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March 08, 2008


And what a convenient moment to make this claim, when the woman formerly in the Obama campaign organization best equipped to evaluate this claim, a women who has interviewed almost everyone and read almost everything there is to read about Rwanda policy in the 1990s has just resigned and made herself un-interviewable.

Given Power's specialty, this seems almost like a claim engineered to make her head explode -- or to taunt her out of silence.

What a lovely couple they are. 'Monstrous' isn't the right word, agreed, but there's a sadistic, Rovian edge there that 'grotesque' only hints at.

look at how much it took you to explain all of that ancient history. their shiny new lie takes almost no time at all to tell.

they win!

we lose.

If she was doing her best behind the scenes, and failed to accomplish even this -- if, despite her best efforts, she couldn't persuade her husband not to advocate withdrawing UN peacekeepers just to provide cover for the Belgians -- then we really need to ask how effective an advocate she really is, especially since no one except her husband, in full campaign mode, seems to remember her efforts at all.

That's it in a nutshell, hilzoy. But will the media pick up on it? And bending over backwards as far as I can, assuming every word the Clintons say on this matter is true, it's also a devastating illumination of their characters that they couldn't disclose this earlier than this week, when the media finally questioned her bona fides in this area. This would fit in -- if true -- with Senator Clinton's inability to frame her crucial Iraq vote as a mistake that she regrets.

Dallaire's awful personal story post-Rwanda is described in his book, but here's the Wikipedia summary for anyone unfamiliar with it:

Dallaire was medically released from the Canadian Forces and retired on April 22, 2000, after being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

At the time of his retirement he held the rank of lieutenant-general. Blaming himself for the failures of the mission, he began a spiral into a depression, culminating on June 20, 2000, when he was rushed to hospital after being found under a park bench in Ottawa. He was intoxicated and suffering from the reaction of alcohol and his prescription anti-depressants, the mixture of which almost put him into a coma. The story gained national headlines and sparked a fierce debate over the rules of engagement forced upon UN peacekeepers.

After the "park-bench" incident, Dallaire began writing about his experiences, started lecturing on his experiences, and was well on the road to recovery. He has since stated that during this bleak period, he considered suicide and attempted it on several occasions. Despite his personal turmoil, the months he spent in Rwanda were eventually chronicled in his 2003 book Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda, written in collaboration with his aide, Major Brent Beardsley. This book won the Shaughnessy Cohen Award for Political Writing in 2003 and the 2004 Governor General's Award for non-fiction.

On preview: what Nell said, which is a shame (or shamelessness taking advantage of an opponent's error) but also something Powers bears a hell of a lot of responsibility for. And cleek, the paragraph I quoted might one of the handles the media needs, if they're willing to pick up on it.

Shorter hilzoy, pre-packaged for the media:

1) This is a new claim,
2) Which does not appear in any pre-existing media,
3) Which raises doubts about its veracity,
4) And, even if it is true, still falls short of giving us any reason to trust in Senator Clinton's expertise, judgment and effectiveness. If she couldn't away her husband, who can she sway?

Actually -- and I should have been clearer on this in my post -- it's not a new claim. Bill Clinton said it in December. It is new to me -- I saw it in the Chicago Tribune article and thought: huh???!!! But they said it a while ago.

"it's not a new claim. Bill Clinton said it in December."

The Rwandan Genocide occured over a decade ago (my memory is hazy on the exact year) and the first time it gets mentioned is 3 months ago? Sounds pretty new to me. Especially considering that it did not get mentioned in either of their books? (did it? The Rwandan Genocide was a rather important event in history)

As Mary said, HRC would be wise not to push this as an example of her "experience"... another failure.

I suggested that Bill C intervene in Rwanda in a conversation with my sister-in-law. Does that mean I can cross the Commander-in-chief threshold?

Some people in the State Department proposed jamming Radio Mille Collines, which was urging people on to genocide. But that didn't happen either. Why was nothing done?


Now, that's not a very fair characterization, is it? You forgot to mention the extreme cost of deploying the National Guard plane equipped with jamming gear; that asset was going to cost tens of thousands of dollars. And think about what would happen if that asset was damaged? I mean genocide is important and all, but we're talking about tens of thousands of dollars here or maybe even a whole airplane.

"The Pentagon is always going to be the last to want to intervene," he says. "It is up to the civilians to tell us they want to do something and we'll figure out how to do it."

But with no powerful personalities or high-ranking officials arguing forcefully for meaningful action, mid-level Pentagon officials held sway, vetoing or stalling on hesitant proposals put forward by mid-level State Department or NSC officials."

As I recall, the proposals weren't all that tentative since State officials were screaming for any action whatsoever.

Look, we all need to focus on what's really important: the military has lots of nifty hardware and it is very, very, very important that all that precious hardware never be endangered. Certainly not for a purpose as cheap and tawdry as stopping genocide.

Well, if he said it in December, then the "this week" portion of my post is off base, but this is still a new claim because it only showed up during this campaign and not in any pre-existing sources.

But hilzoy's best case scenario for the Senator -- that she tried and failed to influence her husband to do anything positive, let alone persuading him not to do the horrible, counter-productive things he committed to -- is still the key point.

Here's Bill Clinton on Rwanda in The New Yorker, 9/18/06:

"Later, when I asked Clinton about Rwanda, he said that the calamity in Somalia and the crisis in the Balkans had been distractions but that his inaction in Rwanda was the worst foreign-policy mistake of his Administration.

