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Bill Clinton's Plan for World Domination

“So,” he continues, “the Hutus and Tutsis and the Twa, they’re used to working together and living together. While it’s true that they have historically had conflicts and tensions, it’s also true they’ve lived together for very extended stretches without mauling each other.”

More waving. Few responses.

“I say this,” he concludes, “because whether it’s Milosevic and Bosnia or the Hutu leaders here, you can bet your bottom dollar that whenever somebody tells you there’s an inherent religious or ethnic conflict, there’s a politician behind it trying to get power, money, or both.”

Clinton has often said that his failure to intervene in the 1994 Rwandan genocide was one of the greatest regrets of his presidency. Yet as Samantha Power meticulously chronicles in A Problem From Hell, it’s not like he felt any urgency to stop the butchery as it was occurring. During those three-plus months, he never once convened his top advisers to discuss the genocide. On April 8, the State Department held a press conference and mentioned the slaughter in Rwanda, but gave far greater emphasis to its concern over foreign-government bans of Schindler’s List. Power notes that no one, at least back then, made a connection between the two.

Clinton has certainly made that connection today. At lunch with President Paul Kagame, the Tutsi rebel who ultimately ended the butchery, he suggests that perhaps Steven Spielberg could do for the Tutsis what he did for the Jews through the Shoah Foundation—record their stories. Kagame, a surprisingly slight man with intense eyes, seems intrigued. Clinton says he’ll phone Spielberg when he gets back to New York. Then he leaves to do a foundation event on AIDS. “I’m obsessed with this AIDS thing,” he tells a local journalist. “Rwanda is so small that if we can have effective health care here, we can have a model for every country to adopt.”

Clinton, a devout Baptist, actually has a second chance in Rwanda. Eight hundred thousand people here are now infected with HIV—the same number, as it turns out, of victims who were slaughtered in those 100 days. (In fact, that number is so high in part because of all the rapes during the terror.) By helping to ease the nation’s AIDS patients onto anti-retrovirals—there are 12,000 out of an eligible 100,000 currently in treatment—Clinton may help avert another slower, more insidious form of mass extermination. And Ira Magaziner, one of the key players in Clinton’s ill-fated health-care plan, can even give them universal access to badly needed medicine.

“In retrospect, I think Clinton didn’t think we’d done enough on AIDS,” Sandy Berger tells me before I leave for Africa. “We increased money on anti-retroviral drugs and NIH research, and we talked about it as a national-security issue at the U.N., but I think, when he left . . . ” He cuts himself off. “You know, when you’re hurtling through the day, you don’t have a lot of time to pause and separate the urgent from the important.”

At the genocide memorial, Clinton and I get out of the car and tour the museum in two different groups. It is, as one would expect, highly moving, so understated in places it’s almost telegraphic—in one room, visitors stand in total darkness and simply listen to the whispered names of the dead. When Clinton emerges, he’s visibly moved. He points to the man who led him through. “That guide?” he says. “He lost his brother and sister-in-law. His aunt lost her husband and six children. He said 76 people in his family died. Seventy-six. And he just . . . does it, you know? He just took me through.”

At the end, when Alexander the Great saw there was nothing left to conquer, he supposedly wept. Clinton doesn’t seem much like a weeper. He seems more like the kind of man who’d throw a conference when business gets slow. “Every time you talk to him, you sense he misses us all sitting around the table,” says Donna Shalala, his former Health and Human Services secretary. “Lots of smart people talking, as opposed to individual conversation.”

If Clinton’s presidency couldn’t quite take us where he wanted us all to go, then his Global Initiative, scheduled for September 15 through 17, will at least allow him to explain where he meant to take us. “He’s very, very good at answering the question of what’s going on, and then connecting it to people,” says Bob Kerrey (who notes, with some regret, that he has not been invited to the CGI—yet). “He’ll say, You’re an auto manufacturer: Here’s what globalism means to you. He’ll notice, Iran’s the only country that’s had the same outcome four straight times in elections. He’ll say, Here’s what’s going on in South Africa. You may disagree with it, but he can answer.” He pauses. “I mean, I haven’t even read the paper today.”