I was going to write this blogpost last night, but I was so angry I decided it was best to sleep on it. Bad decision. I'm still fizzing with anger. Yesterday evening I was invited by TIME Magazine's excellent London Bureau Chief Catherine Mayer to attend a screening of an important film about Rwanda, SHAKING HANDS WITH THE DEVIL.
The screening took place at BAFTA and was followed by a panel discussion. The participants were Gordon Brown's foreign policy adviser Justin Forsyth, Bob Geldof, Col Bob Stewart, Mark Malloch Brown and an American diplomat, Donald Steinberg.
Mr Steinberg served in the White House during the Clinton Administration at the time of the Rwandan genocide. He advised Clinton to keep well out of it - possibly one of the worst pieces of advice given to an American President in the last 20 years. He was rewarded for this failure in the classic way bureaucrats are usually rewarded for failure. He was promoted. He ended up as Ambassador to Angloa and then - get this - became an advisor to the UN on Dafur and even more unbelievably is now a Deputy President of the International Crisis Group. You couldn't make it up.
This man had the bare faced cheek to sit on a panel which sought to comment on a film about a genocide which this man had the power to stop. He then had the cheek to berate the current Rwandan regime for being repressive and accused it of trying to shame the international community into providing foreign aid as recompense for their inaction during the genocide. It was all I could do to keep my temper. I have rarely felt so angry.
Steinberg is Jewish. He grew up in the shadow of the Holocaust. When he had the influence to stop a repeat in Rwanda he funked it. I don't know how he looks himself in the mirror each morning. But he is representative of a class of so-called public servants who make a career out of supporting appeasement and failing to stand up to aggression. They're people who feel quite at home in the United Nations and thrive in making excuses for that organisation's terrible failures. And when they have finished with failing, they go on the international lecture circuit to lecture us on what should happen in the future. Or they do what Mark Malloch Brown has done and become a GOAT.
The only ones to talk any degree of sense on this panel were Bob Geldof and Justin Forsyth. Which tells you what an excruciating experience it was to listen to the rest of them pontificate in their oleaginous 'I know best' manner.
I can highly recommend the film, though. It graphically depicts how the Canadian UN General on the ground in Rwanda, Dallaire, was totally let down by his masters in New York. I'd like to think the UN has learned its lesson, but I doubt it very much.