Tuesday, May 4, 2004
This program is the culmination of a series of events that were sponsored by a broad coalition of groups in the Washington, DC area. It came together under the umbrella of “Remembering Rwanda: 1994-2004.” This event was co-sponsored with the Woodrow Wilson Center. The goal of “Remembering Rwanda” was first, to mark the 10th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, the beginning of the Rwandan genocide. But the groups also wanted to use this occasion to spark a broader public discussion about how to do better in the future when faced with the specter of genocide. To this end, Samantha Power was invited to address the issue of how the United States has responded to genocide throughout the twentieth century and what could be done to improve this record. Her book documenting this history, A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide, won the Pulitzer Prize in 2003; it also won the National Book Critics Circle Award, along with a host of other accolades and awards.
JERRY FOWLER: This program is the culmination of a series of events that were sponsored by a broad coalition of groups around the city. It came together under the umbrella of “Remembering Rwanda: 1994-2004.” We are very privileged this evening to cosponsor this program with the Woodrow Wilson Center. What all the groups involved in “Remembering Rwanda” sought to do was first, of course, mark the 10th anniversary of the Rwanda genocide, the beginning of the Rwanda genocide. But we also wanted to use this occasion to spark a broader public discussion about how to do better in the future in the face with the specter of genocide.
For tonight’s address, we are very privileged to have Samantha Power. Her book, “A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide,” won the Pulitzer Prize last year; it also won the National Book Critics Circle Award, along with a host of other accolades and awards. But I think of all the prizes, and the one to me, at least in its name, both encapsulates both the book and Samantha herself is the J. Anthony Lucas Book Prize for “the best book on American political and social concern that exemplifies literary grace and commitment to serious research.”
It is Samantha’s rare combination of grace and seriousness that makes her voice so unique and so powerful.
JERRY FOWLER: Good evening, and welcome to the Holocaust Memorial Museum. My name is Jerry Fowler, and I am the Staff Director of the Museum’s Committee on Conscience. Welcome to this evening’s keynote address on “Fulfilling a Responsibility to Protect: What will it Take to End the Age of Genocide?” As I hope all of you know, tonight’s address is the first part of a two-part program. The second part will be held tomorrow afternoon from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, which is right down the road in the Ronald Reagan Building, and the program tomorrow will consist of two expert panels, one addressing the issue of developing capacity to prevent and the second one dealing with developing capacity to intervene.
I am very honored to have in the audience this evening some of the members of the panel for tomorrow. This program tonight and tomorrow is actually the culmination of a series of events that were sponsored by a broad coalition of groups around the city. It came together under the umbrella of “Remembering Rwanda: 1994-2004.” The first of these events was held here at the Museum in late March, and we did a preview screening of the PBS documentary “Ghosts of Rwanda.” In particular, we would like to thank the international coordinator of “Remembering Rwanda,” who is with us tonight, Louise Mushikiwabo. I would also like to thank Ambassador Howard Wolpe, who is the director of the Africa Program at the Wilson Center and has been crucial in helping to bring together all the events that we have done under the rubric of “Remembering Rwanda.” We are very privileged this evening to cosponsor this program with the Woodrow Wilson Center.
What all the groups involved in “Remembering Rwanda” sought to do was first, of course, mark the 10th anniversary of the Rwanda genocide, the beginning of the Rwanda genocide. But we also wanted to use this occasion to spark a broader public discussion about how to do better in the future in the face with the specter of genocide.
This connection between the past and the future has always been important for this institution, which is our Nation’s memorial to victims of the Holocaust. In recommending to President Jimmy Carter the creation of a national memorial to victims of the Holocaust, Elie Wiesel and the President’s Commission on the Holocaust said in 1979 that “a memorial unresponsive to the future would violate the memory of the past”--it would violate the memory of the past. So when they recommended the creation of a living memorial, the call for the creation of a Committee on Conscience was part of that memorial that would address contemporary threats of genocide.
As we know, the history since the Holocaust, which gave us the term “genocide,” has been one of recurring genocide, and at the end of 2001, an International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, originally put together by the Government of Canada, proposed the idea that there is a responsibility to protect, a responsibility first of all on the part of sovereign states to protect their own citizens from avoidable catastrophe, especially mass murder, as well as a responsibility on the part of the so-called international community to protect citizens when their own government is unwilling or unable to do so. Of course, it is a long way from articulating a principle of responsibility to protect, to actually fulfilling it, as experience especially over the last decade plainly shows.
We talk about the past and we talk about the future, and often these discussions focus just on those two parts of time--the past is something that has happened that we can’t change; the future is always before us, and it is easy to speak theoretically about what can be done in the future. We have to remember that we live today, right now, in the present, and right now in the present, there is a grave threat of genocide in the Darfur region of Western Sudan.
