Freedom on Fire: Human Rights Wars and America’s Response by John Shattuck
Freedom on Fire: Human Rights Wars and America’s Response by John Shattuck

Freedom on Fire: Human Rights Wars and America's Response

Nov 20, 2003

Shattuck says that the forces unleashed against us on 9/11 were the very forces of disintegration that he witnessed in Rwanda, Bosnia, and Haiti, and are most powerfully evident in the Middle East. He also gives insight into how the Clinton administration's human rights policies evolved.


JOANNE MYERS: Good morning. On behalf of the Carnegie Council I would like to thank you for joining us as we welcome John Shattuck, who will be discussing his book, Freedom on Fire: Human Rights Wars and America’s Response.

Most of us take our freedom for granted. But if we take a moment to reflect on the events of the post-Cold War era, we will note that the right to speak freely, organize politically, and live in safety, although commonplace to many of us, are unknown freedoms to countless others.

For those who have witnessed the genocide of Rwanda and Bosnia, experienced the terror as they watched loved ones murdered in Haiti, they will tell you that oppression of basic civil liberties is the rule.

In Freedom on Fire, Mr. Shattuck writes that it was precisely these wars of the nineties that threatened to destroy the very essence of previous human rights advances. These recent acts of crimes against humanity also serve to lend a powerful sense of urgency to the need to build international institutions and to set policies which will prevent the outbreak of new episodes of violence against civilians.

Based on his experience as the chief human rights official in the Clinton administration, our guest describes the bureaucratic impediments he encountered while trying to implement an effective human rights policy. Writing with remarkable candor, he provides extraordinary insights into how the Clinton administration's human rights policies slowly and painfully evolved, from impotence to a program of forceful measures.

The work of a human rights activist calls for a combination of high ideals and an awareness of existing realities. These are both qualities exemplified by our speaker this afternoon.

Mr. Shattuck’s career spans nearly three decades in government service and in the not-for-profit sector, fighting for the objectives he believes in. His public service career began at the American Civil Liberties Union, where he was the executive director of the ACLU’s Washington office and national staff counsel. It was there that he was involved in all major civil rights and civil liberties issues during the Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Reagan administrations.

He later spent some years at Harvard University, where he held the position of vice president for government, community, and public affairs. He also took time to lecture on civil liberties at Harvard Law School and the Kennedy School of Government.

In 1993 he was nominated by President Clinton and confirmed by the U.S. Senate as Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. While serving in this position, Mr. Shattuck worked to end the war in Bosnia, to negotiate the Dayton Peace Accord, and to establish the international criminal tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. In addition, his efforts aided in a democratically elected government to Haiti. For this work he received an International Human Rights Award from the United Nations Association of Boston.

In 1998 Mr. Shattuck was nominated by President Clinton, and confirmed by the Senate, to serve as U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic.

Today he serves as CEO of the JFK Library Foundation in Boston.

Please join me in giving a warm welcome to Mr. John Shattuck.


JOHN SHATTUCK: Thank you very much. Let me take you right into the subject. My book invites you to enter three dangerous intersections at your own risk.

The first is the intersection of history and memoir, which is always complicated when you’re an actor in the period that you're writing about and you’re trying to be candid about it.

The second, perhaps more dangerous, intersection is that of government and human rights. We don’t necessarily associate human rights with government, but rather rights against government.

And then the third intersection is democracy and terrorism, which was a subject that emerged as I was writing this book.

Let me start with the happy moments before I went into government, when I was active in the human rights field. The beginning of the end of the Cold War was the most extraordinary moment for human rights in perhaps the entire 20th century and certainly in the last 50 years. With the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, we saw the bursting forth of freedom in many places in the world -- probably nowhere more poignantly and powerfully than in South Africa as the apartheid regime was brought down almost simultaneously with the end of the Cold War.

In the summer of 1988, I was teaching at Harvard but I was vice chairman of Amnesty International. I went on a mission to Czechoslovakia – one of the most Stalinist countries in Central Europe at the time -- to see the prison conditions of some of the dissidents who were being held, Vaclav Havel among many others.

I was put in contact with a woman who made it very clear to me that she did not want to meet indoors anywhere for fear of electronic surveillance, and chose instead to meet me in a field with the wind blowing, in a way that allowed her to speak relatively openly about what the situation was for the dissidents in prison in Czechoslovakia.

Eighteen months later, I opened up the New York Times, and there she was, staring me in the face, Rita Klimova, the first free Czech ambassador in many years, appointed by Vaclav Havel, who was then president. All of this in a dramatic period of only 18 months was a demonstration of the power of human rights during that time.

