Genocide and the UN

by Henry on September 10, 2004

I don’t have much time for Colin Powell, as a rule, but it’s only fair to note that his willingness to describe what’s happening in Sudan as genocide contrasts very favourably with the appalling behaviour of the Clinton administration over Rwanda. The New York Times says that the term ‘genocide’ “was used by the Clinton administration to describe atrocities in Yugoslavia and Rwanda” – I don’t know that this is true. My very strong recollection is that Madeline Albright bent over backwards to avoid describing the murders in Rwanda as genocide, for fear that the UN Genocide Convention would be invoked. It was a quite disgusting episode in US foreign policy. As Philip Gourevitch describes it

The desertion of Rwanda by the U.N. force … can be credited almost single-handedly to the United States. With the memory of the Somalia debacle still very fresh, the White House had just finished drafting a document called Presidential Decision Directive 25, which amounted to a checklist of reasons to avoid American involvement in U.N. peacekeeping missions. It hardly mattered that Dallaire’s call for an expanded force and mandate would not have required American troops, or that the mission was not properly peacekeeping, but genocide prevention. PDD 25 also contained what Washington policymakers call “language” urging that the United States should persuade others not to undertake the missions that it wished to avoid. In fact, the Clinton administration’s ambassador to the U.N., Madeleine Albright, opposed leaving even the skeleton crew of two hundred seventy in Rwanda. Albright went on to become Secretary of State, largely because of her reputation as a “daughter of Munich,” a Czech refugee from Nazism with no tolerance for appeasement and with a taste for projecting U.S. force abroad to bring rogue dictators and criminal states to heel. Her name is rarely associated with Rwanda, but ducking and pressuring others to duck, as the death toll leapt from thousands to tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands, was the absolute low point in her career as a stateswoman.

{ 37 comments }

1

John Isbell 09.10.04 at 4:14 am

The film Ghosts of Rwanda plays a longish segment of Albright’s spokeswoman repeatedly deflecting questions using the g-word with concoctions like “genocide-related activities.” It’s worthy of Fleischer, but about genocide.
A film I strongly recommend.

2

h 09.10.04 at 4:20 am

There was no public support for intervention in Rwanda because Americans are obsessed with skin colour, so theywouldn’t believe the Rwanda andd Yugoslavia situations were genocide.

3

PG 09.10.04 at 4:33 am

Samantha Power also gives props to Bush for his interest in the Sudan, compared to Clinton’s inaction in Rwanda. I find Bush’s Sudan policy interesting for contrast purposes. Who knew that conservatives knew that one could have an effective foreign policy without bombs?

4

Katherine 09.10.04 at 5:09 am

During Rwanda, for a while they said it was “acts of genocide” but not “genocide.” Here’s an excerpt from p. 363 of Samantha Power’s book, from an exchange between a Reuters reporter named Alan Elsner and a state Department spokeswoman named Christine Shelly:

Elsner: How would you describe the events taing place in Rwanda?
Shelly: Based on the evidence we have seen from observations on the ground, we have every reason to believe that acts of genocide have occurred in Rwanda.
Elsner: What’s the difference between ‘acts of genocide’ and ‘genocide’?
Shelly: Well I think the–as you now, there’s a legal definition of this…Clearly not all of the killings that have taken place in Rwanda are killings to which you might apply that label…But as to the distinctions between the words, we’re trying to call what we have seen so far as best as we can; and based, again, on the evidence, we have every reason to believe that acts of genocide have occurred.
Elsner: How many acts of genocide does it take to make genocide?
Shelly: Alan, that’s just not a question that I’m in a position to answer.

But Power says on p. 364 that later that day:

…Warren Christopher, by then under severe internal and external pressure to come clean, relented: “If there is any particular magic in calling it genocide, I have no hesitancy in saying that.”

So the New York Times’ statement is factually correct, and Powell’s statement doesn’t guarantee anything by itself. I mean, I don’t think this administration exactly adheres strictly to the letter of its international legal obligations.

