Two Posts in One: "Sometimes in April" & Fuck Paul Wolfowitz

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Two Posts in One: "Sometimes in April" & Fuck Paul Wolfowitz

Since I don't get HBO, I had to wait until last week to finally see the made the film "Sometimes in April" when it was shown on PBS.

As HBO described it
"Sometimes in April" is an epic story of courage in the face of daunting odds, as well as an exposé of the West's inaction as nearly a million Rwandans were being killed. The plot focuses on two brothers embroiled in the 1994 conflict between the Hutu majority (who had ruled Rwanda since 1959) and the Tutsi minority who had received favored treatment when the country was ruled by Belgium. The protagonists (both Hutus) are reluctant soldier Augustin Muganza (Idris Elba), married to a Tutsi and father to three, and his brother Honoré (Oris Erhuero), a popular public figure espousing Hutu propaganda from a powerful pulpit: Radio RTLM in Rwanda.
The movie was quite remarkable and is certainly worth seeing. In fact, if you are going to see one movie about Rwanda, I would recommend "Sometimes in April" over the much more high-profile "Hotel Rwanda."

In the post I wrote back in January on "Hotel Rwanda" I wrote that I felt that the movie lacked context and failed to adequately explain important pieces of information. But now that I have seen "Sometimes in April," I also realized just how limited the perspective was in "Hotel Rwanda," much to its detriment.

On the one hand, I didn't feel that "Sometimes in April" had as much of an emotional impact on the viewer, but on the other hand it did a far better job of explaining and portraying the sheer horror that was the genocide. "Sometimes in April" shows many scenes of horrific violence, as well as their aftermath, whereas "Hotel Rwanda" basically told the story of the genocide through one man's eyes.

"Sometimes in April" shows key developments during the genocide, from the murder to the 10 Belgian soldiers to the massacre at the St. Famille Church. Perhaps the best scene in the movie comes when foreign troops are sent into Rwanda to rescue white expatriate and the Rwandans beg for protection, but the soldiers climb into their vehicles and drive off. And just as they pull away, hundreds of armed Interahamwe come pouring out of the forest and descend upon the Rwanda who have been left behind.

Anyway, the point is that "Sometimes in April" is really good and that you should watch it if you get the chance.

The second part of this post deals with a special panel discussion PBS held after the showing of "Sometimes in April" featuring Samantha Power, Paul Wolfowitz and others.

I can't find a transcript of it, so you will have to just take my word when I tell you that Paul Wolfowitz is a fucking asshole.

To give you a sense of just what an asshole he is, at one point the moderator asked him if, in the real world, it might ever be possible for nations to put aside their own interests and agree to stop a genocide in progress, even if it was not in their own national interest.

Wolfowitz's response was: "I think, generally speaking, that is probably a good principle."

That is it! His answer was so pathetic that the moderate actually laughed and tried to rephrase the question, but the point had been made.

For me, the most frustrating thing about Wolfowitz was his insistence that the current situation in Darfur is extremely complex, a point he made repeatedly. In making this point, Wolfowitz actually argued that in hindsight, Rwanda was a simple problem that could have been stopped with a relatively modest intervention force designed to remove the genocidal regime. He also argued that the Clinton administration should have pushed for that but then went on to declare that Darfur was different and a lot more difficult.

That is utter bullshit. Darfur is no more complex than Rwanda, it is just that Darfur is unfolding now and Rwanda is ten years old. Looking back on Rwanda, we can see countless missed opportunities that led to the deaths of 800,000 people and know that the situation was not necessarily as complex as it seemed at the time.

And 10 years from now, people will look back on Darfur and see that there were various things the world could have done that the world chose not to do because the situation seemed to complex. And just as the members of the Clinton administration argue that, at the time, Rwanda seemed very dangerous and complicated, members of the Bush administration are saying exactly the same thing about Darfur.

Rwanda was complicated and Darfur is complicated. But we have the benefit of hindsight with Rwanda that allows us to see that it was not quite as complicated as we initially thought and that there were many options available beyond doing nothing.

But it looks like Wolfowitz refuses to learn that lesson and is making exactly the same mistakes made 10 years earlier by the Clinton administration while, at the same time, faulting the Clinton administration for making those mistakes.

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