From Rwanda to Aleppo — non-intervention has consequences too

Lindsey Hilsum writes: Every few hours I check my WhatsApp feed from the doctors in East Aleppo. They post videos of injured children and a combination of eyewitness news and desperate messages: “Iran militia shot the convoy,” “The regime forces are still angry, I may die tens times now,” “Warplane with heavy machine gun attacking right now.”

Injured boys at a field hospital after airstrikes on the rebel held areas of Aleppo, Syria November 18, 2016.
It takes me back to April 1994, when I sat, terrified, in my house in Kigali listening to Rwandan friends who called to tell me about the slaughter in their neighbourhoods. Monica dictated to me her last words to pass onto her husband, Marcel, who was travelling. As it happened, she survived, but their five children, who were staying with their grandparents, were murdered. These are not easy memories.

A few years later, Samantha Power, then Professor of Human Rights Practice at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Governance, published a book called A Problem from Hell; America and the Age of Genocide. Her thesis, simply put, was that in the face of mass slaughter the USA has a moral and legal obligation to intervene. America did nothing when Saddam Hussein gassed the Kurds in Halabja, nor during the genocide in Rwanda nor the massacre of 7,000 men and boys at Srebrenica in Bosnia the following year.

Last week, Power, now US Ambassador to the UN, made an impassioned and futile speech in the Security Council. [Continue reading…]

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