by Gary North
In the course of a hundred days in 1994 the Hutu government of Rwanda and its extremist allies very nearly succeeded in exterminating the country's Tutsi minority. Using firearms, machetes, and a variety of garden implements, Hutu militiamen, soldiers, and ordinary citizens murdered some 800,000 Tutsi and politically moderate Hutu. It was the fastest, most efficient killing spree of the twentieth century.
So wrote Samantha Power, in the September, 2001, issue of The Atlantic Monthly.
Her long article details the decision of the Clinton Administration to keep out of that war, even to the extent of pressuring the United Nations to remove the peacekeeping troops.
In reality the United States did much more than fail to send troops. It led a successful effort to remove most of the UN peacekeepers who were already in Rwanda. It aggressively worked to block the subsequent authorization of UN reinforcements. It refused to use its technology to jam radio broadcasts that were a crucial instrument in the coordination and perpetuation of the genocide. And even as, on average, 8,000 Rwandans were being butchered each day, U.S. officials shunned the term "genocide," for fear of being obliged to act. The United States in fact did virtually nothing "to try to limit what occurred." Indeed, staying out of Rwanda was an explicit U.S. policy objective.
This was not done in ignorance, she says. It was a matter of deliberate policy.
During the first three days of the killings U.S. diplomats in Rwanda reported back to Washington that well-armed extremists were intent on eliminating the Tutsi. And the American press spoke of the door-to-door hunting of unarmed civilians. By the end of the second week informed nongovernmental groups had already begun to call on the Administration to use the term "genocide," causing diplomats and lawyers at the State Department to begin debating the word's applicability soon thereafter. In order not to appreciate that genocide or something close to it was under way, U.S. officials had to ignore public reports and internal intelligence and debate.
The author clearly thinks that the Clinton Administration did the wrong thing. It should have intervened, she implies, to save the lives of 800,000 Tutsis.
How the Clinton Administration should have intervened and for how long, she does not say. What the United States Constitution authorized the Administration to do, she also does not mention. She titles her article, "Bystanders to Genocide."
Over three decades ago, R. J. Rushdoony wrote a book, Politics of Guilt and Pity. It was a scholarsly study of modern liberalism, and how politicians, educators, and other seekers of power use guilt and pity to gain political support for their latest cause.
There is never a shortage of causes. What never ceases to amaze me is this: there is also never a shortage of American voters who are willing to authorize politicians to invent permanent multi-billion-dollar-per-year programs to deal with one or more of these causes.
The politicians can even get most conservatives to go along with this if they can persuade them that the cause's solution is to kill foreigners. First come the bombs. Then come the post-war welfare programs: reconstruction and development. First it's General Marshall. Then it's Secretary of State Marshall. Then it's the Marshal Plan. That's the conservative way.
Liberals prefer to do it the other way. First come the welfare programs. Then come the bombs. The New Deal becomes World War II. The Fair Deal becomes the Korean War. The Great Society becomes the Vietnam War.
It's mainly a matter of marketing. Politicians select their causes in terms of the present array of votes. What matters is the array of votes. Any cause will do.
WARS AND RUMORS OF WARS
The people who visit this Web site are generally well-informed. Most of them do not move their lips when they read. They are interested in war. Yet I wonder: How many of them know approximately how many wars are going on today? Do you?
Let's be more specific. Take a recent year, 1999. How many wars were fought in 1999? Take a guess. Be forewarned: the experts disagree. Here's one estimate:
In its annual report, the National Defense Council Foundation blamed rising military coups and a backlash against democracy, a trend it suggested could continue for several years.
The foundation listed 65 conflicts in 1999, up from 60 the year before. It nominated Afghanistan as the world's most unstable state for 2000 — followed closely by Somalia, Iraq, Angola and the breakaway Chechnya region of Russia. . . .
Although the number of wars and regional conflicts was up from a year ago, it was below the record 71 the organization counted in 1995. By contrast, the average in the late 1980s, near the end of the Cold War, was about 35.
This estimate may be too high. War, like beauty, is apparently in the eye of the beholder.
CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield said the CIA list, which is classified, currently counts 31 conflicts.
Still, "there continues to be significant conflicts all over the world, pointing to the need for a robust intelligence-gathering capability," Mansfield said.
The CIA figure has remained relatively stable over several years, Mansfield said. The last time the CIA gave a number was in 1996, when it listed 28 conflicts.
Mansfield said the CIA counts only conflicts with "high levels of organized violence between states or between contending groups within a state or with high levels of political or societal tension likely to erupt into violence."
The Washington-based Center for Defense Information, a liberal-oriented research group that has issued reports skeptical of increased military spending, counts 37 active wars or combat zones where at least 1,000 casualties have occurred. That's up from 27 a few years back.
These estimates appeared in an Associated Press story (Dec. 29, 1999). The general public never seems to read these stories. The fact is, there are simply too many wars for the news media to cover. When it comes time for the news media to send some reporter off to cover a war story, there is always a long list to choose from — wars, I mean (not reporters).
If you were to ask the average news editor, let alone the average man in the street, to name ten of these wars, you would probably not find anyone who could do this accurately. Even if he could, there would still be another (20? 30? 50?) wars he failed to include.
When it comes to news stories on war, it's always a buyer's market.
A SMORGASBORD OF CARNAGE
How is the State Department supposed to pick and choose which war stories to report to the Oval Office? Clinton feigned ignorance about Rwanda. He got away with this. The media went along with his story, as it went along with most of his stories.
