Eyewitness to a Genocide: The United Nations and Rwanda

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Cornell University Press, 2003 - History - 215 pages

Why was the UN a bystander during the Rwandan genocide? Do its sins of omission leave it morally responsible for the hundreds of thousands of dead? Michael Barnett, who worked at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations from 1993 to 1994, covered Rwanda for much of the genocide. Based on his first-hand experiences, archival work, and interviews with many key participants, he reconstructs the history of the UN's involvement in Rwanda. In the weeks leading up to the genocide, the author documents, the UN was increasingly aware or had good reason to suspect that Rwanda was a site of crimes against humanity. Yet it failed to act. In Eyewitness to a Genocide, Barnett argues that its indifference was driven not by incompetence or cynicism but rather by reasoned choices cradled by moral considerations.

Employing a novel approach to ethics in practice and in relationship to international organizations, Barnett offers an unsettling possibility: the UN culture recast the ethical commitments of well-intentioned individuals, arresting any duty to aid at the outset of the genocide. Barnett argues that the UN bears some moral responsibility for the genocide. Particularly disturbing is his observation that not only did the UN violate its moral responsibilities, but also that many in New York believed that they were "doing the right thing" as they did so. Barnett addresses the ways in which the Rwandan genocide raises a warning about this age of humanitarianism and concludes by asking whether it is possible to build moral institutions.

 

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User Review  - Schmerguls - LibraryThing

Eyewitness to a Genocide The United Nations and Rwanda, by Michael Barnett (read 14 Nov 2016) Having come to know someone from Rwanda, I decided to read this 2002 book by a professor who was working ... Read full review

Eyewitness to a genocide: the United Nations and Rwanda

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Students of government are familiar with Graham Allison's Essence of Decision, which used the Cuban Missile Crisis to show how bureaucratic politics influence policy making. Barnett, who served in the ... Read full review

Contents

IT WAS A VERY GOOD YEAR
22
RWANDA THROUGH ROSECOLORED GLASSES
49
IF THIS IS AN EASY OPERATION
74
THE FOG OF GENOCIDE
97
DIPLOMATIC GAMES
130
THE HUNT FOR MORAL RESPONSIBILITY
153
BRIEF CHRONOLOGY OF RWANDAN CONFLICT
183
SELECTED CHRONOLOGY OF UNITED NATIONS SECURITY AGENDA
189
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
193
NOTES
197
INDEX
209
Copyright

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About the author (2003)

Michael Barnett is Harold Stassen Chair at the Hubert H. Humphrey School and Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Minnesota. He is coeditor most recently of Rules for the World: International Organizations in Global Politics, from Cornell, and Power and Global Governance.

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