Rwanda post mortem

Genocide: U.S. among those chastised for refusing to get involved in 1994.

July 12, 2000

PRESSURE on the United States to intervene will be greater in the next manmade catastrophe.

That does not depend on the November election. It reflects the book-length report of eminent persons, "The Preventable Genocide," on Rwanda's 1994 slaughter, commissioned by the Organization of African Unity, the regional organization of governments.

Without lifting guilt from Rwanda's Hutu regime that organized the killing of up to 800,000 Tutsi minority and Hutu moderates, the report also blames those who had notice and did nothing, who saw it happen and withdrew.

These include the United States, for preventing United Nations Security Council action beforehand and compelling the Security Council to reduce peace-keeping as the slaughter proceeded.

The report manages to blame former German and Belgian colonial masters for using the caste system they encountered to support their rule, though that system predated and survived their rule. The Catholic Church, the Belgians who pulled troops out of peacekeeping, the Anglican church and the United Nations and its peacekeeping chief, now-Secretary General Kofi Annan, are all tarnished. France, which maintained close relations with the Hutu majority government and aided the butchers in exile, comes out worst.

This report echoes one commissioned by Mr. Annan for the U.N. and published last December. He accepted responsibility as charged and expressed remorse.

In 1994, the Clinton administration was licking its wounds from intervention in Somalia and debating about the former Yugoslavia. It did not want to hear about Rwanda. The few demands in public debate for U.S. intervention were cries in the wilderness.

But the U.N. and OAU reports are not really about penance. They argue what to do in Rwanda now, and what to do somewhere else next time. The OAU report calls for debt forgiveness to help Rwanda begin to heal. It reminds Rwanda's current Tutsi strongmen that they are the minority.

And the next time the United States has a humanitarian imperative to intervene and temptation to refrain, these reports will be vivid arguments. Globalization, they imply, leaves the lone superpower no escape from responsibilities.

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