So when we talk about a responsibility to protect and ending the Age of Genocide, it is not just a theoretical issue. For hundreds of thousands of Darfurians, it is literally a matter of life and death.
For tonight’s address, we are very privileged to have Samantha Power. She probably doesn’t need any introduction to this audience. As I’m sure all of you know, she was recently named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time Magazine, which still leaves her both a cover to achieve and “Person of the Year”--we hope that will be accomplished next year.
She is known especially for her book, “A Problem from Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide, which I’m sure all of you know won the Pulitzer Prize last year; it also run the National Book Critics Circle Award, along with a host of other accolades and awards. But I think of all the prizes, and the one to me, at least in its name, both encapsulates both the book and Samantha herself is the J. Anthony Lucas Book Prize for “the best book on American political and social concern that exemplifies literary grace and commitment to serious research.”
I think it is Samantha’s rare combination of grace and seriousness that makes her voice so unique and so powerful. So we are very honored tonight to have Samantha.
One thing that I need to say is that we passed our index cards as you came in, and as you have questions for Samantha, if you can write those down on the index cards, and after she speaks, we will collect the index cards, and use them as the basis for question-and-answer discussion afterward.
Without further ado, it is my honor and privilege to introduce Samantha Power.
SAMANTHA POWER: Thanks. It is great to be here. When I promoted my book, which I had great difficulty finding a publisher for, I also had a difficult time at the beginning, finding enthusiasm for promoting the book. People thought the combination of genocide and not a cheery story about American foreign policy in the wake of 9/11 would not be a book that people would want to read.
But I credit Jerry Fowler and the Holocaust Museum for giving me a venue very early on in the book’s life--and CSPAN actually to broadcast it. It started the kind of slow, grinding building of a constituency that you here represent. And to some extent, the journey of my book, which I don’t want to get into at all, to me is emblematic of something described in the book, which is the extent to which again and again, the gatekeepers underestimate what the American people want and who they are, and just as publishers and people who are looking out there and trying to read the tea leaves and check the weather prospectively underestimate what we want to read. I think policymakers underestimate what we want the country to stand for. Anyway, thank you to Jerry for giving a platform, again at a very different stage.
I must say on the Time Magazine thing -- which they don’t consult you about ahead of time and which was the cause of great trauma in my life -- my father, who is originally from Ireland and is a very patriotic “Mick,” was the only person in my immediate circle who actually found this a good thing. The reason it was a good thing for him was that not only could he pass around Time Magazine where he works, but it was also that Tony Blair, a Brit, was the runner-up in the 100.
But for me, of course, the measure of influence is not how many prizes the book wins or even all of you here and the constituency that I do feel is out there to have this conversation, but it is what are we going to do about Darfur--what are we doing, apart from anointing books that make us good about feeling bad, retrospectively--and I don’t know the answer to that question.
So tonight, what I thought I would do is try to answer the “how” and the “what” we do and talk about institutional reform and the lessons, really, of a century of genocide and how we bring genocide to an end.
I am going to talk about states in general, because they define and control the monopoly of force, of course; the United States in particular; non-superpower democracies and their role; the UN; and the rest of us, the nongovernmental world, and there are a lot of governmental people here, too. There are a lot of actors who come together and don’t come together to bring about a response or to ensure the non-bringing about of a response.
Let me begin by reading a short passage that to me embodies both the nature of the puzzle and the paradox and also the function of this Museum, the Holocaust Museum. So let me just read a short passage. I think that the Clinton Administration’s response to Rwanda is best exemplified when everyone wants to understand how it happened, how Rwanda happened and how we looked away, despite the presence in government of many, many people who wanted to do more or believed they would do more if confronted by genocide.
Two days into the slaughter in Rwanda, Prudence Bushnell, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, stepped up to a podium like this one at the State Department. She was a kind of guest speaker to the press corps. Many, many people were trying to figure out what the ethnic dynamic was in Rwanda. You had people saying did Hutu kill Tutsi or Tutsi kill Hutu? The level of ignorance was profound both at the highest levels of government, in the US military on the one hand and then, the public and among the press corps.
So she got up and she talked about the ethnic dynamic and the percentages of Hutu and Tutsi and what she thought was going on on the ground, which involved an account of ethnic and targeted murders. She talked about the murder of Hutu moderates, in the 24 hours and 48 hours after the Rwandan President’s plane crashed. And she talked about the fact that being a Tutsi seemed to be constituting something resembling a death sentence; she was at least explicit about that.
