Peter Erlinder blames Bill Clinton and Rick Warren for his "silly" Rwandan trip

Categories: International

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Erlinder was no stranger to the turmoil in Rwanda
One of the key things missing from all the international news coverage of William Mitchell law professor Peter Erlinder's three-week stay in Rwanda prison has been what Erlinder has to say for himself.

Now that he's back in Minnesota, released on bail based due to medical needs, he's telling reporters that he's not a Rwandan genocide denier as charged. And despite the fact that he's an experienced Rwanda hand, he's blaming former President Bill Clinton and pastor Rick Warren for his own decision to travel to the African nation to represent a presidential candidate who's also accused of denying the genocide.

Via MPR's Laura Yuen on the genocide:

"No, no, you're putting words in my mouth, and I'm not going to let you do that --- because these are my words, not yours," he said. "I have never denied there was a genocide against Tutsis."

But Erlinder did raise that question in an essay he wrote in 2008. The piece, published on the legal news site Jurist, was titled: "Rwanda: No Conspiracy, No Genocide Planning ... No Genocide?"

Warren, the California megachurch pastor best known for his book "The Purpose Driven Life," has worked with Rwandan President Paul Kagame on anti-AIDS projects. Clinton awarded Kagame a Global Citizen Award last year. Erlinder said he consulted with both men before heading to Rwanda, and they painted an overly-rosy picture of civic life there.

Whether Erlinder should have known better is a reasonable question, since he's been after Kagame's hide for years, as MinnPost's Sharon Schmickle points out:

Erlinder has been bent for years not only on implicating Kagame but also on exposing what he calls a cover-up by the U.S. Pentagon of the true story behind the genocide in which some 800,000 people were slaughtered.

Here's how Strib editorial writer Jill Burcum put it this morning:

On Tuesday, Erlinder told the Star Tribune that "not once did anyone in an official capacity say this was not a wise idea.'' This is nonsense. Someone who is a smart attorney, who is as familiar with Rwanda as Erlinder, should have had the common sense to weigh the risks on his own and ultimately decide against the Rwandan trip -- particularly if he was physically or emotionally unable to handle a prison stay.
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