“Whatever happened, I have to take responsibility for it,” he said. “We never even had a staff meeting on it. But I don’t blame anybody that works for me. That was my fault. I should have been alert and alive to it. And that’s why I went there and apologized in ’98. I’ve always been surprised at how much they wanted me to come back, accepting my help on their holocaust memorial. Every time I ask, they say, ‘You know, we did this to ourselves, you didn’t make us do it—I wish you’d come.’ And then they always say, ‘Besides, you were the only one who ever apologized. Nobody else even said they were sorry.’ So all I can do is—I just have to face it. It was just one of those things that happen. It is inexplicable to me looking back, but when we lived it forward, in the aftermath of Somalia, trying to get the support from a fairly isolationist Congress at the time—including some elements in both parties—to get into Bosnia, where I felt we had an overwhelming national interest and a moral imperative, we just blew it. I blew it. I just, I feel terrible about it, and all I can ever do is tell them the truth, and not try to sugarcoat it, and try to make it up to them.”

I'm not sure how strong Hillary Clinton's advocacy for military action could have been if in Sept. '06 Bill Clinton is saying he was not "alert and alive" to the situation in Rwanda. How strong could Sen. Clinton's advice have been if it didn't so much as move Bill Clinton to "alert"?

You can't blame Hillary Clinton for anything her husband did as president, because she's not him! But she's got 35 years of experience working on foreign relations, and how dare you question her credentials?

Someone kill me now.

In fairness, I have heard this for many years.

Jammer -- In fairness, then, accompany that claim with some evidence.

Suppose we take Clinton's word for it, she did recommend that the US should intervene militarily in Rwanda. Was that good advice? It sounds idiotic to me - Somalia squared.

Hilzoy, is there a book on the Rwandan genocide which you'd recommend above the others? If it helps in making a selection, assume that the person you're making a recommendation to was 13 when the underlying events occurred and so might need something that does a good job of explaining even the basics.

Next week's headline:

"Hillary repeatedly warned me not to get blowjobs from Monica Lewinsky. If only I had listened to her..."

They're even willing to game the greatest genocide of my lifetime (I'm 44). Fuck them to eternity.

Is anybody really surprised?

Did anybody really expect anything different from her?

I really think this is the tone the Obama campaign has to begin to take with her: condescension.

The Hillary foreign policy gambit, as TPM has pointed out, is a very silly move. There's just no way that it doesn't backfire.

washerdreyer: Samantha Power's book is very good. There's also (switching to another medium) a very good Frontline on it; if it's available to be watched on the web, it would be a great place to start.

washerdryer - There is a blog called '100 Days of Rwanda' which recounted the events of each day in a blog post. It gives you a real sense of what decisions confronted various players in real time. It's just about the best history in a blog form that I've seen online. Blogger NYCO wrote it on the 10th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide.


So this helps explain Power's statement that she is a "monster"; trying to make political hay off of her and her husband's failure to stop the genocide.

Wonder if she can be reinstated.

For those looking for more reading, Jared Diamond's recent book, Collapse includes a chapter on the Rwandan genocide that takes a somewhat different perspective than I've seen in other works. Diamond focuses on the changing resource constraints as a driver for the genocide; he locates the events of 94 in an economic context that gives some insight into sectarian motivations. Its been a while since I read other Rwandan books, but at the time, his perspective struck me as novel and useful.

I recently stumbled on a completely unrelated paper that has a rather provocative thesis: Explaining the Ultimate Escalation in Rwanda: How and Why Tutsi Rebels Provoked a Retaliatory Genocide. Unfortunately, I don't know enough to determine how accurate its contentions are.

Turbulence--Howard French, the NYT reporter, also deviates quite a bit from the standard line on Hutu/Tutsi relations , though he deals more with the aftermath than what led up to it. I read his book a few years ago--he portrays the war in the Congo following the Rwandan genocide as yet another genocide, this time with the Tutsi army as one of the villains. And he doesn't think highly of Gourevitch, the author of one of the most widely cited books on the Rwandan genocide. Here's a link--


That doesn't speak to the issue raised in your link, of course. I would have guessed that events in neighboring Burundi might have had a lot to do with what happened in Rwanda in 1994. There was a Tutsi genocide against Hutus in 1972, and a Hutu genocide of Tutsis in the early 90's, at least according to wikipedia. I'd heard of the 72 genocide before.

washerdreyer asked: Hilzoy, is there a book on the Rwandan genocide which you'd recommend above the others? If it helps in making a selection, assume that the person you're making a recommendation to was 13 when the underlying events occurred and so might need something that does a good job of explaining even the basics.

I strongly recommend Gérard Prunier, The Rwanda Crisis. It’s very good on the colonial background, the Hutu Republic (1959-1990) and France’s involvement (Prunier was asked to advise the French government at one point).

joejoejoe, thanks so much for the pointer to the 100 Days of Rwanda site. Do you know where NYCO blogs or comments nowadays?

As disgusted as I am by our inaction then, at least we weren’t alone. Just as with Darfur today, the whole world just kind of stands around and watches it happen. And the UN doesn’t want to call it “genocide” because that would require them to do something about it…

It's worth bearing this background in mind when you hear Hillary Clinton claim that she advocated military intervention in Rwanda.

Also worth bearing in mind whenever the names Warren Christopher, Richard Clarke, Madeleine Albright, or Wesley Clark come up…

“show the will of the international community” – read it and weep.

Oh my forking dear.
Slimyslimysmlumy... I guess it does illuminate those thirty-five years and what being at the levers of responsible leadership have entailed.
Pretense and outrageous insults to integrity under cover of claims to deep human feeling.
Now that Prof. Power still stands near the spotlight it seems deeply fitting that she speak up for truthfulness. Herewith hoping.
In another thread LeftTurn wrote (10:48 PM, Crossing the Threshold) of growing anger in his cirlce over the state of things. This should rightly augment that anger.

It's very simple, black folks died, and Hillary lied.

