TWO WORDS -- "never again" -- sum up the most important lesson that civilized men and women were supposed to have learned from the 20th century. It is forbidden to keep silent, forbidden to look the other way, when tyrants embark on genocide and slaughter -- if Auschwitz and Kolyma and the Cambodian killing fields taught us nothing else, they taught us that.
Or so, at any rate, we like to tell ourselves. As Samantha Power discovered upon returning to the United States after two years as a war correspondent in Bosnia, the lesson of "never again" is invoked far more often than it is applied.
Power went on to write "A Problem From Hell," her Pulitzer Prize-winning account of America's failure to intervene in the genocides of the 20th century. The book was hugely and deservedly praised. It made clear, as no book had before, how much Americans knew about some of the most horrific massacres of the last century even as they were happening, and how little we did to stop them -- or even, in most cases, condemn them.
Which brings us to North Korea.
It is not exactly news that the communist regime of Kim Jong Il has sent millions of North Koreans to early graves. Estimates back in 1998 were that as many as 800,000 people were dying in North Korea each year from starvation and malnutrition caused by Kim's ruthless and irrational policies. World Vision, a Christian relief organization, calculated that 1 million to 2 million North Koreans had been killed by "a full-scale famine" largely of Pyongyang's creation.
Read the entire article on the Boston Globe website.