It has been twenty years since the Rwandan genocide. Most articles will discuss Bill Clinton failing to stop these atrocities. The more honest ones will state the truth, that Clinton made a deliberate choice to turn a blind eye. Clinton, to his credit, has apologized, even though his apologies seem insincere, not contrite, rote, and by the numbers.
Articles about a president's or the American nation's failure to do anything often bring hand wringing. Surely, we ask, we have learned? Surely the world's conscience is now awakened?
In my book, Presidents' Body Counts, I note that presidents refusing to halt or limit genocide has happened seven times before, even though all these atrocities could have been partly stopped, sometimes easily. Clinton was not the first American president to refuse to stop genocide going on right before his eyes. Nine different presidents let genocide happen. Three presidents ignored genocide happening right here in America, in California.
Not one American in fifty even knows there was a genocide against California Indians, or any other genocides besides the Holocaust and Rwanda. We as a nation need to know about these genocides, see how they were allowed to happen, and prevent this from happening again.
Of genocides ignored by US Presidents, these are body counts from highest to lowest:
Franklin Roosevelt and the Holocaust-12 million dead.
Nixon and Genocide in Bangladesh- Up to 3 million dead.
Clinton and Rwandan Genocide- 800,000 dead.
Polk, Fillmore, Buchanan, and California Indian Genocide- Up to 300,000 dead.
Ford and East Timor Genocide- 200,000 dead.
Jefferson and Haitian Genocide- 170,000 dead.
Nixon's betrayal of Kurds, leading to genocide-100,000 deaths.
In order chronologically:
Jefferson and the Haitian Revolution
Haitian slaves revolted against French slave owners. Napoleon tried to crush them with extreme brutality, to either kill or terrorize into submission every Black slave. The French army burned alive numerous slaves, hung, drowned, or tore them apart with French hunting dogs. It took more than a decade of enormously brave and determined Haitians to defeat the French.
Jefferson ignoring genocide against Haitians was more appalling because he spent much of his career fighting against the slave trade. To reassure nervous American slave owners who feared slave uprisings spreading, Jefferson tried to isolate Haiti from the rest of the world, diplomatically and economically. As Secretary of State, he even sent money and weapons to French slave owners.
Jefferson could have limited Haitian genocide by recognizing and trading with Haiti. A stronger Haitian nation would defeat Napoleon sooner, lowering the death toll. American weapons and money, if never sent, also would weaken French tyranny.
Polk, Fillmore, Buchanan and Genocide Against California Indians
This is a genocide few Americans know about. But every American should know California was founded in blood. The California Indian population was from 180,000 to 300,000 when the US conquered the southwest in a brutal war with Mexico that President Polk deliberately provoked to expand slavery.
This was a genocide carried out by vigilantes, not the military. Anglo-American miners tried to exterminate every last California Indian with “Indian hunting” expeditions. California's state government paid bounties for Native scalps. California legalized Indian enslavement. Native slaves actually did much of the Gold Rush mining. Los Angeles even auctioned off Indians in city jails as slaves.