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Rwanda/USA: "The System Worked"
Mar 31, 2004 (040331)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
"In a sense, the system worked: Diplomats, intelligence agencies,
defense and military officials--even aid workers--provided timely
information up the chain to President Clinton and his top advisors.
That the Clinton Administration decided against intervention at any
level was not for lack of knowledge of what was happening in
Rwanda." - William Ferroggiaro, National Security Archive Fellow
A new report and declassified documents, released by the non-profit
National Security Archive on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the
genocide in Rwanda, confirms earlier reports that it was political
will, not lack of information, that stopped the U.S. from acting to
check the killing. Yet despite official inquiries into similar
inaction by the UN and the Organization of African Unity,
legislative inquiries in Belgium and France, and a host of nonofficial
books and reports, there has been no official U.S. inquiry
into responsibilities for these failures. Richard Clarke, now featured in the
news for his critique of President Bush's counter-terrorism policy,
reportedly played a key role in arguing vigorously and successfully
against a more proactive U.S. response to the genocide. Yet neither he
nor other officials have ever testified on their roles in the U.S. failure to respond.
This issue of AfricaFocus Bulletin contains a press release and
excerpts from the new report by the National Security Archive. The
full report, which details many of the key officials and agencies
involved in U.S. information-gathering and decision-making at the
time, is available on the Archive's website, along with images of
selected declassified documents (see URL below).
Additional on-line sources on the U.S. decision-making process
during the genocide include a National Defense University paper by
Lt.-Col. Richard D. Hooker, Jr. at:
and the 2001 Atlantic article by Samantha Power at:
Another AfricaFocus Bulletin sent out today features excerpts from
an overview commentary on international response ten years ago,
written by Gerald Caplan, coordinator of "Remembering Rwanda: The
Rwanda Genocide 10th Anniversary Memorial Project."
++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++
U.S. Intelligence Warned 'Genocide' In Rwanda In April, But Clinton
Administration Waited Until Late May To Use Word
National Security Archive (Washington, DC)
March 29, 2004
New Documents And Report Highlight Array Of Info Before U.S.
U.S. intelligence reports concluded that the slaughter in Rwanda
ten years ago amounted to genocide as early as April 23, 1994,
while policymakers debated for another month over whether to use
the word publicly, according to a new report and declassified
documents posted on the Web by the National Security Archive.
Obtained through the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, the documents
illuminate the vast array of 'information and intelligence'
available to Clinton Administration officials during the crisis, as
well as the policymaking committees and working groups that used
The documents reveal:
- The CIA's top secret National Intelligence Daily, circulated to
President Clinton, Vice President Gore and hundreds of senior
officials, featured the slaughter in Rwanda on a daily or
near-daily basis in April and May 1994, including an April 23
analysis that Rwandan rebels will continue fighting to "stop the
genocide, which...is spreading south";
- The State Department's intelligence briefing for Secretary
Christopher and other top officials saw in Rwanda "genocide and
partition" as early as April 26, reporting declarations of "a
'final solution' to eliminate all Tutsis", but the U.S. did not
officially declare the killing genocide until May 25;
- U.S. officials, including Secretary Christopher and Secretary
Perry, met with and telephoned counterparts such as UN Secretary
General Boutros-Ghali, Gen. Romeo Dallaire, and French Foreign
Minister Alain Juppe throughout the crisis, with Gen. Dallaire
pleading with USAID head Brian Atwood that "without U.S. equipment,
UNAMIR can do virtually nothing" to save civilians in Rwanda;
- U.S. officials met throughout April and May with human rights and
humanitarian agency representatives concerned with Rwanda,
including a May 17 meeting where International Committee of the Red
Cross official Jean de Courten told State Department Under
Secretary Timothy Wirth the "mass killings" in Rwanda compared to
the "genocide in Cambodia".