The bulk of the conversation, partly because of the questions that were coming from the audience, was about the evacuation of Americans who were in Rwanda, who were at the Embassy or who were missionaries sprinkled throughout the country. So she talked about all of this.
Then Mike McCurry returned to the podium. And he pointed to the State Department spokesman, who went to the next item on his agenda, which was the failure of foreign governments to screen the film “Schindler’s List.” McCurry said, “This film vividly portrays the 20th century’s most horrible catastrophe, and it shows that even in the midst of genocide, one individual can make a difference.” McCurry urged that the film be shown worldwide. He said, “The most effective way to avoid the recurrence of genocidal tragedy is to ensure that past acts of genocide are never forgotten.”
This was April 8, 1994, and of course, within 100 days, 800,000 Rwandans would be dead.
No one in the press corps and, to my knowledge, no one within the State Department inner circle of either Bushnell or McCurry made any connection between her remarks and his. At that point, again, nobody made the connection between the lessons of the Holocaust and the necessity for action in the present. And that, as I said, I think is the crux of the puzzle and the paradox of what Jerry and others at the Holocaust are aiming to achieve when they try to turn this building and this space and all of the grief and loss into a constructive living memorial that has relevance for would-be victims in the present.
The essence of the problem, before I get into what I think are some of the steps that might be taken for a solution of sorts, or at least a radical shift in the way that we respond, but the essence of our problem is not that the governmental system or the machinery that comprises the international order, is broken. We are not here to say that the system is broken, let’s go fix the system. The system that produces the result that I think most of us here find something between troubling and abhorrent, is working.
The system is one--and we know this; we have all taken Civics 101 and understand federalism--the system is one that responds to top-down leadership from a president or from a leading member of the cabinet or the bulk of the people in the cabinet, but leadership from above, the governmental system responds to that, or political pressure such that people above begin to fear that there may be a political price to be paid for a certain set of outcomes. That’s the system, and we know how it works. People in government care about doing the right thing, but until they at the highest levels signal people within the system, the system is going to remain predicated, when we are talking about foreign policy, on advancing the security and the economic interests of Americans. And this is true in every Western democracy. What is foreign policy for? It is for us. It has always been for us. They don’t vote in our elections. They don’t make themselves heard, “they” being the abstract, distant foreigners whom our decisions again and again affect one way or the other, sometimes for good.
We are very explicit about why we have a foreign policy. It is about the pursuit of vital national interest. Now, we all know here that that can be a very expansive concept, and that it can include stopping genocide. But in order for that to happen, in order to--and I hate to put it this way--in order for real genocide to rank, especially genocide that occurs in places that are not on their face threats to economic or security interests, you need something bordering on leadership to override the default. And leadership is not really coming to this building once a year and regretting the occurrence of the Holocaust; leadership means a genocide presidential decision, leadership means contingency military planning, leadership means consultation with allies or, in the case of today, retrieval of allies and then consultation with allies. Leadership means the beginning of a public conversation that leads beyond “Never again” and to the “what” and the “how”. What are we going to do? What are we willing to do? What do we want to risk on behalf of this principle which has been a kind of consoling, early American, forward-looking principle, “Never again.” Always “Never again,” but what do we mean? What we have actually meant is never again should genocide happen, but we haven’t actually been prepared to mean never again do we stand idly by, nor have we been prepared to allocate the resources that would be required or make the commitments prospectively such that the machinery, which is so new even under the best of circumstances, is ripe to move in a time of crisis.
An enlightened concept of the national interest would include genocide prevention. It could include it on a couple of grounds. One, just on moral grounds. If we want to live in a world where genocide doesn’t happen, the US, because it is such a hyperpower, is implicated when crimes of this magnitude occur, just by definition, it is implicated. It reflects badly on us and our standing in the world. Or you could go the cruder route, which is the post-9/11 route, which is to say that the way a regime treats its own people is actually the best indicator that you have of that regime’s long-term reliability in the international order and the best indicator of whether or not it may become a threat to US security. You can point to Hitler. You can point to Saddam Hussein. You can note that Bosnia, which seemed like nothing more than a failed state in this town in the 1990s, one that we could build a wall around and wish away--that that was a failed state where al Qaeda set up training bases. That was a state that in its chaos and with the bloodshed everywhere, gave Bin Laden a Bosnian passport which he traveled on in the 1990s.
There are a lot of arguments you can make, but it hasn’t happened yet, that leadership hasn’t happened, and we outside haven’t for our part succeeded except in one very rare instance, and that was at the tail-end of the Bosnia War. But for the most part, we haven’t succeeded in convincing our policymakers and our politicians that they would pay a political price for being a bystander to genocide.
