Genocide Chat

Genocide Chat

Genocide Chat

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
March 26 1998 7:15 AM

Genocide Chat

The New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times lead with President Clinton's remark that the United States should have done something quickly about the 1994 killings of half a million people in Rwanda and having failed to do so, must share in the blame for them. USA Today goes with the developing story of the Arkansas schoolyard shootings, which also gets a lot of coverage on the other fronts.

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Clinton's acknowledgement came during an emotionally charged stop at the Kigali airport during which he and Hillary listened to the wrenching recollections of massacre survivors. Given the prior day's discussion of the wrongs of slavery, Clinton's remarks about the Rwandan genocide indicate, says the WP, that his African sojourn is becoming a "contrition tour." But, points out the Post, yesterday's statement was different--with it, Clinton is referring to an episode that occurred during his own administration. The paper points out that Clinton suggested yesterday that one obstacle to taking action at the time was a lack of credible information about what was actually going on. The paper also notes that some human rights activists responded that there was ample reliable information, just not ample White House will.

The NYT reports that in his mea culpa du jour, Clinton also cited Bosnia as another example on his watch where the reaction to ethnic killing was too slow. The Times does a good job of supplying specifics on the U.S. inaction in Rwanda, noting that the Clinton administration blocked a UN on-the-ground effort that "might have saved hundreds of thousands of lives."

Both the NYT and USAT Clinton-on-Rwanda pieces note a political factor that at the time inhibited U.S. action, but which Clinton didn't mention: Public support for U.S. involvement in peacekeeping missions evaporated just prior to the Rwanda situation when 18 U.S. soldiers were killed in an ambush in Somalia.

The headline over the LAT's Rwanda coverage is not a good model. "Rwandans Told World Shares Guilt for Genocide" doesn't mention by whom, a particularly oversight when the whom is the prez.

The USAT lead states that the two Arkansas suspects--age 13 and 11--will be tried as juveniles. The NYT says their extreme youth means conviction might result in sentences of just a few years. The LAT front carries a piece about a new category of criminal suggested by such cases--the "fledgling psychopath."

A NYT op-ed says the incident implicates the too-ready access young people have to guns. (They were apparently stolen from one of the boys' grandfathers, but, notes the Times, in Arkansas it is perfectly legal for an 11-year-old to own a rifle or shotgun.) And a WP editorial reports, "The overall firearm-related death rate among U.S. children aged less than 15 was nearly 12 times higher than among children in the other 25 industrialized countries combined."

According to the Wall Street Journal, Jesse Jackson, who is accompanying President Clinton on his African trip in his role as special envoy to Africa, may have found his niche. Some in the foreign policy community, says the Journal, which on the whole was wary of his appointment, already feel Jackson is proving useful. For instance, on the current trip Clinton followed Jackson's advice and had a lengthy phone conversation with the president of Liberia to make sure he didn't feel snubbed because Clinton wasn't visiting his country.

Back to the Arkansas shootings for a sec: The papers, having learned the suspects' names from school sources, opt to use them rather than invoking the usual juvenile court practice of anonymity. "Today's Papers" would be interested in finding out the general policy of the papers on such matters: Do they print the names of juveniles whenever they learn them? Or only when the crimes they're charged with are very serious?