Archive consulting fellow William Ferroggiaro, who wrote the report
and obtained the documents through the U.S. Freedom of Information
Act, said, "The documents show that despite Rwanda's relative
unimportance to U.S. interests and despite other crises demanding
their attention, U.S. officials had the capacity and resources to
know what was happening in Rwanda. In a sense, the system worked:
Diplomats, intelligence agencies, defense and military
officials--even aid workers--provided timely information up the
chain to President Clinton and his top advisors. That the Clinton
Administration decided against intervention at any level was not
for lack of knowledge of what was happening in Rwanda."
Ferroggiaro also serves as a research consultant to "Ghosts of
Rwanda", a special two-hour Frontline documentary that will be
broadcast on PBS on April 1, 2004.
For the report, go to: http://www.nsarchive.org/NSAEBB/NSAEBB117
The National Security Archive is an independent non-governmental
research institute and library located at The George Washington
University in Washington, D.C. The Archive collects and publishes
declassified documents acquired through the Freedom of Information
Act (FOIA). A tax-exempt public charity, the Archive receives no
U.S. government funding; its budget is supported by publication
royalties and donations from foundations and individuals.
The U.S. and the Genocide in Rwanda 1994
Information, Intelligence and the U.S. Response
by William Ferroggiaro
March 24, 2004
[excerpts: for full report, including footnotes and images of
Ten years ago this week, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for
African Affairs Prudence Bushnell visited Rwanda and Burundi. Her
visit-one of many visits by State Department and Defense Department
officials in the preceding year-served dual purposes: to pressure
Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana, his government and
opposition groups to form a transitional government and to gather
information for policymakers back home. Such diplomatic activity
was emblematic of the resources and attention committed to Rwanda
despite its relative unimportance to U.S. interests.
In their hour-long meeting, Bushnell told Habyarimana that "Rwanda
was in an historic transition, one which historians would record as
being glorious, or ignominious and tragic." She observed that U.S.
support of UN peacekeeping in Rwanda was in jeopardy and that
"Rwanda was losing funding" from the U.S. "with each day of delay".
Both Bushnell and her colleague, Central Africa office director
Arlene Render, registered their "deep concern over the mounting
violence in Rwanda", as well as "the distribution of arms and arms
caches". While the president had earlier dismissed the
power-sharing agreement to his followers (Note 1), he told his U.S.
visitors that he "supported the Arusha Accord and would continue to
do so" but was "greatly disquieted" by the "current political
atmosphere". The next day, the officials met with rebel Rwandan
Patriotic Front leaders who "blamed the President for the impasse".
Document 1 Kigali 01316, 25 Mar 94
Bushnell and Render's immediate efforts were in vain. Two weeks
later, upon returning from a regional summit, the plane carrying
Habyarimana and Burundian President Cyprien Ntaryamira was shot
down as it approached Kigali, effectively kicking off a genocide.
From April to July 1994, Hutu extremists in the Rwandan government,
military and militias killed more than 500,000 Rwandan Tutsi and
moderate Hutu in an attempt to preserve a chauvinistic, one-party
state and prevent the establishment of the transition government
called for in the 1993 Arusha Accords. However, Bushnell's visit
served to educate her and U.S. officials about the situation in
Rwanda, such that she understood and so informed Secretary of State
Warren Christopher that the assassination of the two presidents
would lead to "widespread violence - in either or both countries".
As horrific as the killing was in Rwanda, the U.S. did not see its
interests affected enough to launch unilateral intervention.
President Clinton himself best articulated his Administration's
calculus during D-Day commemorations in France on June 7 saying of
U.S. humanitarian relief efforts on Rwanda "I think that is about
all we can do at this time when we have troops in Korea, troops in
Europe, the possibility of new commitments in Bosnia if we can
achieve a peace agreement, and also when we are working very hard
to try to put the U.N. agreement in Haiti back on track, which was
broken." (Note 3) While some countries argued early for action, few
actually ever brought any means to bear-the "lack of resources and
political commitment" was "a failure by the United Nations system
as a whole" as the Independent Inquiry on the UN noted. (Note 4)
The U.S. did not encourage a UN response because it saw two
potential outcomes: the authorization of a new UN force and a new
mandate without the means to implement either; and worse, the very
real possibility of the U.S. having to bail out a failed UN
mission. For the recently-burned Clinton Administration, this
looked like Somalia redux.