I use myself as an example of structurally just how difficult this is. I spent ten years looking at American responses to genocide in the 20th century, and when I cast my Presidential vote in 1996, in the election between Bob Dole and President Clinton, it wasn’t the response of either party to genocide that was the lead factor in how I cast my vote, and it isn’t for most of us. People in government know that. The risks of getting involved in these kinds of crises, even just investing credibility and prestige are obvious; the gains are not at all obvious, and there is no foreseeable cost or price to be paid again for being bystanders.
That is the essence of the problem. Now the task ahead of me is to talk about what we have actually learned or can learn and the kinds of fixes that are not terribly costly, that even within this nonbroken/broken system--working system with broken results--steps that can be taken that actually could save lives. Let me just run through a few of them.
First in regard to states, generally, as you know, I focused on the United States, my country. Many of the patterns that I have described are patterns that are inherent in some ways in the nature of democracy and in the nature of how foreign policy has been conceived and, frankly, how states have been conceived over time and what states are for. First in terms of states and how differently they can be responding--one of the lessons of the last stretch is that semantics is not the issue. We outside government have spent far too much time arguing for the brand of genocide to be employed in the real-time to describe the atrocities underway. We know the political constituency that exists out there. We know that “never again” is only triggered when genocide occurs. But a lot of white noise has been generated around the “g” word debate in government as well. The temptation to kind of avoid the use of the term and even arguably in the Rwanda case, almost deploy more resources and more lead-in time to debating how to worm one’s way out of using the term in such a way that we didn’t trigger legal obligations or rouse political urgency or interest. All of that I think can be spared if we can just learn up front that the semantics is not what is important.
Already in Sudan, in Darfur, there is a debate on is it really crimes against humanity, does it rise to the level of genocide, can we invoke the specter of genocide? The reality is that people are being targeted simply on the basis of ethnicity, not on the basis of religion in this case but on the basis of a sense of African-ness and blackness--even if the perpetrators are sometimes blacker than those they are targeting. And rather than weight ourselves down or getting bogged down in this quagmire of the definitional debate, a debate that will only be settled in most cases when the International Criminal Court has weighed in on the atrocities after the fact--Rwanda was exceptional in the sense that it did become some manifest and so unequivocal. In the case of Darfur, we may not know whether it meets the evidentiary threshold, which is only now getting defined in the courtroom.
The language is actually not the point. The point is how do we convey the gravity of the horror and develop tools that are tailored for the horror itself. When you do dance around the word “genocide,” as we did of course during the Rwandan genocide, we call it a “civil war” or “ethnic conflict” this is a way of diluting political pressure. Chances are the tools that you employ will be suited for that which you describe. So if you believe it is a civil war, of course you are going to pursue a peace process; whereas if you actually acknowledge that people are being systemically massacred on the basis of ethnicity, another whole set of tools should come into play. The issue of semantics has been a distraction.
The second point, which is essential is that our response, both in the United States and the response of other countries as well, when it comes to something of the magnitude of genocide, has to be all or nothing.
There are other issues in the foreign policy pantheon, we have all kinds of tools at our disposal that we are willing to come out and test when we actually want something, when something is dear to us. We will go into that toolbox, we will test, we will sharpen, we will borrow from other people’s toolboxes. But again in the case of genocide, there is a sort of feeling that, well, if we are not going to send our troops--which is going to be true in most cases if we’re talking about US military force--then it is not our issue. We don’t want to “Americanize” the genocide if we are not going to do all that is required to stop or to suppress.
But if you take Rwanda, of course, the tools are multiple that were there for us. There was high-level denunciation. President Clinton could have gotten on the radio, he could have gotten on the telephone as Bushnell actually did for many, many days, talking to perpetrators, threatening prosecution, perhaps even invoking the specter of military force. He could have sent reinforcements to the peacekeepers who were already there, who were obviously in real trouble, put pressure on Belgium to stay the course and even to send reinforcements from Belgium--that is agreeing to pay or to ferret in in terms of logistical and airlift support. We could have done the diplomatic things that were available to us. We could have closed the embassy here, expelled the ambassador, worked within the Security Council to ensure that the Rwandan ambassador who represented the genocidal regime would be forced to sit down and to stop lying, instead of being treated with the respect afforded to other diplomats on the Council.
We could have created no-fly zones or even abandoned our neutrality and thought about trying to do something to aid the RPF [Rwandan Patriotic Front] effort. These are tools. Whenever one thinks about the RPF, there are things that you can do once you acknowledge that you have a crisis, an unconventional crisis that demands a variety of responses. We could have frozen the foreign assets of the perpetrators. The one thing we have learned over time about genocide is that the perpetrators really like money. It is a truism of genocide.