She has no credentials to become president. She's manufactured a political career off her husband's name, and is quite obviously not qualified to be president of anything except maybe president of the condo association at the retirement home where she and Bill were going to wind up when this is over.

The Clintons are all done, goodbye and good riddance to Republicans in Democratic clothing. Perhaps John McCain will offer her the vice presidency, now that she sold the Democratic Party down the river. Hillary is a monster, here's the evidence.

Hillary">http://www.dailykos.com/story/2008/3/8/10246/00557/770/472129">Hillary Queen of the Monsters


I wouldn't expect too much truthfulness from Samantha Power, except when she blurts it out without thinking. I say this because it doesn't make any logical sense that someone writing a massive book on American foreign policy and genocide would leave out East Timor, where every President from Ford through Clinton (until 1999) sided with Indonesia, providing both weapons and diplomatic support for their position. It's gotten a fair amount of attention for this reason, sometimes even in the MSM, though generally they limit their discussion of the matter to the initial Ford/Kissinger decision to support the Indonesian invasion.

So it's bizarre that her book doesn't devote a chapter to it, unless she was ignorant about it when she wrote the book. I think her friendship with Richard Holbrooke provides a clue--Holbrooke is one of the leading villains in the Timorese story.


Holbrooke and Power"

Holbrooke has always been interested in keeping the full story of the US role in Timor out of the press


I don't think a person who wants to have political influence as a foreign policy guru can afford to offend powerful people in both parties. Samantha Power chooses to travel in those incestuous circles, where Wolfowitz and Holbrooke praise each other while working for opposing parties, and so I think it constrains what she can say.

Nell -- I believe NYCO now blogs here.

Another set of moments when US intervention would have saved Rwandan lives was when the French waltzed in, giving cover to "their" Rwandans. Clinton(s) acquiesced over the protests of Dallaire.

well done - this also makes me want to go out and get the power book.

If Samantha Power had been responding to this claim, why couldn't she say it in the United States and make a statement in a complete sentence?

Something like 'that Hillary is making a new claims in a presidential race that she tried to stop the Rwandan genocide when all the evidence is that she ignored it just like her husband, makes her a monster.

I was the Public Affairs Officer in our embassy in Nairobi during this time, and subsequently read everything I could about events in Rwanda as I was preparing to fill a USAID contract four years later working in Rwanda. The contract was eventually cancelled for internal reasons. The best book for understanding the whole picture is the Prunier book and I spoke to him at length on the phone while preparing for the USAID contract.

Remember that one-third of Rwanda's people were either killed or displaced -- a figure that approximates what happened in Pol Pot's Cambodia. It was truly a horrendous time, and as someone noted, followed and preceeded similar events in neighoring Burundi and Zaire (now Congo).

The thing that makes me angriest about our lack of response is that the smallest intervention on our part would have changed the outcome dramatically. General Dellaire had called for armored cars for his UN troops, and the cars had even been painted UN white and were waiting transport, as I recall. The only nation with the airlift capacity to move 50 armored cars is -- guess who? -- the US. We demurred. Where was Hillary then?

It is true Belgium wanted us not to intervene, and asked us not to send the airlift for the armored cars. So since when is our relationship with Belgium so important that it trumps a million lives? We could have accomplished this with very little diplomatic exposure and have looked good all around, perhaps even to the Belgians. Where was Hillary when it was time to tell the Belgians "fuggedaboutit?"

I was also at the Nairobi airport when our first C-130 brought American missionaries and diplomats out of Rwanda. We had to wade through scores of French troops who were waiting to be airlifted to Rwanda, but never got the order. Where was Hillary then?

The very worst part of the event for us in Nairobi was listening to the American missionary radio net as folks in Rwanda were losing hundreds and thousands of friends. It was a horrible time. Where was Hillary then?


Belgium was the problem in Rwanda 1994. They had the troops and the equipment on the ground to stop the genocide.

That's what the Belgians were there for, to keep the peace. They were leading the U.N. peacekeeping force. They didn't need any Americans.

The United States had just been chased out of Somalia six months earlier. Of course, Clinton wasn't going to order another African rescue mission, and Hillary probably agreed.

But where was the Belgian leadership? All they had to do was ask Europe for another 5,000 troops, and the killing of 800,000 people would have been nipped in the bud.

Instead, as soon as Belgium lost 10 men, they ran, taking the whole U.N. peacekeeping force with them. Who was in charge of U.N. peacekeeping at the time? Kofi Anan. For his failure of leadership, he then was rewarded with his appointment as secretary-general of the U.N.

Something has gone wrong in this paragraph:

But it's worse than that. The Clinton administration did not simply fail to intervene militarily in Rwanda. It took a number of steps that made it easier for genocide to be committed. Not taking these steps would have been much, much easier than sending actual troops to Rwanda. They would have made a real difference. And yet the Clinton administration failed to take them.

It begins with steps taken that enabled the genocide, and ends being unhappy that those steps were not taken.

So if Hillary want to make this claim about advocating for intervention in Rwanda, then can't at least one reporter ask: "When? To Whom? How?" Did she bring it up over dinner with Bill? With Chelsea? Was she lobbying with State or the Pentagon?

Look, I'm a schlub in Minneapolis who felt ashamed we didn't send troops in to stop the killing. I said it to my friends. That doesn't qualify me or Hillary to be president.