But they have done better on Sudan than Clinton did on Rwanda, so far. So, insofar as they have any real power, have Congress, and John Kerry, and Howard Dean. I think Americans are starting to get it about genocide–thanks in part to Gourevitch and Power, and thanks also in part to the death struggle for moral superiority going on between lefties and righties in the U.S. right now.

But we are only starting to get it–we haven’t saved a single life yet, as far as I can tell.

5

Pierre 09.10.04 at 5:23 am

The desertion of Rwanda by the U.N. force … can be credited almost single-handedly to the United States.

It was my impression at the time (certainly from the French press) that France’s support of the Hutu government was the chief obstacle to foreign intervention in Rwanada. France has never been slow to send its troops to Africa (to countries in its “sphere of influence”) but Rwanda was a glaring exception.

6

Katherine 09.10.04 at 7:13 am

I am not sure George W. Bush has ever gotten me to say this in a good way before, but:

Wow.

As a result of these investigations and other information, we have concluded that genocide has taken place in Darfur. We urge the international community to work with us to prevent and suppress acts of genocide. We call on the United Nations to undertake a full investigation of the genocide and other crimes in Darfur.

The Government of Sudan has not complied with UN Security Council resolutions, and has not respected the cease-fire which it signed. The rebels are also guilty of cease-fire violations and failing to carry out past commitments. It is clear that only outside action can stop the killing. My government is seeking a new Security Council Resolution to authorize an expanded African Union security force to prevent further bloodshed. We will also seek to ban flights by Sudanese military aircraft in Darfur.

The world cannot ignore the suffering of more than one million people. The U.S. will continue to help relieve suffering, as we demand that the Jinjaweed disarm, and that the Government, Jinjaweed, and Darfur rebels end the violence.

7

Katherine 09.10.04 at 7:32 am

(For comparison, Kerry’s statements are here, here, and here. For those keeping score, Kerry used the word “genocide” first but then it’s a hell of a lot easier to do that when you’re not in office. They’re remarkably close together on this issue.

Actually so were Bush and Gore in 2000–they agreed in a debate that the U.S. was right not to intervene in Rwanda.)

8

abb1 09.10.04 at 11:02 am

I don’t know if it’s genocide or not (some say it’s a civil war), but one thing is for certain: Mr. Powell should’ve resigned in disgrace months ago. There is no reason whatsoever to listen to anything this corrupt bastard is saying. Yeah, sure: Bush, Powell, Cheney and Rumsfeld are a bunch of noble humanitarians.

As far as I am concerned it’s nothing but most cynical election-time posturing. End of story.

9

Dan Hardie 09.10.04 at 11:07 am

Four brief points:

1) The Clinton Administration described events in Rwanda *retrospectively* as ‘genocide’. As is noted in the main scholarly works on Rwanda (see below)the word ‘genocide’ carries with it not merely the duty but the *obligation* to intervene, since the Terms of the 1948 International Convention on the Prevention of Genocide impose that duty on signatories.

2) If Powell is describing Sudan now as ‘genocide’, but no one in the West got round to doing so for Rwanda until it was all over, please note that this may have something to do with the greater moral stature of Powell but also a lot to do with the fact that the Rwandese genocide took just over three months from beginning to end. The end came when the overwhelmingly Tutsi Rwandese Patriotic Front won its war with the Hutu government.

3) If you are interested in Rwanda, PUT DOWN THE EFFING PHILLIP GOUREVITCH BOOK AND READ GERARD PRUNIER: ‘THE RWANDA CRISIS: HISTORY OF A GENOCIDE’. Respect to Gourevitch: his account is one of the few serious attempts by a Western journalist to maintain people’s interest in this awful crime, and it has a lot of harrowing first hand stories. But for a detailed, nuanced, documented history of what was happening, you have to read Prunier, who is pretty easily available from good bookshops. The other standard works, to find which you’ll probably need a good university library’ are the two African Rights reports, the first of which was issued while the killing was actually underway: ‘Rwanda. Death, Despair and Defiance’-no author credited, but Alex de Waal and Omaar Rakiyaa did most of the writing and researching. The word ‘classic’ can actually be applied to these reports.