Turning to the dangerous intersection of human rights and government, there are three important bureaucratic battlegrounds that are worth understanding at the outset.

1) Paper. What you need to learn very early is how to get access to those documents that no one will show you unless you really prod to find them; and then how to avoid being overwhelmed by documents that show up on your desk which have no relevance to what you’re doing.

In the first case, a document, which I never saw, called for the withdrawal of all peacekeepers from Rwanda within about 48 hours. And in the other case, a document arrived on my desk roughly about the same time as the Rwanda genocide was breaking, about agricultural conditions in Central Africa, an important topic but not one that I should waste time on at that stage.

2) Phone calls. In Washington it is extremely difficult to get a phone call returned from your superior, particularly your somewhat distant superior up the line, even if there’s something very important that you have to transmit to him or her right away. Instead, they expect paper to come forward, and they expect to see you in meetings.

But I did find early in my career in government that it was possible to get phone calls returned from superiors if I traveled to, say, Sarajevo or Port-au-Prince or Beijing or some other human rights hotspot.

3) Meetings. In Washington, the only meetings that are important are the ones that you were not invited to. You have to start figuring out when those meetings are taking place and how to get into them. And if you have a superior whom you’ve managed to get through to on the phone from, say, Sarajevo, and he decides he wants you at that meeting, that’s the best way to get in. Or, if all else fails, you find some way to get through to the scheduler to have the meeting rescheduled at a time when your bureaucratic opponents may be on travel.

It’s important to know how policy changes can be brought about inside the State Department and the national security agencies on very complex subjects, for example, like trying to change the policy toward Bosnia in order to be more proactive and to try to save lives as the genocide began to unfold in that terrible situation.

There are four foreign policy syndromes which are relatively universal, and not terribly frequently studied.

1) The interagency syndrome. You cannot work a policy through the system and change it -- that is to say, introducing American ground forces into Bosnia as part of the peacekeeping operation -- without an agreement among all of the agencies affected. Any agency therefore effectively has a veto over that process, and if the agency happens to be the Pentagon, you can be fairly sure that they will not welcome that change, unless you get a Presidential decision.

2) The Presidential decision syndrome. Presidents will not make decisions that might be domestically unpopular, such as sending ground forces to Bosnia, unless there is significant evidence that there is public support for that process.

3) The public opinion syndrome. This leads ultimately to a catch 22 because the public is normally, and particularly in this immediate post-Cold War period, not interested in foreign policy decisions, especially those that are controversial, such as sending ground forces to Bosnia. And unless they are led by a President who takes the bully pulpit and says, “We’re going to do this because it’s in our national interest to do this,” the policy will remain the same.

4) The conflict resolution syndrome. A conflict is most amenable to resolution very early in the process – before genocide has developed in Bosnia, before the killing has reached 200,000 – at an early stage when some form of mediation or other diplomatic measures might actually work.

The syndrome here, however, is that that is the time that it’s least likely to get the attention that it should get, because there’s such incredible competition for foreign policy agenda issues crossing the desk of the agencies and the President. Until the crisis emerges and CNN begins to broadcast the nightly news of the horrors that are unfolding in Bosnia, you won't get the kind of attention that you need.

But at that stage it can be too late because the measures that are needed are so extreme -- sending ground forces to Bosnia -- that all the other syndromes kick in.

But let’s now go out into the world that I write about in this book, and away from Washington, and look at the post-Cold War world as it began to develop after 1989.

It was a period of inward looking in our country. We were focused on domestic issues. Politically, we were looking for the peace dividend at the end of the Cold War, the possibility of the reduction of spending on defense issues. It was certainly a period of focus on economic concerns, and it was by no accident that Bill Clinton won the Presidency in 1992 on James Carville’s marvelous line, “It’s the economy, stupid.”

At that time there were two great forces that were beginning to manifest themselves in this post-Cold War period. First were the forces of integration, the forces which led to the fall of the Berlin Wall and which led to the bursting forth of democracy and the end of apartheid in South Africa.

But even more cogently, they were the forces of growing market economics, of the communications revolution that made it possible to have the cell phone and e-mail that we all now know and love so well. The whole technology revolution was emerging during this period, and it was leading to greater international trade, much more sense of an integrated world, at least in the minds of those who were watching primarily the forces of integration.