Nevertheless, throughout the crisis, considerable U.S.
resources-diplomatic, intelligence and military-and sizable
bureaucracies of the U.S. government-were trained on Rwanda. This
system collected and analyzed information and sent it up to
decision-makers so that all options could be properly considered
and 'on the table'. Officials, particularly at the middle levels,
sometimes met twice daily, drafting demarches, preparing press
statements, meeting or speaking with foreign counterparts and other
interlocutors, and briefing higher-ups. Indeed, the story of Rwanda
for the U.S. is that officials knew so much, but still decided
against taking action or leading other nations to prevent or stop
the genocide. Despite Rwanda's low ranking in importance to U.S.
interests, Clinton Administration officials had tremendous capacity
to be informed--and were informed--about the slaughter there; as
noted author Samantha Power writes "any failure to fully appreciate
the genocide stemmed from political, moral, and imaginative
weaknesses, not informational ones." (Note 5)
This report examines the information and intelligence resources
available to and relied upon by policymakers during the Rwanda
crisis. It also highlights the structure and personalities of U.S.
decision-making during that late spring of 1994 when hundreds of
thousands were killed as the U.S. and other nations stood by.
Who Produced the Information?
[includes details on extensive information available to U.S.
officials through diplomatic, intelligence, and military sources.
Who Used the Information?
The President and Vice President
As the top elected official in the country and as the
Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, President Bill Clinton had
access to any item of information created by U.S. diplomatic,
defense or intelligence organizations and could also order the
production of any report, analysis or memo by these same
Departments and agencies. Vice President Al Gore, who had a close
working relationship with the President and whose long experience
in foreign affairs and defense issues was much relied upon, could
also review or call for production of any conceivable information.
For example, both received and reviewed the President's Daily Brief
produced by the CIA. In addition, Cabinet officials and others
reported up to the President and Vice President. ... Besides
official communications, the President had access to all varieties
of information. This April 21 letter from Rwandan human rights
activist Monique Mujawamariya, whom the President had welcomed to
the White House in December 1993, implored President Clinton to act
against the "campaign" of "genocide against the Tutsis", reminding
him that the U.S. "has a moral and legal treaty obligation to
'suppress and prevent' genocide." Document 47 Mujawamariya Letter
to the President, 21 Apr 94 ...
[report includes additional detail on the National Security
Council, the "Principals Committee," the "Deputies Committee," and
"Interagency Working Groups," and the "Interagency Task Force."]
Excerpt on NSC:
Serving the NSC are directorates to coordinate the work of the
agencies and monitor U.S. policy, which vary in size and influence
depending on the issue (in early 1994, nine officials were assigned
to Europe and the former Soviet Union, two to Africa). NSC Staff
Director Nancy Soderberg monitored the work of the directorates and
handled issues upon which she had particular expertise. During the
Rwanda crisis, the Senior Director for African Affairs was Donald
Steinberg, a career Foreign Service Officer with experience in
South Africa, in trade issues, on Capitol Hill, and most recently
with the press operation. His deputy, serving as Director for
African Affairs, was MacArthur "Mac" Deshazer. The Directorate for
Global Issues and Multilateral Affairs handled peacekeeping, among
other issues; it was headed by Senior Director Richard Clarke, an
experienced bureaucratic insider who had previously served the Bush
Administration in the critical position of Assistant Secretary of
State for Politico-Military Affairs. His deputy active on Rwanda
during the crisis was Director Susan Rice, who would go on to serve
the second Clinton Administration as Assistant Secretary of State
for African Affairs.
Excerpt on Deputies Committee:
The President also directed the establishment of the Deputies
Committee "as the senior sub-Cabinet interagency forum" on national
security policy to "vet" issues and options for the full NSC and
Principals Committee, to monitor "policy implementation", and to
lead "day-to-day crisis management". (Note 31) During the
Rwanda crisis, Deputies Committee members were deputy National
Security Advisor Sandy Berger as Chair; Under Secretary of Defense
for Policy Frank Wisner; Under Secretary of State for Political
Affairs Peter Tarnoff; Deputy Director of Central Intelligence Adm.
