In A Bed for the Night1, David Rieff2 explains his frustration at the lim- itations and Rieff frequently gives in to his penchant for extreme positions. He dis-. A Bed for the Night has ratings and 36 reviews. Alisa said: Ok, so I did not give this book four stars because I thought it was much fun to read. Had. David Rieff’s A Bed for the Night: Humanitarianism in Crisis is an emotionally raw and deeply personal argument that humanitarian organizations must be free.

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Rieff, a veteran journalist bbed author of several books Slaughterhouse: Where you and he would part ways, however, would be over your commitment to the ethical imperative at the heart of humanitarian work. We can’t seem to do without it. There are no discussion topics on this book yet.

Return to Book Page. Humanitarianism must be free to simply aid those in need. And this was usually understood to mean a few months, or, at worst, a year or two. But NATO acted as much because, after Croatia and after Ebd, it had decided, however belatedly, that it had had enough of Slobodan Milosevic and Serbian nationalism and was determined to stamp out this ethnic fascist rebellion in the European backlands once and for all, as it did out of any deep-seated sympathy thee the Kosovars.

Books by David Rieff. Rieff is an American journalist who rose to prominence covering the Bosnian war in the mid-nineties, particularly with the publication of his acclaimed book, Slaughterhouse: Humanitarianism in Crisis ; and Slaughterhouse: In other words, not only are we not in Kansas anymore, as Dorothy says in The Wizard of Oz, but we are not even in Bosnia, where the refugees were white Europeans.

Quoting one aid worker, Rieff defines traditional humanitarianism as “an effort to bring a measure of humanity, always insufficient, into situations that should not exist.

Let it save some lives, whatever the compromises it has to make along the way, and let it tend to the victims and remind that corner of the world that is lucky enough not to be in agony of the incalculable suffering, misery, and grief that literally billions of people feel every day of their lives. At the time, he said that if necessary we would “have to fight the Somalis themselves” to make sure the aid got delivered.

A Bed for the Night eBook During the post-war controversy, the ICRC argued that to do so would violate its neutrality charter and thus jeopardize its work in other areas of the Reich.

And it means that through that television, we, as representative First World citizens, can choose to expose ourselves to that world of suffering, injustice, violent death, want, and bec that is the lived reality for so many people on this planet.


Rieff takes a pessimistic view, but not one that is unwarranted except for the first 30 pages which start the book on an incredibly sour note and might drive off the very people who should read thf rest of it. We know this in our daily lives. To sympathize in the way that the television images invite us all to do is not difficult.

“A Bed for the Night: Humanitarianism in Crisis” by David Rieff

But we were alone, and our alternative was looking after people. And the sight may continue to resonate long after the television has been switched off. One does not have to have a simpleminded view of the press, or of the world for that matter, to see that this is an important advance.

Tell us what you like, so we can send you books you’ll love. Think of Coventry and Rotterdam, of London during the Blitz; and think of Dresden, where on one night, February 13,at least twenty-five thousand people were killed and virtually the entire city was leveled.

And yet failing to do so is fraught with moral risks. By calling for intervention, humanitarian organizations risk being seen as taking sides in a conflict and thus jeopardizing their access to victims. Very pertinent but no lucid argument for any one thing in particular, no real summation of the vast amount of history he tries to cover and synthesize.

You can be an anti-utopian like Rieff, and still work happily as a humanitarian practitioner. That aside, the rest of the book is an incredibly useful history.

Just that there is horror and want, nothing else. Keep humanitarianism separate from human rights and politics and Reading all these book by aid workers is teaching me that while aid workers are fantastic at being self-critical, they are horrible at writing coherent arguments. Timely and controversial, A Bed for the Night reveals how humanitarian organizations trying to bring relief in an ever more violent and dangerous world are often betrayed and misused, and have increasingly lost sight of their purpose.

The television camera operator’s stock-in-trade in a famine or a war is the close-up — the focus on the baby in the aid worker’s arms, the child with flies lighting on her face, the vultures slyly approaching the rotting corpse of the dead militiaman. When Johnston speaks approvingly of the media’s ability to turn a faraway crisis into a story of human beings, it is hard not to feel that he means human beings in the generic sense.

Here was where the distortion of the way humanitarian stories had been covered since Biafra in the late s all but guaranteed that what was going on would be misunderstood. Where Rieff excels is in managing to criticize the industry of humanitarian assistance on very real and practical grounds. And the one thing someone who has seen images of a refugee camp or a city being shelled on television has not done is understand, except in the most simplistic sense of understanding, that fellow human beings are at risk or are being harmed.


A Bed for the Night: Humanitarianism in Crisis

It also means that, in global terms, you belong to a minority group, at most no more than a tenth of the world’s population, and probably a good deal less.

Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. His approach isn’t exactly methodological and his politics occasionally slide into the typical American cynicism of policy analysts, but that doesn’t take away from the book’s insightfulness.

Article Title A Bed for the Night: Some aid workers believe that he was the driving force behind the militarization of the humanitarian aid effort in the country and the eventual decision by the U. Knowing who these people are makes it possible to understand what is happening in the countries and tragedies in question. Drawing on firsthand reporting from hot war zones around the world — Bosnia, Rwanda, Congo, Kosovo, Sudan, and most recently Afghanistan — Rieff describes how the International Committee of the Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, the International Rescue Committee, CARE, Oxfam, and other humanitarian organizations have moved from their founding principle of political neutrality, which gave them access to victims of wars, to encouraging the international community to take action to stop civil wars and ethnic cleansing.

And in Asia, which had been at war for a decade, the fate of European Jewry would have been a tangential concern, just as the fate dsvid the hundreds of thousands of Chinese murdered by Japanese forces in Nanking in was of no great concern to the American or Western European public.

In davld end, it is less a question of motives than of structures. This is more a ‘history of’ than any kind of biographical account, and though he has been intimately involved in conflict and humanitarian relief, Rieff leaves out the personal stories and anecdotes. You can know that there is a famine in southern Sudan.

For it is not enough to watch television, be moved, and in especially tragic instances — a Somalia, a Rwanda, an Afghanistan — translate dagid emotion into a contribution to a charity or a letter to a politician demanding that something be done. Perhaps you are right. If you can force yourself past the introduction first 30 pagesthen the book is an excellent look at humanitarianism through the early ’00s.

He lives in New York City. Or Complicates the received wisdom of humanitarianism. In this sense, the fleeting images and the oversimplified narrative that accompanied them have awakened a rifff.