But equally powerful, and ultimately extremely important, were the forces of disintegration. They came from the collapse of the nation states that had existed in the old Soviet empire, Yugoslavia being the most powerful example, even though it was on the edge of the empire, held together by Tito for many years, with many different ethnic and religious groups inside it.

The forces of disintegration led to ethnic, racial, and religious conflict in more than one part of the world, certainly more than we’ve been talking so far about Bosnia. If you go to Central Africa and Rwanda and Central Asia, you see that the flames of the conflicts that were beginning to emerge in this period were being fanned in some situations by cynical leaders like Slobodan Milosevic and those who planned the genocide in Rwanda in order to achieve their own political ends. Those flames in some cases led to genocide, simultaneous with those forces of integration that I have mentioned, and certainly to the rise of terrorism, which has become such a powerful force in our world.

By 1995, we saw that three million people since 1989 had been killed within their own countries, either by their own governments or by forces that were trying to fan these flames of ethnic, racial, and religious difference, in Somalia, Sudan, Rwanda, Bosnia, Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Chechnya, and Haiti, just to name a few. These were the emerging wars against civilians which I call the human rights wars. They were not wars between armies; they were wars of ethnic cleansing and wars that were aimed at achieving political goals by manipulating ethnic and religious differences.

Twenty-five million people had become refugees by 1995, almost the same number as at the end of the Second World War. The U.S. had spent twenty billion dollars on humanitarian assistance and peacekeeping in the old fashioned peacekeeping way, which was to go in and watch but not take any particular steps to stop the situation.

These staggering figures and all of this information about what was happening did gradually have an impact on U.S. foreign policy and the foreign policy of other democracies, particularly in Europe. National security was slowly redefined as a concept beyond that which it had been in the Cold War, so that it became clear that it was not just the moral interest but the economic and security interest of democracies to do something to contain these forces of disintegration which were proving to be so expensive in lives, in dollars, in disruption, and in the total chaos that enveloped southeastern Europe.

But go right into the ground with me for a minute and look at what these human rights wars looked like up close.

1) Somalia was the wake-up call. In October 1993, a UN peacekeeping operation with a U.S. component ran into serious trouble as it began to hunt down a warlord, Mohammed Adid. Eighteen U.S. rangers and two Blackhawks were downed, eighteen rangers were killed, and one of their bodies was dragged through the streets of Mogadishu on CNN for everyone to see.

The impact in Washington was overwhelming. The political response to Somalia in the U.S. Congress was, “We’re going to get out of this peacekeeping business. We’re certainly not going to do it the way we’ve done it before, and we don’t want Clinton to engage in this”; a similar feelings that began to emerge in various parts of the administration.

A Presidential decision directive was issued within five months, PDD 25, which effectively put a straightjacket on U.S. participation in further UN peacekeeping operations and made it extremely difficult for the United States, from a policy standpoint, to join or lead other UN operations.

2) This led to the perfect human rights storm of this period, Rwanda. What happened in Rwanda coincided with the issuance in Washington of these peacekeeping restrictions, and the outbreak on April 6, 1994 of the genocide, which, within four months, had killed 800,000 people. It coincided with the increasing view inside the U.S. government that these peacekeepers were in danger if they were in a situation where violence broke out. Within about three days, all but a handful of the peacekeeping forces in Rwanda were withdrawn.

Some of us inside the administration tried to find a way to work with other UN member states to get a new peacekeeping force back in. I was sent to Burundi, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Uganda to sound out the regional leaders about their willingness to assemble a force that might go back into Rwanda. At this stage about 100,000 people had already been killed.

I succeeded in that I got the agreement from the leaders of those countries to support the operation, but the restrictions held, and the PDD 25 effectively continued the straightjacket and the U.S. did not provide that kind of assistance. Many believed that at that stage it was too late to do anything in Rwanda anyway.

I will never forget flying over the Kigara River, which divides Rwanda from Tanzania, in early May of 1994. It looked as if there was a sawmill somewhere down the river and that logs that were floating down to the sawmill.

I asked the pilot to fly closer, and we went to about 500 feet, and it was clear that these were all bodies that were going into the beautiful Lake Victoria and being fished out for about half a penny apiece by boys who were being paid by the Tanzanian government.

As these moments in human rights catastrophe sometimes do, it had a very catalytic effect on the way in which the U.S. government went about looking at these issues afterwards. In the debate that emerged inside the State Department, we began to discuss how to change not only the policy that had restricted us from participating in stopping the Rwanda genocide for peacekeeping, but how to look at the whole Cold War military strategy, which had been used in the Gulf War: overwhelming force, massive numbers of troops, in situations where you have a guaranteed military outcome in a short period of time.

