Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Was there any moral case against the Iraq war? (Normblog)

Guest-posted on the weblog of Norman Geras (Normblog)
October 26, 2004

Was there any moral case against the Iraq war?

Jeff Weintraub

Although these distinctions are to some extent artificial and have to be handled carefully, it is a useful first approximation to say that most arguments for and against the Iraq war fell roughly into three broad categories: 'moral' (including humanitarian), 'legal', and 'realist' or prudential. There certainly were and are arguments that tried to integrate all three of these concerns. (I was and remain convinced, for example, that the war was necessary and justified on all three of these grounds, in mutually reinforcing ways.) There were also some types of argument that fitted only awkwardly and sometimes ambiguously into this outline (e.g., opposition to the war on grounds of generalized anti-Americanism and/or 'anti-imperialism'). And in many specific cases the categories are overlapping (for example, prudential arguments of the realpolitik national-interest variety are also making moral claims, implicit or explicit; legalistic arguments are sometimes advanced as versions of so-called 'realist' arguments about maintaining the stability of the international order; and so on).

Nevertheless, bearing all these caveats in mind, these categories can be an analytically useful first step in disentangling the different kinds of arguments involved and making some sense of the confusing (and often confused) melange of issues that they address.

Norman Geras has tried to wrestle with these issues in his thoughtful and intelligent reflections on The argument over Iraq. The most recent posting in this series, semi-facetiously entitled 'The last word on the Iraq war', focuses specifically on the question of whether there was any serious or convincing moral argument against the Iraq war (as distinct from legalistic, 'realist', and/or prudential arguments). Geras concludes (but read the whole thing):

There was no persuasive moral case against the Iraq war. There were creditable moral reasons for entertaining doubts about it; and some people have articulated such doubts in a creditable way; but this is something different from a compelling case that the war was wrong. Speaking from my own experience of the debates, both before and since the war the majority of those who opposed it, or at least the majority of its most vocal opponents, opposed it in anything but a creditable way.
I might want to complicate some of the formulations in his discussion. But, fundamentally, what Geras has to say there strikes me as right and important. Arguments against the Iraq war took a lot of different forms, and I have consistently recognized that some of them were serious, substantial, and in certain cases not entirely implausible. The most substantial and convincing of such arguments were basically prudential and, broadly speaking, conservative ones - i.e., Saddam Hussein's Iraq posed real and dangerous problems, but the attempt to solve these through a war for regime change was likely to lead to even worse consequences than the alternatives. I respected, and continue to respect, many of the arguments along these lines, even though I was ultimately unconvinced. The legalistic arguments against the war (even those that were sincere and principled) have struck me as mostly incorrect and, at all events, a lot less morally and politically compelling. And the vast bulk of the moralistic and pseudo-'humanitarian' arguments against the war range, in my (possibly fallible) opinion, from unconvincing to logically fallacious to factually inaccurate to morally despicable (and sometimes all at once).

Some aspects of the current political situation make it especially important to re-emphasize these points right now. In my view, it is legitimate and essential to criticize the Bush administration for the irresponsible, incompetent, and often dishonest way that it has framed, justified, and conducted the Iraq war, particularly the post-Saddam occupation and reconstruction of Iraq. These add up to one major reason (among many) to vote against Bush in the US Presidential election. But having said that, it is also important to make it clear that these criticisms do not necessarily vindicate the positions of most of the people who opposed the war - some of whom continue to advocate abandoning Iraq now, and in certain cases even support the appalling collection of fascist thugs, Sunni revanchists, theocratic religious fanatics, and foreign jihadist terrorists carrying out the 'insurgency'.

On the contrary, people (and governments) who opposed military action against Saddam Hussein and his regime need to honestly face up to the fact that they supported leaving Iraq under the control of an exceptionally sadistic fascist regime with a proven history of genocidal mass murder, military adventurism, and catastrophic miscalculation - and that the policies they supported entailed, at the very least, significant risks that these would lead to the collapse of 'containment', to another genocidal bloodbath in Iraqi Kurdistan, to Saddam Hussein's resumption of his nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons programmes, and to other unpleasant consequences. If they start out by acknowledging these realities, and still want to argue that the war was a bad idea, then there are arguments along these lines that deserve respect. But arguments against the war that refuse to face up to these realities, and to the moral dilemmas they involved, are hard to take seriously... and, in most cases, they deserved and still deserve to be morally condemned.