But I think it is really important as we reflect on this ten-year anniversary to remember that the sin of this government and the sins of the Security Council were not merely to do nothing; it was to go to the Security Council--the United States to go to the Security Council--and to demand that the peacekeepers who were in Rwanda be withdrawn. And the effect of this was that the Tutsis who had gathered believing that when the Security Council sent peacekeepers out there, inherent in the baby blue and white flag of the United Nations, we were creating the promise of protection. Those Tutsis who trusted that, who trusted that flag and trusted the Security Council commitment were rendered more vulnerable than those who scampered into the hills and tried to make a run to the border or to the countryside.
The effect of the United States’ demand and the Security Council acquiescence to withdraw the troops was that peacekeepers exited through one gate and the militia would enter through another and kill many of those Tutsi who had made the mistake of believing. It is not a sin of omission in most cases of genocide usually that we are talking about. There are sins of commission as well.
The second point about the toolbox that we see in Rwanda is, crucially, the tools that were debated at the time. Radio-jamming was a tool that was considered within the US government; sending vehicles to aid a subsequent peacekeeping mission that might go back in, hypothetically, that was the thinking. All of these tools were debated at such a relatively mid-level rank that it was very difficult to cut through the red tape of the bureaucracy even for people who wanted to do something like Donald Steinberg at the National Security Council or Bushnell over at the State Department.
High-level leadership is needed for even those kinds of tools to get employed. The most striking fact about the Rwandan genocide and the US response is that President Clinton never even called his cabinet together, never even called a meeting to discuss what might be done and to roll up our sleeves and to say which of these tools can we employ: if we aren’t going to send our troops six months after Somalia, what might we do? Who might do the things that we think need doing but that aren’t our job to do? That meeting never took place. If a meeting had taken place, it wouldn’t have necessitated any results, but it gives you a sense of the mid- to low-level priority that real genocide -- in a place that doesn’t intersect the vital interests -- actually commands.
In terms of prescription, three points. One is avoid the semantic debate if possible; two, think about the toolbox; and three, field trips. When one is thinking about harnessing support or energy for a variety of kinds of intervention responses, it is essential to have financial support, both for funding purposes and of course for agenda-setting purposes. When the Congress is involved, the executive branch has to schlep across town and actually say what they are doing to respond to a particular problem.
We see to an extent in Sudan a kind of symbiosis when it comes to the fate of Christians in Southern Sudan, between Members of Congress who are very concerned and an executive branch that itself is being responsive also to a domestic constituency and that is very engaged with the North-South process. Sometimes you’re going to have a particular connection, on the ground with Christianity or some kind of personal thing that you share with the victim, but for the most part, victims of these kinds of atrocities are going to be several steps removed from oneself and their life experience.
It can make a profound difference if members of Congress or even UN bureaucrats, certain members of the executive branch, get out to see and to meet the human consequences of their decision-making. Most of the so-called “upstanders” that I encountered in looking at 100 years of bystanders were people who had had a moment of conversion by virtue of a human encounter--literally, the smell of a refugee or the shaking and the fear, or the baby crying, or whatever it is--and interestingly enough, lessons in one refugee camp in one part of the world, in, for example, East Asia, actually can transfer.
The question is how do we equip ourselves and our decision-makers with an ability to really see human faces in abstract figures. How do we tap the moral imagination? And one way again is to think about how do you incentivize these kinds of encounters.
The fourth point is one that is too often forgotten, and that is we need to have a conversation across borders, crucially from the developed world to the developing world, or I should say--that’s how it is referred to so far, “from to to”--but a conversation between the developed world and the developing world as partners in this problem-solving exercise and this tragedy-alleviating exercise.
The conversation so far has taken place much more in kind of we being Western powers will come and rescue you from your own savage outbursts that seem to occur every four to five years. The frame of responsibility to protect which has been used for this conference and this event is a term that was devised for two reasons. One of course was to try to convince Western powers that they actually had a responsibility, that it wasn’t just something that you did voluntarily. Not that if you decide to stop a genocide, you are doing something out of the goodness of your heart, but rather that there is something inherent in the nature of the international system that obliges us to act upon a duty. The other reason was to move away from the debate as it was constructed in the nineties which was shaped around the right of intervention, because in the developing world, people say: What--your right of intervention? No. We’re back there again? They’re saying they have a right to come in to countries just on the basis of war, account as to when human rights abuses have risen to a certain level?
