Most of Dallaire's troops were evacuated by April 25. Though he was supposed to reduce the size of his force to 270, he ended up keeping 503 peacekeepers. By this time Dallaire was trying to deal with a bloody frenzy. "My force was standing knee-deep in mutilated bodies, surrounded by the guttural moans of dying people, looking into the eyes of children bleeding to death with their wounds burning in the sun and being invaded by maggots and flies," he later wrote. "I found myself walking through villages where the only sign of life was a goat, or a chicken, or a songbird, as all the people were dead, their bodies being eaten by voracious packs of wild dogs."
Dallaire had to work within narrow limits. He attempted simply to keep the positions he held and to protect the 25,000 Rwandans under UN supervision while hoping that the member states on the Security Council would change their minds and send him some help while it still mattered.
By coincidence Rwanda held one of the rotating seats on the Security Council at the time of the genocide. Neither the United States nor any other UN member state ever suggested that the representative of the genocidal government be expelled from the council. Nor did any Security Council country offer to provide safe haven to Rwandan refugees who escaped the carnage. In one instance Dallaire's forces succeeded in evacuating a group of Rwandans by plane to Kenya. The Nairobi authorities allowed the plane to land, sequestered it in a hangar, and, echoing the American decision to turn back the S.S. St. Louis during the Holocaust, then forced the plane to return to Rwanda. The fate of the passengers is unknown.
Throughout this period the Clinton Administration was largely silent. The closest it came to a public denunciation of the Rwandan government occurred after personal lobbying by Human Rights Watch, when Anthony Lake issued a statement calling on Rwandan military leaders by name to "do everything in their power to end the violence immediately." When I spoke with Lake six years later, and informed him that human-rights groups and U.S. officials point to this statement as the sum total of official public attempts to shame the Rwandan government in this period, he seemed stunned. "You're kidding," he said. "That's truly pathetic."
At the State Department the diplomacy was conducted privately, by telephone. Prudence Bushnell regularly set her alarm for 2:00 A.M. and phoned Rwandan government officials. She spoke several times with Augustin Bizimungu, the Rwandan military chief of staff. "These were the most bizarre phone calls," she says. "He spoke in perfectly charming French. 'Oh, it's so nice to hear from you,' he said. I told him, 'I am calling to tell you President Clinton is going to hold you accountable for the killings.' He said, 'Oh, how nice it is that your President is thinking of me.'"
X. The Pentagon "Chop"
The daily meeting of the Rwanda interagency working group was attended, either in person or by teleconference, by representatives from the various State Department bureaus, the Pentagon, the National Security Council, and the intelligence community. Any proposal that originated in the working group had to survive the Pentagon "chop." "Hard intervention," meaning U.S. military action, was obviously out of the question. But Pentagon officials routinely stymied initiatives for "soft intervention" as well.
The Pentagon discussion paper on Rwanda, referred to earlier, ran down a list of the working group's six short-term policy objectives and carped at most of them. The fear of a slippery slope was persuasive. Next to the seemingly innocuous suggestion that the United States "support the UN and others in attempts to achieve a cease-fire" the Pentagon official responded, "Need to change 'attempts' to 'political efforts'—without 'political' there is a danger of signing up to troop contributions."
The one policy move the Defense Department supported was a U.S. effort to achieve an arms embargo. But the same discussion paper acknowledged the ineffectiveness of this step: "We do not envision it will have a significant impact on the killings because machetes, knives and other hand implements have been the most common weapons."
Dallaire never spoke to Bushnell or to Tony Marley, the U.S. military liaison to the Arusha process, during the genocide, but they all reached the same conclusions. Seeing that no troops were forthcoming, they turned their attention to measures short of full-scale deployment which might alleviate the suffering. Dallaire pleaded with New York, and Bushnell and her team recommended in Washington, that something be done to "neutralize" Radio Mille Collines.
