Jewish World Review April 19, 2004/ 29 Nissan, 5763
Clarke apologizes, but not for everything
Thanks for that, big guy. But, if you want an example of a president doing nothing to prevent not thousands but the best part of a million deaths, how about the Rwandan genocide? Remember that? It was exactly a decade ago, and the media commemorations so far are, to say the least, low-key. The editors of the Economist wonder, ''How many people can name any of the perpetrators?'' I'd say it's more basic than that. How many could tell you whether it was the Hutu killing the Tutsi or the Tutsi killing the Hutu? Come on, take a guess, without looking it up.
If there's a point to the U.N., which some of us doubt, it should surely be for the likes of Rwanda. An irrelevant basket case state (even by African standards) will never be a legitimate national interest for any great power. To America, Britain, France, Russia and China, it makes no great difference who's running Rwanda, or even whether there is a Rwanda: If those Hutu and Tutsi mutually hacked each other into extinction, it's their problem. But the U.N. is supposed to represent a global will, a moral purpose beyond crude hard-power calculations. Instead, born in the wake of one genocide, it sat by and idly watched another unfold, so serenely complacent it couldn't even rouse itself to jam the state radio station, through which the ruling thugs urged their teenage hackers on in public service messages pointing out ''the graves are not yet full.'' So the killing continued, until some 800,000 were dead.
Bill Clinton felt their pain. Retrospectively. In 1998, on his Grand Apology Tour of Africa, a whirlwind tour of whirlwind apologies for slavery, the Cold War, you name it, he touched down in Kigali and apologized for the Rwandan genocide. ''When you look at those children who greeted us,'' he said, biting his lip, as is his wont, ''how could anyone say they did not want those children to have a chance to have their own children?''
Alas, the president had precisely identified the problem. In April 1994, when the Hutu genocidaires looked at the children who greeted them in the Tutsi villages, that's exactly what they thought: They didn't want those Tutsi children to have a chance to have their own children. So the question is: When a bunch of killers refuse to subscribe to multiculti mumbo-jumbo, what do you do?
''All over the world there were people like me sitting in offices,'' continued Bill in his apology aria, ''who did not fully appreciate the depth and the speed with which you were being engulfed by this unimaginable terror.''
Au contraire, he appreciated it all too fully. That's why, during the bloodbath, Clinton administration officials were specifically instructed not to use the word ''genocide'' lest it provoke public pressure to do something. Documents made public confirm that U.S. officials knew within the first few days that a ''final solution'' to eliminate all Tutsis was under way.
General Romeo Dallaire, the Canadian commander of the 2,500 U.N. peacekeepers, said he could prevent the killing if he had 5,000 men. Instead, the Clinton administration blocked him from taking any action and got the blue helmets to pull out. The U.N. has to learn, said Clinton, ''when to say no.'' There weren't people like him all over the world sitting in offices. There was him, sitting in his office, the Pain-Feeler-In-Chief kissing off half-a-million nobodies: Toot-Toot, Tutsis, goodbye!
It's a tenable position to feel America has no interest in preventing one bunch of Africans slaughtering another bunch of Africans. But it requires especial reserves of cynicism and contempt to seek approval for feeling bad about it four years later. Whether or not the Bush administration could ever have put together a few random clues an uptick in Arab men taking flight-school training, etc. in time to prevent what happened on Sept. 11, Bill Clinton knew about Rwanda and chose to do nothing.
Why was this? Well, Somalia, of course. When 10 Belgian peacekeepers were hacked to pieces in Rwanda, it reminded the administration of those 18 U.S. servicemen in Mogadishu. As Samantha Power writes in her book A Problem From Hell: ''The news from Rwanda only confirmed a deep skepticism about the viability of UN deployments. Clarke believed that another U.N. failure could doom relations between Congress and the United Nations. He also sought to shield the president from congressional and public criticism.''
What was that name again? ''Clarke''? Who's that?
Turns out it's Mister Apology himself, Richard Clarke. He was the guy in charge of Rwandan policy for the Clinton team and, as far as I can tell, unlike the Pain-Feeler, he feels not even a twinge of pro forma remorse. As we know, regrets, he's had a few. But this isn't one of them. ''It is not always the United States that has to answer the 911 call,'' Clarke said. ''It is not always the United States that has to be the world's policeman.'' Correct. But in this instance, Clarke and Clinton went further and scuttled a U.N. mission that had already answered the 911 call. Nothing the supposedly ''unilateral'' Bush team has done damaged the U.N. and its credibility as much as the Clinton-Clarke team did during the Rwandan bloodbath. And whenever a local bully gets away with it, it emboldens others.
By all accounts, Clarke is a difficult man to work with. He reminds me of that comic classic on British history, 1066 And All That, with its battles between Royalists ''wrong but romantic'' and Roundheads ''right but repulsive.'' In much of his Clinton-era approach to terrorism, Clarke seems to have been ''right but repulsive,'' which is why nothing got done; in his more fanciful moments, he was ''wrong but romantic.'' But in his present incarnation he's wrong and repulsive. He seems to have learned from his old boss, who's always preferred to apologize for the mistakes of others rather than his own: Shortly after 9/11, Bill Clinton apologized for the Crusades.
By Sept. 11, Clarke was far removed from the decision-making process on Afghanistan, al-Qaida and beyond. He has no more authority to apologize for the events of that day than I do.
But he bears a lot of responsibility for Rwanda. Any chance of an apology for that?
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JWR contributor Mark Steyn is North American Editor of The (London) Spectator and the author, most recently, of "The Face of the Tiger," a new book on the world post-Sept. 11. (Sales help fund JWR). Comment by clicking here.
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