4) As will become clear to anyone reading the texts mentioned above, banging on about US/’Western’ inactivity during the Rwandese genocide is missing a horrifyingly important part of the story: highly placed elements of the French state- President Mitterand, his ‘Cellule Africaine’, his son Jean-Christophe, the then RPF Foreign Minister Alain Juppe and people within the intelligence service SDECE and the Quai D’Orsay- actively supported the genocide: with weapons, credits to buy weapons, diplomatic support at the UN and elsewhere before and during the murders, the military evacuation of leading planners of the genocide- all at a time when Government-controlled media in Rwanda were advocating a huge massacre of Tutsis.

This is a key point, and it is why some of us were less than chuffed about the French criticisms of the United States in recent years. However bad Bush has been, he has never even come close to the Mitterand-Juppe policy of supporting an African genocide.

10

Dan Hardie 09.10.04 at 11:11 am

Not to beat up on Henry, but honestly, mate, that Gourevitch quote assigning UN inaction almost solely to the US is a bad joke. The French were making exactly the same arguments re UN forces, for even nastier reasons. Read Prunier, please, and recommend it to your students also.

11

Pierre 09.10.04 at 1:20 pm

that Gourevitch quote assigning UN inaction almost solely to the US is a bad joke. The French were making exactly the same arguments re UN forces, for even nastier reasons.

My feeling exactly. I didn’t have the Prunier book to recommend when I dissented (far too mildly) above, but it was perfectly clear from knowledgeable French critics at the time that the Rwanda genocide was primarily a French affair. It was understandable that the Americans, still reeling from their Somalia misadventure, were reluctant to commit troops so soon again to Africa, but — until well into the genocide — the French were actively supporting the side that was committing the massacres. So, if the Americans could be accused of any crime, it would be one of omission. For the French, it is one of commission.

12

JR 09.10.04 at 1:50 pm

We need to be careful when invoking the Rwanda analogy to describe the events in Darfur. What’s happening now very different. Alan Kuperman and Ben Valentino have documented how quickly the Rwandan genocide occurred. Rapid violence was the defining characteristic.

On the other hand, disease is the major worry in Darfaur. Refugees and IDPs are at grave risk in the coming months. International intervention must be accordingly tailored. Simply sending in the troops is not enough.

13

Henry 09.10.04 at 1:57 pm

Dan, Pierre, fair enough – I didn’t realize that the French had played such a prominent role, but I’m hardly surprised – it’s of a piece with the rest of their Africa policy in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Far more horrible in its results – but of a piece. I don’t like George Bush at all – but I’d prefer him without hesitation to Chirac, Mitterand or De Gaulle as leader of the free world. Thanks for the information. Still, the main point I’m making stands I think – that this is one of the moments where the Bush administration is doing better than its predecessor. May be election politics, may be whatever, but if it results in action to at least mitigate what both sides are doing in the conflict, it’s a good thing.

14

Jim 09.10.04 at 2:24 pm

The Belgian government wanted out of Rwanda after a dozen of it’s UN soldiers were massacred. They asked the US and France by pulling nearly all the UN troops, and we cooperated. Albright, to her limited credit, initially refused to call for the troop withdrawal, and got into a heated argument with her Administration contact, Richard Clark. She was eventually overuled, obviously. The story of the few westerners who refused to leave is heroic and tragic. The lesson is that the world will not respond to genocide.

15

JR 09.10.04 at 2:35 pm

More on the Rwanda analogy:

Colin Powell has correctly used the word genocide, but the policy response is somewhat vague. There is lots of talk of “increasing international pressure,” but Khartoum has long been willing to accept international opprobrium. Two further measures are on the table: an intervention by African troops, and sanctions on Sudanese oil. I don’t know how long African peacekeepers can sustain the peace. I do not object in principle, but my sense is that it is a delaying tactic at best.