The country best equipped to prevent the genocide planners from broadcasting murderous instructions directly to the population was the United States. Marley offered three possibilities. The United States could destroy the antenna. It could transmit "counter-broadcasts" urging perpetrators to stop the genocide. Or it could jam the hate radio station's broadcasts. This could have been done from an airborne platform such as the Air Force's Commando Solo airplane. Anthony Lake raised the matter with Secretary of Defense William Perry at the end of April. Pentagon officials considered all the proposals non-starters. On May 5 Frank Wisner, the undersecretary of defense for policy, prepared a memo for Sandy Berger, then the deputy national-security adviser. Wisner's memo testifies to the unwillingness of the U.S. government to make even financial sacrifices to diminish the killing.
We have looked at options to stop the broadcasts within the Pentagon, discussed them interagency and concluded jamming is an ineffective and expensive mechanism that will not accomplish the objective the NSC Advisor seeks.
International legal conventions complicate airborne or ground based jamming and the mountainous terrain reduces the effectiveness of either option. Commando Solo, an Air National Guard asset, is the only suitable DOD jamming platform. It costs approximately $8500 per flight hour and requires a semi-secure area of operations due to its vulnerability and limited self-protection.
I believe it would be wiser to use air to assist in Rwanda in the [food] relief effort ...
The plane would have needed to remain in Rwandan airspace while it waited for radio transmissions to begin. "First we would have had to figure out whether it made sense to use Commando Solo," Wisner recalls. "Then we had to get it from where it was already and be sure it could be moved. Then we would have needed flight clearance from all the countries nearby. And then we would need the political go-ahead. By the time we got all this, weeks would have passed. And it was not going to solve the fundamental problem, which was one that needed to be addressed militarily." Pentagon planners understood that stopping the genocide required a military solution. Neither they nor the White House wanted any part in a military solution. Yet instead of undertaking other forms of intervention that might have at least saved some lives, they justified inaction by arguing that a military solution was required.
Whatever the limitations of radio jamming, which clearly would have been no panacea, most of the delays Wisner cites could have been avoided if senior Administration officials had followed through. But Rwanda was not their problem. Instead justifications for standing by abounded. In early May the State Department Legal Advisor's Office issued a finding against radio jamming, citing international broadcasting agreements and the American commitment to free speech. When Bushnell raised radio jamming yet again at a meeting, one Pentagon official chided her for naiveté: "Pru, radios don't kill people. People kill people!"
The Defense Department was disdainful both of the policy ideas being circulated at the working-group meetings and, memos indicate, of the people circulating them. A memo by one Defense Department aide observed that the State Department's Africa bureau had received a phone call from a Kigali hotel owner who said that his hotel and the civilians inside were about to be attacked. The memo snidely reported that the Africa bureau's proposed "solution" was "Pru Bushnell will call the [Rwandan] military and tell them we will hold them personally responsible if anything happens (!)." (In fact the hotel owner, who survived the genocide, later acknowledged that phone calls from Washington played a key role in dissuading the killers from massacring the inhabitants of the hotel.)
However significant and obstructionist the role of the Pentagon in April and May, Defense Department officials were stepping into a vacuum. As one U.S. official put it, "Look, nobody senior was paying any attention to this mess. And in the absence of any political leadership from the top, when you have one group that feels pretty strongly about what shouldn't be done, it is extremely likely they are going to end up shaping U.S. policy." Lieutenant General Wesley Clark looked to the White House for leadership. "The Pentagon is always going to be the last to want to intervene," he says. "It is up to the civilians to tell us they want to do something and we'll figure out how to do it."
But with no powerful personalities or high-ranking officials arguing forcefully for meaningful action, mid-level Pentagon officials held sway, vetoing or stalling on hesitant proposals put forward by mid-level State Department or NSC officials. If Pentagon objections were to be overcome, the President, Secretary Christopher, Secretary Perry, or Anthony Lake would have to step forward to "own" the problem, which did not happen.
The deck was stacked against Rwandans who were hiding wherever they could and praying for rescue. The American public expressed no interest in Rwanda, and the crisis was treated as a civil war requiring a cease-fire or as a "peacekeeping problem" requiring a UN withdrawal. It was not treated as a genocide demanding instant action. The top policymakers trusted that their subordinates were doing all they could do, while the subordinates worked with an extremely narrow understanding of what the United States would do.
