When the slaughter in Rwanda occured -- twenty-five years ago -- the nations of the Western world pleaded ignorance. Gerry Caplan writes:
Many in the Western world were indeed ignorant about the situation, which is one of the explanations later adduced for the failure of the “international community” to intervene and stop the slaughter. Most Western newspapers and TV networks either didn’t know or didn’t care about a tiny nation in Central Africa called Rwanda. For many, their negligible interest in Africa was appeased by the first free election in South Africa, which happened to take place in the same month, April, 1994, that the genocide began.
The West made a collective vow that it would never happen again. It did not take long before that resolve was tested:
The first test case − the “next Rwanda” − came soon enough, as the government of Sudan unleashed mass death against the Darfuri people in the west of the country in 2003. The New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof wrote column after outraged column on his first-hand observations in Darfur. Movie stars investigated and spoke out. A worldwide grassroots campaign materialized. Thousands of Canadians added their voices.
However, even though
U.S. President George W. Bush and his Secretary of State, Colin Powell, both agreed that a genocide was being organized against the people of Darfur . . . somehow, that did not impact American policy. Despite the provisions of the 1948 UN Convention Against Genocide, neither the U.S. nor any other government took direct action against the government of Sudan.
And now we are faced with the slaughter of the Rohingya in Myanmar:
Millions around the world seem to care about the fate of the Rohingya, none of them with any power to intervene. The UN’s human rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, reports that Myanmar’s military have committed “acts of genocide” against the Rohingya people. Yet the UN Security Council is paralyzed, this time by China, just as it was paralyzed by Clinton’s America over Rwanda.
Will we do something?
Tony Burman, the excellent Canadian foreign-affairs columnist, [is] pressing hard for some kind of intervention – ANY kind, almost. Mr. Burman wants Canada to get involved, and we can surely be certain that when Bob Rae – a wise and sensible man — soon hands in his report as the federal government’s special envoy for the crisis, he too will call on Canada to take action of some kind.
We have volunteered to go into Mali. What will we do about Myanmar?
Image: The New York Times