photo of skullsGhosts of Rwanda
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join the discussion - Does the phrase never again have more meaning today than it did ten years ago? If another Rwanda were to happen, do you think the world would respond differently this time?

Dear FRONTLINE,

Dear Frontline,

Thank you very much for producing such a comprehensive and vivid account of Rwanda in 1994.

.... the reasons why the world stood by in the 1930s and 40 remained the same in 1994 and the same today. Nothing, except a true conscience, can force the world community to do anything it doesn't want to. Unfortunately, we can't legislate a conscience into being.

Scott Falcone
San Francisco, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

I happen to be one survivor of genocides that medias never talk about (the 1972 and 1993 Burundi genocides). I lived in Rwanda as a refugee for 10 years until 1984, and I also fled to Kigali for 4 weeks after Burundi's killings started.

I still do not understand how all those diplomats claim they didn't know what was in the making.

I just want to give advice to those blacks who still count on westerners to save them. The should always remember what one official said during the Ghosts of Rwanda's documentary: that the US has no friends, that the US only has interests.

That is true of other rich countries as well. Had the Tutsis living in Rwanda believed that, they would have fled while they still could, between 1990, when the the RPF first invaded Rwanda, and April 6, 1994. They had enough time to make the right decision and the world was willing to give them shelter. I only wish they had never believed that the whites were on teir side. And I hope this message reaches those in Africa who still have illusions about rich countries' compassion.

Fidela Sindihebura

Dear FRONTLINE,

In my faith, the fifth ceremonial cup of wine poured during the family Seder dinner on Passover is left untouched in honour of Elijah, who, according to our tradition, will arrive one day as an unknown guest to herald the advent of the Messiah.

Next Monday as the sun goes down and I gather my children around the table and retell the story of Jewish freedom I will place a second empty goblet in memory of Capt. Mbaye Diagne.

Once again one sole individual, with truth and justice on his side, made a profound a difference.

J. Diaz
Columbus, Ohio

Dear FRONTLINE,

The documentary failed to highlight the role the U.S. military was prepared to play to prevent the genocide in Rwanda. Our U.S. Army unit in Germany prepared for and was put on alert for this mission. My soldiers and I volunteered for this mission. We briefed our soldiers on the what was taking place on the ground as best we could. We did receive orders to go. Eventually, members of the airborne unit in Italy deployed to Kigali. U.S. units also provided clean water to those who fled to the west and were dying of cholera and dysentary.

When we met in Munich after his deployment, my classmate and study partner for two years at West Point summed his mission to Kigali very succinctly . It's been years but I'll do my best to paraphrase, "We played volleyball in Kigali for a month, the Clintons came, and we pulled out."

The comments made by senior U.S. government officials aired on your broadcast can at best be characterized as disingenuous. They knew what was going on in Rwanda. We in the military knew. Our leaders made a conscious decision to let 100,000's die for simple political gain.

I would challenge any person that would make the argument that our national security would have been put at risk by a small deployment of U.S. troops against an untrained, undisciplined, and immoral force. All wars are moral conflicts. We should have won this war. We failed to act--one of the great disappointments of my life.

Chris Recker
Chicago, IL

Dear FRONTLINE,

The documentary concerning the Rwandan genocide was shocking in a "good" way. It hurts to know that human beings who are most often nice neighbors, good employees and contributing members to society are also capable of morphing into blood soaked monsters capable of genocide.

My one criticism on the documentary is the "blame game" approach.

In relation to Rwanda, Rwandans themselves have the first blame for their genocidal civil war and the first duty to establish a long and lasting peace. Secondly, Rwanda was a Belgian colony and the Belgian army was quite well equipped and present prior to the genocide. Third, The ineptitude of the UN to fully appreciate the situation is almost farcical. Granted the USA didn't do much to stop the genocide, but on the other hand, neither did England, Norway, Canada, Brazil, China or Japan. Why single out the USA?

Logic that almost reflexively concludes USA blame for all the world's problems is simplistic and could lead to a certain amount of backlash.

The USA takes an inordinate amount of blame for all the world's problems --from the environment (Kyoto would have effective penalized the USA into economic collapse), the economy (If a nation's banks start to fail, the USA is expected to rush in and bolster the currency such as the case with Japan's economic crisis), the Middle Eastern situation (Is there one nation there that doesn't have a political contingent that mouths the Death to America mantra?), the condition of World Health (The USA has been blamed for the explosion of AIDS in Africa because the USA has not donated drugs to AIDS sufferers) and so on and so forth.

Now, the Rwandan genocide is being blamed on the USA because of the inaction of the USA? May I dare to ask, if the USA did take action in defense of a Tutsi Minority group in Rwanda and thus the genocide did not occur for the most part, would the USA get the credit for preventing a genocide or derision for meddling in the affairs of another nation?

My guess is that those who think America stands as a sort of Uber-Nation with infinite resources, an undefeatalbe army of expendable soldiers, and vast amounts of intelligence will always find a way to blame the USA for each and every world tragedy. However, those who live in reality should know better. No person, leader or nation can solve all the world's problems and usher in the age of enlightened peace and goodwill. Human beings must make that decision individually for themselves and hopefully, one day, enough of us will.

