Thursday, May 11, 2006

Fourteen Days Of The West Wing - Day 11

Most of the time The West Wing tried to skate close to real world issues without getting seriously involved with them. One such event was the Rwandan genocide, a subject which is well remembered by Canadians and in particular the American response, which was not just no response at all but seemed to have been a concerted effort to prevent such United Nations forces as were on the ground, commanded by the Canadian General Romeo Dellaire, from doing anything to help the Tutsi civillians who were being massacred by the roaming Hutu gangs. General Dellaire's book Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda is chilling reading. At one point an American officer told Dellaire that "it would take the deaths of 85,000 Rwandans to justify risking the life of one American soldier." One frequent poster to the West Wing newsgroup was in the US army stationed in Europe at the time. His unit was prepared for operations to end the genocide and he frequently talked about the utter disgust of the men on the line to the decision not to send American troops to stop this. In this seen from the fourth season episode Inauguration Part 1, Leo confronts Secretary of Defence Hutchinson about what the US should do. Hutchinson takes an attitude that seems to say that since there are no "vital" American interests at stake they should do nothing.

Leo: Miles? What's the general thinking in Khundu?
Hutchinson: That we should support all the international diplomatic efforts to.... You know the U.N.'s already made overtures to the Arkutu.
Leo: That's what's happening at the State Department. I want to know what's happening at Central Command.
Hutchinson: If you mean militarily, we're going to want to supply the bordering countries.
Leo: That's not what I mean. We're getting INTEL that isn't making it onto CNN, but that's a matter of a couple of hours. Truly horrible accounts of mass slaughtering...
Hutchinson: Leo...
Leo: ...that should make us at least want to investigate whether there's a genocide.
Hutchinson: Lee lost 10,000 at Gettysberg, didn't make it genocide.
Leo: Okay, so I'll go to the President with it.
Hutchinson: In our case, we'd lose closer to a thousand, which is pretty stupid. Magnificently so when we realize we're talking about a guy who's never led an army.
Leo: A] The guy is the President. B] He's been leading one for 3 years, 51 weeks and three days. How much more training would you like him to have? And C] It's not a thousand. We saw a forced depletion report, it's 150.
Hutchinson: You saw a forced depletion report?
Leo: Yes.
Hutchinson: How did he see a forced depletion report?
Leo: Look, from time to time, just to expedite things, Nancy will print...
Hutchinson: Nancy's out of the country. It was a raid.
Leo: The guy was following a direct order.
Hutchinson: I have no doubt he was. That's my problem, Leo.
Leo: I don't give a damn what....
Hutchinson: What?
Leo: I said I don't give a damn what your problem is, Miles. The man wants to know if he sends troops, how many are going to die.
Hutchinson: And if he wants to see forced depletion, he asks me.
Leo: He asks you and three days mange to go by before he sees it, Mr. Secretary. Yet miraculously, the Wall Street Journal, on day two, the numbers inflated all to hell. It's 150, not a thousand.
Hutchinson: And that's accecptable to you in Khundu?
Leo: I don't know what you mean when you say "in Khundu." Nah... yeah, I do.
Hutchinson: Go to hell.
Leo: Okay.

In this scene from the same episode we get just the slightest glimpse of the character of Will Bailey, as Aaron Sorkin meant him to be. When Sorkin left the series, it seems to a lot of people that John Wells and the writers he brought in didn't have a clear idea of the character and so shuffled him off to the Vice President's staff. In this scene Will is dissatisfied with the existing foreign policy and knows from an old speech by then Congressman Bartlet that the President isn't happy about it either, and when he gets a chance he speaks his mind.

Will: Keep your pants on, Toby, I'm almost there.
Bartlet: Toby been taking his pants off again? That's just something he does.
Will: Good evening, Mr. President.
Bartlet: How's it going?
Will: Fine, sir.
Bartlet: Good.
Will: No, it's not.
Bartlet: Yeah. What's hard is that foreign policy has become a statement of what we won't do.
Will: Yes, sir.
Bartlet: "A new doctrine for a new century, based not just on our interests, but on our values across the world." Well, that's pretty spicey stuff.
Will: You wrote it, sir.
Bartlet: Yeah, I know. Why is a Khundunese life worth less to me than an American life?
Will: I don't know, sir, but it is.
Bartlet: That was ballsy.
Will: I won't be working here long.

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