3) Why not instead have limited use of force used in support of diplomacy; that is to say, diplomacy backed by force? And three months later that new doctrine emerged and was put into operation in Haiti. In September of 1994, a U.S.-led multinational force entered Haiti to return the democratically elected president and to end what was a human rights catastrophe just a couple of hundred miles off our shores, which was beginning to have serious domestic ramifications in the United States.

President Clinton took the lead and broke all of the syndromes that I discussed by saying, “It is in our national interest to secure the country of Haiti from the human rights catastrophe that is enveloping it, and it is in our interest to deploy troops to do so in support of a diplomatic process with member states of the OAS.” It was the first time that the OAS had supported anything as a group since the Cuban missile crisis.

It was a triumph of diplomacy backed by force. It ended up a tragedy because of an early exit – troops were effectively forced out because of the opposition in Congress to funding a peacekeeping operation of this nature for more than six months. A big lesson was learned in Haiti: you can't simply go in and solve a human rights problems and then withdraw quickly. You’ve got to work on the whole nation-building exercise.

4) Bosnia is the signature conflict of the 1990s, and it represents both the worst and the best of U.S. foreign policy during that period.

For both the first Bush administration and the first period of the Clinton administration, Bosnia was misunderstood and not addressed as a serious national security crisis and an interest that we had in trying to stabilize southeastern Europe. It became a national security interest, but it was emblematic in the Bush administration that James Baker, otherwise an outstanding Secretary of State, made the notorious comment in 1991 when asked what the U.S. was going to do about the disintegration of Yugoslavia and the outbreak of violence, “We have no dog in that fight.” It was a very Cold War policy: This is not an interest of ours right now.

The Clinton administration in the beginning had the same approach and was still affected by the Somalia syndrome. By mid-1995, 200,000 people had been killed; it was clearly a grave set of destabilizing actions occurring in southeastern Europe. A debate had been going on inside the administration and in the Bush administration as well between whether this was the product of ancient hatreds – the fault line of civilization where the Catholic church meets the Orthodox church and Islam, and never the three shall get together – which we can do nothing about.

Dick Holbrooke, myself, and many others built the case that this was not so much ancient hatreds as it was cynical leaders -- Milosevic, Tugeman, and others -- who were using the ethnic fault lines for their own purposes. My bureau in the State Department began to produce a great deal of evidence of what ethnic cleansing really meant and who was doing it. The CIA began to produce good evidence to that effect.

By mid-1995 disaster had struck. Three hundred UN peacekeepers in the old peacekeeping mode -- only lightly armed, with no rules of engagement that would allow them to intervene if they saw violations taking place -- were taken hostage. The Bosnian Serbs, under Milosevic’s tutelage, were beginning to test whether they could truly overrun the whole of Bosnia and conduct the kind of ethnic cleansing that was going to be a successful enterprise if it wasn’t met by some serious force.

This led to the single worst failure of collective security in Europe since the Second World War, and that was the notorious case of Srebenica, where, in July 1995, the Bosnian Serbs overran what was seen to be a UN-safe area and several other cities that were allegedly going to be protected by the UN.

But in Srebenica it was different, in some ways even from the horrible abuses that had been occurring up until then. Women and children and old men began to emerge as refugees. They reached the city of Tuzla in central Bosnia, and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees met them.

Where were the men? No men between the ages of roughly 18 and 45 were coming out. And there was no intelligence on this to speak of. There was a lot of speculation. The International Red Cross felt that they were being held in warehouses by the Serbs, had maybe been taken prisoner after the city of Srebenica had been overrun. But there were rumors that far worse things had happened.

Holbrooke and I and others decided we needed to get out there to find out. We didn’t have intelligence that gave us the kind of information we needed. So I went out to interview the refugees in Tuzla as the war continued around us, and I’ll never forget getting to the refugee centers, the collection centers, and I was given the names by several Red Cross workers of some men who had begun to appear in Tuzla.

I interviewed four men who gave graphic accounts of escaping their own executions, about being lined up and held in warehouses and then forced into pits, and then the Bosnian Serb soldiers had continued to fire into them, very similar to some of the worst atrocities of the Second World War. In this case, it was Bosnian Serbs committing genocide against Muslims.

Aerial surveillance photographs were then taken to the Security Council by Madeleine Albright, and two weeks later the policy changed. NATO intervened, the rules of engagement changed, diplomacy was backed by force; Holbrooke’s extraordinary shuttle diplomacy ended the war in Bosnia.