We have never retrieved that first chance to make a first impression. We have never gone back to try to restart that conversation. Kofi Annan has done a little bit in New York, but it was something of a one-off where he made a speech, but there was no follow-up in terms of trying to build coalitions prospectively and to create trust. And that reserve of trust has grown very weak from lack of use in the developing world and it also owes something to this condescension and something to the desire of many developing world countries themselves to be free of intervention at a later date if in fact they choose to wipe out minorities in their midst. Thirdly, there is a real mistrust about follow-through, a believe that if something is merely humanitarian for the West, then it will be to get the issue out of the front pages. They will come in, they will do the big bonds, and then, when it comes to the actual nation-building exercises or the follow-through, when the going gets tough, the big get out, is the attitude.
Building this relationship and creating a sense of partnership will be actually quite difficult, but certainly going along and proceeding on these two tracks is not the answer. If we live in a world where only the Kosovars, the Afghans, and the East Timorese interest the developing world, only those three groups believe that the Kosovars, the Afghans and East Timorese were rendered better-off by the interventions that occurred. So the level of suspicion either around operations that could be deemed relative successes, the Afghans stand perhaps out of that equation, but in terms of Kosovo and East Timor, people still believe that these must have been interventions carried out for other purposes, again because of the general nature of foreign policy.
A fifth point, again for states generally--and we were talking about this earlier in the Sudan context--is to recognize that these processes are goods to themselves. This is to say that peace is a good thing, but that often the pursuit of peace ends up serving as something of an alibi for terror. And here again, I think Sudan is the case-in-point. We are understandably and importantly desperate to dot the i’s and cross the t’s on this historic peace deal between North and South in Sudan, and our desire to shore that agreement up is so great that we really want Darfur to go away, because actually, including that in the negotiations reopens issues perhaps indefinitely.
What Rwanda and other cases teach is that if a regime in one part of a country is murdering people or ethnically cleansing them and deporting them and raping, or allowing and arming people so that women are being raped on ethnic grounds, that is a decent indicator of that regime’s reliability to keep its word in another part of the country. And yet again, we can’t walk and chew gum at the same time, so we want to focus on the peace--the bird in the hand is so near, but in fact again, these things are very connected.
Peace is a good, but not if it comes at the expense of atrocity. You see this also in debates about accountability and about whether amnesties should be given. Amnesties are very tempting because then you can get peace in a moment, but if somebody is amnestied for having committed systemic crimes against humanity, how reliable a private citizen are they going to be in the immediate future?
Let me just talk now specifically about the United States. Were the US to play a role in genocide prevention, suppression and punishing, it is going to be essential for this Government, or the Bush administration or the Kerry administration, to restore some of the legitimacy that has been lost in recent months. There is a tendency, and nongovernmental advocates exhibit this tendency as well, to believe that we can operate a la carte. That if we can just leave Iraq aside for a moment and focus on Darfur, if the Bush administration could only do this in Darfur, then maybe Darfur could be made good, or yes, we have this position for the International Criminal Court, but when we talk about prosecuting Saddam Hussein, surely people will understand that we really care about international justice. Yes, we are going to give $15 billion for HIV/AIDS, and okay, condoms aren’t going to be bought with most of that money, and okay, we’re not going to go through a multilateral institution--but we are giving $15 billion for HIV/AIDS.
Things are connected. Everything is connected to everything else. When we pass a law in the US Congress called the American Service Members’ Protection Act, and in it, we have a provision which says that the United States is prepared to use all necessary measures to invade Holland--Holland!--to liberate American soldiers who are unjustly incarcerated in the International Criminal Court, when you pass a piece of law that says we are going to invade a European country where everyone wears Birkenstocks and the lights go out at nine, your ability to stand up on behalf of the people of Darfur is undermined.
When you go to international institutions and you make the right case on occasion, the decisions you have made in other areas infect the way that your words will be heard. To move to a more systematic or systemic approach is a prerequisite for long-term US leadership on genocide prevention. And many of you may know in the context of Sudan, there was a real effort made by this administration, despite its desire to see the peace process go forward, to put forward some very stern resolutions in the UN Security Council and in the UN Human Rights Commission, two weeks ago in the case of the Human Rights Commission, and even Britain actually argued strenuously on behalf of diluting these resolutions and ensuring that the words that were actually produced were so grand that the Government of Khartoum welcomed them. It’s always a bad sign when the government that you are aiming to denounce actually welcomes your resolution. This owes something to a more traditional institutional hostility to the US and its bodies, perhaps, but it doesn’t explain why our European allies couldn’t be counted on for support in this context. In the United States, the era of a la carte is really over. People know, people are seeing a much broader picture than we are seeing when we come focused on particular issues.
