Watching the documentary in class, it was extremely disturbing to see UN officials completely ignore the begging citizens of Rwanda as they helped to evacuate foreign white people that were in Rwanda. As I watched this, I soon after wondered whether videos like this were public and widespread at the time, and if they were, how US citizens did not keep the government more accountable for doing nothing. While it is clear from reading this portion of Power’s book that there were many individuals in the US advocating strongly for the US to help people in Rwanda, after asking people who were alive at the time, it does not seem as though there were significant movements in the US supporting US intervention/ involvement. Had citizens been more active and vocal about what they demanded, maybe the government/ administration would have responded with a little bit more care and concern to the genocide in Rwanda.
In response to the Radio Mille Collines, Power wrote that “Lists of victims had been prepared ahead of time” (333). As they read the names of these victims before they had actually been killed, the Rwandan people at risk listened. If they heard their name, they knew they had to attempt to flee. With this public information, the United States and other countries could have established a program in which they helped evacuate/ protect the people whose names were called. Information about who would be killed was publicly broadcasted, and yet there weren’t efforts to help these people. Even if the US and other countries truly felt that they could not support thousands and thousands of Rwandan refugees, they could have helped specifically those at immediate risk.
Also, there were many early warnings of the genocide that countries including the US should have responded in a more responsible and caring manner. For example, many were hostile about the Arusha government agreement and feared that the Tutsi, if given the chance, would be extremely harsh rulers that suppressed and potentially harmed Hutu people (337). This alone reveals the tensions that existed between the two groups of people because of the struggle for control in the country. Furthermore, in 1990 the Hutu “Ten Commandments” were written and published, known as the Kangura, and these clearly outlined Hutu intentions (338). Specifically, #6 of these commandments stated that “the education sector must be majority Hutu.” This reminds me of the discrimination in schools during the Holocaust, specifically when Jews and Roma and Sinti were banned from German schools. These should have all acted as clear warnings to the US and other countries that there was clear tension and evidence of genocide based on resemblances to a past genocide. Furthermore, by 1992 there were 581,000 machetes in Rwanda. Not only was there dangerous tension in the country, but there was the clear potential for action to be taken in a way that killed thousands of people. Considering these pre-warnings, I don’t think it is right for the US or other countries to try to settle these ethnic disputes because they do not fully understand them and would likely only make them worse. However, they could have acted to try to remove power from the Hutu that were responsible for the Ten Commandments. Also, even if the US was not able to actively prevent the tensions and as a result the genocide, it could have recognized these warnings and begun to prepare for actions against the Interhamwe once the killings began. It also could have begun to prepare to take in refugees.
Something that stuck out to me as I read this portion of the book was that a major argument supporting the removal of UN troops from Rwanda was that people did not want another failed UN mission like those in Bosnia, Somalia, and Haiti (340). I can understand the logic in avoiding risking people’s lives for an effort that could likely fail considering the failure of the UN in the past. However, the US could have acted independently of the UN. If the Rwandan genocide was of true concern in the US, it should have taken initiative and established efforts to help the Rwandan people independently of the mission they believed would be a failure. The UN mission was not the only option and I think it was a strategic excuse for the US to act as if it was in order to get away with avoiding conflict.
Additionally, in the book I read about Dallaire's use of the word genocide and how he began to use it a lot once he realized that it was genocide occurring. He did this because he believed that “unless the international community acts, it may find it is unable to defend itself against accusations of doing nothing to stop genocide” (358). This stood out to me because looking at the genocide and the international response now, I know that the US and other countries have not faced true consequences for their inaction. Therefore, Dallaire’s point about defense against this inaction was essentially pointless after the genocide ended because the US and other countries seemed to pretty easily get away with what they did (didn’t do). Also, this makes me think of the section of reading from Power’s book from the last post in which we learned about the initial creation of the word genocide after the Holocaust and the clear definition of the word in order to force the international community to have a greater responsibility the next time people were victims of genocide. Despite these huge efforts, it seems as though countries have just continued to find loopholes to be inactive and selfish by not outwardly calling the acts in Rwanda and other placed genocide. In the video we watched in class, we watched the woman of the Clinton administration clearly attempting to avoid mention of the word genocide because the moment the US acknowledges the atrocities as genocide, they would be forced to act. To me, this is clear evidence that the US had a strong understanding of what was happening in Rwanda, knew that they should help and had the ability to help, and yet chose to be inactive and selfish. The US and other inactive countries should have faced international punishments for this to avoid it from happening again.
As I reflect on this as a whole, it is obvious to me that the US had a responsibility to help the people in Rwanda. Seeing images of the mass amounts of people killed and reading the witnesses of survivors, it is clear that it came to a point where the Tutsi could not protect themselves, and thus other countries should have helped to protect them. It is hard to say what the best action would have been. Removing the weapons of the Hutu would have helped to prevent this violence and the 800,000 deaths, but it also hard to say that the US has the power to do this in another country that they have had little involvement with otherwise. I think a main thing the US should have done would have been to stop the glorification of the killings. This could have included efforts to stop the Hutu radio announcements, which only encouraged Hutu to kill more people. Finally, there were already UN troops in Rwanda but their assignments were to protect themselves not the Rwandan people. This makes no sense to me because their lives were at little risk compared to the people in Rwanda. If they were truly trying to keep peace, the UN forces should have helped those who were actually the victims of violence. Because the UN continues to fail in situations like this, I do think that the US could have tried to help independently of the UN. If it did, I think it is likely that other countries would have followed their lead and collaborated without the restrictions from the UN.