Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Romeo Dallaire: Canadian Patriot

My first and only encounter with Romeo Dallaire was in a Master's program in War Studies with the Royal Military College of Canada. We were in a class together. As a US Air Force exchange officer stationed in Ottawa I was somewhat surprised to find a Major General pursuing a Master's degree in War Studies. This happenstance spoke volumes about the sort of mensch Gen Dallaire is--constantly questioning, continually learning, trying to understand his world and to make it a better one.

Since that time about seven years ago I have heard his name come up on occasion in news reports. There was the report of his disappearance and subsequent appearance drunk and disoriented in Hull, Quebec--across the river from Ottawa. This led to his forced retirement from the Canadian Forces.

Why did he go from the heights of achievement--from the highest ranks in the Canadian Army to a park bench, depressed, drunk, out of his mind? In a word: Rwanda. You see, Maj Gen Dallaire was the commanding officer in charge of the UN mission in Rwanda in 1994 when the Hutus en masse went into collective hysteria and hacked 800,000 Tutsis to death with machetes in the course of about four weeks. He begged for 5000 combat ready troops. This was all he felt he needed to quell and put down the ragtag genocidal Hutus. The UN and the world ignored him. 18 Belgian soldiers were massacred by the base barbarians in order to intimidate the world community. The world community reacted predictably. See the new movie Hotel Rwanda for a shorthand version of this unspeakable atrocity.

Romeo Dallaire wrote an account of his tenure in Rwanda: Shake Hands with the Devil , and Mother Jones recently conducted an interview with him.

Here are a couple of other books on the subject I read about two years ago that I highly recommend:

National Book Award winner "America in the Age of Genocide" by Samantha Powers
"We Regret to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed along with our families: Tales from Rwanda" by Philip Gourevitch

Watch the movie. Then ask yourself the question: Does the Bush rhetoric match the task at hand?? Liberty for nations with oil but ignore those without?? Where are the ethics in our policy??

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am impressed with Romeo Dallaire. You never mentioned that encounter to me.

:-) Bekka