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Rwanda. Monstrous and Willful Inaction by the Clinton Administration

What were the Clintons, especially Bill doing when 850,000 Rwandans were being butchered in 100 days, in the spring of 1994? Well the short answer, you would think true to form, is probably, at the very least, nothing. But the real answer unfortunately, is considerably worse.

The Clinton presidency was working overtime to play down the massacres because if they were referred to as genocide, by the UN, such as occurred later on a much smaller scale in Kosovo, in 1999, they would have to act, according to the UN charter. And the mere possibility that this could place some US forces even in a logistics support role, in the heart of Africa, was the last thing the Clintonites wanted to be seen doing in an election year, in Middle America.

General Dallaire of Canada recounts how, at the height of the Rwandan holocaust, he got a phone call from a Clinton administration staffer who wanted to know how many Rwandans had already died, how many were refugees and how many were internally displaced. Writes Dallaire: "He told me that his estimates indicated that it would take the deaths of 85,000 Rwandans to justify the risking of the life of one American soldier." Eventually, ten times that many would die.

The red phone rang and rang and rang again. I don't know where Hillary was then. But her husband and his entire experienced foreign policy team - from the brass in the Pentagon to the congenitally feckless Secretary of State Warren Christopher - just let it ring.

'The Jerusalem Post' has more details. I suppose they know a thing or two about holocausts and genocide, that according to the UN's definition "the critical element is the presence of an "intent to destroy", which can be either "in whole or in part", groups defined in terms of nationality, ethnicity, race or religion".

On April 21, 1994, the Canadian UN commander in Rwanda, General Romeo Dallaire, declared that he required only 5,000 troops to bring the genocide to a rapid halt. In addition, a single bombing run against the RTLM Hutu Power radio transmitting antenna would have made it impossible for the Hutus to coordinate their genocide. But on the very same day, the Security Council, with the Clinton Administration's blessing, ordered the UN force under Dallaire reduced by 90 percent to a skeleton staff of 270 troops, which would powerlessly witness the slaughter to come.

This in turn was influenced by Presidential Decision Directive 25, "which amounted to a checklist of reasons to avoid American involvement in UN peacekeeping missions even though Dallaire did not seek American troops and the mission was not peacekeeping but genocide prevention."

Indeed, Madeleine Albright, the American ambassador to the UN, opposed leaving even this tiny UN force. She also pressured other countries "to duck as the death toll leapt from thousands to tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands.

FINALLY, EIGHT African nations, fed up with American inaction, agreed to send in an intervention force to stop the slaughter, provided that the US would lend them 50 armored personnel carriers. The Clinton Administration decided it would lease rather than lend the armor for a price of $15 million. (at low interest I assume) The carriers sat on a runway in Germany while the UN pleaded for a $5 million reduction as the genocidal inferno raged.

The story only gets worse from there, with the Clinton State Department refusing to label the Rwanda horrors a genocide because of the 1948 Genocide Convention that would have obligated the US to intervene..

Of course, for the Clinton and their supporters, their opprobrium is saved not for the Admistration's cowardly inaction or even the Hutus but for the likes of Samantha Power in her Pulitzer Prize winning book ''A PROBLEM FROM HELL'' 'America and the Age of Genocide' who dared to criticize Americain administrations including Clinton 42, but will now be remembered solely as recklessy and famously calling Hillary "a monster."

In 'The New Tork Times' review of Samantha Power's book when it came out in 2002.,

President Bush the elder comes off as a stone-hearted prisoner to business interests,(surprise) President Clinton as an amoral narcissist, (another surprise) Perhaps nobody looks worse than former Secretary of State Warren Christopher, on whose watch both Bosnia and Rwanda self-destructed.

''When innocent life is being taken on such a scale and the United States has the power to stop the killing at reasonable risk,'' Power writes, ''it has a duty to act.'' She objects not only to the fact that the United States declines to intervene militarily in genocidal conflicts, but also that frequently-- even to rebuke perpetrators publicly.

The Clinton so-called 'progressive' adminstration, from top to bottom, turned a blind eye to the nearly 850,000 who were massacred, most needlessly, because a commander-in-chief was terrified to do the right thing and lift a finger because of the political cost of saving African lives. That to me is monstrous..Let us hope, Obama demonstrates more courage and wisdom than the Clintons did, when the phone rang in the White House at 3am, during their administration.

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Comments (2)

It is certainly fair to blame the Clinton Administration for its inaction on the Rwandan genocide. However, there was no groundswell of support for intervention, either from the United Nations or the US Congress (either party). Clinton wasn't the sort to take the initiative on anything without assurance of widespread support.

Remember also that the disastrous end to our participation in the UN force in Somalia had come just months earlier. Another intervention in Africa so soon after "Blackhawk Down" just wasn't going to happen.

So, there is plenty of blame to go around.

Steve Crickmore:

Yes Jim, I realise that there were other big powers who were at fault..I recall my reading on this from Dellaire's memoir a few years ago that France was probably the most egregious, with their support of the Hutus and that the Somalia fiasco played a large part in American reluctance to get involved.

However, this just goes to show that almost all politicians in crisis act out of expedience rather than principle. This is one of Clinton's greatest regrets now, but no one in administration dared point out the down side of not intervening, even at merely supporting the Canadian led peacekeeping group, logistically. I remember when the 10 Belgian paratroopers were hacked to death, the Security Council including the US advocated immediate evacuation. Not exactly the proudest moment for the West when they generally failed to show any backbone in the face of a group of genocidal thugs, which only encouraged them...


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Editors: Lee Ward, Larkin, Paul S Hooson, and Steve Crickmore

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