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Hillary And Rwanda

Today's NYT look at Hillary's White House foreign-policy role by Pat Healy is interesting in various ways, not least for Hillary's conspicuous paranoia of saying anything noteworthy about her influence on Bill's decision making. Also conspicuous is her apparent omission of any hint that she supported bombing in Bosnia and Kosovo.

But I was most struck to see that when asked about the Rwandan genocide, "Mrs. Clinton declined to comment." It's odd enough that Hillary would agree to discuss 1990s foreign policy but then simply refuse to discuss a world-historical atrocity that occurred on her husband's watch (and whose lessons still resonate in Darfur and undoubtedly other places to come). But it's extra-intriguing because Rwanda is one case where Bill has explicitly said that Hillary disagreed with him. Per a Dec. 10 Boston Globe blog item from Iowa:

...using a more somber tone, [Bill] explained that [Hillary] had wanted the United States to intervene in Rwanda in 1994, when hundreds of thousands of people died in a genocide that lasted just a few months.

Clinton has often said that not acting in Rwanda was one of his biggest regrets. It's a decision, he said, for which he continues to try to make amends. Had he listened to his wife, Clinton said, things might have been different.

"I believe if I had moved we might have saved at least a third of those lives," he said. "I think she clearly would have done that."

He went on to explain how America, which did intervene in the former Yugoslavia, could only take on so much at once. But not acting in Rwanda, he suggested, was a mistake his wife wouldn't make.

 If this is true--and already out there--why wouldn't Hillary want to talk about it? The only guess I can venture is that she's afraid of saying anything right now that contribute to the notion that she's an itchy-trigger-finger foreign policy hawk. But saying you wanted to intervene in Rwanda is a far, far cry from, backing war in Iraq or Iran. If anything it should help among liberal primary voters. (Or is this not a general-election issue she wants to confront?) I'm sort of at a loss. Reader theories welcome.

--Michael Crowley