Ghosts of Rwanda

in General Discussion edited January 2014
In case anyone has missed it, Frontline has a program that delves deeply into the genocide that happened in Rwanda. To listen to the bureaucracy that kept the United Nations from sending in additional troops is galling. President Clinton's administration is pulled in for interviews.

Madeline Albright defends their choices with claims that they just didn't know how bad things were. Subsequent news clips of her press briefings over the issue look like jokes as she dithers over the definition of "genocide".

Clinton and various admin. staffers are shown defending that administration's policy of non-intervention, citing that the collapse of the Soviet Union had removed the artificial barriers between rivalries in many countries....blah, blah, blah....bulldip.

They failed and the United Nations failed.

The world failed.

We'd better damned well have learned from this people.


  • Reply 1 of 27
    bungebunge Posts: 7,329member
    Politicians of the day should be held accountable.
  • Reply 2 of 27
    /mandolux//mandolux/ Posts: 648member
    What an amazing documentary and what a horrible feeling you get after you have seen it - I felt ashame.
  • Reply 3 of 27
    alcimedesalcimedes Posts: 5,486member
    saw that, or one just like it a while back.

    what it boiled down to was "we don't care because they aren't white people"
  • Reply 4 of 27
    or more generally: we don't care because they don't have anything we want [money].
  • Reply 5 of 27
    thttht Posts: 3,322member
    I'm really not sure what can be done to help subsaharan Africa. It's been in a disastrous state for a long time now, and only seems worse and worse as time goes on with AIDS, ethnic conflict, political conflict, etc. The expected lifespan of the entire region, not just one isolated country, all of the subsaharan countries, is something like 50, with some countries in the 30s. The reality of that is unimaginable.
  • Reply 6 of 27
    giantgiant Posts: 6,041member
  • Reply 7 of 27
    scottscott Posts: 7,431member
    Always blame American. Early and often. What was Israel's roll in all this?
  • Reply 8 of 27
    johnqjohnq Posts: 2,763member
    The buck stops at Belgium.

    The exact same way it was America's fault that Afghanistan collapsed after we left in the '80's, the exact same way it will be America's fault if Iraq collapses from pulling out troops too soon, so too is it primarily Belgium's fault for pulling out of Rwanda. Second to that it is the U.N.'s fault for removing UNAMIR troops. I don't care what the U.S. said to coax them or coerce them into it. If they were moral, both the Belgians and U.N. would have ignored the U.S. and stayed and helped.

    Belgium failed. The U.N. failed. Europe failed. African nations failed. The world failed. And the U.S. failed.

    But to paint it as primarily a U.S. instigated tragedy as Powers' subtitle "Why the United States Let the Rwandan Tragedy Happen" accuses, is dishonest and putting far, far less blame on Belgium, the original colonial power that created the mess to begin with and the first to decide to pull out (and goaded the UN into giving cover for pulling out): Willie Claes, the Belgian Foreign Minister, called the State Department to request "cover." "We are pulling out, but we don't want to be seen to be doing it alone,"

    The spin is slanted at criticizing the U.S. primarily, for the sole reason as far as I can see, that we were "the" world power at the time.

    The article is better titled:

    "Bystanders to Genocide - Why the Belgians, Europeans, United States and Ultimately the World Let the Rwandan Tragedy Happen"

    The article is far more honest than it's title.

    Playing the blame game? Hell yeah. Plenty to go around but there is a hierarchy of blame, it isn't merely "everyone's fault" flat across the board nor is it a pyramid with the U.S. at the top of the blame list for merely being the superpower, conniving thought we were. We were to blame, but at a third level with Belgium and U.N. above us.
  • Reply 9 of 27
    drewpropsdrewprops Posts: 2,321member
    I think that's an accurate assessment from what little I know on the entire topic. While the Clinton administration certainly avoided stepping up to the plate on this issue, it's entirely prejudicial for anyone to pin the blame solely on the United States. What I'd be interested in seeing is a War Crimes follow-up to the Frontline episode. More stories of how things stand now.

