The truth hurts

Hillary Clinton’s handlers have been padding her foreign-policy resume. Her purported advocacy of action by the US to stop the Rwandan genocide left no trace in any contemporary record, and isn’t mentioned in her memoir, in her husband’s, or in Madeline Albright’s.

There won’t be much joy in Hillaryland over this Marc Cooper column on Samantha Power, Hillary Clinton, and the Rwandan genocide.

As with NAFTA, HRC claims that she opposed the (in)actions of her husband’s administration. But (in the immortal words of Colombo) “there’s just one thing”: although both Clintons and Madeline Albright have written memoirs since, there’s no mention in any of them of any attempt by HRC to spur action about Rwanda, and no evidence that such action was ever seriously considered by the Clinton Administration.

Actually, it seems that HRC and her handlers have been doing more than a little bit of resume-padding with respect to her “experience” in foreign policy.

Update The Rwandan genocide turns out to be one of the many things Hilzoy knows about. Here’s her take on the story:

If Hillary Clinton did press for military intervention in Rwanda, her advocacy left no trace in the world. I have read quite a lot about the Rwandan genocide and the US reaction towards it, and Hillary Clinton’s involvement comes as news to me. I just went through my various books on the Rwandan genocide (there are eight), and she is not mentioned in any of them.

[snip] (Lots and lots of detailed evidence.)

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.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: