If I were an Oscar voter, I would, like Roger Simon have voted for Don Cheadle for Best Actor and Sophie Okonedo for Best Supporting Actress for their work in “HOTEL RWANDA.” Had that movie been up for Best Picture, I would be rooting for it in Sunday’s ceremony.
While the movie does have a Hollywood moment toward the end, it is far from a Hollywood movie. Indeed, not since “THE PIANIST” have I seen a movie this good that is this difficult to watch. The movie highlights the heroism of Paul Rusesabagina (played by Cheadle) who, in 1994, sheltered hundreds of his fellow Rwandans in a hotel, saving many of them from almost certain slaughter by a radical Hutu militia, allied with the then-Rwandan government.
The Rwandan genocide was not spontaneous. It was organized, its intent knowable at an early stage. It is plausible, in retrospect, that a limited military intervention in Rwanda–by European or African nations–would have forestalled that genocide. Was there a moment when we could have stopped Milosevic’s militias?
Many of my fellow conservatives fault President Clinton for his failure to act, yet too few of them suggest what we could have done to stop the genocide.
Henninger notes that while our troops didn’t find any (Weapons of Mass Destruction) WMD when they liberated Iraq from Saddam Hussein’s tyranny, they did find nearly 270 mass graves “holding between 290,000 and 400,000 bodies. Maybe Iraq didn’t pose a threat to the United States — or our interests — but through March of 2003, the Iraqi regime was guilty of the worst kinds of human rights violations. As was the Rwandan regime in 1994. As are the Sudanese militias which operate in Darfur.
Back when I was in college, I defended President Reagan’s policies in Central America against the arguments of many passionate and idealistic liberals and leftists. Most thought that we should not have intervened. One man, however, said that the problem was not that we were involved in El Salvador, but that our leaders had picked the wrong side. He held that we should join the rebels in fighting to overthrow the Salvadoran government because that government (he claimed) had violated the human rights of it citizens.
The U.S., he believed, should be a moral force, fighting to liberate the oppressed. I argued (and the historical record vindicates that argument) that by supporting then-president Jose Napoleon Duarte, we could better prod El Salvador to effect reform and so create a legacy of democracy and respect for human rights.
I wonder what my intellectual adversary would say today about our actions in Iraq. We did overthrow a tyranny which violated human rights. Even if my adversary were making a purely rhetorical point, he raised a good question. Should the U.S. intervene so as to stop tyrannies from oppressing their citizens? In this increasing interconnected world, can we turn a blind eye to those millions suffering in Darfur, Zimbabwe, North Korea, Burma and Iran?
Our actions in Iraq have led to an elected government in that once-oppressed land. My blog-league has linked an article where a Lebanese patriarch claims that the Iraqi elections mean “the start of a new Arab world.” Our use of military force may indeed lead to an improvement of the lives of milllions of Arabs currently suffering under dictatorship and tyranny.
But, what about Africa? What about tyrannies in East and Southeast Asia. Certainly those peoples also long to live free of fear and secure in their own homes. Should the United States intervene? I wish I could give a thoughtful answer.
We did the right thing in Iraq. Not merely because of the success of the elections, but also because we could not continue to allow Saddam Hussein to thumb his nose at the United States — and the United Nations. His success in circumventing over a dozen United Nations’ resolutions clearly emboldened Osama bin Laden. And our failure to contain his regime in 1991 led to the slaughter of tens of thousands of Iraqis.
Now that the U.S. has liberated Iraqi, closed the torture chambers and ended the tyranny while providing hope for the Arab world, we need to ask what we could and should have done ten years ago in Rwanda. And what we can and should do now for those suffering in Zimbabwe, Burma, Darfur and North Korea. That is, we must take seriously the point of my intellectual adversary in college — and debate whether the United States should become a moral force in the world. What should our nation do to liberate the oppressed?
-Dan (AKA GayPatriotWest): GayPatriotWest@aol.com