"I’ll Always Regret that Rwanda Thing…"

That is what President Clinton said in May 2003 when asked by some student about why the US didn’t do anything about Rwanda. For doing nothing during the Rwandan genocide, it is the one thing I find it practically impossible to forgive the Clinton administration for. All of Madeline Albright’s excuses about how we didn’t know, they just fall completely flat. It is one of the most embarassing exercises in US Foreign Policy history, the complete lack of regard we paid to hundreds of thousands of people being hacked to death when we actually could have intervened and done something. In April 1994, when the genocide was beginning in Rwanda, I was attending the Model United Nations conference at the UN in New York. The funny part is that a bunch of high school students were more active at the UN at that time than the actual UN. A bunch of silly kids passing around notes to pick up dates during their committee meetings were actually just as effective as the actual UN in stopping a genocide from occurring. That is pathetic.

I just watched the Frontline “Ghosts of Rwanda” that I Netflixed. It is something tht continues to devastate me. I try to think about it in the current political context. In 1994, we were afraid to call Rwanda a genocide because we were afraid that if we did we would actually have to apply International Conventions regarding genocide that would have required all of its signatories to act. This is how we have progressed. Now in 2007, we aren’t afraid to call what is going on in Darfur a genocide, we actually did that a couple of years ago, but we still don’t feel obligated to actually act to do anything. Nope. Our government is busier creating new opportunities for genocide in Iraq, so that the unrest that we create can give opportunity for sectarian violence that has the capability of resulting in a genocide the second American troops are withdrawn at some time in the future.

I feel the collective guilt of a government that did nothing. As an American, it is humiliating. I know I was just some 15 year old kid at the time, thrilled to be in New York for the first time in my life, oblivious to the fact that innocent lives were so brutally terminted half a world away. Still, the fact that we did nothing, history will not be so forgiving. Nor will history be so forgiving of our failure to act in Darfur now, in spite of our tough talking language.

Alright, I think this post has been sufficiently depressing. Luckily, The Office is coming on later tonight to bring me some laughter.

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One thought on “"I’ll Always Regret that Rwanda Thing…"

  1. When I was younger, I was a devout Libertarian. Any time a debate arose about our government’s role in an issue, I considered it best to defer to the infallible wisdom of the constitution, which states in Article I-II what our federal govt. can and can’t do. While I still agree that the beauty of our Constitution lies in how broad it is, it does fail to take into account our evolving role in world events our increasing interdependency with other nations for trade. A stable world is a lucrative business environment. In my opinion, this makes conflict or instability anywhere our business to some extent.While genocide is truly a terrible thing, our country (historically) applies the “what’s in it for us?” doctrine when deciding on intervention. This is so because we have limited resources to apply to a limited number of conflicts. Should we intervene to stop the genocide in Rwanda? What about the Rwandans being killed next door in Congo? Human-rights abuses perpetrated by China in Tibet? Sierra Leone? How about the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, the Eritrean-Ethipian War, Former-Yugoslavia, Somalia or Saddam Hussein and the Kurds? We did something about those last three!I guess in a perfect world, we should be applying the “who needs our help the most right now?” question, but the cost-benefit analysis doesn’t support it. In the meantime, Americans will continue saying one thing, but voting overwhelmingly with their dollars that they support our intervention in those areas that can provide us with cheap oil. *defeated sigh*On a related note, I’ll be headed to Iraq again next month to help surge our way to “victory” (whatever that means). Over the past few months, I’ve found your blog to be engaging and diverse in its content. I regret I wasn’t able to pay you this complement earlier. It was a pleasure meeting you this past Friday and I wish you all the best in future endeavors. Keep up the good work. (On your blog, that is.)-Tamp Lawrence.

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