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Perry Anderson on Kofi Annan

Lest we forget the knuckle-dragging on Rwanda:  A year later, in January 1994, he received an urgent cable from Roméo Dallaire, the Canadian lieutenant general in charge of the UN force in Rwanda, warning him of impending slaughter of the … Read More

By / March 20, 2007

Lest we forget the knuckle-dragging on Rwanda

A year later, in January 1994, he received an urgent cable from Roméo Dallaire, the Canadian lieutenant general in charge of the UN force in Rwanda, warning him of impending slaughter of the Tutsi population in the country and explaining he planned to intervene by raiding Hutu arms caches. Not only did Annan refuse to allow any measures to be taken to stop the unleashing of genocide; he insured that the fax informing him of what was in store did not reach the Security Council. Approximately 800,000 Tutsis died in the ensuing massacre. Measured by consequences, the culpability of Kurt Waldheim, exposed for concealing his service as a Nazi intelligence officer in the Balkans, was puny by comparison. Annan remained quite unmoved until it became too impolitic to deny any remorse. The extent of his contrition is summed up by all he would say to Traub, after a long pause, about his part in the fate of Rwanda: "In retrospect, and this is also the culture of the house, we should have used the media more aggressively, and exposed the situation for them to see. Of course, at that time this organization was media-shy." Read: Don't blame me, I'm the one who became media-friendly. As banalizations go, Arendt might have had some words for it.

Annan reminds me of Colin Powell, another "glamorous" doyen of the establishment who, when news of the My Lai massacre was passed across his desk as a U.S. functionary in Vietnam, quietly muffled the scandal until an intrepid reporter called Sy Hersh brought it to light.

Realism, etc.

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