One argument that more interventionist people like me tend to hold dear is the idea that the political wreckage of the postcolonial world is so severe in some places – Rwanda is clearly one – that local institutions are incapable of restraining the worst behavior of their people, and so that more, not less intervention may be required to keep horrors at bay.
I’m not alone in thinking things like this – Sarah Powers, President Obama’s adviser and the author of “A Problem From Hell” shares many of the same questions.
And today, I read something that took my thinking turned it upside down and shook it.
In the WSJ on Friday is an article by staff writer Anne Jolis that implicates the French in the 1994 Rwandan massacres. Seriously, and both in a way that demands more research to make an absolute claim and that cannot be dismissed out of hand.
“I tell you as I saw it,” says FidÃ©le Simugomwa, a former Hutu-extremist militia chief during the Rwandan genocide, as he sits for an interview with French documentary-maker Serge Farnel. “The French soldiers were standing on the hill, and firing down at the Tutsi. . . . We had a sign so the French didn’t shoot at us–[we had] leaves on.”
One by one, the ex-gÃ©nocidaires whom Mr. Farnel films tell the same story: Namely, that on May 13, 1994, small teams of white men they describe as “French soldiers,” clad in fatigues and riding in jeeps or trucks, gathered at lookout points in the backwoods of western Rwanda. They fired into the Bisesero hills, scaring the Tutsi out of hiding. They then aimed directly at the fleeing men, women, and children. When the shooting stopped, the Hutu killers moved into the hills. Wielding machetes, lances, nail-spiked clubs, and their own guns, they finished off the wounded. A score of survivors recounted the same version of events to me.
Read the whole thing (including disclaimers by the French).
Update: If you don’t believe the French could be so bloody-minded, here is a passage from “The Clinton Tapes”:
Clinton said US Allies in Europe blocked proposals to adjust or remove the embargo [the arms embargo on Muslim Bosnia]. the justified their argument on humanitarian grounds, arguing that more arms would only fuel the bloodshed, but privately, said the president, key allies objected that an independent Bosnia would be “unnatural” as the only Muslim nation in Europe. He said they favored the embargo precisely because it locked in Bosnia’s disadvantage. Worse, he added, they parried numerous alternatives as a danger to the some eight thousand European peacekeepers deployed in Bosnia to safeguard emergency shipments of food and medical supplies.
When I expressed shock at such cynicism, reminiscent of the blind-eye diplomacy regarding the plight of Europe’s Jews during World War II, President Clinton only shrugged. He said president Francois Mitterand of France had been especially blunt in saying that Bosnia did not belong, and that British officials also spoke of a painful but realistic restoration of Christian Europe.
pp 9 – 10