    I suppose it's time to pay more attention to what's happening elsewhere to see if another Rwanda is building elsewhere.
  • Reply 10 of 27
    johnq - so true!
  • Reply 11 of 27
    johnqjohnq Posts: 2,763member
    Another point: What happened to personal/collective responsibility?

    At what point are the Hutu (and potentially Tutsis if they did any unjustified killing - although they were certainly the victims) to be held accountable?

    It's a weird inability to overcome political correctness to not stress Hutu responsibility and silence and inaction of neighboring African countries.

    They are nearly universally overlooked in typical conversations about the genocide. It's like it is taboo to dare put blame on Africans themselves. Surely it "must" be Belgium or the U.S.' fault. Wrong.

    Sure, but only after the Hutu themselves. I never followed the subject much as far as recovery and justice. Was there a TRC like resolution? (I'll look it up. Rhetorical question unless you want to chat about it).
  • Reply 12 of 27
    johnqjohnq Posts: 2,763member
    By the way, this is the same Richard Clarke criticizing the Bush administration nowadays.


    Richard Clarke, at the NSC, and representatives of the Joint Chiefs challenged Dallaire's plan. (...) The U.S. proposal (...) would have kept any U.S. pilots involved in airlifting the peacekeepers safely out of Rwanda. "Our proposal was the most feasible, doable thing that could have been done in the short term," Clarke insists. Dallaire's proposal, in contrast, "could not be done in the short term and could not attract peacekeepers." The U.S. plan?which was modeled on Operation Provide Comfort, for the Kurds of northern Iraq?seemed to assume that the people in need were refugees fleeing to the border, but most endangered Tutsi could not make it to the border. The most vulnerable Rwandans were those clustered together, awaiting salvation, deep inside Rwanda. Dallaire's plan would have had UN soldiers move to the Tutsi in hiding. The (Clarke) plan would have required civilians to move to the safe zones, negotiating murderous roadblocks on the way. "The two plans had very different objectives," Dallaire says. "My mission was to save Rwandans. (Clarke's) mission was to put on a show at no risk."

    Weasel. (Clarke)

    OMG. Wait. Rwanda is Clarke's fault! Nice one dude!

    Am I reading that correctly?
  • Reply 13 of 27
    jubelumjubelum Posts: 4,490member

    Originally posted by johnq

    By the way, this is the same Richard Clarke criticizing the Bush administration nowadays.


    Weasel. (Clarke)

    OMG. Wait. Rwanda is Clarke's fault! Nice one dude!

    Am I reading that correctly?

    You evil member of the Right Wing Attack Machine.
  • Reply 14 of 27
    craiger77craiger77 Posts: 133member
    I haven't had a chance to see the frontline episode, but came across this article in the NY Times today:

    Encounter: The Rwanda Witness

    Seems Canada needs to added to the list of guilty parties, although that is kind of a stretch.

    I spent a year bumming around Africa in the early 80's. I spent a few weeks in Rwanda, mostly just to see the the Mountain Gorillas. Not a particularly friendly place as I recall. The Tutsi were in control of the place at that time and were pretty arrogant. Not difficult to see why the Hutus resented being ruled by them, but no excuse for the genocide that happened later.

    My conclusion at the time was that Africa was pretty much doomed and that was before the whole AIDs crisis. In general it is a piss poor place to live with too many people who hate each other jammed into artificially created countries by the Europeans. So many places I visited like Sudan, Somalia, Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi have had major civil wars since I was there. Only Uganda has somewhat improved and that is only because it was such a basket case at that time it couldn't go anywhere but up. What was sad was that you could see that much of these countries had been much more developed in years past. Calling them developing countries was a misnomer...they were and are going backwards not forwards.

    After Africa I flew to India and it was quite a shock how much more advanced even India was from Africa. I knew at the time there was no way Africa could ever catch up with Asia and that is even more true today.
  • Reply 15 of 27
    giantgiant Posts: 6,041member

    Originally posted by johnq

    By the way, this is the same Richard Clarke criticizing the Bush administration nowadays.

