Pulitzer Winner Calls for Attention to Human Rights

The Georgetown Hoya, DC
March 23 2004

Pulitzer Winner Calls for Attention to Human Rights

By Irmak Bademli
Hoya Staff Writer

Pulitzer Prize winner Samantha Power described the foreign policy of
the Bush administration as

Samantha Power, the 2003 Pulitzer Prize winner for nonfiction, said
there are obstacles to integrating concern for human rights into U.S.
foreign policy, but that the Bush administration can overcome these
obstacles by heightened commitment to principles and institutions.

Power delivered a lecture called `Terrorism, U.S. Foreign Policy, and
Human Rights: Can the United States Promote an `Age of Liberty’?’
Thursday evening in Copley Formal Lounge.

Power started her lecture by quoting a speech President Bush made on
Nov. 6, 2003 in Washington, D.C. `Sixty years of western nations
excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did
nothing to make us safe, because in the long run, stability cannot be
purchased at the expense of liberty.”

While she said some could respond to the speech cynically, seeing the
speech only as `rhetoric,’ Bush’s speech served to recognize the
shortcomings of the U.S. foreign policy.

Power said `the enemy of my enemy can be my friend’ attitude in
foreign policy must change. She gave the example of U.S. backing of
Iraq when `Iran was the enemy in the neighborhood.’

She said at the time Saddam Hussein was violating the rights of the
Kurdish minority in Iraq, but the United States overlooked these

`Lines not to cross were moved to keep Iran down,’ she said.

When Iraq started threatening not only Iran, but also Kuwait and
Israel with its weapons development program, it became clear that the
United States could no longer support Hussein, according to Power.

Power outlined many obstacles to integrating concern for human rights
into U.S. foreign policy.

The first one, she said, is that `victims of human rights abuses
don’t vote in the U.S.’ She said even she, `the genocide chick,’ did
not vote on the 1996 elections on the basis of how the Clinton
administration `allowed’ genocide in Rwanda and Bosnia.

According to Power, the second obstacle is a structural one. She said
unlike domestic politics, foreign policy does not have `checks and
balances’ to make sure `urgent will not trump the important, and
short term will not trump the long term.’

Power said the third obstacle is people’s lack of `moral
imagination.’ She said even though people know real-time facts, like
the number of Rwandans who died in the genocide, they have no real
knowledge of the `human stakes,’ they do not stop to imagine the
struggle of every person.

The main default of foreign policy is that short-term security and
economic interests always get in the way of the concern for human
rights and that while ethnic lobbies like Albanians and Armenians
play a constructive role for policy change, their efforts focus on a
particular group and lack universality.

Power called U.S. foreign policy `gratuitous unilateralism,’
recalling the resistance of the United States to the International
Criminal Court. She said the United States tried to convince its
allies not to turn in U.S. soldiers to the international court and
cut or suspended military aid to countries that refused.

She said that even though the United Nations itself stands as an
obstacle against human rights, it is still important. She recalled
the efforts of the U.N. inspectors in Iraq and the World Food
Program, which `kept the Iraqis fed while the war was persecuted.’

Power won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize in general nonfiction with her
book, A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide. In her
book she examined U.S. foreign policy toward genocide in 20th

Power was the fourth speaker in this year’s Graduate School
Distinguished Lecturer Series.