XI. PDD-25 in Action
No sooner had most of Dallaire's forces been withdrawn, in late April, than a handful of nonpermanent members of the Security Council, aghast at the scale of the slaughter, pressed the major powers to send a new, beefed-up force (UNAMIR II) to Rwanda.
When Dallaire's troops had first arrived, in the fall of 1993, they had done so under a fairly traditional peacekeeping mandate known as a Chapter VI deployment—a mission that assumes a cease-fire and a desire on both sides to comply with a peace accord. The Security Council now had to decide whether it was prepared to move from peacekeeping to peace enforcement—that is, to a Chapter VII mission in a hostile environment. This would demand more peacekeepers with far greater resources, more-aggressive rules of engagement, and an explicit recognition that the UN soldiers were there to protect civilians.
Two proposals emerged. Dallaire submitted a plan that called for joining his remaining peacekeepers with about 5,000 well-armed soldiers he hoped could be gathered quickly by the Security Council. He wanted to secure Kigali and then fan outward to create safe havens for Rwandans who had gathered in large numbers at churches and schools and on hillsides around the country. The United States was one of the few countries that could supply the rapid airlift and logistic support needed to move reinforcements to the region. In a meeting with UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali on May 10, Vice President Al Gore pledged U.S. help with transport.
Richard Clarke, at the NSC, and representatives of the Joint Chiefs challenged Dallaire's plan. "How do you plan to take control of the airport in Kigali so that the reinforcements will be able to land?" Clarke asked. He argued instead for an "outside-in" strategy, as opposed to Dallaire's "inside-out" approach. The U.S. proposal would have created protected zones for refugees at Rwanda's borders. It would have kept any U.S. pilots involved in airlifting the peacekeepers safely out of Rwanda. "Our proposal was the most feasible, doable thing that could have been done in the short term," Clarke insists. Dallaire's proposal, in contrast, "could not be done in the short term and could not attract peacekeepers." The U.S. plan—which was modeled on Operation Provide Comfort, for the Kurds of northern Iraq—seemed to assume that the people in need were refugees fleeing to the border, but most endangered Tutsi could not make it to the border. The most vulnerable Rwandans were those clustered together, awaiting salvation, deep inside Rwanda. Dallaire's plan would have had UN soldiers move to the Tutsi in hiding. The U.S. plan would have required civilians to move to the safe zones, negotiating murderous roadblocks on the way. "The two plans had very different objectives," Dallaire says. "My mission was to save Rwandans. Their mission was to put on a show at no risk."
America's new peacekeeping doctrine, of which Clarke was the primary architect, was unveiled on May 3, and U.S. officials applied its criteria zealously. PDD-25 did not merely circumscribe U.S. participation in UN missions; it also limited U.S. support for other states that hoped to carry out UN missions. Before such missions could garner U.S. approval, policymakers had to answer certain questions: Were U.S. interests at stake? Was there a threat to world peace? A clear mission goal? Acceptable costs? Congressional, public, and allied support? A working cease-fire? A clear command-and-control arrangement? And, finally, what was the exit strategy?
The United States haggled at the Security Council and with the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations for the first two weeks of May. U.S. officials pointed to the flaws in Dallaire's proposal without offering the resources that would have helped him to overcome them. On May 13 Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott sent Madeleine Albright instructions on how the United States should respond to Dallaire's plan. Noting the logistic hazards of airlifting troops into the capital, Talbott wrote, "The U.S. is not prepared at this point to lift heavy equipment and troops into Kigali." The "more manageable" operation would be to create the protected zones at the border, secure humanitarian-aid deliveries, and "promot[e] restoration of a ceasefire and return to the Arusha Peace Process." Talbott acknowledged that even the minimalist American proposal contained "many unanswered questions":
Where will the needed forces come from; how will they be transported ... where precisely should these safe zones be created; ... would UN forces be authorized to move out of the zones to assist affected populations not in the zones ... will the fighting parties in Rwanda agree to this arrangement ... what conditions would need to obtain for the operation to end successfully?