    Weasel. (Clarke)

    OMG. Wait. Rwanda is Clarke's fault! Nice one dude!

    Am I reading that correctly?

    I'm not defending Clarke here since clearly everyone was wrong WRT Rwanda, but at least try to provide the complete picture for those like Jubelum who form their beliefs based on incomplete information:


    On October 3, 1993, ten months after President Bush had sent U.S. troops to Somalia as part of what had seemed a low-risk humanitarian mission, U.S. Army Rangers and Delta special forces in Somalia attempted to seize several top advisers to the warlord Mohammed Farah Aideed. Aideed's faction had ambushed and killed two dozen Pakistani peacekeepers, and the United States was striking back. But in the firefight that ensued the Somali militia killed eighteen Americans, wounded seventy-three, and captured one Black Hawk helicopter pilot. Somali television broadcast both a video interview with the trembling, disoriented pilot and a gory procession in which the corpse of a U.S. Ranger was dragged through a Mogadishu street.

    On receiving word of these events, President Clinton cut short a trip to California and convened an urgent crisis-management meeting at the White House. When an aide began recapping the situation, an angry President interrupted him. "Cut the bullshit," Clinton snapped. "Let's work this out." "Work it out" meant walk out. Republican Congressional pressure was intense. Clinton appeared on American television the next day, called off the manhunt for Aideed, temporarily reinforced the troop presence, and announced that all U.S. forces would be home within six months. The Pentagon leadership concluded that peacekeeping in Africa meant trouble and that neither the White House nor Congress would stand by it when the chips were down.

    Even before the deadly blowup in Somalia the United States had resisted deploying a UN mission to Rwanda. "Anytime you mentioned peacekeeping in Africa," one U.S. official remembers, "the crucifixes and garlic would come up on every door." Having lost much of its early enthusiasm for peacekeeping and for the United Nations itself, Washington was nervous that the Rwanda mission would sour like so many others. But President Habyarimana had traveled to Washington in 1993 to offer assurances that his government was committed to carrying out the terms of the Arusha Accords. In the end, after strenuous lobbying by France (Rwanda's chief diplomatic and military patron), U.S. officials accepted the proposition that UNAMIR could be the rare "UN winner." On October 5, 1993, two days after the Somalia firefight, the United States reluctantly voted in the Security Council to authorize Dallaire's mission. Even so, U.S. officials made it clear that Washington would give no consideration to sending U.S. troops to Rwanda. Somalia and another recent embarrassment in Haiti indicated that multilateral initiatives for humanitarian purposes would likely bring the United States all loss and no gain.

    Against this backdrop, and under the leadership of Anthony Lake, the national-security adviser, the Clinton Administration accelerated the development of a formal U.S. peacekeeping doctrine. The job was given to Richard Clarke, of the National Security Council, a special assistant to the President who was known as one of the most effective bureaucrats in Washington. In an interagency process that lasted more than a year, Clarke managed the production of a presidential decision directive, PDD-25, which listed sixteen factors that policymakers needed to consider when deciding whether to support peacekeeping activities: seven factors if the United States was to vote in the UN Security Council on peace operations carried out by non-American soldiers, six additional and more stringent factors if U.S. forces were to participate in UN peacekeeping missions, and three final factors if U.S. troops were likely to engage in actual combat. In the words of Representative David Obey, of Wisconsin, the restrictive checklist tried to satisfy the American desire for "zero degree of involvement, and zero degree of risk, and zero degree of pain and confusion." The architects of the doctrine remain its strongest defenders. "Many say PDD-25 was some evil thing designed to kill peacekeeping, when in fact it was there to save peacekeeping," Clarke says. "Peacekeeping was almost dead. There was no support for it in the U.S. government, and the peacekeepers were not effective in the field." Although the directive was not publicly released until May 3, 1994, a month into the genocide, the considerations encapsulated in the doctrine and the Administration's frustration with peacekeeping greatly influenced the thinking of U.S. officials involved in shaping Rwanda policy.

