book.
The tome came out of Power’s growing frustration with how little she believed the United States was doing to combat the genocide she witnessed. It didn’t take much research for her to find a pattern of behavior from her adopted homeland, namely that “The United States had never in its history intervened to stop genocide and had in fact rarely even made a point of condemning it as it occurred.“
Power states her case, simply yet forcefully, on the book’s jacket, and in her own words:

“In 1993, as a 23-year-old correspondent covering the wars in the Balkans, I was initially comforted by the roar of NATO planes flying overhead. President Clinton and other western leaders had sent the planes to monitor the Bosnian war, which had killed almost 200,000 civilians. But it soon became clear that NATO was unwilling to target those engaged in brutal “ethnic cleansing.“ American statesmen described Bosnia as “a problem from hell,“ and for three and a half years refused to invest the diplomatic and military capital needed to stop the murder of innocents.
In Rwanda, around the same time, some 800,000 Tutsi and opposition Hutu were exterminated in the swiftest killing spree of the twentieth century. Again, the United States failed to intervene. This time U.S. policy-makers avoided labeling events “genocide“ and spearheaded the withdrawal of UN peacekeepers stationed in Rwanda who might have stopped the massacres underway.
Whatever America‘s commitment to Holocaust remembrance (embodied in the presence of the Holocaust Museum on the Mall in Washington, D.C.), the United States has never intervened to stop genocide. This book is an effort to understand why. While the history of America‘s response to genocide is not an uplifting one, “A Problem from Hell“ tells the stories of countless Americans who took seriously the slogan of “never again“ and tried to secure American intervention. Only by understanding the reasons for their small successes and colossal failures can we understand what we as a country, and we as citizens, could have done to stop the most savage crimes of the last century.“

Power’s book covers five decades, and is character-driven, putting a very human face on five decades of some of the “darkest moments in our national history,“ as the American government has failed to prevent or stop 20th-century campaigns to exterminate a staggering number of ethnic groups, among them Armenians, Jews, Cambodians, Iraqi Kurds, Bosnians, and Rwandans Her research on the subject must have been exhaustive, and she drew upon declassified cables, private papers, more than 300 exclusive interviews with Washington‘s top policy-makers, and her own personal experiences. The Holocaust is a particularly pivotal point for Power, because since that horrific, incomprehendable event, America has basically done nothing to stop genocide. Power further builds her case by identifying the similarities in the U.S.’s response to recent genocides to those of learning about Hitler’s master plan, even as Holocaust awareness in this country rose dramatically in the same period of time, over the past 30 years.
How much longer will we repeat history by failing to learn from it, she queries, and her outrage has credibility. Her arguments are founded solidly in history and morality, and as a world leader and power, we clearly have both the means and the responsibility to intervene when the future of races or nations are at stake. She does not suggest that this should be our doing alone, but shows how even a bit of intervention from us would probably have had significant impact.
“No U.S. president has ever suffered politically for his indifference to its occurrence. It is thus no coincidence that genocide rages on,“ she writes. Her charges are hard to ignore, and perhaps with the assistance of the high-profile Pulitzer, this book may find a wide audience. One also hopes, as does the author, that it will lead to challenging coming generations of leaders to not repeat the considerable mistakes of the past regarding genocide, mass terror, and the killing fields that threaten not only innocent civilians, but every notion of world peace and respect for human life we like to think we hold so dear.

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