Some of these crucial realities have been nicely summed up by the scholar of Islam Juan Cole, whose Informed Comment weblog has offered knowledgeable and politically acute analysis of the Iraq crisis over the past two years. Cole has been a scathing critic of the Bush administration, especially of its conduct of the Iraq war and the post-war occupation. However, while he did not exactly support the war, he could not bring himself to oppose it either, he refused 'to march to keep Saddam in power', and he unambiguously welcomed the overthrow of the Iraqi Baath regime. Since Cole can't plausibly be accused of being an ignorant warmonger, a neo-conservative zealot, or a lackey of the Bush administration, his diagnoses of the situation are worth considering:

John Kerry has been accused of 'waffling' on Iraq because he supported the war but has criticized the outcome. [....] I also sympathize with Kerry, because I declined to oppose the war. I felt that a) Saddam was a genocidal monster, and getting rid of him would benefit the Iraqis, and b) the 'dual containment' of Iraq and Iran as a policy was a fatal dead end that had just put the US in the position of denying needed medicine to Iraqi children (actually Saddam manipulated the system to rob the children and give to the Baath officials, but the US got blamed). Even the 'no-fly' zone for the Kurds probably couldn't have been kept up indefinitely, and if the US ever withdrew, Saddam would have massacred the Kurds all over again.

But I disagreed almost completely with the *way* the war was carried out... [Juan Cole, Informed Comment - September 1, 2003]

On several other occasions, Cole has responded sharply to claims that there were no 'humanitarian' justifications for the Iraq war. For example, in January 2004 the Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth, argued that the war in Iraq was 'Not a Humanitarian Intervention'. Cole replied:
I deeply disagree with the way the Bush administration pursued the war against Iraq. [....] That said, I simply must disagree with HRW and Mr. Roth that there were no humanitarian grounds for such a war. I believe that what Saddam was doing to the Marsh Arabs from the mid-1990s could legitimately qualify as a genocide. Likewise, the Anfal campaign against the Kurds. Although the latter was carried out some years ago, the former had been recent and ongoing. Moreover, there is not in most legal systems any statute of limitations on murder, so I am not sure why there should be one on genocide or mass murder.

In short, I believe that the United Nations Security Council was obliged to remove Saddam Hussein from power on the basis of egregious violations of the UN Convention on Genocide. [Juan Cole, Informed Comment - January 28, 2004]

Taking all this into account, I am not sure whether Cole's position that he 'declined to oppose the war' is fully adequate, since in the end one had to choose one way or another. But I can respect Cole's ambivalence, which is complex and intelligent, and many of the dilemmas he has emphasized are quite real. The crucial point is that his position faced up to the realities of the situation in a morally serious way. Arguments against the Iraq war that do not start from an honest and serious acknowledgement of these realities are, again, at best unconvincing and often disgraceful. (Jeff Weintraub.)

Posted by Norm at 12:17 PM | Permalink

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Darfur update - "Financing Mass Murder" by Nat Hentoff (Village Voice)

The veteran progressive journalist Nat Hentoff has been involved for several years with activists campaigning against slavery in southern Sudan. Recently he has been writing about the ongoing atrocity in western Sudan as well. This is a timely piece.

Incidentally, I think it would be too simple and reductionist to argue (which Hentoff does not) that the unwillingness of countries like China, Russia, and France to take any serious action against the Darfur atrocity can be entirely explained by their economic interests in Sudanese oil. There are a lot of other political and diplomatic factors involved, too. However, these economic interests are certainly an important part of the picture. And Hentoff's piece once again brings out the unhappy truth that, in more cases than not, oil resources are a curse rather than a blessing for the countries with the oil. Like diamonds in west Africa and Angola, these natural-resource bonanzas are often more likely to fund despotism, corruption, and/or civil war than to support development.

Jeff Weintraub

Village Voice
October 8, 2004

Liberty Beat
by Nat Hentoff
Financing Mass Murder
How free-market investors contribute to genocide in Darfur while they take the profits
October 8th, 2004 4:25 PM

Sudan's oil reserves yield two billion dollars in annual revenue . . . —Samantha Power The New Yorker, August 30, 2004

For six years, the most passionate, meticulous researcher on the atrocities committed on black Africans in Sudan by the Khartoum government has been Eric Reeves, a professor of English at Smith College in Massachusetts. With prodigious energy, he devotes most of his time to writing about this holocaust and informing others, including me.

In a recent study, Reeves focuses on "the many European and Asian companies that are now propping up the Khartoum regime by means of large commercial investments and capital projects," and as a result, becoming accomplices in genocide.

Among the most resistant members of the United Nations Security Council to placing truly punitive sanctions on Sudan's oil industry is China.

"The dominant and most ruthless international player in Sudan's oil sector," Reeves writes, is "China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC). After Goldman Sachs failed in 2000 to secure a $10 billion Initial Public Offering for CNPC, the Wall Street firm created a so-called financial 'cut-out,' which became the new entity 'PetroChina.' . . . Wholly controlled and 90 percent owned by CNPC, it lists on the New York Stock Exchange." (Emphasis added.)