Diplomacy backed by force works. It worked in Bosnia. It worked in Haiti. It should have worked in Rwanda.

We need to look at today and put all of what I’ve told you through the lens of 9/11, and understand that the forces that were tragically unleashed against us on 9/11 were the very forces of disintegration that I witnessed in Rwanda and Bosnia and Haiti and other places. and certainly are most powerfully evident in the Middle East.

What to do about those forces? We have lessons to learn from the nineties. We should recognize, as we began to in Afghanistan early on, that the human rights swamps of the world, places like Afghanistan, which for 10 years were under the control of the Taliban, were also the swamps that bred Al Qaeda and the terrorists, and we need to find the right means for connecting the promotion and protection of human rights with the effort to end terrorism.

I fear that terrorism has led to an increase in repression in certain parts of the world; it has led to a reduction in civil liberties and human rights in the United States and other places; it has led to a downgrading of international law, certainly in the case of the U.S. policymakers who override international law, whether it’s in Guantanamo in the Geneva conventions or the International Criminal Court.

We have substituted the doctrine of humanitarian intervention on a multilateral basis that I described for the doctrine of preemptive unilateral war, and I fear that we are reaping the whirlwind from that, particularly now in Iraq. I am a supporter of the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, who is one of the worst human rights abusers in the world, and I am a supporter of efforts to find a way, working with other countries, to contain what had happened in Iraq. But to do so by having force lead diplomacy, which is what happened in the case of Iraq, is a tragic mistake.

It will be difficult the next time there is a genocidal conflict in the world to get the American people to line up behind the kind of humanitarian intervention that’s needed.

I’m a human rights hawk. I believe in intervention. I believe in the use of force and American power. But I believe in doing these things through multilateral means. We can’t solve terrorism alone. We certainly need friends to share intelligence with us and the burden of the peacemaking that’s going on in Iraq today.

I’ll read you a quotation from a particular hero of mine, the Egyptian human rights activist Sa’ad Eddin Ibraham. When he was sentenced last year for faulting the Egyptian government for its human rights record, he made a remarkable speech: “We are being persecuted because we have dared to speak openly what millions of others think privately: Building democracy and human rights in the long run is the only way to stop terrorism.”

Thank you.

JOANNE MYERS: We’ll open the floor to questions now.

Question & Answer

QUESTION: You mentioned that military intervention preceded diplomacy in Iraq, but actually the United States government went to the UN, and unfortunately, certain governments took a contrary view to diplomatic intervention.

JOHN SHATTUCK: What I meant when I said that I fear that force preceded diplomacy -- or outran diplomacy -- is that the planning for the intervention in Iraq, the military planning, and the proposal that the regime should be changed, began quite long before any diplomatic efforts were undertaken to secure support within the UN for the intervention that ultimately occurred.

There’s a second part of this which is more technical, and that is that the deployment began well before the diplomatic process had been undertaken in any serious way, and it was only in the waning months of the deployment, after many of the troops were out there, that Colin Powell made diplomatic efforts to persuade particularly European allies to join.

I have no brief for the French or the Germans on this. They behaved abominably, and the French in particular went out to find their own way of embarrassing the U.S. But I don’t think that we helped ourselves.

QUESTION: You went through the discussion from the State Department perspective on Somalia, Rwanda, and Srebenica. The lore now has become that these were all three major failures of the United Nations.

Yet the whole intervention in Somalia was instigated by the U.S., and the failures of the intervention, of the peacekeeping efforts, were purely U.S. failures -- mistakes with regard to the Blackhawk helicopters, which should not have gone where they went. But we pulled out, and we blamed the UN.

Then in Rwanda it was Albright who was instructed to vote against any Security Council resolution which would authorize peacekeeping in Rwanda. When the tragedy happened, again the public position was that the UN had failed, and yet it was the French and particularly the British and the U.S. who voted against any type of intervention.

And finally, in the case of Srebenica, the failure of the lightly armed, small group of Dutch peacekeepers to prevent the tragedy of Srebenica was the failure of the Security Council, guided by the U.S. and the Brits, not to provide sufficient support and backup for the problem.

So the problem with collective security was the problem of the United States’ policies, along with the other permanent five, and the history has been totally rewritten about what happened.

JOHN SHATTUCK: I cannot understate the political impact of Blackhawk Down in Somalia. But it was a perfect UN storm in addition to what tragically was a perfect human rights storm in Bosnia, because it coincided with the growing attacks on the United Nations in the Senate, led by Senator Helms and supported by many others; and with the long period of non-payment by the United States of dues to the United Nations because those who held control of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee would not sign off on that process.

