Bill Clinton’s reputation continues to crumble

Bill Clinton recently recovered from a urinary tract infection that led to hospitalization. I was happy to see him recover and we wish him good health and long life.

His reputation, however, continues to crumble, and one wonders if he will ever emerge from his basement qualification as one of America’s most disowned presidents.

For the past few weeks, the US network FX TV has aired a much-discussed series called Impeachment that reviews the entire sordid history of Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky.

Once seen as a home wrecker, Lewinsky has made great strides over the past two decades to radically improve her image and become a champion in the fight against online bullying. Clinton, by contrast, has seen her reputation decline rapidly, especially in the #MeToo era. The last thing Clinton needed was this television series that portrays him as a man devoid of scruples or discipline.

The truth, however, is that Clinton’s legacy was not clouded by Lewinsky – a private matter – but by his abominable failure to take any action in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide.

Former US President Bill Clinton watches a moment of silence in an open mass grave of victims of the Rwandan genocide at a monument in Kigali in 2005 (credit: ARTHUR ASIIMWE / REUTERS).

Clinton is a quintessential progressive: someone who wants to believe in the goodness of people and refuses to hate anyone. His inability to arouse real hatred for evil, a fact demonstrated throughout the morally empty years of his presidency, was directly responsible for his culpable inaction in the face of the Rwandan genocide.

As defenseless African Tutsis were slaughtered by their Hutu neighbors at a rate of 333 per hour over a period of three months, the most powerful man in the world steadfastly refused to intervene. As Samantha Power well documents in her Pulitzer Prize-winning book, A Problem from Hell, she did not even convene her national security team or meet with her senior advisers to discuss the crisis. Apparently, he feared that by convicting him he would be forced to send American troops. He even refused to block the Hutu radio broadcasts that orchestrated the massacres.

The Rwandan genocide was unique in the annals of modern mass murder in that the world had no excuse not to intervene. The massacre of the Ottoman Turks of 1.5 million Armenians took place during the fog of the First World War. Franklin Roosevelt’s failure to save six million European Jews was excused for the main goal of defeating the Nazis. The Khmer Rouge extermination of a third of Cambodia’s seven million citizens took place in a country isolated from the rest of the world, giving Western powers a plausible excuse for their inaction. Yes, they probably knew. But they pretended not to.

And where was the United Nations, the organization destined to achieve world peace, during the Rwandan massacre? The UN peacekeeping commander on the ground, General Roméo Dallaire of Canada, one of the few true heroes of this story who would otherwise be cowardly, informed the world of both the preparations for mass murder and of all events once the genocide was in full swing. In Dallaire’s extraordinary and haunting book, Shake Hands with the Devil, you feel his manifest hatred for the Hutu assassins.

Dallaire is that rare breed of man who is not afraid to hate what is truly bad. He is not afraid to call murderers “demons”, as in the title of his book. But the Kofi Annans and Bill Clinton, who brought a professional humanitarian detachment to this obscene crime against humanity, sat down and did nothing.

Annan, as the global head of the UN peacekeepers, sent two now-infamous cables to Dallaire ordering him to stand down and not interfere. At the Rwanda Genocide Museum in Kigali, telegrams are prominently displayed upon entering the complex, which also houses the graves of more than 200,000 people.

In fact, Clinton obstructed efforts to intervene. His administration deprived Dallaire of any ability to protect Rwanda’s unarmed men, women and children by demanding the full withdrawal of 2,500 UN peacekeepers, and only later allowed a skeletal force of 270 in response. to pressure from African nations.

Madeleine Albright, then US ambassador to the UN, opposed leaving even this small force. He also pressured other countries, according to Philip Gourevitch in We wish to inform you that tomorrow they will kill us with our families, “to stoop, as the death toll increased from thousands to tens of thousands and to hundreds of thousands.” He said “it was the lowest point in his career as a statesman.” The effect was to signal to both the Rwandan people and the Hutu militias that the West did not care about the lives of Africans.

In truth, these so-called humanitarians are people who only love humanity in the abstract. Apparently flesh and blood human beings are below his concern.

Power, who would later succeed Susan Rice as US ambassador to the UN, referred to Rice and her colleagues in the Clinton administration as bystanders to the genocide.

In an inter-agency teleconference in April 1994, Rice, who now occupies a prominent role in the Biden administration, was reported to have said: “If we use the word ‘genocide’ and are deemed to do nothing, what will be the effect on the November [congressional] choice?”