Nonetheless, Talbott concluded, "We would urge the UN to explore and refine this alternative and present the Council with a menu of at least two options in a formal report from the [Secretary General] along with cost estimates before the Security Council votes on changing UNAMIR's mandate." U.S. policymakers were asking valid questions. Dallaire's plan certainly would have required the intervening troops to take risks in an effort to reach the targeted Rwandans or to confront the Hutu militia and government forces. But the business-as-usual tone of the American inquiry did not seem appropriate to the unprecedented and utterly unconventional crisis that was under way.
On May 17, by which time most of the Tutsi victims of the genocide were already dead, the United States finally acceded to a version of Dallaire's plan. However, few African countries stepped forward to offer troops. Even if troops had been immediately available, the lethargy of the major powers would have hindered their use. Though the Administration had committed the United States to provide armored support if the African nations provided soldiers, Pentagon stalling resumed. On May 19 the UN formally requested fifty American armored personnel carriers. On May 31 the United States agreed to send the APCs from Germany to Entebbe, Uganda. But squabbles between the Pentagon and UN planners arose. Who would pay for the vehicles? Should the vehicles be tracked or wheeled? Would the UN buy them or simply lease them? And who would pay the shipping costs? Compounding the disputes was the fact that Department of Defense regulations prevented the U.S. Army from preparing the vehicles for transport until contracts had been signed. The Defense Department demanded that it be reimbursed $15 million for shipping spare parts and equipment to and from Rwanda. In mid-June the White House finally intervened. On June 19, a month after the UN request, the United States began transporting the APCs, but they were missing the radios and heavy machine guns that would be needed if UN troops came under fire. By the time the APCs arrived, the genocide was over—halted by Rwandan Patriotic Front forces under the command of the Tutsi leader, Paul Kagame.
XII. The Stories We Tell
It is not hard to conceive of how the United States might have done things differently. Ahead of the plane crash, as violence escalated, it could have agreed to Belgian pleas for UN reinforcements. Once the killing of thousands of Rwandans a day had begun, the President could have deployed U.S. troops to Rwanda. The United States could have joined Dallaire's beleaguered UNAMIR forces or, if it feared associating with shoddy UN peacekeeping, it could have intervened unilaterally with the Security Council's backing, as France eventually did in late June. The United States could also have acted without the UN's blessing, as it did five years later in Kosovo. Securing congressional support for U.S. intervention would have been extremely difficult, but by the second week of the killing Clinton could have made the case that something approximating genocide was under way, that a supreme American value was imperiled by its occurrence, and that U.S. contingents at relatively low risk could stop the extermination of a people.
Alan Kuperman wrote in Foreign Affairs that President Clinton was in the dark for two weeks; by the time a large U.S. force could deploy, it would not have saved "even half of the ultimate victims." The evidence indicates that the killers' intentions were known by mid-level officials and knowable by their bosses within a week of the plane crash. Any failure to fully appreciate the genocide stemmed from political, moral, and imaginative weaknesses, not informational ones. As for what force could have accomplished, Kuperman's claims are purely speculative. We cannot know how the announcement of a robust or even a limited U.S. deployment would have affected the perpetrators' behavior. It is worth noting that even Kuperman concedes that belated intervention would have saved 75,000 to 125,000—no small achievement. A more serious challenge comes from the U.S. officials who argue that no amount of leadership from the White House would have overcome congressional opposition to sending U.S. troops to Africa. But even if that highly debatable point was true, the United States still had a variety of options. Instead of leaving it to mid-level officials to communicate with the Rwandan leadership behind the scenes, senior officials in the Administration could have taken control of the process. They could have publicly and frequently denounced the slaughter. They could have branded the crimes "genocide" at a far earlier stage. They could have called for the expulsion of the Rwandan delegation from the Security Council. On the telephone, at the UN, and on the Voice of America they could have threatened to prosecute those complicit in the genocide, naming names when possible. They could have deployed Pentagon assets to jam—even temporarily—the crucial, deadly radio broadcasts.
Instead of demanding a UN withdrawal, quibbling over costs, and coming forward (belatedly) with a plan better suited to caring for refugees than to stopping massacres, U.S. officials could have worked to make UNAMIR a force to contend with. They could have urged their Belgian allies to stay and protect Rwandan civilians. If the Belgians insisted on withdrawing, the White House could have done everything within its power to make sure that Dallaire was immediately reinforced. Senior officials could have spent U.S. political capital rallying troops from other nations and could have supplied strategic airlift and logistic support to a coalition that it had helped to create. In short, the United States could have led the world.