A few years later, in a series in The New Yorker, Philip Gourevitch recounted in horrific detail the story of the genocide and the world's failure to stop it. President Bill Clinton, a famously avid reader, expressed shock. He sent copies of Gourevitch's articles to his second-term national-security adviser, Sandy Berger. The articles bore confused, angry, searching queries in the margins. "Is what he's saying true?" Clinton wrote with a thick black felt-tip pen beside heavily underlined paragraphs. "How did this happen?" he asked, adding, "I want to get to the bottom of this." The President's urgency and outrage were oddly timed. As the terror in Rwanda had unfolded, Clinton had shown virtually no interest in stopping the genocide, and his Administration had stood by as the death toll rose into the hundreds of thousands.
When it comes to intervening militarily in order to Do the Right Thing, the President of the United States has a full plate of bloody wars to choose from, a veritable smorgasbord of atrocities.
Why Panama? I know: Manuel Noriega, who remains in a Florida prison after fourteen years. Why Noriega? Because he had been on the CIA's payroll? That barely narrows the field. Do you remember? It had something to do with drug trafficking. Again, that criterion does not do much to narrow the field.
Then there was Somalia. It made a technically impressive movie ("Blackhawk Down,") but other than that, what was it all about?
There was Kuwait. That was all about the New World Order, as I recall.
A new partnership of nations has begun. We stand today at a unique and extraordinary moment. The crisis in the Persian Gulf, as grave as it is, also offers a rare opportunity to move toward an historic period of cooperation. Out of these troubled times, our fifth objective — a new world order — can emerge: a new era, freer from the threat of terror, stronger in the pursuit of justice, and more secure in the quest for peace. An era in which the nations of the world, east and west, north and south, can prosper and live in harmony.
A hundred generations have searched for this elusive path to peace, while a thousand wars raged across the span of human endeavor. Today that new world is struggling to be born. A world quite different from the one we've known. A world in which the rule of law supplants the rule of the jungle.
These stirring words came from President Bush in his speech before Congress on September 11, 1990. I reported on it in my newsletter, Remnant Review, in a report titled, "Knee Deep in the Big Sandy."
On January 16, 1991, the day he launched the war against Iraq, President Bush gave another speech. In it, he painted a rosy picture:
This is an historic moment. We have in the past year made great progress in ending the long era of the Cold War. We have before us the opportunity to forge for ourselves and for future generations a new world order, a world where the rule of law, not the law of the jungle, governs the conduct of nations. When we are successful, and we will be, we have a real chance at this new world order, an order in which a credible United Nations can use its peacekeeping role to fulfill the promise and vision of the U.N.'s founders.
"New World Order." "United Nations." "Peacekeeping." It sounded so splendid, as speeches on splendid little wars are supposed to sound. In his State of the Union speech a few days before, he had told Congress:
What is at stake is more than one small country, it is a big idea — a new world order, where diverse nations are drawn together in common cause to achieve the universal aspirations of mankind: peace and security, freedom, and the rule of law. Such is a world worthy of our struggle, and worthy of our children's future.
But why Kuwait? Why not any of three dozen other wars? Why was the New World Order interested in Kuwait?
UNDER THE SANDS
Robert Mugabe, the Marxist tyrant who is in the process of confiscating the farms of Zimbabwe, which will lead to widespread famine, does not worry about American military intervention, any more than the Hutus worried in 1994. Why not? Because: (1) he is black; (2) his immediate victims are white; (3) Marxism is kind of like socialism, which is kind of like liberalism; (4) Zimbabwe does not send money to Palestinians. But these are minor reasons.
The main reason is that Zimbabwe has no oil. If Zimbabwe had the second largest known oil reserves on earth, that pipsqueak dictator wouldn't get away with this, no-siree! That would-be Commie Hitler, al-Qaeda-harboring enemy of democracy would be at the top of the hit list.
The decisive issue is oil. That is what keeps the New World Order running. That is why the Great Game of the nineteenth century — Russia vs. England vs. France — has recruited a new player: the United States.
We are going to extend democracy to Iraq. That is to say, American taxpayers are going to pay to rebuild Iraq and enforce peace. This is necessary for the flow of oil: from beneath the sands through Anglo-American pipelines to Anglo-American refineries. If China wants in on the deal, it will have to repatriate some of those dollars that Americans have used to buy price-competitive goodies.
But as for the vision of the United Nations, we hear little these days. As for the unified coalition of democracy, we hear less. As for the price tag, we hear nothing at all. The Axis of Good seems to be a little off balance. Yes, the Italians are with us. But I keep thinking of Churchill's statement when he was told that Italy had sided with Germany in the war against England. "It's only fair. We had to have them in the last war."
American conservatives are always retroactive opponents of wars that were started by Democrat Presidents. Retroactively, they know when a Democrat President has lied us into war. At the time, of course, they were in the crowd, cheering, along with everyone else. As for Republican Presidents who lie the nation into war, conservatives have short memories. The memory hole is a bipartisan device.
As for the Constitution, nobody cares, least of all Congress, which must declare war to make war legal, but never does. While downed American pilots in North Vietnam were being tortured as war criminals by the North Vietnamese, unprotected by the Geneva Convention because Congress somehow neglected to declare war, Congress shrugged its collective shoulders. "It's the President's war. Our job is to support the troops."
Congressmen prefer to avoid recording their votes for or against war. They might pay for their vote at the polls, should the war turn out badly in the eyes of voters.
As for how it turns out for foreign civilians who wind up as collateral damage, Congress doesn't much care. The deceased victims have no votes in their districts (except possibly in Illinois' Cook County).
March 10, 2003
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