Aquina Thomas Thomas
Minneapolis, MN

Dear FRONTLINE,

This is undoubtedly THE most moving documentary I've ever seen, on television or anywhere else.

Thank you for putting this incredible exploration of good and evil together! You have shown that even (or perhaps especially) as individuals, we CAN make the difference between life and death if only we have the courage to do so.

Douglas Vollgraff
Seattle, WA

Dear FRONTLINE,

My congratulations to everyone who worked on the doc. It was an unbelievable production.

Where does the blame lie? I suspect many places, but it is the UN that should take the lions share. Yes, perhaps Clinton should have acted, but as polls have indicated, the majority of Americans would have been against action. As meager a force as the UN had, those 4500 troops would been able to save a lot of lives....dare I say 50%?

Clinton cannot be given a pass. But perhaps he learned his lesson and that's why we intervened in Kosovo. Finally, any comparison with this and Iraq is ludicrous. The last reason we are in Iraq is because of humanitarian concerns.

William Pizzie
Woodbury, NJ

Dear FRONTLINE,

Thank you for producing this gripping, hugely thought-provoking documentary, and for bringing awareness of the Rwandan genocide to more people.

Jonathan Machen
Boulder, Colorado

Dear FRONTLINE,

Programs like this is what we need to see more of, as we turn on our television we don't see what is really going outside of our environment. This was the case that happened with the Rwandan crisis. We as a people that have access to so much information are not interested in issues like this which bring us to discussions like this.
As an African I want to thank PBS for this because it lends as a voice for us to let people know what issues we face in that continent. We are dealing with so much, but Rwanda is the worst that has happened to us, not just Africans but the whole human race.

Aisha K
Chicago, IL

Dear FRONTLINE,

Thank you for airing Ghosts of Rwanda. During the program I was physically sickened and by the end, sobbing. I don't think I have ever faced such utter horror coupled with such immediacy and clarity. I was disgusted and appalled by the total callousness and cowardice of the world community and my own government.

I was reminded again of the quote from Edmund Burke, "The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing."

Matthew Murphy
Athens, Georgia

Dear FRONTLINE,

Canadian General R. Dalliare, Senegalese Captain Mbaye Diagne and Carl Wilkens are valiant human beings whose names should be on monuments and institutions instead of presidents and chairmen of impotent countries, organizations and churches.

I wept as I "grokked" their bruised minds, hearts and souls throughout your program. I did not weep for Albright and Kofi Annan and Clinton. Dalliare, Diagne and Wilkins did not fail..... the rest of us did.

Annette Halderman
escondido, ca

Dear FRONTLINE,

I worked in Liberia in the 1980's, another African nation in which the world community has failed, so I was and am very convicted and saddened by what my country failed to do in Rwanda.

A few years ago I heard Lawrence Eagleburger field a question in a town-meeting type TV show (I think it was a Nightline town meeting), and he said it as well as anyone could. "The United States didn't help in Rwanda because they were Africans."--or words to that effect. There is an awful element of racism that runs through America's policies toward that continent.

I was somewhat amused and angered to see that one of the key players in maintaining our non-intervention policy was Mr. Clarke. His argument with Madeline Albright is telling. He was and is a do-nothing bureaucrat and apologist for the previous administration.

Why are we so concerned with Clarke and Bush and 3,000 deaths in 2001 and not with Clarke and Clinton and 800,000 deaths in 1994? Why don't we have a panel investigating those deaths? Is it just because they were Africans? What unconscionable immorality drives such policies? All human life is precious, African and American.

Steve Glynn
Columbia, IL

Dear FRONTLINE,

The UN badly needs renovation and the nations of the world must yield some sovereignty to UN decision-making authority if we are to avoid future disasters.

Charles Hooker

Dear FRONTLINE,

I want to thank you for the jolt to my consciencious.

What a wake up call.I would compare the world's current "sleepstate" regarding the AIDS epidemic on the Afican continent the 2004 "Never Again " genocide.

Shall any of us be one who states "I didn't know !!!!"

Joseph Thirion
Las Vegas, Nevada

Dear FRONTLINE,

Thank you PBS for shining light on such a great tragedy- "lest we forget. . ."

I share the skepticism of previous commentors regarding the ability of the UN and/or individual nations to take appropriate action in response to similar tragedies in the future.

Part of the problem is that we have yet to develop an adequate vocabulary and system of metrics for dealing with humanitarian crises. What defines a crises? What is genecide? How many deaths give rise to a moral obligation to respond- one thousand, ten thousand, one hundred thousand? Should civilian atrocities be given more weight than military casualties? Does ethnic cleansing spawn a greater moral imperative?

If large-scale life and death decisions are to be removed from the sphere of special interests, then the UN and individual nations need to develop a rational set of guidelines for when and how to react in various situations.

Tim Rogers
San Diego, CA

FRONTLINE's editors respond:

Read about "The Responsibility to Protect" (see the homepage of this site), a effort to set a new standard for the world on intervention in humanitarian crises.

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posted april 1, 2004

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