Link to the study of Hillary Clinton's personality:

In 1993 and 1994 (the Rwandan genocide started April 6, 1994), the Clintons were DISTRACTED with the Paula Jones lawsuit against the President (one of his extra-marital affairs) and the Whitewater investigation. And Vince Foster, said more to be a friend of Hillary than Bill was found dead in a park. Though it is claimed it was suicide, murder has never been ruled out. Vince Foster knew many things about the Clintons, including the land deal regarding Whitewater, that the Clintons didn't want public:

Here is "small" section from this site about Vince Foster:
Just hours after the search warrant authorizing the raid is signed by a federal magistrate in Little Rock, Vince Foster apparently drives to Ft. Marcy Park without any car keys in a vehicle that changes color over the next few hours, walks across 700 feet of park without accruing any dirt or grass stains, and then shoots himself with a vanishing bullet that leaves only a small amount of blood. Or at least that is what would have to had occurred if official accounts are to be reconciled with the available evidence. There are numerous other anomalies in this quickly-declared suicide. Despite two badly misleading independent counsel reports, Foster's death will remain an unsolved mystery.

Less than three hours after Foster's body is found, his office is secretly searched by Clinton operatives, including Mrs. Clinton's chief of staff. Another search occurs two days later. Meanwhile, US Park Police and FBI agents are not allowed to search the office on grounds of "executive privilege."

Foster's suicide note is withheld from investigators for some 30 hours. The note is in 27 pieces with one other piece missing. Foster's personal diary will be withheld from the special prosecutor for a year despite being covered by a subpoena.

Samantha Power's Chapter 10 in "A Problem from Hell" which is entirely about the Rwandan genocide, she states that Clinton knew there would be no political price if he did nothing in Rwanda...indeed he perceived a political price if he did do something. And furthermore Power states that Clinton influenced other countries on the UN Security Council, that wanted to act, not to act. Because if they acted and we didn't we wouldn't look good.

Albright gives her account of the abandonment of Rwanda, here :

q: Can you tell the story that you talk about in your book of the instructions that came to you at the U.N. about the U.S. position on calling for a full withdrawal of U.N. forces?

a: The secretary-general basically came to the Security Council with three options: either to reinforce this UNAMIR group, which really was inadequate; to withdraw it completely; or to have a kind of medium option of some reinforcement of it. My instructions were to support full withdrawal. I listened to the discussion very carefully in the Security Council. I could see that our position was wrong, and especially in listening to the African delegate, Ambassador Gambari from Nigeria, [who] was very moving on this.

a: [So] I had these instructions which made no sense at all. These were in informal meetings of the Security Council, where the real discussion goes on. I asked my deputy to take my seat while I left, and went out into the hall into these phone booths and called Washington. I decided not to call the State Department from whence my instructions really came, but the National Security Council, because they were dealing with it on a very imminent basis. Tony Lake, the national security adviser, was somebody that certainly knew a lot about Africa. He was the great expert.

a: I felt that I would get a better hearing if I called the National Security Council, which I did, and they said, "Well, no, we're worrying about this, and these are your instructions." I actually screamed into the phone. I said, "They're unacceptable. I want them changed." So they told me to chill out and calm down. But ultimately, they did send me instructions that allowed us to do a reinforcement of UNAMIR; not a massive changing of the mandate and enlarging it or withdrawing it, but the middle option allowed me to support that.

q: I have been told you talked to Richard Clarke, that the conversation was with him.

a: That is correct.

Kinda puts a new perspective on Clarke's "apology" for 9/11, doesn't it..


I had the same reaction to go back and look through my books on the Rwanda genocide. I too found no mention of Hilary Clinton. I'd recommend Philip Gourevitch's "We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families" and Dallaire's "Shake Hands With The Devil."

And since the Clintons refuse to release any of the important White House documents of the period, we have no way to measure this claim - or any similar claims. We just have to trust that the Clintons aren't lying to us - again.

They must think we're stupid. The bad news is that most Clinton supporters are stupid.

I think this says it best:

Are You Experienced?

Hilzoy - What are the 8 books you've read. I've read Power, Gourevitch and Dallaire's and have been fascinated by all of them. Which other ones should I check out?

Geez, you mean the Clintons are lying about their role in Rwanda?

Why not start with Bill's 1998 "apology", where he claimed he was not aware of the situation:

That lie came four years after the genocide. During a 1998 presidential tour of Africa, Clinton stopped at the airport in Kigali, Rwanda, and issued an apology. Sort of. Speaking of those nightmarish months in the spring of 1994, he said, "All over the world there were people like me sitting in offices who did not fully appreciate the depth and speed with which you were being engulfed by this unimaginable terror." He acknowledged that the United States and the international community had not moved quickly enough in response to the horrors under way. To emphasize his sorrow, he said, "Never again."

Maybe Hillary's advocacy for military involvement would have been effective if only she had remembered to mention to Bill that bad things were happening quickly.

Or maybe they are both lying. Another tough call!

Bill Clinton's lie about "not realizing" was exposed with the National Security Archive documents released in 2004. This is just one of many, many illuminating pieces of information in the NYCO day-by-day blog.

The biggest actual factors weighing against a U.S. response:

- Somalia backlash (thanks, George H.W. Bush!); this reinforced, of course, by Republican hammering about "foreign entanglements"

- U.S. and British support for the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front, and a strong preference for that "solution" to the problems of the Hutu-led government over U.S. or U.N. intervention

The most crucial slide toward letting the genocide happen was in the first ten days, when the Belgians withdrew. The Belgian government at that moment shifted its support to the RPF "solution" from their previous backing of the Hutu government.

The colonial history, the war that created the climate leading up to the downing of the president's plane; the role of the U.S. and Europeans in the peace agreement that had been reached, and its implementation or lack thereof before the situation exploded... The whole question of responsibility is much more complex than most people want to acknowledge.

I'm sure most readers understand that History's comments are not really correct, but just in case...

Belgium was the problem in Rwanda 1994. They had the troops and the equipment on the ground to stop the genocide.