Why did none of these things happen? One reason is that all possible sources of pressure—U.S. allies, Congress, editorial boards, and the American people—were mute when it mattered for Rwanda. American leaders have a circular and deliberate relationship to public opinion. It is circular because public opinion is rarely if ever aroused by foreign crises, even genocidal ones, in the absence of political leadership, and yet at the same time, American leaders continually cite the absence of public support as grounds for inaction. The relationship is deliberate because American leadership is not absent in such circumstances: it was present regarding Rwanda, but devoted mainly to suppressing public outrage and thwarting UN initiatives so as to avoid acting.
Strikingly, most officials involved in shaping U.S. policy were able to define the decision not to stop genocide as ethical and moral. The Administration employed several devices to keep down enthusiasm for action and to preserve the public's sense—and, more important, its own—that U.S. policy choices were not merely politically astute but also morally acceptable. First, Administration officials exaggerated the extremity of the possible responses. Time and again U.S. leaders posed the choice as between staying out of Rwanda and "getting involved everywhere." In addition, they often presented the choice as one between doing nothing and sending in the Marines. On May 25, at the Naval Academy graduation ceremony, Clinton described America's relationship to ethnic trouble spots: "We cannot turn away from them, but our interests are not sufficiently at stake in so many of them to justify a commitment of our folks."
Second, Administration policymakers appealed to notions of the greater good. They did not simply frame U.S. policy as one contrived in order to advance the national interest or avoid U.S. casualties. Rather, they often argued against intervention from the standpoint of people committed to protecting human life. Owing to recent failures in UN peacekeeping, many humanitarian interventionists in the U.S. government were concerned about the future of America's relationship with the United Nations generally and peacekeeping specifically. They believed that the UN and humanitarianism could not afford another Somalia. Many internalized the belief that the UN had more to lose by sending reinforcements and failing than by allowing the killings to proceed. Their chief priority, after the evacuation of the Americans, was looking after UN peacekeepers, and they justified the withdrawal of the peacekeepers on the grounds that it would ensure a future for humanitarian intervention. In other words, Dallaire's peacekeeping mission in Rwanda had to be destroyed so that peacekeeping might be saved for use elsewhere.
A third feature of the response that helped to console U.S. officials at the time was the sheer flurry of Rwanda-related activity. U.S. officials with a special concern for Rwanda took their solace from mini-victories—working on behalf of specific individuals or groups (Monique Mujawamariya; the Rwandans gathered at the hotel). Government officials involved in policy met constantly and remained "seized of the matter"; they neither appeared nor felt indifferent. Although little in the way of effective intervention emerged from mid-level meetings in Washington or New York, an abundance of memoranda and other documents did.
Finally, the almost willful delusion that what was happening in Rwanda did not amount to genocide created a nurturing ethical framework for inaction. "War" was "tragic" but created no moral imperative.
What is most frightening about this story is that it testifies to a system that in effect worked. President Clinton and his advisers had several aims. First, they wanted to avoid engagement in a conflict that posed little threat to American interests, narrowly defined. Second, they sought to appease a restless Congress by showing that they were cautious in their approach to peacekeeping. And third, they hoped to contain the political costs and avoid the moral stigma associated with allowing genocide. By and large, they achieved all three objectives. The normal operations of the foreign-policy bureaucracy and the international community permitted an illusion of continual deliberation, complex activity, and intense concern, even as Rwandans were left to die.
One U.S. official kept a journal during the crisis. In late May, exasperated by the obstructionism pervading the bureaucracy, the official dashed off this lament:
A military that wants to go nowhere to do anything—or let go of their toys so someone else can do it. A White House cowed by the brass (and we are to give lessons on how the armed forces take orders from civilians?). An NSC that does peacekeeping by the book—the accounting book, that is. And an assistance program that prefers whites (Europe) to blacks. When it comes to human rights we have no problem drawing the line in the sand of the dark continent (just don't ask us to do anything—agonizing is our specialty), but not China or anyplace else business looks good.
