Hilzoy of Obsidian Wings has a long, careful, devastating piece on Hillary Clinton’s claims to have urged action to stop the Rwandan genocide. To sum up Hilzoy’s conclusions: she’s not convinced, she’s not impressed, and she’s not pleased. Hilzoy goes through the published record and finds zero evidence of any action by HRC: not just no contemporaneous record, but no mention in Bill Clinton’s memoirs, Hillary Clinton’s memoirs, or Madeline Albright’s memoirs.
Here’s Hilzoy’s conclusion:
The US didn’t just fail to intervene in Rwanda. Our government urged the withdrawal of the UN peacekeeping forces that were on the ground protecting Rwandans, for no better reason than to keep the Belgians from looking like cowards. It refused to jam the radio station that was passing on instructions for genocide. It blocked further efforts to reinforce the peacekeeping forces there. It also failed to do any of the much smaller things that might have shown that our government was not wholly indifferent to the people of Rwanda who were, at that time, being hacked to death with machetes.
It’s worth bearing this background in mind when you hear Hillary Clinton claim that she advocated military intervention in Rwanda. If you don’t, you might think: well, it’s perfectly comprehensible that she might have argued for military intervention but failed to convince her husband. After all, military intervention in another country is a big deal, not to be undertaken lightly. And it’s easy to imagine Hillary Clinton being in favor of it, and her husband reluctantly concluding that it just wasn’t something he could do.
It’s a lot harder to imagine that while Hillary Clinton was advocating military intervention, she not only failed to convince her husband to send troops, but also failed to convince him, for instance, not to advocate the withdrawal of most of the UN peacekeepers, or that he really ought to order the Pentagon to jam Radio Milles Collines. If she was doing her best behind the scenes, and failed to accomplish even this — if, despite her best efforts, she couldn’t persuade her husband not to advocate withdrawing UN peacekeepers just to provide cover for the Belgians —- then we really need to ask how effective an advocate she really is, especially since no one except her husband, in full campaign mode, seems to remember her efforts at all.
Of course, I think it’s a lot more likely that she either didn’t advocate action on Rwanda at all, or did so only in passing. If so, this would have to be the definitive example of her attempt to claim responsibility for everything good that happened during her husband’s presidency, while disavowing all responsibility for his mistakes. This was, in my opinion, the most shameful moment of the Clinton administration. It ought, by rights, to have a place in Hillary Clinton’s “thirty five years of experience working for change.” Or perhaps she might claim that she wasn’t that interested in foreign policy at the time, or that for whatever reason she just didn’t pick up on the genocide in Rwanda until it was too late to act. That would at least be honest.
But if, in fact, Clinton missed the chance to urge her husband to help stop the Rwandan genocide, then she should not pretend that she was, in fact, right there on the side of the angels all along. That’s just grotesque.
All this gives an extra piquancy to the Samantha Power flap, since Power cut her policy eyeteeth on the Rwandan crisis, and won a Pulitzer prize for her book laying bare the feckless indifference to genocide that characterized the Clinton Administration. That makes it less surprising that the word “monster” should come to mind when Power thinks of HRC, and also less surprising and that HRC and her minions should be so eager to piss on Power’s political grave.