In terms of sanctions, it will be difficult to achieve Security Council consensus without including a quid pro quo for China. I would advise the State Department to start thinking of a good sweetnener.

In any case, neither of these options include a US military intervention. So the straightforward conclusion (shame on Albright, hooray for Powell) is misplaced. It is a double-standard. President Clinton is criticized for not making the tough decision to use military force. President Bush is not expected to make such a decision.

This is not a criticism of our current policy towards Sudan. It is simply a warning about the dangers of false analogical reasoning.

16

Dan Hardie 09.10.04 at 3:12 pm

Henry- thanks for your generous comments. Please do find the time to read Prunier and the African Rights reports. The former should be easy to order off Amazon (.co.uk if not .com), but if you have trouble locating the latter send me an email, and I will see what I can do from London. And PLEASE recommend Prunier to your students.

17

Ken Houghton 09.10.04 at 3:24 pm

Richard Holbrooke makes rather clear that the French should get slightly more credit than we Yankees:

http://www.artukraine.com/famineart/holbrooke.htm

“Details matter here. On April 15, 1994, in the Security Council, the United States demanded a full U.N. withdrawal. We even opposed helping other nations who might have intervened, and =DELETED the use of the word “genocide” from the U.N.’s statements=. In fact, only the French did intervene eventually, in a limited way.

(Emphases above mine)

18

kevin donoghue 09.10.04 at 4:20 pm

Dan Hardie, It is a few years since I read Prunier’s book (which I agree is very good) but I don’t think the French come out of it quite as badly as you and Pierre suggest. They certainly did screw up in a big way – that’s indisputable. But to say, as Pierre does above, that the genocide “was primarily a French affair” is going much farther than Prunier does, or anyone else I know of (apart from Paul Kagame).

19

Dan Hardie 09.10.04 at 4:30 pm

‘Richard Holbrooke makes rather clear that the French should get slightly more credit than we Yankees:…’In fact, only the French did intervene eventually, in a limited way.’

The French ‘intervention’, Operation Noroit, ‘succeeded’ in rescuing a negligible number of Tutsi victims of Hutu militias, but did however succeed in rescuing a very large number of senior Hutu government and military figures, most of whom went on to waging a guerrilla war against the RPF from camps in Zaire. Prunier, the author of the book cited above, was present during the planning and execution of Noroit, and is scathing about its ineffective attempts to rescue Tutsis. Prunier further states, at length, that he believes that French diplomats and spooks proposed ‘Noroit’ in order to carry out an intervention that would rescue the genocidal regime, hoping for a confronation with the Tutsi RPF, and were prevented from doing so largely by the speed of the RPF advance, and the collapse of the Hutu state, and partly by the horrified reaction of French Army officers.

For details see the books and reports mentioned several, wearisome times in my posts above. Clue- this is what I was speaking about when I mentioned ‘the military evacuation of leading planners of the genocide’. Even if ‘Noroit’ had been a humanitarian triumph, which it wasn’t, it would not have excused the participation of certain sectors of the French state in encouraging and enabling the massacre of the Tutsis.

If you use it properly, I suspect that the web is a great learning tool. But if you use it as an excuse not to read books- which on most topics, certainly on learning the details of modern history, are the first and most important place to conduct research- and instead to rely on whatever dubious factoids a quick Google or Lexis trawl will give you, it’s worse than useless. I’m talking to you, Ken Houghton.

20

Dan Hardie 09.10.04 at 4:46 pm

Kevin, you read Prunier’s book a few years ago. . I have read it several times, own it, am writing a paper on the wars in the Great Lakes region, and own a number of other sources, including large chunks of the African Rights reports and the entire 4 volume ‘Rapport Quiles’ published by the Assemblee Nationale. If you say things like ‘it’s quite a while since I read it but I seem to sort of remember’ etc I will bore everyone rigid by copy-typing large chunks of prose into the comments section.

There was no ‘screw up’, big or little. Certain elements of French government supported a grotesquely violent and racist element within the rather violent and racist Juvenal Habyarimana government, some elements didn’t and were ignorant of what happened.