The Belgian force was quite small and underequipped for such a mission.

That's what the Belgians were there for, to keep the peace.

No. The UN force was there to increase trust between warring parties while implementing a peace agreement. The presence of the UN force presupposed that the warring parties had come to an agreement and genuinely wanted peace but needed some help from a neutral third party to reassure everyone and help take out recalcitrant partisans who weren't interested in peace to the same extent their leaders were.

They were leading the U.N. peacekeeping force. They didn't need any Americans.

No, they weren't. Dallaire was leading the UN force. The Belgians were the best equipped and perhaps best trained contingent that made up that force, so Dallaire heavily relied on them, but that's a different matter.

The United States had just been chased out of Somalia six months earlier. Of course, Clinton wasn't going to order another African rescue mission, and Hillary probably agreed.

This is actually correct I think.

But where was the Belgian leadership? All they had to do was ask Europe for another 5,000 troops, and the killing of 800,000 people would have been nipped in the bud.

Instead, as soon as Belgium lost 10 men, they ran, taking the whole U.N. peacekeeping force with them.

Where indeed? I know that when I think of "heavy military airlift capability with global reach", the first word that comes to my mind is "Belgium"! After all, Belgium has lead many expeditionary forces to distant corners of the Earth in the last 40 years, yes?

Certainly, given the disparities in military funding between the US and, well, the entire continent of Europe, it makes sense to expect that Europe should get first crack all foreign invasions.

Who was in charge of U.N. peacekeeping at the time? Kofi Anan. For his failure of leadership, he then was rewarded with his appointment as secretary-general of the U.N.

Just to clarify, Anan's job at this time was not to stop genocide around the world: his job was to beg, borrow, and steal military units from countries around the globe. The UN does not have its own dedicated military forces. Since most countries lacked the capability to intervene and those that had said capability did not want to intervene, there wasn't a lot Anan could do. Which is not to say that he didn't screw up on a vast scale, but we should not attribute to him failures that were never his.

To: kevino | March 09, 2008 at 04:58 PM

Thanks for the link.

This whole story is kind of at odds with Hillary's rather well-known "don't get involved in the Balkans" stance isn't it?

My daughter was a US Navy medic stationed at the Naval Hospital in Naple Italy during this period.

She called us and told us that she was going to be one of the medical team members to go to Rwanda as part of a military response, if it were approved.

Maybe the White House never considered a military respohse, but somebody did.

It was probably just Navy planners trying to stay one jump ahead. Too bad the President didn't want to go there.

Thank you hilzoy for writing about this!
I would like to add something I wrote in an article published in Sudan Tribune on January 25, 2008:

"When in the midst of the Rwandan genocide in 1994 the UN members finally agreed to send 5,500 additional troops consisting of mainly African soldiers to try and stop the killings, the UN asked the United States to supply armored personnel carriers for the mission. The Clinton administration agreed, but instead of lending military equipment to the UN (to whom the US owed hundreds of millions of dollars in membership fees at the time), the US government decided to lease it for $15 million.

"The UN, fully dependent on its negligent members to pay for missions, did not have the money. The 5,500 additional troops never arrived in Rwanda to intervene. The genocide was stopped by the Tutsi rebel forces a few weeks later. Almost a million people died on everyone’s watch in only three months."

For months now, the UN and African Union representatives are asking the world powers to provide the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) with six attack helicopters and eighteen transport helicopters so they can start protecting civilians in Darfur. To this day, no one responded positively.

Savo Heleta
The author of Not My Turn to Die:
Memoirs of a Broken Childhood in Bosnia

The books: Samantha Powers' Problem from Hell, Dallaire's Shake Hands with the Devil, Prunier, The Rwanda Crisis, Gourevich;s We Wish To Iform You..., Keane, Season of Blood, Peress, The Silence (photos, so unlikely HRC would turn up there), Human Rights Watch's Leave None To Tell The Story, and -- hmm, the 8th is in another room (memoir, not history. Dallaire is with the history books, for some reason.)

Somalia backlash (thanks, George H.W. Bush!)

I'd appreciate it if you'd unpack this for me, Nell. There were in fact nontrivial changes in the Somalia mission from when Bush got us in to when Clinton took us out, and I'm curious to see your allocation of blame, and the rationale for said allocation.

People are being a little too hard on Hillary here. One word: kryptonite.

Didn't the Belgians pull out because of a crappy mandate that prevented them from defending themselves?

Slarti: I'll stipulate to all the points you want. All the glory and nobility of motive to Pres. G.H.W. Bush, all the errors and wrongs to Pres. Clinton.

Even so, military interventions almost always often prove harder to end than begin, and have internal dynamics which cause the mission to change. So I look with a jaundiced eye on interventions begun such a short time before leaving office.

Having read most of the key sources on the Rwandan genocide (I am a journalist and student of Africa affairs), I find your assessment of Hilary's claim carefully accurate on the factual side and, as far as the logic of the claim goes, totally plausible.
It is, as you say, grotesque; another word for it - given the horror and the scale of the human misery involved in that killing spree - is obscene, obscene for her to use a false claim about such a moment and especially so for such an obviously self-serving purpose.
A wide public airing of this breath-taking claim would surly be enough to disqualify her candidacy in the eyes of anyone with a once of decency.

There is a huge contextual point that is not given enough weight in looking at US Rwanda policy in 1994, one that was far more decisive than any devaluation of civilian lives based on racial grounds. Far more important than racism was intervention fatigue.

The experience of the Rwandan genocide in rapid sequence after the Somalia debacle meant that it came at the one moment when the US was understandably going to be the most gun shy about intervening in local conflicts.

