In the Preface to Samantha Power’s book, A Problem from Hell, America and the Age of Genocide, published in 2002, she outlines four points as the book’s major findings. It is appropriate, in thinking about the situation in Aleppo to borrow thoughts from these points:
- “Despite graphic media coverage, American policymakers, journalists, and citizens are extremely slow to master the imagination needed to reckon with evil.…”
- “Lawmakers on Capitol Hill, editorial boards, non-governmental groups and ordinary constituents – do not generate political pressure sufficient to change the calculus of America’s leaders.”
- “U.S. officials spin themselves (as well as the American public) about the nature of violence in question and the likely impact of American intervention.…”
Ms. Power’s book, is a look into why America could stand by and watch genocide again and again: Cambodia, Iraq, Bosnia and Srebrenica, for example. Raphael Lemkin, a Jewish lawyer whose family had been killed in the Holocaust, was determined that genocide would never occur again. He fought and lobbied with all of his being advocating for the creation of an international law, the Convention on Genocide, which was finally introduced at the United Nations on 9 December 1948. The Convention was accepted and passed, the first time the United Nations had adopted a human rights treaty. Just after the Convention was passed Raphael Lemkin caught a virus, was hospitalized in Paris and died a few weeks later. Samantha Power’s book is a tribute to Raphael Lemkin, a man who has been left behind in history.
It is difficult to know what to write about Aleppo. Why is America standing by and not stopping the killing of men, women and children? Why are we “united in horror” as President Obama said in his press conference on Friday and yet cannot seem to do anything? Why is the world watching and not demanding that something be done to stop the violence? Why?
In the Western countries we are celebrating the festive Christmas season. Cities are bedazzling with colored lights and decorated trees. Music wafts through the cold air and creates moments of warmth. People walk along the sidewalks carrying shopping sacks filled with gifts. We read about Aleppo. We watch graphic photographs of the carnage on the television news. We are engaged in social media campaigns, while sitting peacefully at our desks. Nothing changes.
We are just a few weeks away from a new year: 2017. Perhaps we can all make a decision to make a difference and speak out:
- Contact all of your local officials – at both the state and national level.
- Send notes to individuals at the United Nations
- Reach out to every non-governmental organization working for peace internationally and ask them to tell you specifically what they are doing?
- Write letters to Editorial Boards of major newspapers.
Think about the headline: Aleppo – Americans stood up to REJECT VIOLENCE.