Go to a library, read the damn book again, read what it says about Mitterand and the other French supporters of the genocidal Hutu faction. Don’t trouble me with vague memories of what you think you read a few years ago. I’m not prepared to defend Pierre’s precise words, since a)I didn’t use those words and b)I’m not Pierre, but I suspect Pierre might reply along the lines that Henry’s post concerned the responsibility of outside powers for failing to stop the Rwandese genocide, that the Gourevitch phrase cited by Henry explicitly assigned almost sole responsibility for this to the Americans, and that, although Pierre’s phrasing might have been improved upon, it does make sense to disagree with this.

As for myself, the genocide was the moral responsibility primarily of its Rwandese Hutu planners and leaders. But there is a scholarly consensus that the genocide would have been much less likely and perhaps unthinkable had not the ‘Power’ faction in Kigali been encouraged, financed and armed by various sectors of the French state.

21

Pierre 09.10.04 at 4:46 pm

“Primarily a French affair”, Kevin, in that they put the Hutu government in power, were its primary supporters (militarily and politically), and were the most active resisters, almost to the end (for the basest of reasons), to U.N. intervention. No other country had nearly as much influence in Rwanda as France. Belgium, the original colonial power in that region, had long since abdicated control or responsibility. And the U.S. was largely uninvolved before the massacres.

22

Doug 09.10.04 at 4:52 pm

If it’s a bad moral choice not to intervene when you have the ability, what’s the moral view of ensuring that you do not have the ability?

23

Dan Hardie 09.10.04 at 4:54 pm

Kagame, by the way, seems to me to be largely right when he had a go at the laughable Alliot, French Minister of Defence. But the fact is that Kagame too has a lot of blood on his hands from Zaire/RDC, and is at least in part attempting to use French guilt over the genocide as a smokescreen for his own military adventurism. And Claire Short chucked a lot of money at Kagame’s Rwanda whilst not raising a peep about what its troops were doing over the border. Again, disgusting.

24

Pierre 09.10.04 at 4:56 pm

Oops, sorry Dan, I must have tried to post at the exact instant you were providing a far more elaborate answer. But my position is clear: next to the actual killers and their instigators, the biggest criminals were (some elements of) the French.

25

kevin donoghue 09.10.04 at 5:24 pm

Dan,

I don’t need to go to the library – I have a copy. Looking through it I would say that your latest comment is a pretty good summary: “Certain elements of French government supported a grotesquely violent and racist element within the rather violent and racist Juvenal Habyarimana government, some elements didn’t and were ignorant of what happened.” And: “there is a scholarly consensus that the genocide would have been much less likely and perhaps unthinkable had not the ‘Power’ faction in Kigali been encouraged, financed and armed by various sectors of the French state.”

The open question, so far as I am concerned, is the extent to which the behaviour of French officials was criminal as opposed to stupid. For the moment I am inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt on that – granting however that there must have been some criminality involved.

I hope you will alert us to your paper on the Great Lakes wars when it’s done.

Pierre,

I pretty much agree with your 4.46 comment. I took it from your earlier comment that you were endorsing Paul Kagame’s charges, but I take it you are not.

I’m not setting myself up as a sort of posthumous defence counsel for Mitterrand & Co. If getting the record straight makes them out to be worse than I thought, so be it.

26

Luc 09.10.04 at 5:39 pm

Colin Powell has correctly used the word genocide, but the policy response is somewhat vague.

Assuming that Powell determines US policy these quotes from the mentioned NYT article are clear enough for me:

“Some seem to have been waiting for this determination of genocide to take action,” Mr. Powell said. “In fact, however, no new action is dictated by this determination. We have been doing everything we can to get the Sudanese government to act responsibly. So, let us not be too preoccupied with this designation.”
A moment later, he added: “Call it civil war. Call it ethnic cleansing. Call it genocide. Call it ‘none of the above.’ The reality is the same. There are people in Darfur who desperately need the help of the international community.”

