Rwanda has presented the world with the most unambiguous case of genocide since Hitler’s war against the Jews, and the world sent blankets, beans and bandages to camps controlled by killers, apparently hoping that everybody would behave nicely in the future.
— Philip Gourevitch, We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998)
Nearly a million Tutsis were massacred in Rwanda in 1994. The holocaust took only one month before one-seventh of the population became corpses.
As with the Jews under Hitler, the orgy of killing was not interrupted by any intervention from anywhere, until it was much too late.
At the time, Kofi Annan was in charge of United Nations peacekeeping efforts. (He is now the boss of all bosses, the secretary general of the UN.)
Before the corpses began to pile up, Annan was told by a UN official in Rwanda that arms were being stockpiled for the terror to come. Annan was asked for permission to seize the weapons. He refused.
Instead, Annan told his man in Rwanda to share what information he had from the informant with President Habyarimana of Rwanda. But the president had authorized the use of those very weapons to cleanse the nation of Tutsis.
When the holocaust was over, Kofi Annan said, with unabashed hypocrisy, “The world failed Rwanda, and it must now deeply repent its failure.”
Annan did not mention any individual’s guilt for being an accomplice in the mass murder. He certainly did not point the finger at himself. It was the world that had failed.
On January 3, 1999, a lead editorial in The New York Times praised Secretary General Annan for bringing “renewed idealism” to the United Nations. Annan’s somewhat less than idealistic role in Rwanda’s genocide was not mentioned in the editorial.
Another accomplice in the mass murder was William Jefferson Clinton— along with Madeleine Albright (then our ambassador to the UN) and other high officials of the Man from Hope’s administration.
Clinton ordered that America do nothing to stop the killing, even though at the end of April, 1994, a State Department secret intelligence report unequivocally called what was happening “genocide.”
But the word from the Clinton administration was that congressional elections were coming soon, and the Democrats could lose votes if the president admitted genocide was underway in Rwanda and he wasn’t going to do anything about it.
Indeed, as Stephen Morris of Johns Hopkins University’s Advanced International Studies has pointed out (The Wall Street Journal, January 12, 1999), when the UN Security Council finally bestirred itself to debate “the horrific killings that were taking place, it was the U.S. that refused to allow the UN to call these events ‘genocide,’ so as to avoid triggering any serious military intervention.”
Meanwhile, as Karel Kovanda, the Czech ambassador to the UN at the time, said, Tutsi lives were “disappearing through our hands, day after day.”
At the UN, Madeleine Albright delayed the Security Council vote for four days and— as revealed by Stephen Morris— “later ensured that troop deployment would be slow. By this time at least 500,000 Rwandan Tutsis had been murdered.
“Stopping the genocide,” Morris emphasized, “would not have required a major military operation. The killers were militarily incompetent mobs armed mostly with clubs, spears and machetes. The then commander of the UN Assistance Mission claimed that 5000 men and a mandate to act would have been sufficient to stop the killing.”
No American troops would have been necessary. Belgium had asked the UN for more support to reinforce its own soldiers in the UN component there. But, as Alan Kuperman reported in The Washington Post (December 29, 1998), “The United States vetoed Belgium’s request” so not only that country was forbidden to protect its own soldiers, but no country could help.
These facts have been reported in a number of newspaper articles and reviews of Philip Gourevitch’s book (including Michael Maren’s in the September 15, 1998, Voice). Most vividly the complicity of Clinton was detailed in “The Triumph of Evil” on Frontline (Public Broadcasting System, January 26 of this year).
But none of these revelations have lodged in the public mind, having been ignored by the rest of television and most of the rest of the printed press. As usual, Bill Clinton remains blameless to the vast majority of Americans who would be hard put to tell you whether Rwanda is a country or a new Calvin Klein fragrance.
Accordingly, on December 10, 1998, Clinton was free to announce, as part of the American resolve to commemorate Human Rights Day, that the United States will create an early-warning mechanism to— as reported in the December 10 Times— “focus American intelligence resources on uncovering potential genocide. . . .
“Mr. Clinton will also sign an executive order to press the bureaucracy to carry out American obligations under human rights treaties that currently lack implementing legislation.”
The man is shameless. As are his supporters.
The world has forgotten— if it ever thought about— the nearly one million Tutsis, including women and children, who were hacked to pieces.
As Philip Gourevitch concludes, the lesson of Rwanda is that “endangered people who depend on the international community for physical protection stand defenseless.”
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 9, 1999