So the UN increasingly became a whipping boy for a combination of unilateralists and isolationists in the U.S.

The Clinton administration sometimes was good on this and sometimes was led by the isolationists. I started my talk by being very clear that the U.S., and not just the Clinton administration, was preoccupied by domestic and economic issues from 1991 when the Bush administration was in power to 1995-1996.

You had a President who was quite heroic in Haiti and ultimately very effective in Bosnia when he turned the policy around, but who was weakened by controversy, his own domestic agenda on health care, the elections of 1994, where the Republicans swept both the House and the Senate, and a very strong conservative majority in the House led by Newt Gingrich. So it was convenient to attack the UN, and that was not done by the Clinton administration but it was certainly done in the Congress.

QUESTION: On the Bosnia situation, Wesley Clark, before he became a candidate, wrote Waging Modern War, which showed that the intervention in Bosnia was not so clean-cut as perhaps you’re portraying it. There was the inability to get international cooperation and agreement on any real strategy toward dealing with Milosevic or any of the other crises that were taking place in that area.

That continued over into the Iraqi situation. Throughout the nineties, there were continuing UN resolutions against Iraq, bombings by the Clinton administration, and no-fly zones.

So I’m not sure where we’re getting this feeling that we might have had some opportunity to have international collaboration. Where would it have come from? France? No. Germany? No. Spain was on our side. All the countries of Eastern Europe were. So where are these mythical forces that would have come in with the United States, Britain, and Australia to deal with the Iraqi problem at this time? They weren’t going to come from India or Pakistan either.

JOHN SHATTUCK: There were some very serious voices, including in the administration, that favored more of an aggressive containment policy. Those were the voices that reflected more generally the perspective of the international community, particularly the European allies.

Had those voices been able to be heard more than they were -- and Colin Powell was the leader of that group of voices -- we could have assembled a much more effective international coalition.

Instead, what was presented to the world early on, before there was a Security Council resolution, was a very different strategy, a strategy of regime change with the use of force; and if you want to join us, we welcome you, but if you don’t want to join us, we’re going to go ahead anyway.

So there is a real debate to be had between those two camps, and that debate never effectively took place inside government because the voices that were trying to articulate the value of a more multilateral approach and a containment strategy were dismissed quite early on.

We haven’t even talked about this in the context of the real justification for the war in Iraq, and I am not a weapons of mass destruction expert. But many people were drawn into the use-of-force argument by the set of assumptions around weapons of mass destruction. Had they been presented instead with what they now have been presented with, which is that this a liberation war and it’s a human rights intervention, you would not have gotten the consensus in the U.S. Congress that came about supporting the President back in September 2002.

QUESTION: To some extent we measure these tragedies, or we portray these tragedies, by numbers. You mentioned 200,000 killed in Bosnia and 800,000 killed in Rwanda. But the numbers that are generally used are that there were two million people killed in Sudan and three million people killed in Congo.

Please comment on two dimensions of this. One is, do you draw a substantive distinction between these wars? Are there different types of wars in which, let’s say, a million is a greater catastrophe than two million?

Why do you think that these figures and these wars don’t enter into our discourse like the wars in Bosnia and Rwanda?

JOHN SHATTUCK: They do, actually. I focused my remarks on the two that received the most attention. But I spent a good part of this summer on Congo and made my ninth trip there.

Congo is the worst humanitarian catastrophe that we’ve seen in 50 years. Four million people in the Congo have been killed in three wars, which have been indeed civil wars, international wars, with intervention from neighboring states.

I focused on Bosnia and Rwanda for one simple reason. There was no question that what happened in both of those places was genocide. In Sudan and Congo, where certainly the figures in terms of casualties were greater, there were human rights atrocities and crimes against humanity, but it was not the same kind of ethnic and religious conflict as you saw in Rwanda and Bosnia.

However, the argument that I make, which is that areas of the world get destabilized by these wars and it’s in our national interest to figure out how to address them, very much applies to those two cases. I’ve shared a report with Bill Luers that we did on Congo. The UN is doing a terrific job in Congo right now. A 12,000-person Chapter 7 security force has made significant progress in ending or slowing the violence in the eastern part of Congo. My report calls for a much stronger U.S. support of that operation than we’ve seen so far.

JOANNE MYERS: Thank you very much for sharing your experiences with us.

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