This was an amazing statement. Power registers the puzzled and embarrassed looks on the faces of her colleagues who heard her make the comment. But Rice didn’t stop there. He then joined former national security adviser Anthony Lake and former secretaries of state Madeline Albright and Warren Christopher, in a coordinated effort to prevent UN intervention and minimize public opposition to American inaction, removing words like “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing”. of all government communications on the subject.

I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that the Clinton administration’s response to the Rwandan genocide constitutes one of the most shameful moments in American foreign policy. The United States not only refused to intervene, but, to quote The New York Times, “it also used its considerable power to dissuade other Western powers from intervening. At the height of the carnage, when Belgium lost 10 peacekeepers, the United States demanded a total withdrawal from the United Nations. Some African countries objected, and eventually Washington settled for a severe cut in the United Nations force of 2,500 men. ”

In the end, eight African nations agreed to send troops to stop the slaughter, provided the United States loaned them 50 armored personnel carriers. The Clinton administration decided to lease the trucks instead of lending them, at a price of $ 15 million. Carriers sat on an airstrip in Germany as the UN demanded $ 5 million. reduction as genocidal hell broke loose.

I wish I could say that Clinton’s response to the Rwandan genocide was his only failure. But he may be the only president in American history to stay out of three genocides.

During Bosnia’s period of ethnic cleansing, his administration once again watched from a distance as Bosnian Muslims were massacred in Srebrenica. He repeated this mistake when the Serbs cleaned up the Kosovar Albanians. And to think that the moral flaw most people associate with Clinton is having had sex with an intern.

In the case of Bosnia, the United States finally intervened in August 1995 after four years of massacres. As in Rwanda, the failure was not only the United States, but also, once again, the UN. What happened?

Unlike the meager UN force sent to Rwanda, the UN Protection Force in Bosnia (UNPROFOR) had a force of 20,000 men. He faced a dilemma, one that shouldn’t have been a dilemma for an institution committed to eradicating evil. If UNPROFOR intervenes to protect Muslims from Serbs, it will lose the credibility of peacekeepers as impartial observers. But if it remains neutral, ethnic cleansing will intensify as Serbs move into areas that the international community has insisted must be “safe.”

The United States, which had done nothing for four years, now wanted UNPROFOR to confront the Serbs or at least allow NATO airstrikes to protect “safe” areas. The irresponsible Europeans, who had sent troops to join UNPROFOR, it was not surprising that they wanted the force to focus on humanitarian activities.

Ivo Daalder, who was on the staff of Clinton’s National Security Council, noted that when nearly 400 peacekeepers were taken hostage after airstrikes in May 1995, the UN and troop-contributing countries concluded that the NATO airstrikes did more harm than good and that UNPROFOR should adhere to the principles of peacekeeping. “As in Rwanda, this essentially gave the Serbs the green light to ethnically cleanse” their territory “of Muslims and Croats.

Clinton ultimately decided to intervene in part because of the upcoming elections. (As with many politicians, it appears that self-interest was a more important motivator than upholding fundamental American and humanitarian values.) The Serbs had to be shown that there would be a high cost if they refused to negotiate an end to the fighting, and that meant the use of military force. In the end, it was a protracted US-led NATO bombing campaign that forced the Serbs to come to the negotiating table where the Dayton Accords were signed. The peace was enforced by 60,000 US and NATO forces.

Three years later, Clinton was faced with the question of whether to respond to ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. The Serbs, led by the war criminal Slobodan Milosevic, killed 1,500 Albanians and displaced 230,000-270,000 in a concerted effort to change Kosovo’s ethnic composition through expulsion and mass murder.

On March 24, 1999, NATO began operations to prevent “an even more cruel and costly war”; “To avoid a broader war in Europe”; and “seriously damaging the ability of the Serbian army to harm the people of Kosovo.” This time, Clinton finally decided to act, proving that it is never too late to do the right thing, even after many years of doing the wrong thing.

But for those who watch the impeachment and conclude that Clinton disgraced his presidency by having sex with an intern in the Oval Office, I remind you that the personal failures of leaders are just that, personal. But the policy failures that cost the lives of millions of people will never be forgiven by history.

The writer’s new book, Kosher Hate: How to Fight Jew-Hatred, Racism and Fanatry, will be published on November 16. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter @RabbiShmuley.

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