How Bill Clinton brightens a room. Last week he dropped into town to celebrate Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday. One minute he was hobnobbing with Elton John and Robert De Niro at a charity dinner – corporate tables a snip at £100,000 – the next he was seen leaving No 10 in what the fashion writer of The Times gushingly described as “a dazzling pistachio shirt, an eye-popping striped tie and a raffish summer jacket in dove grey, the season’s most fashionable shade”.
The only raincloud on our man of mode’s sunny horizon was Mandela’s pronouncement that Zimbabwe was suffering because of “a tragic failure of leadership”. I hope such talk didn’t bring back unhappy memories, as Clinton is quite the expert on African genocide and failures of leadership.
Back in 1994, when he was president, the Hutu government of Rwanda murdered 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu within the space of 100 days. The weapons were primitive – machetes, spades and garden tools – but the results were highly efficient, the fastest killing spree in history. Clinton later apologised for failing to “appreciate the gravity” of the situation.
Actually Bill’s administration did appreciate it. Washington had helped remove UN peacekeepers from Rwanda, blocked the sending of UN reinforcements when 8,000 a day were being murdered, and refused even to jam radio broadcasts used by the government to coordinate the killings.
A year later Clinton was at it again, or rather not at it again, during the mass murder of thousands of Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica in 1995. This time he refused even to change the flight path of an American spy satellite to find out what was going on: it would have been too embarrassing.
Clinton is, of course, loved by good liberals everywhere, while his successor George Bush and Tony Blair are reviled for the invasion of Iraq; they were or are deluded pawns of sinister neoconservatives and starry-eyed neo-liberals who want to prop up democracies on the back of western bayonets.
Now I don’t want to be too hard on dear Bill. He eventually came round to tipping the balance against evil in Bos-nia. And when the Serbian leader Slo-bodan Milosevic threatened the ethnic cleansing of the Albanian population of Kosovo his friend Tony Blair persuaded him, after a series of screaming matches on the phone, to commit American ground troops.
Today humanitarian intervention has, in any case, been widely discredited after the disaster that followed the toppling of the genocidal dictator Saddam Hussein, hasn’t it? The antiAmerican left and the little England right unite in scorn for the Texan cowboy and his British poodle.
But what’s that I hear? Massacres of Muslims by Muslims have approached genocidal proportions in Darfur, Sudan. “Something must be done,” cry the do-gooders of the left. In Burma, the generals let their people die in the wake of devastating floods rather than accept contaminating western aid. “Send in the US air force,” bellow the critics of American bombers.
The little Englanders have changed their tune, too. Fire-eaters are now calling for Britain and America to oust Mugabe, even though they have condemned all other allied interventions.
There is only one thing worse than humanitarian intervention by the West, it seems, and that’s no intervention.
Yowzers. Excuse the long quote but… ninme whistles
This might have been a Firstborn submission but I think I’m a little scared to.