We have a foreign policy based on our amoral economic interests run by amateurs who want to stand for something—hence the agony—but ultimately don't want to exercise any leadership that has a cost.
They say there may be as many as a million massacred in Rwanda. The militias continue to slay the innocent and the educated ... Has it really cost the United States nothing?
XIII. A Continuum of Guilt
Because this is a story of nondecisions and bureaucratic business as usual, few Americans are haunted by the memory of what they did in response to genocide in Rwanda. Most senior officials remember only fleeting encounters with the topic while the killings were taking place. The more reflective among them puzzle occasionally over how developments that cast the darkest shadow over the Clinton Administration's foreign-policy record could have barely registered at the time. But most say they have not talked in any detail among themselves about the events or about the system's weaknesses (and perverse strengths). Requests for a congressional investigation have gone ignored.
According to several advisers, toward the end of his term of office Clinton himself snapped at members of his foreign-policy team, angry with them for not steering him toward a moral course. He is said to have convinced himself that if he had known more, he would have done more. In his 1998 remarks in Kigali he pledged to "strengthen our ability to prevent, and if necessary to stop, genocide." "Never again," he declared, "must we be shy in the face of evidence." But the incentive structures within the U.S. government have not changed. Officials will still suffer no sanction if they do nothing to curb atrocities. The national interest remains narrowly constructed to exclude stopping genocide. Indeed, George W. Bush has been open about his intention to keep U.S. troops away from any future Rwandas. "I don't like genocide," Bush said in January of 2000. "But I would not commit our troops." Officials in the Bush Administration say the United States is as unprepared and unwilling to stop genocide today as it was seven years ago. "Genocide could happen again tomorrow," one said, "and we wouldn't respond any differently."
Anthony Lake, who used to call himself "the national-security adviser to the free world," today teaches international relations at Georgetown University. He wonders, as he should, how he and his colleagues could have done so little at the time of the Rwandan genocide. Much of Lake's identity remains entwined with the ideas in his 1971 Foreign Policy article. He cannot quite understand how a White House that, he insists, was finally sensitive to the "human reality of realpolitik" could have stood by during one of the gravest crimes of the twentieth century. "One scenario is that I knew what was going on and I blocked it out in order to not deal with the human consequences," he says. "Here I'm absolutely convinced that I didn't do that, but maybe I did and it was so deep that I didn't realize it. Another scenario is that I didn't give it enough time because I didn't give a damn about Africa, which I don't believe because I know I do. My sin must have been in a third scenario. I didn't own it because I was busy with Bosnia and Haiti, or because I thought we were doing all we could ..."
Lake is further confounded by his slow processing of the moral stakes of the genocide. After the Rwandan Patriotic Front seized control, in July, several million Hutu refugees, including many of those responsible for the genocide, fled to Zaire and Tanzania. With a humanitarian crisis looming, Lake took control, spearheading a multilateral aid effort. "There are people dying," his colleagues remember his saying. "The President wants to do this, and we don't care what it takes." In December of 1994 Lake visited putrid mass graves in Rwanda. He does not understand how, after 800,000 people were killed, he could have felt angry but not at all responsible. "What's so strange is that this didn't become a 'how did we screw this up?' issue until a couple years later," he says. "The humanitarian-aid mission did not feel like a guilt mission."
Since senior officials in the U.S. government hadn't felt responsible when the killings were actually happening, it should not be altogether surprising that most didn't feel responsible after the fact. With the potential for an American military presence dismissed out of hand, Rwanda policy was formulated and debated heatedly by U.S. officials further down the chain. Because Lake never took control of the policy, the sense of responsibility he eventually acquired, although genuine, seems superimposed. He has an academic understanding that under the principle of command responsibility, those at the top must answer even for policies they do not remember consciously crafting. But lurking at the margins of Lake's consciousness seems to be an awareness that in light of press coverage at the time, he must have simply chosen to look away. And as disengaged as he was from the policy, he probably qualifies as the most engaged U.S. official in the Clinton Cabinet. "I'm not going to wallow," he says, "because if you blew it you should not wallow or ask for public forgiveness. But in a way I'm as guilty as anybody else, because to the degree that I didn't care about Africa, it would be understandable, but since I was more inclined to care, I don't know why I didn't."