    Not that this should be unknown to anyone who was politically conscious at the time.
  • Reply 16 of 27
    drewpropsdrewprops Posts: 2,321member
    I'm going to go look up PDD-25, which I believe is mentioned in the Frontline episode.

    All governments must have doctrines by which they operate, precedents to help mark their trails over time. These doctrines will always adapt to the ever-changing topography of world politics, however, I would counter Mr. Clarke's assertion that a checklist for involvement was going to be the "salvation" of peacekeeping. Complex responses to complex issues promise to remain outside the grasp of human governance, Rwanda being but one example. The poll-driven mentality that defined the Clinton administration is at play with PDD-25 and Clarke's current 20/20 hindsight seems selectively adaptive to his current political position...but he didn't incite this genocide, he merely gave his bosses excuses that helped them retain political power.

    The horror and tragedy and Evil of Rwanda belongs to its people. If there were no such institution as the United Nations that responsibility would be cast into sharp relief. In a way, the need to blame the West seems a subtle racial arrogance...disallowing the black African nation to even accept the responsibility of its own actions.
  • Reply 17 of 27
    giantgiant Posts: 6,041member
    Funny to see a Bush supporter attacking the Clinton Admin on this.


    Q: What about Rwanda, where 600,000 people died in 1994. Was that a mistake not to intervene?

    BUSH: I think the administration did the right thing in that case. I do. It was a horrible situation. No one liked to see it on our TV screens, but it?s a case where we need to make sure we?ve got an early warning system in places where there could be a ethnic cleansing and genocide the way we saw it there in Rwanda. And that?s a case were we need to use our influence to have countries in Africa come together and help deal with the situation. The administration made the right decision on training Nigerian troops for situations just such as this in Rwanda. And so I thought they made the right decision not to send U.S. troops into Rwanda.

    As Bush also said during his campaign: "Africa will not be an area of priority."
  • Reply 18 of 27
    johnqjohnq Posts: 2,763member

    Originally posted by giant

    I'm not defending Clarke here since clearly everyone was wrong WRT Rwanda, but at least try to provide the complete picture for those like Jubelum who form their beliefs based on incomplete information:

    Not that this should be unknown to anyone who was politically conscious at the time.

    For the record, I'm square in the middle, not far right or left. Do you presume I'm a Bush supporter/Republican merely for me criticizing Clarke? Sure you did, admit it.

    I can criticize Clarke, Bush, Clinton, Kerry, Nader, Bin Laden, Mel Gibson, the Pope, etc.etc all at the same time. Because I am not handcuffed to an agenda of a specific party or religion. I am a free man and exercise that freedom in my speech.

    I just look at Clarke saying Bush administration "did nothing" on 9/11 as being ironic coming from the guy that made sure we would have done "nothing" in Rwanda (had the doctrine's development outpaced the genocide).

    The extra stuff you quoted doesn't exactly prove anything. So? U.S. avoided and were leery of African missions. Clarke crafts a rigid set of conditions that most likely will never get fully met, thereby keeping the U.S. out most of the time. And?

    And that I quote only a paragraph doesn't mean I'm not suggesting to go read the original source. (I assumed he had anyway at this point).

    But please don't insult me by saying "at least try to provide the complete picture" as if I am being crafty with quotes. And it's insulting to Jubelum that you suggest he routinely "form(s) (his) beliefs based on incomplete information". What the heck is that about?

    Not sure if you are aware or intended this but: "Politically conscious" is such a smarmy, smug self-title and is a tremendously condescending backhanded insult to millions (billions) of hard working people from all walks of life, busy raising kids and trying to survive, who can't possibility follow every picayune detail of Washington/world politics 24/7. If you can good for you.


    Edited Kerry/Bush Democrat/Republican! I tell you I get blamed by both sides for being on the other side so much I get them mixed up!!!!! Stupid polarized nation.......
  • Reply 19 of 27
    moogsmoogs Posts: 4,296member

    Originally posted by Scott

    Always blame American. Early and often. What was Israel's roll in all this?

    Mods: I apologize in advance for what follows, but it needs to be said....