The companies of other nations, in addition to China, that invest in Sudan "accept payment [from Khartoum] in the form of Khartoum's petrodollars—revenues raised from oil development projects located almost exclusively in southern Sudan . . . "

When you read about Khartoum's helicopters bombing villages in Darfur as a prelude to the murderous raids by the Arab Janjaweed, who are often accompanied by official Khartoum troops, you may not have realized that, as Eric Reeves continues:

"Khartoum's extensive military purchases, especially over the last half-dozen years, have been made possible by virtue of realized and anticipated oil revenues. These purchases include many of the helicopter gunships that have been deployed to such deadly effect against civilians in both southern Sudan and Darfur. A measure of the profligacy of Khartoum's military purchases can be seen in the recent completion of a deal with Russia for 10 MiG-29s—one of the most advanced fighter aircraft in the world."

At the United Nations' so-called Security Council, Russia, like China, has been very reluctant to put enough pressure on Khartoum to stop the murdering and raping of black Africans in Darfur. Not surprisingly, Eric Reeves discloses, "Russia's Tatneft is an important participant in Sudan's oil sector (and also lists on the New York Stock Exchange)." (Emphasis added.)

And the New York Stock Exchange—oblivious to the more than 50,000 black Africans murdered, and the more than 10,000 dying every month of disease and Janjaweed violence in the refugee camps—also lists Germany's giant Siemens AG. That company, Reeves writes, is "presently building outside Khartoum the world's largest diesel-powered electrical generating plant . . .

"It is this presence," Reeves emphasizes, "that does so much to sustain the National Islamic Front and convince the regime that ultimately petrodollars speak louder than the cries of death and suffering in Darfur." (Emphasis added.) Sudan's oil reserves bring Khartoum $2 billion in annual revenues.

An enduring memory of my boyhood was the headline on a magazine: "Would You Do Business With Hitler?" Many companies, including American corporations, saw no problems in trafficking with the Third Reich. It's happening now with the genocidal Khartoum government.

Among other partners in Khartoum and its killing fields, Reeves adds, are "Switzerland's ABB Ltd. (also listed on the New York Stock Exchange), now engaged in a huge project to upgrade the electrical grid for Khartoum and the surrounding urban areas, as well as in automation work for the major oil production consortium in Sudan, the Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company."

Nor should we ignore "France's Alcatel, a telecommunications giant . . . yet another company that both lists on the New York Stock Exchange and offers commercial telecommunications support that benefits Khartoum."

Until Eric Reeves sent me this current analysis of multinational financing of Khartoum's genocidal government, I didn't know—nor have I seen this in the media—that "bipartisan legislation recently introduced in the House of Representatives . . . would legally require disclosure of 'the identities of all entities that are engaged in commercial activity in Sudan' (Section 5 [a] of H.R. 5061, 'To provide assistance for the current crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan and to facilitate a comprehensive peace in Sudan')."

The co-sponsors of the bill are: Trent Franks, Republican of Arizona; Tom Lantos, Democrat of California; Donald Payne, Democrat of New Jersey; Joe Pitts, Republican of Pennsylvania; Tom Tancredo, Republican of Colorado.

In next week's column, details of Eric Reeves's plan: "A successful divestment campaign against these companies, and their ethically myopic investments, would bring real, unsustainable economic pressure to bear on Khartoum . . .

"Its single goal would be to force a commitment by such companies to suspend all commercial activities pending the end of genocidal destruction in Darfur and completion of a final peace agreement with the people of the south." (Emphasis added.)

And there will be ways in which many of you, individually, can become part of this divestment campaign. Says Reeves: "The time has come for ordinary citizens to make it impossible for this intransigently genocidal regime to enjoy the economic benefits of European and Asian commercial and economic support. Divestment from the equity (shares) of the most culpably guilty of these transnational companies is a moral imperative." More to come, specifically on those American institutions that profit by investing in the monstrous government in Sudan.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Philip Gourevitch - French Actions in Rwanda

In a previous message, I had remarked in passing that
the "world community" (including the US, it is important to emphasize) turned its back on Rwanda. (Except for France, which actively aided the genocidaires.)
Someone asked me to spell out this remark about French actions in Rwanda:
Jeff can you point me to a source that documents this point. What exactly do you mean?
The following were my responses. --Jeff Weintraub


What I mean is straightforward. France had long armed, supported, and advised the Hutu-supremacist regime that carried out the genocide, and when the crunch came, they did not abandon their clients. When it was clear that the country was being overrun by the Rwanda Patriotic Front, the French military intervened directly in southwest Rwanda ("in "Operation Turquoise") to save them, helped a number of them escape over the border into Zaire (now Congo) ... and then, for several years, continued to arm, train, and support these same genocidaire militias as they took over the Hutu refugee camps and continued to launch raids into Rwanda ... a policy that came to an end only when the Rwandan army intervened in the Congolese civil war and overran the camps.

None of this is at all esoteric, hypothetical, or even controversial (among serious people). Sources are easy to find, and when I have a few moments later on, I'll find some to mention.

