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Sunday, March 9

Rewriting history over Rwanda

Asked in Iowa what decisions his wife had disagreed with Bill Clinton said that:

She had wanted the United States to intervene in Rwanda in 1994 ... Had he listened to his wife, Clinton said, things might have been different.

"I believe if I had moved we might have saved at least a third of those lives," he said. "I think she clearly would have done that."

He went on to explain how America, which did intervene in the former Yugoslavia, could only take on so much at once. But not acting in Rwanda, he suggested, was a mistake his wife wouldn't make.
Asked about that claim Hillary said:
It is. It is true. And, you know, I believe that our government failed. We obviously didn't have a lot of good options. It moved very quickly. It was a difficult, terrible genocide to try to get our arms around and to do something to try to stem or prevent. It didn't happen, and that is something that the president has apologized for, and I think that for me, it was one of the most poignant and difficult experiences, when I met with Rwandan refugees in Kampala, Uganda, shortly after the genocide ended, and I personally apologized to women whose arms had been hacked off, who had seen their husbands and their children murdered before their very eyes and were at the bottom of piles of bodies. And then when I was able to go to Rwanda and be part of expressing our deep regrets, because we didn't speak out adequately enough, and we certainly didn't take action.
This is rewriting history. Nowhere in all of the extensive literature on the subject is Hillary mentioned once. Not only that but it is not true that "we obviously didn't have a lot of good options."

The giveaway is the claim that she pressed for military intervention because that was never an option, coming right after 'Black Hawk Down' in Mogadishu. But it's worse than that because the US actively opposed peacekeeping and failed to take any action whatsoever.

Samantha Power, the just-resigned Obama foreign policy adviser, wrote extensively about this and detailed what they didn't do and what they did do:
  • The US led a successful effort to remove most of the UN peacekeepers who were already in Rwanda.
  • It aggressively worked to block the subsequent authorization of UN reinforcements.
  • It refused to use its technology to jam radio broadcasts that were a crucial instrument in the coordination and perpetuation of the genocide.
  • And even as, on average, 8,000 Rwandans were being butchered each day, U.S. officials shunned the term "genocide," for fear of being obliged to act.
  • The United States in fact did virtually nothing "to try to limit what occurred." Indeed, staying out of Rwanda was an explicit U.S. policy objective."
The Americans weren't alone. The British, the French, the Belgians and much of the rest of Africa all either didn't do anything or actively stopped aid. They all looked for their own interests and none had any interest in stopping genocide.

It was Britain's ambassador to the UN, Sir David Hannay, who proposed that the UN reduce its force. A year after the slaughter, the Foreign Office sent a letter to an international inquiry saying that it still did not accept the term genocide, seeing discussion on whether the massacres constituted genocide as "sterile". Then Ministers John Major, Douglas Hurd, Malcolm Rifkind and Lynda Chalker have never even been asked about their role.

Virtually no-one emerges heroically (Canadian peacekeeper Roméo Dallaire is one and his view on Clinton's claims would be interesting to hear). In fact I would urge anyone to make themselves read the harrowing background as an object lesson in international power politics and its victims - a million of them in Rwanda. There's a blog which covers the 100 days before and during the slaughter in detail. 'A People Betrayed' by Linda Melvern is very good.

For Hillary to now try to adopt that heroic mantle is, as commentators have noted, worse than 'monstrous'.


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