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March 31, 2004

Fiddling While Rwanda Burns

It's difficult to know what to say about this:

US president Bill Clinton's administration knew Rwanda was being engulfed by genocide in April 1994 but buried the information to justify its inaction, classified documents made available for the first time reveal.

Senior officials privately used the word genocide within 16 days of the start of the killings, but chose not to do so publicly because the president had already decided not to intervene. ...

It took Hutu death squads three months from April 6 to murder about 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus and at each stage accurate, detailed reports were reaching Washington policymakers.

It certainly merits mulling.

Posted by Justin Katz at March 31, 2004 10:54 PM
International Affairs

As you pointed out in reference to my TCS column (and thus coming up with a better title than I came up with), the principle of "Give me Liberty but give them death" is triumphant in the badly misnamed "liberal internationalist" school of thought.

By the way, doesn't "Give me liberty but give them death" underly everything Richard Clarke says about Iraq being a mistake?


Posted by: Andrew at April 1, 2004 9:44 AM


The realm of international "government" is toward the front of the pack of aspects of Western society when it comes to words' trumping reality. It gets to the point that one doesn't know whether to conclude that everybody is deliberately deceiving themselves or are honestly caught up in a different world.

I was among those calling for Saddam's ouster years before September 11. It was clear that sanctions were hurting Iraqis more than they were hurting the regime (and now we have some U.N.-based explanation for that), yet they could not be lifted until the regime had completely capitulated or been removed.

When it comes right down to it, I don't think many people actually put forward the effort or allow themselves to think through their own worldviews. We're all just educated enough to be foolish.

Posted by: Justin Katz at April 1, 2004 11:06 AM

For the eight years that he was in office, Republicans complained that Clinton was doing too much in the area of human rights. They made the same complaint against Carter. Now Republicans complain that they didn't do enough.

Posted by: Joel Thomas at April 1, 2004 6:11 PM


The common complaint against Carter's human-rights policy from Republicans and Cold-War Democrats was that it was selectively applied against friendly regimes (because one only has influence over friendly regimes) and that it was combined with dangerous naivete about communism, and the far-greater threat to "human rights" it posed. The objective effect was thus to advance Communism (Nicaragua and elsewhere in LatAm, Ethiopia, Angola) or other forms of anti-US tyranny (Iran).

As for Clinton, again, the problem was that human-rights policies were seen as a form of do-gooding that was only moral if the US had NO strategic interests, like in Haiti or Kosovo (cuz that would be the only way US motives could be seen as pure, rather than the greater evil of Halliburton profits or whatever) or could be shackled by the greater moral authority of the UN. There are priceless Madeleine Albright and Al Gore quotes that prove that she considered strategic interests morally-tainting, and he considered the UN a higher moral authority than the US.

Posted by: Victor Morton at April 2, 2004 8:55 PM