Or as she called it, a “doctrine of mea culpa.”

Force Full – Samantha Power, New Republic

. . . U.S. foreign policy has to be rethought. It needs not tweaking but overhauling. We need: a historical reckoning with crimes committed, sponsored, or permitted by the United States. This would entail restoring FOIA to its pre- Bush stature, opening the files, and acknowledging the force of a mantra we have spent the last decade promoting in Guatemala, South Africa, and Yugoslavia: A country has to look back before it can move forward. Instituting a doctrine of the mea culpa would enhance our credibility by showing that American decision-makers do not endorse the sins of their predecessors.

When Willie Brandt went down on one knee in the Warsaw ghetto, his gesture was gratifying to World War II survivors, but it was also ennobling and cathartic for Germany. Would such an approach be futile for the United States? A recent trip to Rwanda suggests such gestures can make a difference. In 1994, the Clinton administration’s only response to the extermination of 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu was to insist on the withdrawal of U.N. peacekeepers who were sheltering Tutsi there. In 1998, Clinton became the first American president to visit Rwanda, and he issued something of an apology: “All over the world there were people like me sitting in offices, day after day after day, who did not fully appreciate the depth and the speed with which you were being engulfed by this unimaginable terror.” I, like many, found his words lawyerly and evasive. Yet many Rwandans today can recite the apology verbatim. They say they were floored: He called the crime genocide, he paid his respects, and he took a measure of responsibility. In anticipation of another Clinton visit last fall, the Rwandans repaved the road connecting the airport with Clinton’s hotel. Since his trip, Rwandans have begun calling it Clinton Boulevard.