I do appreciate a realist Powell. Better than the “war is peace” neo-con crowd.

Many prefer the blame game. Some of you here are still stuck on France, but since they showed some support for the latest proposed UN resolution, the blame has passed on to China.

Here is the new cue line:

On Thursday evening, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, John C. Danforth, expressed impatience with the resistance to sanctions from China, Pakistan and others. Any country that vetoes a resolution calling for sanctions, he said, “would have to explain the continuing tragedy of Darfur” and explain why it favored “stepping back and letting people die and be shot down by helicopters and raped.”

27

Pierre 09.10.04 at 5:43 pm

Dan, I assume you read “Shake Hands With the Devil” by Roméo Dallaire (for those not familiar with the name, he was the Canadian officer in charge of the U.N. peacekeepers before and during the genocide). He’s especially bitter about how the Belgians cut and ran after ten of their soldiers were killed — and then blamed him for placing them in harm’s way. I have some quibbles about the book — it’s a personal memoir and he’s very defensive about his role — but he’s a brave and decent man whose warnings went unheeded and whose pleas were ignored, and when I met him last year he seemed more willing to admit to underestimating how quickly and catastrophically the situation would deteriorate.

28

JR 09.10.04 at 10:16 pm

Luc,

I’m not playing the blame game. I’m asking what how the United States ought to respond to an ongoing genocide. Powell’s testimony explained clearly why he used the term genocide, but it did not strongly suggest the direction of US policy.

China has two reasons to be unenthusiastic about sanctions. It sees international intervention as a violation of sovereignty, mostly becuase it worries about the international response to its own human rights abuses. It also imports oil from Sudan, although I don’t know how much it depends on Sudanese sources.

The tenor of your comments suggests that you feel like it is the U.S.’s responsibiltiy to take the lead. So, what do you have in mind?

29

yabonn 09.11.04 at 12:06 am

In france, the story keeps on resurfacing from time to time, a few buzzes and then gone. But it keeps coming back, to meet each time one of these very loud official silences that go with the worst.

I suppose the u.s. doesn’t really want the role of kagame/uganda to be examined, and as the others won’t care, i don’t see a diplomatic push to fully, officially, investigate the genocide coming. I suppose the best we’ll get is an official “sorry” in some years.

It’s pretty much meaningless now, but as the u.s., the u.n. and belgium have already expressed their remorses, the denial france is in just adds more shame.

30

Luc 09.11.04 at 7:23 am

jr,

No, I wasn’t suggesting the US should take the lead. In a sense they already do. I do appreciate Powell’s more realist stance on the Darfur issue. But I would call his position clear, not vague. What is vague is the instant peace fantasy that some people express. If only China, France, UN, sanctions etc. then all would be well.

What I object to is the common theme of shifting responsibilities. The UN is not an organization that can “solve” Darfur. Neither can the US.

Though not related to any nefarious motives at all, this blogentry started with the title “Genocide and the UN” and ended with “the denial [of] France .. just adds more shame.”

There is an undercurrent of subjects floating around in this discussion.

A fine example is today’s op-ed by Kristof:

So I salute the Bush administration for formally declaring on Thursday that the slaughter is a genocide.

Does the Chirac government really want to show the moral blindness to Sudan’s genocide that the Vichy regime did to Hitler’s?

This is no coincidence. (Seeing that ugly name I long back to the days of Godwin’s law.)

It also includes a bit of hate for the UN/Kofi Annan. And a barb for the Islamic world. (Not the Arab world this time.)

But it fails to propose a solution other than pressure, sanctions and maybe a no-fly zone. Which is exactly what Powell is trying. Along with a good part of those who are cast in the role of the accused. And a large part of this is going on through the UN.

To the question So, what do you have in mind? I would say –

That what is being done is being done now, there will be no magical solution tomorrow. I know of no country that is prepared to fight a war in Sudan, and I doubt that will change. So I would say support those that are working towards relief, instead of throwing around old accusations and Hitler’s name.