    Scott, whatever small measure of respect I had for you as an individual just went out the window. Your willful ignorance and thinly veiled trolling is pathetic. WTF does Israel have to do with this? Did you read the original post? Did he blame only the US, or the whole of the UN also? You know lot's of counties make up the UN, right? Or, did you just want to grab some attention for yourself today? Well you got it.

    Pathetic how, when you want to defend past government actions, you won't defend the President in question by name, but rather "America". God forbid you ever defend anything Clinton did, right? No, when Clinton did something you agree with, you defend "America". And when Bush does something worthy of criticism... oh wait, that hasn't happened yet for you....

    You tremendous, hypocritical ASS... wake up and look upon that thing we call reality.

    Name ONE country on the face of this planet, which was (and still is) better equipped and better financed to help countries like Rwanda. You can't because there isn't one, you apathetic douche. I guess only poor, innocent-of-all-wrongdoing Israel is deserving of unlimited American aid in your eyes; surely spending big money to help those Africans is just a waste? Common Scott, spell it out for us in black and white!

    Fact: our potential to bring human aid to any point on the globe, was and still is, virtually limitless in terms of human mobilization and airlift capability. And while over the past four years, there hasn't been much press about it, there are still tens of thousands of Africans dying at the hands of war lords, famine and disease. What has George done? NOTHING. Same thing every president seems to do. Can you admit it, or does George have an excuse for this too? I'm asking Scott: what's your stance on George's African relief policy?

    Fact: even if the problem was ultimately beyond "solving" by outside intervention (which in Rwanda it most likely was), we could have still made a serious effort to help a great many of those people who were slaughtered. It isn't an "all or nothing" proposition as people like yourself seem to imply. We could have helped... in person, on the ground, with man-power, supplies and some measure of armed security. We could have helped, and we chose not to.

    We didn't even try.

    US intervention does not always have to mean "policing the world". It can mean feeding, curing or sheltering as well, even if it's just for a short time. What if we had saved 5,000 lives? Maybe even brought many of them to the US for a shot at a real life? What's the price of those 5,000 Rwandan lives, Scott? What are they worth in your mind? More than the 3,000 who died in the WTC? Less? More than those who die in Hamas suicide bombings? Less? I'm asking, so answer if you've ever given it a moment's thought (unlikely IMO).

    To me, they were worth a few $Billion at least. How many billion have we spent on Iraq since 1991? Worth "saving the Kuwaitees", but not worth saving a few thousand Rwandans? Just asking.

    I know, I know... here's what happened. Maybe that Rwandan thing just popped up so quickly, we didn't have time to mount a response? Yeah, that's it. The US and UN were just totally caught by surprise and then in a few days, it was over. Enjoy your stay in Scott's World?.


    Let us know when you're ready to grow up, that will be the moment when -- at least for my part -- I start counting you among the members whose opinions and ideas are worth consideirng, even if different from my own. Unlike you, I come here also to learn, and not just to contradict people for sport. I almost feel sorry for you... except that your words indicate intent to disrupt. PhD obviously didn't do you much good.
  • Reply 20 of 27
    johnqjohnq Posts: 2,763member

    Originally posted by giant

    Funny to see a Bush supporter attacking the Clinton Admin on this.

    As Bush also said during his campaign: "Africa will not be an area of priority."

    Ahhh ok. I see.

    Yes, people, Bush = bad.

    Yes, we must not get distracted in this election year. Let's for now, ignore the faults and errors and foibles of anyone remotely involved with the Democratic party.

    Let's instead focus all of our energies on the Bush administration. Let's not "look two paragraphs up" for the full story, but instead pretend that Bush administration started with a fresh blank canvas, that they inherited nothing bad from 8 years of Clinton's administration.

    If anyone veers off and suggests anyone other than a Bush is to blame, guide the topic back to Bush.

    Ok. I'm clear now. I just missed that memo. thanks.

    Seriously though,

    Let me get this straight. Clinton policy was flawed. Bush agreed with that same policy. Ergo Bush is bad. (With no mention of Clinton therefore being bad). Mmmmokay. (takes wide steps away from the dangerous logic)
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