Thirdly, just to talk for a moment about non-superpower democracies, because that’s where a lot of the hope lies. If we think about the United States being so committed to fighting a war on terrorism and imagine a continued commitment to be able to right a couple of regional wars at one time and to maintain a presence in Iraq, the ability of the United States or the desire of the United States, never a terribly pronounced desire, to send its troops into harm’s way on behalf of humanitarian causes, is obviously greatly diminished. The Iraq residue is going to be felt not nearly in American overstretch but also in a much more pronounced skepticism even than we saw after Somalia, in the possibility of bringing long-term peace and security to other countries. It is the wrong message for us to disengage from Iraq, and we have to be very careful that the baby doesn’t get thrown out by the bath water when it comes to genuine humanitarian intervention, intervention that is actually about the people in whose name the peacemaking or war-making is conducted.
One might have to turn to South Africa and Canada and Sweden to really think about the deployment of troops in places like Darfur, if that’s what is required, to provide a security presence to aid the delivery of humanitarian relief or to aid the return of the million refugees who have already been displaced. Canada proposed but that a number of countries would put troops at the disposal of the Secretary-General of the Security Council. Sweden, which hosted a conference in January devoted to genocide prevention, the first ever governmental conference devoted to the topic that we are talking about tonight. But for all the talk, when it comes to a particular crisis, we don’t see these smaller countries stepping forward and opening their toolboxes.
There is on the one hand a great climate of anti-Americanism and mistrust; on the other, a continued dependence on the United States for leadership. And the alibi of course is that when the United States does not lead, the rest of the world doesn’t see non-leadership, it sees leadership not to act. That’s what a lot of these countries will say. Germany is the head of the Security Council, Ireland is the head of the European Commission--most or many European countries are represented in the UN the Human Rights Commission two weeks ago. In terms of agenda-setting, in terms of being creative, in terms of pressing the Secretary-General to do more about Darfur, where is the energy coming from?
These countries really have to think hard about their domestic political dynamics and about what true leadership is--is leadership having a conference, or is leadership actually volunteering some number of Swedish peacekeepers to a potential peacekeeping or refugee and humanitarian support mission in Darfur?
Let me just close now with a couple comments about the UN and about the nongovernmental world, because I think that’s where we come in. When it comes to the UN, Kofi Annan has just announced the creation of a new post, and that is the post of Special Advisor for Genocide Prevention. Now, you could argue that this is an institutional fix to a political problem -- I would argue that -- but the bigger worry is that this person will operate on the assumption that early warning or lack of information has been the problem.
Rapporteurs have gone in and delivered reports that sit in the “in” basket and gather dust in New York and everywhere else, with human rights groups getting ever more sophisticated in their documentation and in their access and ability to gain access, ever more wily in their ability to evade checkpoints. If this particular position is going to do good, it will do good not if it becomes just a special rapporteur by another name, “special advisor.? This is a position that should be filled by somebody who actually is a political heavyweight, not even a human rights-minded part of the genocide constituency, but somebody who can get the meetings when the meetings are needed, somebody let’s say like President Clinton maybe, who feels very guilty about a couple genocides that happened while he was President. But the point is that this is a job that should be filled by somebody who spends more time in political capitals than he or she spends actually at the Chad border waiting to get permission to enter. We have those people. They are doing actually a pretty impressive job. Who is going to take the info and move it within the system and get the toolbox open and the sleeves rolled up and international actors far more creative about what the response is?
The second point about the UN is that like most bureaucracies, it is not a system that rewards innovation and courage. This is true again of most bureaucracies, including of course those in this town. But in the UN, there is the UN as a building where states come together to do their thing, and that UN pretty much aggregates state selfishness. Then, there is the other UN, which is the Secretariat, that has significant autonomy at least to use its pulpit and to agenda-set and to bring issues before the Security Council, and of course it retains control in principle, anyway, over peacekeeping operations that occur.
That UN has also failed, of course, in the last ten years. Famously, Kofi Annan received a fax three months ahead of the Rwanda genocide where General Dallaire, the UN commander in Rwanda, warned that the militias in Rwanda could exterminate at a rate of 1,000 every 20 minutes. He also warned that the lesson that the militias had taken from Somalia was that it would only take the murder of ten caucasians in order to bring about the crumbling and the dissolution of the UN mission. It was in writing that went to Kofi Annan when he was the head of peacekeeping.
And he took the fax, and he said, well, after Somalia nobody is going to want to wage war, nobody is going to want to cross what was then known as the “Mogadishu line.,” If I present the facts, then people are going to say, “Let’s get out of there; it’s dangerous there.” What he did was to put the facts away and actually urged General Dallaire to present the information to the Rwandan President, who was responsible for the arming of the militia.
