Eyewitness to a Genocide: The United Nations and Rwanda
By Michael N. Barnett
Cornell University Press, 2002, 208 pp.
Barnett, an academic, was attached to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in the months surrounding the Rwandan genocide in April 1994. Using an organizational-ethics framework, he assesses the UN's moral responsibility for the ensuing holocaust. He first sketches the world body's shifting role following the Cold War and then dissects who said and did what about Rwanda in 1993-94, pointing out the sins of commission and omission by the Security Council, the Secretariat, its Department of Peacekeeping Operations, and the latter's field force, the un Assistance Mission for Rwanda. His theme is the moral universe of the UN and the particular ways its bureaucratic and political cultures construct reality. At every level except that of the field operation, he finds a pattern of "willful ignorance and indifference" toward Rwanda and a prioritizing of institutional interests over the obligations set forth in the 1948 Genocide Convention. These are not new findings, but Barnett develops them in a rigorous if rather repetitious way, drawing on interviews with key participants.