William Studeman; Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm.
William Owens, USN; the Vice President's national security advisor
Leon Fuerth; and others, including by invitation. (Note 32)
In this April 28th memo, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for
African Affairs Bushnell briefed Under Secretary of State Tarnoff
for his participation in the April 29 Deputies meeting, emphasizing
that State should "share information" it has gained and should push
to secure assistance for Rwanda "after the current crisis passes."
Nevertheless, she advised Tarnoff, "killing of civilians apparently
continues." Document 50 Bushnell Memo to Tarnoff, 28 Apr 94
Given their responsibilities, the Deputies met
frequently, upon direction by Mr. Berger. The Administration's new
peacekeeping policy also required Deputies Committee review and
approval of the U.S. position in the UN Security Council whenever
there was consideration of a new peacekeeping operation or revision
of an existing one. Consequently, because the UN assistance mission
for Rwanda (UNAMIR) figured prominently in the crisis, this
high-level group met many times on Rwanda.
Excerpt on Inter-agency task force:
Beginning in April and continuing throughout the crisis, an
inter-agency task force met to coordinate policy and activities
during the crisis. As its name suggests, this group, with more
fluid membership, included officials from the NSC, State
Department, USAID, defense agencies, and intelligence
organizations, and was regularly chaired by NSC officials,
including Richard Clarke, or Deputy Assistant Secretary of State
Prudence Bushnell. Concerned solely with Rwanda, it was the most
active policy grouping on Rwanda, meeting at least daily, receiving
intelligence briefings and discussing practical actions and
initiatives. This memorandum of the inter-agency group's May 12th
meeting, which was called to develop a policy position for Deputies
Committee approval concerning an expanded UNAMIR, demonstrates the
bureaucratic input process at the mid-level-and also the serious
policy differences between the NSC, State Department and the Joint
Staff. As the Department of Defense representative noted, "we were
unable to get anyone to say they would use the word Chapter VII"
for the "mission statement"-the key Pentagon contention, challenged
by none other than Gen. Dallaire, that Rwanda would require robust
peace enforcement operations (Chapter VII of the UN Charter) as
opposed to peacekeeping (Chapter VI). Document 52 Rwanda IWG, ca.
12 May 94
In analyzing the sources and scope of information and intelligence,
it is also important to consider the ground-level reporting provided
by journalists in Rwanda and in the region. Analysts in Washington
often looked first to the newswires before getting confirmation of
events from diplomatic, intelligence or military sources. Indeed,
beginning April 8th, the massacres in Rwanda were reported on the
front pages of major newspapers and on radio and television
broadcasts almost daily, including the major papers read by U.S.
officials and policy elites. (Note 34) In Rwanda, UNAMIR Force
Commander Dallaire understood the power of the news media; despite
his other responsibilities, he devoted considerable effort and
resources so that a few journalists could get the story to the
outside world, reasoning that a "reporter with a line to the West
was worth a battalion on the ground." (Note 35) Information
reported publicly from Rwanda not only informed policymakers in
their decision-making, but led to pressure for intervention at
least in France. As the following U.S. Embassy Paris telegram
indicates, "the most consistent and readily identifiable element in
the GOF decision to intervene was the cumulative effect of French
journalists reporting". "Televised images of the slaughter", in
particular, had important "effect on GOF Africanists". Document 53
Paris 17431, 24 Jun 94
Departments, agencies and military organizations of the U.S.
government provided necessary information up to policymakers for
their discussions and decisions during the Rwanda crisis. Although
stated policy was that Rwanda did not affect traditional vital or
national interests before or even during the genocide, considerable
resources were nevertheless available and employed to ensure that
policymakers had real-time information for any decision they would
make. In sum, the routine-let alone crisis-performance of
diplomats, intelligence officers and systems, and military and
defense personnel yielded enough information for policy
recommendations and decisions. That the Clinton Administration
decided against intervention at any level was not for lack of
knowledge of what was happening in Rwanda.
AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication
providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with
a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus
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