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opportunity for sectarian violence that has the capability of resulting in a genocide the second American troops are withdrawn at some time in the future.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.