The film showed very disturbing footage of piles and piles of dead bodies in Rwanda along with footage of President Clinton stating that he would not put American lives in danger if the United States was not directly affected by the chain of events taking place. What’s worse, the lack of action and intervention from the international community or the active role taken by the Rwandan government in the genocide? One could argue that both actions are equally despicable as the international community with the power to prevent the genocide did not and the Rwandan government not only failed to protect its people but also aided in the killings.
The most moving part of the film for me unquestionably was when the commander of the U. N. peacekeeping force in Rwanda, Gen. Romeo Dallaire says he remains haunted by his inability to stop the killing. “Rwanda will never leave me: it’s in the pores of my body. …We saw lots of them dying, and lots of those eyes still haunt me — angry eyes, innocent eyes. They’re looking at me with my blue beret, and they’re saying, `What in the hell happened? Why am I dying here? ” The genocide in Rwanda appears to have followed a course according to Jentleson’s purposive theory which can only be fully understood in a historical context.
The tension between the two ethnic groups was used by the Belgians to keep control until Rwanda was given its independence in 1962. The US along with the rest of the international community has struggled with the concept of genocide and exactly what to do about it since the 1940s. It wasn’t until, “November 4, 1988, [that] US President Ronald Reagan signed the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide” was just a few years before the genocides began in Somalia, Yugoslavia, Rwanda and the neighboring Burundi.
The United States suffered the loss of 18 lives in a peacekeeping mission in Somalia and the rest of the world was failing in the nations of Yugoslavia preventing the Serbs from committing atrocities in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Clinton administration was faced with the daunting task of choosing which conflict to intervene in because honestly it was not feasible for the United States to become involved in and lead every peacekeeping mission.
This does not mean that the United States still did not have the responsibility to protect in each of those cases of genocide which if warning signs had been taken seriously, each of the cases of ethnic cleansing in Europe and Africa could have been prevented. U. S. national interest for the Clinton administration and the 103rd Congress was preventing the loss of American lives in humanitarian crises abroad. Each conflict of the early and mid-90s was extremely complicated in its own right and even harder to comprehend since they were taking place at the same time.
Clinton and his security advisers did not want to take unilateral action in the Rwandan conflict which makes sense because at this time the precedent was to act multilaterally through the United Nations who was having a hard time deciding exactly when and how to intervene. The correct approach may have been for the U. S. to first gain and keep the interests of the rest of the international community in Rwanda convincing them to keep the peacekeeping force there also granting them the power to use force against a threat. This was suggested by former U. N.
Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali in the film stating “in Yugoslavia the international community was interested, was involved. In Rwanda nobody was interested. So we have to fight two problems: the tragedy as such and the indifference of the international community. ” Clearly there was no clear-cut solution to intervention as there is no precedent for a country intervening unilaterally and it wasn’t until years after the conflict in Rwanda that “the UN was recognized as the legitimate authority to mandate military intervention” as is stated in the lesson on genocide.