Lake's guilt is of a second order—guilt over an absence of guilt. What about the other officials involved in Washington's Rwanda policy—how do they view their performance in retrospect? Today they have three main options.
They can defend the U.S. policy. This is the position of Richard Clarke, who believes, all things considered, that he and his colleagues did everything they could and should have done. "Would I have done the same thing again?" Clarke asks. "Absolutely. What we offered was a peacekeeping force that would have been effective. What [the UN] offered was exactly what we said it would be—a force that would take months to get there. If the UN had adopted the U.S. [outside-in] proposal, we might have saved some lives ... The U.S. record, as compared to everyone else's record, is not something we should run away from ... I don't think we should be embarrassed. I think everyone else should be embarrassed by what they did, or did not do."
Another position holds that no matter what any one person did at the time, there were larger forces at work: genocide would have consumed Rwanda no matter what, and American decision-makers in the White House or on Capitol Hill would never have countenanced the risks required to make a real difference. Radio jamming and other technical fixes were merely palliatives aimed at soothing guilty consciences. This is the view adopted by many Pentagon officials who worked on the issue day-to-day.
The least-inviting option leaves those involved questioning their performances and wondering what they should have done differently: Saved even one life by pushing harder? Chosen a telling moment for a high-profile resignation? "Maybe the only way to draw attention to this was to run naked through the building," Prudence Bushnell says. "I'm not sure anybody would have noticed, but I wish I had tried."
Africa specialists are the ones most affected by the Rwandan genocide. David Rawson, the former ambassador to Rwanda, retired in 1999. He lives with his wife in Michigan and has begun to write about his experiences. He still believes that efforts to pursue a cease-fire were worthwhile, and that "both sides" have a lot to answer for. But he acknowledges, "In retrospect, perhaps we were—as diplomats always are, I suppose—so focused on trying to find some agreement that we didn't look hard enough at the darker side." Predisposed toward state actors, trusting of negotiation and diplomacy, and courtly toward his interlocutors, Rawson, the diplomat, was outmatched.
Donald Steinberg, the NSC staffer who managed the NSC's Africa directorate, felt a deep emotional attachment to the continent. He had tacked the photos of two six-year-old African girls he had sponsored above his desk at the White House. But when he began seeing the bodies clogging the Kagera River, he had to take the photos down, unable to bear the reminder of innocent lives being extinguished every minute. The directorate, which was tiny, had little influence on policy. It was, in the parlance, "rolled" by Richard Clarke. "Dick was a thinker," one colleague says. "Don was a feeler. They represented the duality of Bill Clinton and his presidency, which was torn between the thinkers, who looked out for interests, and the feelers, who were moved by values. As we all know, in the end it was always going to be the thinkers who won out." After the genocide, according to friends and colleagues, Steinberg threw himself into the humanitarian relief effort, where at last he might make a difference. But eventually he plummeted into depression. He asked himself again and again, if only he had been at the White House longer ... if only he had known how to pull the right levers at the right time ... if only he had ... ? Now deputy director of policy planning at the State Department, Steinberg has told friends that his work from here on out is "repayment for a very large bill that I owe."
Susan Rice, Clarke's co-worker on peacekeeping at the NSC, also feels that she has a debt to repay. "There was such a huge disconnect between the logic of each of the decisions we took along the way during the genocide and the moral consequences of the decisions taken collectively," Rice says. "I swore to myself that if I ever faced such a crisis again, I would come down on the side of dramatic action, going down in flames if that was required." Rice was subsequently appointed NSC Africa director and, later, assistant secretary of state for African affairs; she visited Rwanda several times and helped to launch a small program geared to train selected African armies so that they might be available to respond to the continent's next genocide. The American appetite for troop deployments in Africa had not improved.
