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Rwanda and Abu Ghraib


The past month was the 10th anniversary of the massacres in Rwanda, and there was much soul-searching about our failure to do anything about them. So headlines read “To Say `Never Again’ and Mean it; the 1994 Rwandan genocide should have taught us about the consequences of doing nothing” (Richard Holbrooke, Washington Post); “Learn from Rwanda” (Bill Clinton, Washington Post). So what did we learn?

In Rwanda, for 100 days people were being killed at the rate of about 8000 a day, and we did nothing. Fast forward to today. In Africa, about 10,000 children a day are dying from easily treatable diseases, and we are doing nothing to save them. That’s not just 100 days, it’s every day, year after year, killing at the Rwanda rate. And far easier to stop then Rwanda: it just means pennies to bribe drug companies to produce remedies. But we do nothing.

Which raises another question: what kind of socioeconomic system can be so savage and insane that to stop Rwanda-scale killings among children going on year after year it’s necessary to bribe the most profitable industry that ever existed? That’s carrying socioeconomic lunacy beyond the bounds that even the craziest maniac could imagine? But we do nothing.

So what was learned from Rwanda. And why isn’t it a story? I think the reason is clear. It’s too hard to look into the mirror. In the case of Abu Ghraib, we can say someone else is responsible.

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