In the ensuing battle which lasted into 4 October, 1993, 18 Americans and possibly over a thousand Somalis died, and two black hawk helicopters were shot down.

Despite ordering a short-term reinforcement on 7 October 1993, President Clinton announced the US would withdraw all troops by the end of March 1994, a goal which was accomplished on schedule. The end result was that the US had begun to retreat and gave up its manhunt, a 180 degree turn in policy. The Clinton administration stayed just ahead of bipartisan political pressure in Congress to withdraw. To Americans, it appeared that American concern and kindness had been repaid in blood....

Any mission motivated by a charitable impulse and the desire to be seen doing good, as opposed to one motivated by a compelling defense or strategic need, is highly vulnerable to unanticipated setbacks. At the time, departing quickly seemed the best course, because there appeared to be nothing at stake for the US in geopolitical terms. The decision to intervene had been made casually, so this was a case of “easy come, easy go”...

The US debacle in Somalia also foreclosed any possible chance for domestic support of an operation to stop the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Importantly, the Rwandan genocide began on April 6, 1994, only two weeks after US forces completed their withdrawal from Somalia. The Clinton administration had been burned in Africa and was not going back any time soon. Worse yet for the proponents of humanitarian intervention, the US moved to prevent the declaration of the Rwandan massacres as genocide and any mandatory UN action that would compel. The US took this obstructionist tack since the US Congress and the administration to a certain extent blamed UN officials and peacekeeping commanders for drawing the US into the Mogadishu debacle, and believed the US would always be called upon as the rescue squad in any UN operation. At this time, Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole was proposing a “Peace Powers Act”, designed to parallel the restrictive clauses of the War Powers Act with regard to international peacekeeping missions. To be sure, even without Somalia, it is not clear that there would have been an impulse for timely US action in Rwanda, where the US had even fewer interests and less of a Cold War legacy than in Somalia. Nevertheless, the Somalia debacle removed any slim chance that might have existed for action.

Ultimately, the Rwandan genocide was ended because the minority Tutsi ethnic group under assault had an extremely competent rebel army on its side that overthrew the Hutu majority government perpetrating the genocide. Only then did French and then US forces intervene in and around Rwanda to deliver and protect relief supplies for the survivors. Additionally, any intervention once the genocide had begun probably would not have saved the majority of those killed because it unfolded so quickly despite being such a low-tech affair. If the goal had been to end the genocide or preempt it, the most efficient form of intervention would not have been the type of options generally considered for UN operations, like establishment of safe havens or separation of belligerents. Instead the US would have provided direct military air and logistic support to the Tutsi forces, a move no one has suggested then or since. From start to finish, the Rwandan genocide lasted 100 days from early April to mid-July. In none of its interventions in the 1990s did the US send in its forces within 100 days of the onset of serious violence; Washington always took significantly longer to decide on military intervention.

I think that the US reaction to the Belgian request was a symptom of a broader US policy bias in the spring of 1994 against intervention, not the cause of it. Had the US been in a political moment when it would have appeared more advantageous to do something in Africa (as it had been in late 1992) Belgian desire for a "covered" withdrawal would not have counted for much.

You dont know it is false - you merely do not believe it. Do any of you understand the difference? Doesnt seem like it. What a sad thread to read.

Me: I was pretty clear about that in the post (if by the "it" that I don't know is false you mean: that Clinton advised her husband to intervene militarily.)

That said, I also gave reasons for thinking it was pretty implausible.

Slarti: I'll stipulate to all the points you want. All the glory and nobility of motive to Pres. G.H.W. Bush, all the errors and wrongs to Pres. Clinton.

Nell, I'm not interested in having my way, here. I'm just interested in what you meant, specifically, by what you said. So far, it's still not clear to me.

More on deep pessimism about governments ever getting it right when they try humanitarian intervention:

Rwanda in April 1994-

Darfur in summer of 2003 -

Would these interventions have been criticized on the same grounds as the Kosovo War, ie for bringing on violence they were intended to prevent.

Example - After western ultimatums and military intervention, of course the Hutus, fearing a loss of power, overreacted by killing the Tutsis.

Sequel # 1 - Western forces were ineffective in stopping reprisals against Hutus

Example # 2 - After western ultimatums and military intervention, of course the Khartoum regime reached for all available weapons, including mounted militiamen, to generate a refugee crisis in the Chadian rearbase of the western forces.

Sequel # 2 Western forces were incapable of stopping reprisals against pastrol groups that had been loyal to Khartoum.

What confidence have you in the ability of outside governments to identify an impending genocide in a timely manner, intervene, restrain reprisals, and have everybody agree that they made the situation better than it otherwise would have been. Would success be automatically self-denying, raising suspicions that the whole operation had been unnecessary?

spockamok: my general view is roughly as follows: (a) military intervention in another country should be presumed wrong unless proven right, and has to meet a heavy burden. Thus, any time you have to seriously wonder "gosh, is this really enough to justify intervention?", it's probably not. Rwanda, however, met this burden, with an organized campaign to hack hundreds of thousands of people to death with machetes. This wasn't one of those "gee, is this really bad enough?" moments.

(b) You also need to ask: what do we have to do to put an end to this? In the case of Sudan, this is (imho) the real sticking point: you probably have to replace the Sudanese government. If I were generally into replacing governments, replacing this one in particular would give me no particular qualms: they are loathsome and vile. But I'm not, partly on pragmatic grounds (nb: supposing, as in the case of Darfur, the government to be trying to kill a substantial number of its own people, the moral case for nonintervention is at least murky): that's a very hard thing to pull off, as the case of Iraq should make clear.

If there's something easier that would do the trick, the case for intervention gets a lot stronger. Also, it gets stronger if there is a decent opposition, another government in waiting, or some other group that could take over, without us having to somehow reconstitute everything.

