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Friday, June 25, 2004

How an Adult Takes Responsibility 

I've long said that the two greatest moral failings of the Clinton Administration(s) were the continuing escalation of the drug war and the failure to intervene in Rwanda. Here's President Clinton in a Salon interview:
In your book, you describe the American and allied failure to intervene in Rwanda in 1994 as one of your worst errors. How did you reach that decision to do nothing while the genocide was going on there?

That's one of the most regrettable things about it. It's not like we had a decision. I don't know that we ever had a high-level meeting on it. At that time I think the whole foreign policy apparatus, including me, was geared to getting into Bosnia as quickly as possible. We knew we were going to have a problem in Haiti. We were still reeling from what had happened in Somalia. And I think even though there were a lot of indications that Rwanda was going to be quite bad, I'm not sure anybody focused on the fact that 10 percent of a country, 700,000 or 800,000 people, could be killed in 90 days with machetes ...

If we'd moved right away, we might have been able to save a couple of hundred thousand people. They still could have killed a lot of people before we could have deployed in acceptable numbers there. [Later] we went into the camps and we kept a lot of people alive, both safe from violence and also rehydrating kids ... We saved tens of thousands of lives, but we could have saved a couple of hundred thousand more if we'd moved more quickly. We hadn't really developed a clear doctrine of when we would go in and when we wouldn't. There was a lot of sentiment against such intervention in the Congress. And the worst thing about it was that we didn't have a meeting with an options paper where we said yes, no, or maybe. We didn't even do that. And before we knew it, they were lying dead.

It was inexcusable. We didn't even seriously consider it, and I feel terrible about it. It's very interesting though: the only people who have never excoriated me for it are the Rwandans. When I went there and apologized to them, their response was, "You're the only person that ever even said you were sorry. There were other people who could have helped us, too."
It was inexcusable, and I'm glad he realizes that. He admits not only that he was wrong, but pathetically wrong.
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