(What is controversial is whether any of the French advisers participated in the genocide itself--something which I did not claim in my message, but which others have. The current Rwandan government claims that they did, but I haven't seen firm evidence of this, and I'm willing to give the French the benefit of the doubt on this one. Even if a few advisers were involved, I feel pretty sure that actively helping to conduct the genocide itself was not French government policy--whereas opposing any action to stop the genocide and protecting, funding, arming, training, and supporting the genocidaires, even after the reality of the genocide was unequivocally clear, definitely was French government policy.)

Jeff Weintraub


Here's a start. Philip Gourevitch's book is the basic text on all this (in English at least) ... and I just remembered that PBS had excerpted some of the relevant portions on its website. Gourevitch's book itself will provide other references. But as I said, none of this is really that controversial (except for some die-hard apologists and propagandists). You can get them from back issues of Le Monde, for example.

Gourevitch's book, by the way, makes it completely clear that the US also acted in a shameful and unforgivable way (though, unlike the French government, it didn't actually side with the genocidaires, intervene militarily to help them, and then continue to arm & supply them after 1994).

Jeff Weintraub
(PBS - Frontline)

French Actions in Rwanda
by Philip Gourevitch

Excerpted from Chapter 11 of Philip Gourevitch's book, We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families. Published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Inc. Copyright 1998 by Philip Gourevitch. All rights reserved.

(click here to learn more about Philip Gourevitch)

Throughout the late '80s and early '90s, Rwanda's Hutu Power dictatorship had enjoyed the patronage of France. As a former Belgian colony, Rwanda was a French speaking country, and Paris's neo-colonial policy in Africa was to support those who spoke its language at all costs. In the early '90s, when Rwanda was plunged into civil war between the Hutu government, and the predominantly Tutsi rebel group, the Rwandese Patriotic Front, France threw its military support behind the Hutu regime. After all, the RPF came out of Uganda--where its leaders had been living in exile--and Uganda is an English speaking country. French leaders were unconcerned by their murderous Hutu Power clients. As the genocide reached its peak in the early summer of 1994, France's President François Mitterand was reported to say, "In such countries as this, genocide is not too important." Sadly, by their actions and inactions during the Rwandan slaughter, the rest of the world's great powers signaled that they agreed. [ .... ]

[ .... ] Rwanda is landlocked and dirt-poor, a bit larger than Vermont and a bit less populous than Chicago, a place so dwarfed by neighboring Congo, Uganda, and Tanzania that for the sake of legibility its name has to be printed on most maps outside the lines of its frontiers. As far as the political, military, and economic interests of the world's powers go, it might as well be Mars. In fact, Mars is probably of greater strategic concern. But Rwanda, unlike Mars, is populated by human beings, and when Rwanda had a genocide, the world's powers left Rwanda to it.

On April 14, 1994, one week after the murder of the ten Belgian blue-helmets, Belgium withdrew from UNAMIR--precisely as Hutu Power had intended it to do. Belgian soldiers, aggrieved by the cowardice and waste of their mission, shredded their U.N. berets on the tarmac at Kigali airport. A week later, on April 21, 1994, the UNAMIR commander, Major General Dallaire, declared that with just five thousand well-equipped soldiers and a free hand to fight Hutu Power, he could bring the genocide to a rapid halt. No military analyst whom I've heard of has ever questioned his judgment, and a great many have confirmed it. The radio transmitter of the genocidal propaganda station RTLM would have been an obvious, and easy, first target. Yet, on the same day, the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution that slashed the UNAMIR force by ninety percent, ordering the retreat of all but two hundred seventy troops and leaving them with a mandate that allowed them to do little more than hunker down behind their sandbags and watch.

The desertion of Rwanda by the U.N. force was Hutu Power's greatest diplomatic victory to date, and it can be credited almost single-handedly to the United States. With the memory of the Somalia debacle still very fresh, the White House had just finished drafting a document called Presidential Decision Directive 25, which amounted to a checklist of reasons to avoid American involvement in U.N. peacekeeping missions. It hardly mattered that Dallaire's call for an expanded force and mandate would not have required American troops, or that the mission was not properly peacekeeping, but genocide prevention. PDD 25 also contained what Washington policymakers call "language" urging that the United States should persuade others not to undertake the missions that it wished to avoid. In fact, the Clinton administration's ambassador to the U.N., Madeleine Albright, opposed leaving even the skeleton crew of two hundred seventy in Rwanda. Albright went on to become Secretary of State, largely because of her reputation as a "daughter of Munich," a Czech refugee from Nazism with no tolerance for appeasement and with a taste for projecting U.S. force abroad to bring rogue dictators and criminal states to heel. Her name is rarely associated with Rwanda, but ducking and pressuring others to duck, as the death toll leapt from thousands to tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands, was the absolute low point in her career as a stateswoman.