In the case of Rwanda, stopping the killing itself (more or less: not preventing every single death, but preventing a whole lot of them) would have been relatively easy. (Dallaire thought that securing stadiums would have done a whole lot.) There was an organized opposition that, for all its faults, was not actually genocidal.

In the case of Darfur, it is a lot trickier. It would take more to stop the killing; there is no similar opposition (and the opposition there is, in Darfur itself, is fractured and its members are no angels); in any number of ways it is, I think, quite dissimilar.

One reason I haven't written a lot about Darfur is that I am honestly clueless about what we should do. I'm clear that the answer is "something", and "more than we are doing", but what exactly that more might be, I don't know.

In Rwanda, by contrast, there were a number of fairly straightforward things we could have done short of serious military intervention. And military intervention itself, which I supported, would have been a lot easier.


I agree with all your points, it would have been quite easy to cut down on the genocide with outside intervention.

You have a good set of criteria, although in practice, leaders are not that smart and won't be able to always act on a rule set like that. I'd admire your position's sophistication though,and that you did not proceed from a supposition that accomplishing the right thing is always easy and any failure to get it right is a great crime.

Also, indeed the Hillary Clinton claim is new.

Now to be effective, to get results before the Tutsi RPF could get results on its own, the policy apparatus would have had to act uncharacteristically fast. The genocide happened in 100 days. We are now over 1,000 days after the beginning of Darfur, the US did not intervene for peace enforcement in Bosnia until 500 days. The US did not intervene against aid-stealing thugs in Somalia until 100 days plus. And when the US intervened on the side of the Kosovar Albanians, a decision which many disagree with, their fighting with the Serbs had been going on over 100 days.

Your thinking mirrors my own about the difficulties of anti-genocidal intervention, incluing with regard to Darfur. David Rieff, a big proponent of intervention in Bosnia, came out after the Iraq war convinced humanitarian intervention can never be done right.

Of course I think the outside world should have intervened against the Hutu militants, but my posts were about pointing out "mitigating circumstances". It just seems to me that moral failures in foreign policy have multiple causes. There are policies that are deliberately callous, or sincerely misguided.

A whole other category of mistakes occurs from "over-correction" of the most recent foreign policy mistake.

Saying never again to appeasement leads to a mindset opposed to negotiations in Indochina in the 50s and 60s. Saying no more Vietnams leads to a policy of absolute nonintervention against the Khmer Rouge.

An inability to "connect the dots" in intelligence pre-9-11 contributes to an over-eagerness to connect the dots when looking for Iraqi WMD.

Humanitarian concern leads to the Somalia intervention, but when international forces are confronted, vendetta against a chieftain becomes a priority. The debacle in Somalia leads to a "stay away from UN ops in Africa" sentiment.

Guilt over the slow western response in Bosnia again leads to overcompensation in the form of an overly aggressive and provocative diplomacy versus Milosevic over the Kosovo issue.


Check out this lik for a hypothetical discussion of intervention.

Link to full dialogue:


> western forces could have moved quick enough to cut down the
> Hutu-inflicted death toll? If this intervention had occurred early
> enough to make a big difference, would the massacres before the
> western-led operation have been referred to as a genocide?

The killers were incredibly cautious OTL; in Dallaire's memoirs,
he mentions that they tested the UN repeatedly before the actual
event. Even once the killing began, Bagosora ordered the militias
to stand down in the south of the country and only kill in the
north, until it was clear that the UN wouldn't intervene. (The
Parmehutu were politically stronger in the north -- and of course,
the RPF forces were physically stronger there.)

So if the UN intervenes, the death toll is in the low dozens,
then it all ends. Hopefully -- there will be skirmishes
between RPF and the regular army up north. Do the UN troops
go to stop the armies or the killings first? (If the UN
does move, it will politically have to stop both.)

Rwanda isn't out of the woods yet. In OTL, the official story
the killers put out was that all killings were spontaneous mob
violence caused by their President's death.

In the alternate reality where there was western intervention, they
could easily claim that -- Dallaire knew otherwise (thanks to
his informant), but he can't prove it. Which means things are
back to where they were before the killing: a highly unstable
power-sharing agreement, where no side trusts any other. And
Bagosora's gang -- which is still plotting to destroy the peace
agreement -- has iron control over the press and village police.

Most of the soures I've read seem to have wished for a UN
intervention which stops the killing and paves way for the
dissidents to take over, rather than the RPF. This would
be good in a lot of ways. The dissidents weren't as undemocratic
and bloodthirsty, and they'd spent years in the country (so
they wouldn't seem like an army of foreigners who alienated
both Tutsis and Hutus). And without the RPF takeover, the
Burundi peace accords have a better chance. The trouble with
this optimistic scenario is precisely that the dissidents
weren't as undemocratic and bloodthirsty. Can they survive
a day without UN protection? The tricky part is how to
weaken the old regime without a full-scale cataclysm
(Burundi's history is instructive).


> international attention on inevitable Tutsi reprisals, and western
> killing of basically unarmed Hutus put a moral cloud over the


If Dallaire just reinforces Arusha, there won't be Tutsi reprisals,
and there won't be killings of unarmed Hutus (unless militias with
machetes count as unarmed). But there probably will be a moral
cloud; everyone will be saying that the UN troops got worked up
over nothing, and maybe made the "mob violence" worse. The problem,
as mentioned above, is that it might not be clear to anybody just
what was narrowly averted. If it's not clear, Bagosora can start
planning for a genocide in 1995.

