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At UN, Ms. Albright Talks Genocide While Dodging on Rwanda Votes of 1994

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, December 9 -- The U.S. is said to be a forgiving country, a land of re-invention of self. How else to explain Madeleine Albright, who in 1994 while serving on the Security Council pushed to remove UN peacekeepers from Rwanda during the genocide, showing up Tuesday at the UN along with William Cohen as experts to advise Barack Obama on the prevention of genocide?

  Certainly, a person who has erred is in a good position to help successors avoid the same mistake. But Ms. Albright's introductory remarks to the Press did not mention the word Rwanda. So Inner City Press asked her, as the U.S. Permanent Representative during the Rwanda genocide, what lesson she has taken from it, and from the Council's dealings with the Democratic Republic of the Congo? Video here, from Minute 10:44.

   Ms. Albright could only say that people had been distracted by Bosnia and Haiti and, she said, Somalia "where the Black Hawk helicopter had been shot down." We were doing things, she said. But she did not address the connection, that following the deaths of American service people in Somalia, President Bill Clinton decided that not only no Americans, but no other peacekeepers should take action in Rwanda.

  Belgian peacekeepers had been shot, and Belgium wanted to leave. Today, Belgium says it is interested in sending peacekeepers to its former colony the Congo, but won't because the European Union doesn't agree. The EU is deploying in Kosovo. What has been learned?

Madeleine Albright at the UN, again and again

   Here is Ms. Albright's answer to Inner City Press' question:

"I do think there are various aspects of the tragedy of Rwanda that obviously weigh very heavily on all of us that had anything to do with it. And I do think there are lessons there that have been incorporated into some of these suggestions.

"I think that it is obviously always easier for people to make judgments about what decisions were taken at the time when there was a different level of information available, which is something I tell my students all the time, but I do think what was missing was enough information coming in, looking at patterns, early warning signs, and anything in the US government that actually was a strong interagency process that had people watching for what was going on, and that's why we've suggested an atrocities prevention committee that would meet on a monthly basis and would be available, why we have suggested that the National Intelligence Estimate involve intelligence across the board ...

"The other part that I think is truly germane and why you need people spending time on this, for those of you who were here during that period, you know that it isn't as if we weren't doing anything. We had been in Somalia, the Black Hawk helicopter had been shot down, we were in Bosnia, we were looking at Haiti."

 News analysis: rather than "never again," this is a recipe for "again and again."

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

Click here for Inner City Press Nov. 7 debate on the war in Congo

Watch this site, and this Oct. 2 debate, on UN, bailout, MDGs

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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