31

abb1 09.11.04 at 9:26 am

Why don’t we try to solve this one:

Muslim clerics call US-led strikes ‘genocide’

TALL AFAR, Iraq, (AFP) – US-led assaults on insurgents in Tall Afar and Fallujah killed at least 57 people, prompting top Muslim clerics to accuse the US-led coalition of “genocide” in Iraq (news – web sites).
[…]
As US-led operations to rid Tall Afar of “terrorists” continued, Sheikh Abdel Ghaffur al-Samarrai told worshippers the assault on the small mainly Shiite Turkmen northern town qualified as genocide.

“What have the residents of Fallujah and Tall Afar done to deserve these atrocities? The occupation forces are committing genocide,” he said.

“They came to Iraq to kill, destroy and strip its resources. Where is the UN Security Council?” the leading cleric asked.

Calm returned to Tall Afar Friday after a 13-hour air and ground assault the previous day, which medics said left 45 people dead and that US commanders said killed up to 57 “terrorists.”

“These savage bombardments make no distinction between unarmed civilians and those equipped with weapons,” Sheikh Salah al-Jaburi said in the nearby city of Mosul, accusing the US-led coalition of committing an “enormous” crime.

With the town sealed off since Thursday, dozens of residents, many of them women and children, have fled to a makeshift Iraqi Red Crescent camp.

32

Conrad Barwa 09.11.04 at 11:20 am

The New York Times says that the term ‘genocide’ “was used by the Clinton administration to describe atrocities in Yugoslavia and Rwanda” – I don’t know that this is true. My very strong recollection is that Madeline Albright bent over backwards to avoid describing the murders in Rwanda as genocide, for fear that the UN Genocide Convention would be invoked. It was a quite disgusting episode in US foreign policy.

It wasn’t just the Clinton admin that comes out poorly in this episode, some genocide scholars and military historians demeaned themselves by either refusing to acknowledge that a genocide was taking place and talking instead of ‘tribal violence’ with the connotation that somehow one could not expect anything better from obscure parts of SSA. I think Katz and Keegan were prominent examples of this phenomenon. The ‘acts of genocide’ incident was a particular low-point though in this whole grim affair, diplomatically speaking.

I also don’t see what is so great about the US ‘retrospectively’ declaring the mass killings a genocide; since doing so when they did was well after the time period when any direct intervention would have been called for and to insist that one had not occurred would have been pretty much impossible. It is hard to deny that a genocide has occurred once it has been completed or carried out; relatively easier to do so when it is in the process of being implemented.

Re the French involvement, I assumed that this was pretty well known; there was a reason that survivors of the genocide dubbed the French troops with the sarcastic and derogatory title of “Mitterhamwe”. Says it all really. Though I would caution drawing any easy conclusions as to how this might influence prevailing attitudes towards France, UK and US today. Most African govts aren’t under any illusions about the French or their actions before and during the Rwanda genocide, so it says something when a minister in the ZA govt can say apropos of Blair and Chirac “Better the man who wants to rape you than the missionary who wants to convert you”.

On other material wrt Rwanda, I can also recommend Mamdani’s book “When Victims become Killers” it provides a good background and history to the events that led up to the genocide. Prunier also has a good article in a recent issue of African Affairs that looks at the links between the LRA in northern Uganda and the Khartoum regime and the involvement of the central govt and the SPLA in the DRC conflict and how this links up to Sudan’s own civil war.

Re Darfur, as far as I know, respected organisations like HRW and Amnesty International have refrained from calling what is happening in Darfur a genocide. As De Waal has pointed out, when there was a clear cut genocidal campaign being carried out by Khartoum in the Nuba mountains during the early 1990s the response from the US and other states, was very muted. Certainly, though, because of the deniability of State-perpetrators, the 1948 treaty makes it easy to classify genocides as such before the levels of violence reach their full potential. The only reluctance comes from an unwillingness to intervene; arguably a realist stance would perhaps say that the only thing worse than denying a genocide is taking place, when one is occurring, for fear of having to intervene, is to say that one is occurring and then to do nothing, apart from talk about it. This really would undermine the 1948 treaty, and I think Lemkin’s thinking was that States do have memories and do observe how the international community reacts to preceding genocide-events and a weak or non-existent response could only encourage repetitions in other contexts by State regimes willing to use this instrument. Therefore, once acknowledged, some form of intervention and strategy for stopping the genocide must be implemented

33

yabonn 09.11.04 at 12:52 pm

luc,

What I object to is the common theme of shifting responsibilities.