I can understand and accept that the United States because was not going to send the 101st Airborne to Rwanda, because of Somalia.
However, when we blocked efforts by other countries to get involved, demanded the UN lease the 50 APCs, refused to call the carnage genocide, and then even finally didn't even get the genocidal government of Rwanda booted off of the Security Council.
No one offered sanctuary to those who escaped the slaughter. Kenya sent back a planeload of refugees.
The problems with the peacekeeping force were not ones that are inherent in peacekeeping. They were to a large degree a result of little funding and rules of engagement that were too restrictive, at least once the killing started. The UN force was deployed under Chapter VI. That is designed for situations where people had been fighting, but now what to live peacefully if not together. Cyprus is an example of a good Chapter VI mission.
In reality they were in a peacemaking rather than peacekeeping situation. The moderate leaders wanted peace and some sort of co-existence, but there were still too many hard liners on both sides, but especially the Hutu. Even with the tiny UN force that was in place after the withdrawal of the Belgians and other forces, Dallaire, the head of the force was able to protect about 25,000 Rwandan civilians. That was with a poorly armed and funded force of 503 soldiers. What could 5,000 US Marines have done to protect civilians. Even if we just set up a major center at the Kigali airport, we could have rescued thousands upon thousands more.

Unlike other earlier incidents, there were no geo-strategic reasons for not intervening even with non-military means. There was no overarching existential struggle for the United States, as during the Cambodian genocide the Soviet Union had collapsed. There was no regional bad guy to keep in line like during the Kurdish Anfal.

Great article by the way.
I think it is sad that Bill Clinton is still lying to the American public. Hasn’t he learned from past mistakes that the facts always expose his lies? Not only did Bill and Hilary deliberate refuse to assist those in Africa, especially Rwanda, he would not even acknowledge a genocide was occurring in 1994. Fast forward to 1998 and recall Pres. Clinton’s rational for intervention in Kosovo. Reports that nearly 10,000 had been killed and women were being systematically raped over a year period lead him to call Kosovo a genocide and intervene in the political and religious war being waged by a sovereign nation on its own soil. He knowingly supported Muslim extremist/ separatist (UCK/KLA- ranked #7 on the FBI’s terrorist list) against a sovereign Orthodox Christian Nation trying to combat terrorist activity in their country.
Yet four years prior, confirmed reports from intelligence agencies of the murder of over 20,000 Rwandans in less than a few days was not deemed genocide to the Clinton Administration. Such errors in judgment should not be forgotten by an apology 4 years after the fact. Forgiven yes, but not forgotten. Let us never forget the poor judgment of the Clinton’s foreign policies in the past. To let the Clintons return to the White House will only bring more regrets and lies to cover up poor judgment. When I think of the Clintons in the White House I think of the Motto of the Rwanda People: Never again!

I'm an Int'l Red Cross worker.

Rwanda was rough. We were in the north when it started. No one knew anything. Hutus had taken over the airwaves and just kept playing non-stop music over the radio. No one thought there was any problem. We were in contact with another Red Cross unit west of us and they were fine. It wasn't like the Hutus used bombs you could hear or see the explosion of. So, even though we were only a hundred miles away, we didn't know anything until weeks later.

Then in May, all this conflicting info trickled in. Nothing made sense. Phones and radios in Africa have horrible reception, so you're trying to make out what someone is saying with all this loud static and their voices going in and out. People were dead. No, it was a mistake. There was a disaster. There was a riot. A coup. No, it was an invasion. Hutus were killing Tutis. No Tutis were slaughtering Hutus. No, is was a radical group. We couldn't confirm anything. All lines were down. Our contacts gone. Everything was down, no one answered when you called. It was crazy.

If you've never been to that part of the world it takes days, even weeks to do what you could do instantly here. The roads - when there are any - are a mess. You're going through ravines and massive ditches. And the route you've always used is inaccessible a month later. It's dreadfully hot and dusty, except when it's flooded. There aren't gas stations or the infrastructure to get supplies from one part of the country to another. Helicopters are expensive to use and don't carry much and everything is constantly breaking down.

By the time we knew what was going on, it was almost over. I don't know any other war like that. It came out of no where and was done within weeks. And then, just this eery silence.

As for the Clinton Administration, could they have done anything? To be honest, I doubt it. Especially after the humanitarian rescue they tried to do in Mogadishu went so horribly wrong and Americans turned on their evening news and witnessed the torture of US Marines from Black Hawk down. Remember? That marine being tied to the back of a jeep and dragged through the streets? That was only a year before Rwanda. Americans were raw. I don't think Clinton could have gotten help to Rwanda if he screamed in Congress at the top of his lungs. And it was over so fast.

Darfur is a completely different situation. In some ways, worse. And it's been going on for years, not weeks, so, there isn't the excuse. Countless dead. Unfathomable rapes, unending refugees and millions starving. There are a dozen refugee camps filled with children with arms and legs cut off.

The US won't touch it. The UN tried, but the Sudanese government refused international help and no one confronts them because they don't want to take on China who gets their oil from there. We won't threaten China because they hold $2 Trillion dollars of our Credit Card debt and if we make them mad enough, they could tumble our ecomony. Yes, that iPOD you charged does matter. Our world has become an interconnecting puzzle. So, once again, we are witnesses to genocide.

I found this discussion fascinating. Those who are interested in Rwanda, and particularly about the US role or non-role there during the genocide, may enjoy my forthcoming book, which is to be published in June and is already up on the amazon.com site. It's "A Thousand Hills: Rwanda's Rebirth and the Man Who Dreamed It."

Having been a a fan of Stephen Kinzer's work since he was a Times reporter, doing much good reporting from Latin America, and elsewhere, and particularly a fan after I read Bitter Fruit, and chunks of his subsequent work, I would have high expectations for his new Rwanda book being up to his typically high quality of research and writing.

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