A week after UNAMIR was slashed, when the ambassadors of Czechoslovakia, New Zealand, and Spain, sickened by the barrage of irrefutable evidence of genocide in Rwanda, began pushing for the return of U.N. troops, the United States demanded control of the mission. But there was no mission to control. The Security Council, where Rwanda conveniently occupied a temporary seat in 1994, could not even bring itself to pass a resolution that contained the word "genocide." In this proud fashion, April gave way to May. As Rwanda's genocidal leaders stepped up efforts for a full national mobilization to extirpate the last surviving Tutsis, the Security Council prepared, on May 13, to vote once again on restoring UNAMIR's strength. Ambassador Albright got the vote postponed by four days. The Security Council then agreed to dispatch five thousand five hundred troops for UNAMIR, only--at American insistence--very slowly.

So May became June. By then, a consortium of eight fed-up African nations had proclaimed their readiness to send an intervention force to Rwanda, provided that Washington would send fifty armored personnel carriers. The Clinton administration agreed, but instead of lending the armor to the courageous Africans, it decided to lease it to the U.N.--where Washington was billions of dollars in arrears on membership dues--for a price of fifteen million dollars, transportation and spare parts included. [ .... ]

[ .... ] The harder Washington tried to keep its hands clean of Rwanda, the dirtier they got. At the same time, France was chafing for an opportunity to rescue its investment of military and political prestige in Rwanda. That meant salvaging Habyarimana's Hutu Power heirs from the increasingly likely prospect of a total defeat at the hands of the dreaded Anglophone RPF. Communications between Paris and Kigali remained constant, cordial, and often downright conspiratorial. Hawkish French diplomats and Africa hands generally adopted the official position of Rwanda's genocidal government: that far from being a matter of policy the massacres of Tutsis were the result of mass popular outrage following Habyarimana's assassination; that the "population" had "risen as a single man" to defend itself; that the government and army wanted only to restore order; that the killing was an extension of the war with the RPF; that the RPF started it and was the greater offender--in short, that Rwandans were simply killing each other as they were wont to do, for primordial tribal reasons, since time immemorial.

Such mystification aside, the genocide remained a fact, and although France had rarely hesitated in the past to conduct unilateral, partisan military invasions to prop up its African clients, the genocide made such a move awkward. The French press was crowding the French political and military establishment with exposes of its blatant complicity in the preparation and implementation of the butchery. Then, in mid-June, the French government hit on the idea of billing a military expedition into Rwanda as a "humanitarian" mission and carrying it out under the U.N. flag, with some rented Senegalese troops along for the ride to create an aura of multilateralism. When asked what he thought of such a scheme, UNAMIR's indignant General Dallaire told The Independent of London, "I flat out refuse to answer that question--no way." Many African leaders outside the Francophone bloc, like South Africa's President Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, openly questioned French motives, and the RPF pronounced Paris's plan unacceptable. On the nights of June 16 and 18, arms shipments for the Hutu Power regime were landed, with French connivance, in the eastern Zairean city of Goma and shuttled over the border to Rwanda. But on June 22, the Security Council--eager to be relieved of its shame, and apparently blind to the extra shame it was bringing upon itself--endorsed the "impartial" French deployment, giving it a two-month mandate with the permission to use aggressive force that had systematically been denied to UNAMIR.

The next day, the first French troops of "Opération Turquoise" rolled from Goma into northwestern Rwanda, where they were welcomed by enthralled bands of interahamwe--singing, waving French tricolor flags, and carrying signs with slogans like "Welcome French Hutus"--while a disc jockey at RTLM advised Hutu women to gussy themselves up for the white men, taunting, "Now that the Tutsi girls are all dead, it's your chance."

The timing of Opération Turquoise was striking. By late May, the massacre of Tutsis had slowed down because most of them had already been massacred. The hunt continued, of course, especially in the western provinces of Kibuye and Cyangugu, but Gérard Prunier, a political scientist who was part of the task force that worked out France's intervention scheme, has written that the great worry in Paris as plans for the mobilization got underway in mid-June was whether its troops would find any large concentrations of Tutsis to rescue before the television cameras. In much of Rwanda, Hutu Power's message to the masses had been changed from an order to kill to an order to flee before the RPF advance On April 28--long ago, in the compressed time frame of the Rwandan apocalypse--a quarter of a million Hutus, bolting before the RPF advance, had streamed over a bridge into Tanzania from the eastern province of Kibungo. This was the largest and speediest mass flight across an international border in modern history, and although it included whole formations of interahamwe, military units, town councils, and the civilian throngs who had strewn Kibungo with corpses, those who fled were indiscriminately received with open arms by U.N. and humanitarian agencies and accommodated as refugees in giant camps.