How do you incentivize not that kind of behavior but standing up, making the facts, presenting it obviously forcefully at the Security Council and making a case, rather than trying to internalize the constraints that politics and member-state apathy impose upon you? One is just you learn that lesson, externalize. That is a fundamental lesson of the 1990s.
The second thing is I thought that it might be a good time to create an award--there was a peacekeeper in Rwanda named Mbaye Diagne, who was an extraordinary African peacekeeper who was unarmed, all he had was his bare hands and his soft car, non-armoured vehicle. His story was presented in a Frontline documentary which many of you saw on PBS recently. The phone would ring, and somebody would say they needed help, and he would go in his soft car, stick them in the back of his trunk, sometimes on the roof of his car, not wanting to have people hauled out of the car at checkpoints, but for the most part, he would just tear through the checkpoints. The phone systems were working in the early weeks of the genocide, and they would call him, and he would come, for the first month of the genocide. He rescued with his bare hands--a single individual who traveled alone with a soft car, no gun--he rescued somewhere close to a thousand Rwandans.
That is one guy in a soft car. You can imagine what the greatest superpower in the history of mankind could have achieved. But Mbaye was killed toward the tail end of the genocide.
What about creating an Mbaye Diagne Award at the UN to signal that this is actually the kind of behavior that we want to affirm and to incentivize? I proposed this at the ECOSOC, I gave a speech a little bit like this, but to even more people. All the representatives and the Deputy Secretary-General and the undersecretaries and so on said, “No, it is impractical.” What exactly is impractical about creating an award to affirm this kind of behavior? “Well, I don’t know. Nobody would ever go along.” Who are you, if you are the Deputy Secretary-General--if not you, then who? Anyway, so maybe this is something that has to come from outside. Maybe it could come from the Museum. One has to somehow infiltrate bureaucracies to try to affirm these forms of behavior.
Let me close now with a word about us and about where we come in, because I think we are the key and so far the missing variable in this discussion. A non-response to genocide doesn’t occur in a vacuum. A non-response is affirmed by societal silence. It becomes an excuse. It is the excuse that political leaders point to--oh, the American people will never go along with it, and oh, the Congress will never support it. If we get into trouble, there will be huge demands for us to get out, and so on.
One sector of the nongovernmental world did its job during Rwanda. Alison des Forges with Human Rights Watch got herself a meeting with Tony Lake, the National Security Advisor, just two weeks into the genocide. In this meeting, she said a version of what I said, which is open your toolbox; rally support from other countries. She had even operationally an idea of how the troops should get in and should be able to get into Rwanda and reinforce the few who stayed. She went through a checklist and said now let’s get President Clinton on the telephone. And she saw that Lake was very responsive, so as she was leaving, she said, “What can I do to ensure that this actually happens?” And he said, “Make noise. The phones are not ringing at all.”
The Congressional Black Caucus was relatively quiet very busy with Haiti at the time. Editorial boards, The Washington Post and The New York Times never urged intervention. Keep in mind these were the same editorial boards that were determined to bring about air strikes in Yugoslavia at that time. Columnists whom we might have expected, who were somewhat hawkish on humanitarian issues, were again very quiet for this three-month period--three months--it was quick, but three months, it actually turns out, is quite a long time.
A lot of the not grassroots exactly, but grass tops, levels that do exist in our society did not get polled, or we did not poll them, and that again is something that people can point to in the moment to say, well, there was only limited support for it, but it also deprives the system of the opportunity to again create the impression that there is a constituency, that there is a cost. And we believe the cost is not in the voting booth, that it is a reputational cost, that it is a leadership cost, that you actually look bad as a leader, whether in this country or in a different country, if you come to the Holocaust Museum in April, and that same April, a genocide occurs on your watch.
Sudan provides a pretty interesting moment and opportunity right now, and again, what we are seeing, I think all of us would agree, is a mobilization gap. There is a constituency out there. And while we have the documentarians, the people who come in and give us the information we need, and who have a ripe constituency, maybe not to send troops, especially in the wake of Iraq, that’s for sure, but to open that toolbox and to be far more creative about exerting the incredible diplomatic and economic leverage that we have over countries, desperate elites in countries, desperate for the perks of a relationship with the United States. But there is something missing which is harnessing that energy and that enthusiasm, and I think that is where a lot of us in the nongovernmental sector are scratching our heads.
A lot has happened since Rwanda. Rwanda has made a profound difference in people’s awareness of the possibility that genocide happens now and doesn’t just happen in black and white. But we still haven’t made as a community to where we know where to send those people who get in touch and say, “I want to help--where do I go, what do I do?” I think that’s the next step in this advocacy campaign so we can avoid again the next and probably the current problems we have.