Wednesday, February 26, 2003

# Posted 9:33 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

RWANDA: THE PREVENTABLE GENOCIDE? In the Wall Street Journal, Josh and I wrote that
In light of the strength that dissidents from Prague to Belgrade to Baghdad have found in America's founding principles, we disagree with those who believe that America lacks the moral integrity necessary to bring democracy to Iraq.
If one wants to defend such claims of moral integrity, however, one has to account for the American failure to respond to the Rwandan genocide of April 1994. While this failure might not invalidate American aspirations to liberate Iraq, it nonetheless constitutes a significant challenge to America's perception of itself as defender of the downtrodden.

Turning first to Foreign Affairs, I ran across a long critique of the conventional wisdom that the timely dispatch of 5,000 troops to Rwanda could have prevented the genocide. (My apologies for linking to FA summaries rather than the full text, which I only have access to thanks to subscription database.)

The crux of Kuperman's argument is simple: Rwanda's Hutu genocidaires murdered half of their victims between April 6 and April 21, 1994, with two-thirds of the murders accomplished by the end of April. The United States and the UN Security Council were not aware of the fact that a genocide was in progress until April 20. Thus, even the most rapid possible deployment of US and/or UN forces could not have stopped the killing before mid- to late May, at which point more than four-fifths of the 500,000-600,000 victims of would have already been dead.

In a response to Kuperman, Alison Des Forges -- a Yale-educated historian, Human Rights Watch consultant and author of the definitive account of the Rwandan genocide -- asserts that
Two days, not two weeks, after the slaughter began on April 6, U.S. officials knew that extremists with an avowedly genocidal agenda had murdered legitimate Rwandan authorities and were claiming control of the government...As an April 8 State Department briefing made clear, U.S. officials also knew that Hutu soldiers had been killing Tutsi for two days and that the violence was not limited to the capital."
Kuperman responds to Des Forges by reminding of her own words, published in the Washington Post on April 17, 1994. In a column there, she failed to even raise the prospect of "genocide".

Unwilling to trust Kuperman on this point, I pulled up Des Forges column on Nexis-Lexis. It turns out that Kuperman was understating his case. According to Des Forges,
Whatever the circumstances of the crash [that killed Pres. Habyarimana], it provided extremists within the ruling group with the long-sought pretext for wiping out their opponents. Within an hour of the announcement of Habyarimana's death, the elite presidential guard launched a search-and-destroy mission...

If the world really cares what happens in Rwanda -- beyond the gaping at photos of unspeakable horrors -- it will bring all pressure to bear on the RPF and what remains of the Rwandan army general staff to effect a ceasefire.
In short, the fiercest critic of US inaction in the face of genocide could not bring herself to recommend armed intervention by the US or the UN at the height of the killing.

To be continued...
(3) opinions -- Add your opinion

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