Before France even began talking of a "humanitarian" military expedition, the RPF controlled eastern Rwanda, and its forces were moving steadily westward in a broad pincer movement to the north and south of Kigali. As they progressed, the full extent of the extermination of Tutsis in the areas they conquered was broadcast to the world. While Rwandan government leaders and RTLM claimed that the RPF was killing every Hutu it found alive, and French military spokesmen promoted the idea of a "two-way genocide" and called the RPF the "Khmer Noir," the dominant impression in the international press was of an astonishingly disciplined and correct rebel army, determined to restore order. And for Tutsis and most Hutus of good conscience the best hope for salvation was to reach, or be reached by, the RPF zone.

The RPF, which consisted at that time of about twenty thousand fighters, was forcing a national army more than twice its size, backed by militias and a great mass of civilians mobilized for "self-defense," to retreat. For anybody concerned about the welfare of Hutu Power, as so many in France were, the obvious question would seem to have been: What went wrong? The simplest answer was that Rwanda's Hutu Power regime was sapping its frontline military effort in favor of completing the genocide, just as the Germans had done in the final months of World War II. But a subtler dynamic was at work in Rwanda as well. >From the start of the war with the RPF in 1990, Hutu extremists had promoted their genocidal aspirations with the world-upside-down rhetoric of Hutu victimization. Now Hutu Power had presided over one of the most outrageous crimes in a century of seemingly relentless mass political murder, and the only way to get away with it was to continue to play the victim. In yielding Rwanda to the RPF and leading vast flocks into exile, the Hutu Power leaders could retain control of their subjects, establish a rump "refugee" state in U.N.-sponsored camps, and pretend that their worst fears had been justified.

France promised the Security Council that its objective in Rwanda "naturally excludes any interference in the development of the balance of military forces between the parties involved in the conflict." But within a week of their arrival, French troops occupied nearly a quarter of the country, sweeping across southwestern Rwanda to stand face to face with the RPF. At that point, France suddenly reinterpreted its "humanitarian" venture and declared its intention to turn the entire territory it had conquered into a "safe zone." The RPF was not alone in asking: safe for whom? France's own ex-President, Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, accused the French command of "protecting some of those who had carried out the massacres."

The RPF didn't waste much time in argument. It launched an all-out offensive to limit the "Zone Turquoise." On July 2 it captured Rwanda's second largest city Butare, and on July 4 it took Kigali, scuttling Hutu Power's earlier plans to mark that day with a funeral for President Habyarimana and a celebration of the total eradication of Tutsis from the capital.

Opération Turquoise was eventually credited with rescuing at least ten thousand Tutsis in western Rwanda, but thousands more continued to be killed in the French-occupied zone. Hutu Power brigades draped their vehicles with French flags to lure Tutsis from hiding to their deaths; and even when real French troops found survivors, they often told them to wait for transport, then went away and returned to find that those they had "saved" were corpses. >From the moment they arrived, and wherever they went, the French forces supported and preserved the same local political leaders who had presided over the genocide. While the United States still had not managed to deliver the armored personnel carriers promised to UNAMIR's African volunteers, the French had arrived in Zaire decked for battle, with an awesome array of artillery and armor, and a fleet of twenty military aircraft that was instantly the most imposing flying power in central Africa. And just as they embraced the Hutu Power military regime and its militias as the legitimate authorities of a state under rebel siege, they openly regarded the RPF as the enemy--at least until the fall of Butare. Then the French softened their tone. They didn't exactly back down, but the sneering animosity with which Turquoise spokesmen referred to the rebels suddenly gave way to something like grudging respect, and rumors began to circulate that the RPF had scored a direct military victory against France. Several years later, I asked Major General Paul Kagame, who had led the RPF to victory, whether there was any truth to this theory.

"Something like that," Kagame told me. "It occurred during our approach to Butare. I received from General Dallaire of UNAMIR a message from the French general in Goma telling me that we should not enter Butare. They were trying to tell me there would be a fight." Kagame told Dallaire that he "could not tolerate such a provocation and such arrogance on the part of the French." Then, he recalled, "I told the troops to change course, to move to Butare now. They arrived in the evening. I told them just to surround the town and stay put. I didn't want them to get involved in a firefight at night. So they took positions and waited until morning. When our troops entered, they found that the French had secretly moved out to Gikongoro"--to the west. "But then, through Dallaire, they asked permission to return for some Catholic sisters and some orphans they wanted to take away. I cleared it. The French came back, but they didn't know that we had already secured the route from Gikongoro to Butare. We had set a long ambush, nearly two companies along the road."