Prudence Bushnell will carry Rwanda with her permanently. During the genocide, when she went walking in the woods near her home in Reston, Virginia, she would see Rwandan mothers cowering with their children behind the trees, or stacked in neat piles along the bike path. After the genocide, when the new President of Rwanda visited Washington and met Bushnell and others, he leaned across the table toward her, eyes blazing, and said, "You, madame, are partially responsible for the genocide, because we told you what was going to happen and you did nothing." Haunted by these memories and admonitions, when Bushnell was later appointed ambassador to Kenya and saw that her embassy was insecure, she was much more assertive, and pleaded repeatedly with Washington for security to be upgraded—requests that were, notoriously, ignored. The bombing of the U.S. embassy in Kenya will forever be encapsulated in American minds by the image of a bloodied Bushnell staggering away from the explosion with a towel pressed to her wounds.
Currently serving as ambassador to Guatemala, Bushnell can muster a black humor about the way death and killing keep hounding her. Like Steinberg, she is trying to make peace with her inability to have secured even the tamest commitments from her colleagues in the bureaucracy. "For a long time I couldn't live with it, but now I think I can look back and say, 'I knew what was happening, I tried to stop what was happening, and I failed.' That is not a source of guilt, but it is a tremendous source of shame and sadness."
And then, finally, there is Romeo Dallaire. It is both paradoxical and natural that the man who probably did the most to save Rwandans feels the worst. When he returned to Canada, in August of 1994, he behaved initially as if he had just completed a routine mission. As the days passed, though, he began to show signs of distress. He carried a machete around and lectured cadets on post-traumatic stress disorder; he slept sparingly; and he found himself nearly retching in the supermarket, transported back to Rwandan markets and the bodies strewn within them. When the international war-crimes tribunal called him to testify, he plunged back into the memories and his mental health worsened. Dallaire was told by his superiors that he would have to choose between leaving the "Rwanda business" behind him or leaving his beloved armed forces. For Dallaire only one answer was possible: "I told them I would never give up Rwanda," he says. "I was the force commander and I would complete my duty, testifying and doing whatever it takes to bring these guys to justice." In April of 2000 Dallaire was forced out of the Canadian armed services and given a medical discharge.
Dallaire had always said, "The day I take my uniform off will be the day that I will also respond to my soul." But since becoming a civilian he has realized that his soul is not readily retrievable. "My soul is in Rwanda," he says. "It has never, ever come back, and I'm not sure it ever will." He carries the guilt of the genocide with him, and he feels that the eyes and the spirits of those killed are constantly watching him. He says he can barely stand living and has attempted suicide.
In June of last year a brief Canadian news-wire story reported that Dallaire had been found unconscious on a park bench in Hull, Quebec, drunk and alone. He had consumed a bottle of scotch on top of his daily dose of pills for post-traumatic stress disorder. He was on a death mission. Dallaire sent a letter to the Canadian Broadcast Corporation thanking them for their sensitive coverage of this episode. On July 3, 2000, the letter was read on the air.
Thank you for the very kind thoughts and wishes.
There are times when the best medication and therapist simply can't help a soldier suffering from this new generation of peacekeeping injury. The anger, the rage, the hurt, and the cold loneliness that separates you from your family, friends, and society's normal daily routine are so powerful that the option of destroying yourself is both real and attractive. That is what happened last Monday night. It appears, it grows, it invades, and it overpowers you.
In my current state of therapy, which continues to show very positive results, control mechanisms have not yet matured to always be on top of this battle. My doctors and I are still [working to] establish the level of serenity and productivity that I yearn so much for. The therapists agree that the battle I waged that night was a solid example of the human trying to come out from behind the military leader's ethos of "My mission first, my personnel, then myself." Obviously the venue I used last Monday night left a lot to be desired and will be the subject of a lot of work over the next while.
Dallaire remained a true believer in Canada, in peacekeeping, in human rights. The letter went on:
This nation, without any hesitation nor doubt, is capable and even expected by the less fortunate of this globe to lead the developed countries beyond self-interest, strategic advantages, and isolationism, and raise their sights to the realm of the pre-eminence of humanism and freedom ... Where humanitarianism is being destroyed and the innocent are being literally trampled into the ground ... the soldiers, sailors, and airpersons ... supported by fellow countrymen who recognize the cost in human sacrifice and in resources will forge in concert with our politicians ... a most unique and exemplary place for Canada in the league of nations, united under the United Nations Charter.
I hope this is okay.
Thanks for the opportunity.