[…] “the denial [of] France .. just adds more shame.”

I think there is simply more to rwanda/france than the kristol, choumarteau & buddies ravings.

True that they can be relied upon for your daily francophobic spin. More generally, you may find, here and there in the us media, some remains of irak’s smear campaign. The french : a-ha! Say no more!

But the worst consequence of this would be if french began to go “lalala just a bunch of french haters” when legitimate concerns are raised.

It is, imho, the case for rwanda, and the few francophobe epiphanies along the road don’t really matter.

34

Luc 09.12.04 at 3:04 am

But the worst consequence of this would be if french began to go “lalala just a bunch of french haters” when legitimate concerns are raised.
It is, imho, the case for rwanda, and the few francophobe epiphanies along the road don’t really matter.

True.

But am i wrong in assuming that it is no coincidence that France as a (negative) subject pops up about everywhere where Darfur is discussed and thus also here?

It isn’t about whether France is right or Bush vs. Chirac as leader of the free world.

It is about why the Darfur story is being discredited by all kinds of allegations, true or not, that are not directly related to the genocide or killings that are happening there.

Note how Matthew Yglesias links to Kristof’s article. Gives a nice contrast between his recent line “how to spot an unsound argument” and Kristofs “Does the Chirac government really want to show the moral blindness to Sudan’s genocide that the Vichy regime did to Hitler’s?”

As both persons above don’t tend to dabble in malice why was that ugly comparison created and propagated?

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Shaun Evans 09.12.04 at 4:31 am

With respect to genocide, I see three major questions: When can the international community kill to save human life, when must the international community kill to save human life, and who should do this legally sanctioned killing?

The first question addresses the RIGHT of the international community to kill to stop genocide, the second the DUTY (moral or legal, take your pick) to kill to stop genocide, and the third asks, who among the international community pays the PRICE for enforcing the international law against genocide.

I am completely unwilling to resign from my comfortable symbolic analyist research job to kill and risk death and PTSD to stop a genocide. Given that I am unwilling to pay the price myself, do I have the moral right to criticize others for making the exact same decision I made? For me, the answer is clearly NO, I do not have that right.

So, if I’m not willing to stop the genocide, and no one else is either, for the same reasons, how can we reasonably expect genocides to be stopped?

But the most basic question of all, is, “When can, and must, the international community kill to preserve human life?” Until this question has a commonly accepted answer, genocides will continue, and people like us will whine about it, and blame other people for this horrid state of affairs.

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james 09.12.04 at 9:16 pm

shaun – Under a Democracy, wouldnt citizenship grant the right to demand government action without requiring actual participation of the citizen?

There is no internation right to intervention. For a truely international right, there must be 100% agreement on what a right is and how it can be carried out. This does not exist. There is the right of the individual to determine action based on local morality. Nation states may be driven to action based on this individual morality. Of coarse conflict between oppossing strongly held beliefs can lead to violence.

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yabonn 09.13.04 at 12:22 am

But am i wrong in assuming that it is no coincidence that France as a (negative) subject pops up about everywhere where Darfur is discussed and thus also here?

Well, there is a bias. The us are still on a nationalism high, and france was about irak, unforgivably right.

As the situation in irak gets worse, the – slightly pathetic – bitterness will increase, and you’re likely to see more “freedom fries” in congress and more “Bad French” moments overall, not only about darfur.

So, bad france in darfur is probably diplomatic posturing, bad france in rwanda is certainly not, and at any case, french should be careful about not caring at all about this little u.s. francophobic neurosis, as long as serious matters are at stake, imho.

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