The French convoy consisted of about twenty-five vehicles, and as it left Butare, Kagame's forces sprang their trap and ordered the French to submit each vehicle to inspection. "Our interest was to make sure none of these people they were taking were FAR (Hutu power army) or militias. The French refused. Their jeeps were mounted with machine guns, so they turned them on our troops as a sign of hostility. When the soldiers in the ambush realized there was going to be a confrontation, they came out, and a few fellows who had rocket-propelled grenade launchers targeted the jeeps. When the French soldiers saw that, they were all instructed to point their guns upward. And they did. They allowed our soldiers to carry out the inspection." In one of the last vehicles, Kagame said, two government soldiers were found. One ran away, and was shot dead, and Kagame added, "Maybe they killed the other one, too." At the sound of shooting, the French vehicles that had been cleared to go ahead turned on the road and began firing from afar, but the exchange lasted less than a minute.

Kagame recalled another incident when his men had French troops in custody and tense negotiations had to be carried out through General Dallaire. On that occasion, Kagame said, "They threatened to come in with helicopters and bomb our troops and positions. I told them that I thought the matter was going to be discussed and resolved peacefully, but that if they wanted to fight, I had no problem with that." In the end, he said, the French pleaded for their men back, and he let them go. Kagame, who grew up in Uganda as a Rwandan refugee and spoke English, told me that he couldn't comprehend France's support for the "génocidaires"--as even English-speaking Rwandans call the adherents of Hutu Power--and he scoffed at French fears of an Anglophone conquest of Rwanda. "If they wanted people here to speak French, they shouldn't have helped to kill people here who spoke French."

Kagame's feelings about UNAMIR were more nuanced. He said that he appreciated General Dallaire as a man, but not "the helmet he wore," and that he had told Dallaire so directly. "UNAMIR was here, armed--they had armored personnel carriers, tanks, all sorts of weapons--and people got killed while they were watching. I said I would never allow that. I told him, 'In such a situation, I would take sides. Even if I were serving the U.N., I would take the side of protecting people.' I actually remember telling him that it is a bit of a disgrace for a general to be in a situation where people are being killed, defenseless, and he is equipped--he has soldiers, he has arms--and he cannot protect them."

Dallaire himself seemed to agree. Two and a half years after the genocide, he said, "The day I take my uniform off will be the day that I will also respond to my soul, and to the traumas . . . particularly of millions of Rwandans." Even among the French troops who served in Opération Turquoise, some souls became troubled. "We have been deceived," Sergeant Major Thierry Prungnaud told a reporter at a collection site for emaciated and machete-scarred Tutsi survivors in early July of 1994. "This is not what we were led to believe. We were told that Tutsis were killing Hutus. We thought the Hutus were the good guys and the victims." But individual discomfort aside, the signal achievement of the Opération Turquoise was to permit the slaughter of Tutsis to continue for an extra month, and to secure safe passage for the genocidal command to cross, with a lot of its weaponry, into Zaire.

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In case you think the point doesn't emerge sharply enough from the selections I just forwarded, let me emphasize the last paragraph:

Dallaire himself seemed to agree. Two and a half years after the genocide, he said, "The day I take my uniform off will be the day that I will also respond to my soul, and to the traumas . . . particularly of millions of Rwandans." Even among the French troops who served in Opération Turquoise, some souls became troubled. "We have been deceived," Sergeant Major Thierry Prungnaud told a reporter at a collection site for emaciated and machete-scarred Tutsi survivors in early July of 1994. "This is not what we were led to believe. We were told that Tutsis were killing Hutus. We thought the Hutus were the good guys and the victims." But individual discomfort aside, the signal achievement of the Opération Turquoise was to permit the slaughter of Tutsis to continue for an extra month, and to secure safe passage for the genocidal command to cross, with a lot of its weaponry, into Zaire.

Jeff Weintraub

Roméo Dallaire, "Looking at Darfur, Seeing Rwanda" (New York Times)

Roméo Dallaire, a former Canadian general, was in charge of the UN "peacekeeping" troops in Rwanda at the time of the 1994 genocide. He repeatedly warned his superiors that a massacre was coming, and remains convinced that, with very small reinforcements and an authorization to act forcefully, he could have prevented the genocide or nipped it in the bud. Instead, the "world community" (including the US, it is important to emphasize) turned its back on Rwanda. (Except for France, which actively aided the genocidaires.)

"Never again"?

Jeff Weintraub


New York Times
October 4, 2004


Looking at Darfur, Seeing Rwanda


Montreal — Each day the world is confronted by new reports of atrocities in the Darfur region of Sudan. President Bush, in his address to the United Nations General Assembly last month, referred to the situation as "genocide," and he and Secretary General Kofi Annan pledged support for sanctions against the Sudanese government and a Security Council resolution to expand the African Union force on the ground there. But I am afraid that moral condemnation, trade penalties and military efforts by African countries are simply not going to be enough to stop the killing - not nearly enough.

I know, because I've seen it all happen before. A decade ago, I was the Canadian general in command of the United Nations forces in Rwanda when that civil war began and quickly turned into genocide. The conflict was often portrayed as nothing more than an age-old feud between African tribes, a situation that the Western world could do little to stop. All that was left to do was wait to pick up the pieces when the killing stopped and to provide support to rebuild the country.

Although the early stages of the Darfur situation received more news coverage than the Rwanda genocide did, at some level the Western governments are still approaching it with the same lack of priority. In the end, it receives the same intuitive reaction: "What's in it for us? Is it in our 'national' interest?"

Sudan, an underdeveloped, orphan nation, with no links to colonial masters of its past, is essentially being left to its own devices. The Islamic Janjaweed militias of Darfur, with the complicit approval of the government, are bent on ridding the region of its residents, primarily black Africans - killing, raping and driving refugees into camps along the border with Chad.

The United Nations, emasculated by the self-interested maneuverings of the five permanent members of the Security Council, fails to intervene. Its only concrete step, the Security Council resolution passed in July, all but plagiarized the resolutions on Rwanda 10 years earlier. When I read phrases like "reaffirming its commitment to the sovereignty, unity, territorial integrity and independence of Sudan" and "expressing its determination to do everything possible to halt a humanitarian catastrophe, including by taking further action if required," I can't help but think of the stifling directives that were imposed on the United Nations' department of peacekeeping operations in 1994 and then passed down to me in the field.

I recall all too well the West's indifference to the horrors that unfolded in Rwanda beginning in April 1994. Early warnings had gone unheeded, intervention was ruled out and even as the bodies piled up on the streets of Kigali and across the countryside, world leaders quibbled over the definition of what was really happening. The only international forces they sent during those first days and weeks of the massacres were paratroopers to evacuate the foreigners. Before long, we were burning the bodies with diesel fuel to ward off disease, and the smell that would cling to your skin like an oil.

Several African countries promised me battalions of troops and hundreds of observers to help come to grips with the relentless carnage. But they had neither the equipment nor the logistical support to sustain themselves, and no way to fly in the vehicles and ammunition needed to conduct sustained operations.

Today, to be sure, the international community is caught in the vicissitudes of complex political problems - particularly the fragile cease-fire between the Islamic government and the largely Christian population in southern Sudan. Powerful nations like the United States and Britain have lost much of their credibility because of the quagmire of Iraq. And infighting at the United Nations has bogged down an American proposed second resolution that probably wouldn't do much more than the one passed in July.

So in the end we get nothing more than pledges to support the international monitoring team of a few hundred observers from the African Union (on Friday, Sudan agreed that this force could expand to 3,500 soldiers). Nigeria and other countries are willing to send a larger intervention force, but they can't do so effectively without the kind of logistical and transportation support Western countries could provide.

Sudan is a huge country with a harsh terrain and a population unlikely to welcome outside intervention. Still, I believe that a mixture of mobile African Union troops supported by NATO soldiers equipped with helicopters, remotely piloted vehicles, night-vision devices and long-range special forces could protect Darfur's displaced people in their camps and remaining villages, and eliminate or incarcerate the Janjaweed.

If NATO is unable to act adequately, manpower could perhaps come individually from the so-called middle nations - countries like Germany and Canada that have more political leeway and often more credibility in the developing world than the Security Council members.

In April, on the 10th anniversary of the start of his country's genocide, President Paul Kagame told his people and the world that if any country ever suffered genocide, Rwanda would willingly come to its aid. He chastised the international community for its callous response to the killing spree of 1994, during which 800,000 people were slaughtered and three million lost their homes and villages. And sure enough, Rwanda sent a small contingent to Darfur. President Kagame kept his word. Having called what is happening in Darfur genocide and having vowed to stop it, it is time for the West to keep its word as well.

Roméo Dallaire, a fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard, is the author of "Shake Hands With the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda."

Monday, October 04, 2004

Himmler's Poznan speech - October 4, 1943

An anniversary worth marking. --Jeff Weintraub

Norman Geras (Normblog)
October 4, 2004

Himmler's Poznan speech

On October 4 1943 Heinrich Himmler made a notorious speech in Poznan, Poland. The full text in both German and English is available here. An excerpt:

I also want to mention a very difficult subject before you here, completely openly. It should be discussed amongst us, and yet, nevertheless, we will never speak about it in public.
I am talking about the "Jewish evacuation": the extermination of the Jewish people. It is one of those things that is easily said. "The Jewish people is being exterminated," every Party member will tell you, "perfectly clear, it's part of our plans, we're eliminating the Jews, exterminating them, ha!, a small matter."

And then along they all come, all the 80 million upright Germans, and each one has his decent Jew. They say: all the others are swine, but here is a first-class Jew.

And none of them has seen it, has endured it. Most of you will know what it means when 100 bodies lie together, when there are 500, or when there are 1000. And to have seen this through, and - with the exception of human weaknesses - to have remained decent, has made us hard and is a page of glory never mentioned and never to be mentioned.

Posted by Norm at 09:40 PM | Permalink