SHAKE HANDS WITH THE DEVIL by Romeo Dallaire

by JF

Romeo Dallaire was the Canadian United Nations general who had on-site command over the U.N. humanitarian relief operation in Rwanda shortly before and then during the approximately 100 days of concentrated genocide in that nation in the Spring of 1994. If I am not mistaken, the character that actor Nick Nolte portrayed in the motion picture HOTEL RWANDA was loosely based on Dallaire. This was published in 2003, apparently as Dallaire was recovering from a quite understandable psychological/emotional tailspin in life.

This book is extremely engrossing: Once a reader gets to about the third chapter, beyond a bit of necessary background, autobiographical information, the reader will not want to put down this book until they have finished all 500 or so pages.

Dallaire reveals himself to be still full of shame from everything he saw and some of what he did or didn’t do, but it is transparently clear (and clearly unappreciated by Dallaire himself) that he of all people should hold no shame over himself. The specific details he records about the Rwandan holocaust, the colossal suffering, the acute barbarity, is ghastly, gruesome, horrific. Dallaire documents how his U.N. paper-shuffling superiors, and the governments of several first-world nations–most notably the U.S., the U.K., and France–severely hampered his own personal exhaustive (and this reader would say “herculean”) efforts to assuage the Rwandan belligerents and avert, and later, to at least mitigate, the massive slaughters happening all over that countryside. Here is a man who obviously risked his own life many times and was very conscientious about risking the lives of the men under his command, and who apparently was plagued as almost no other military commander in history has ever been plagued by weak-willed, self-centered, morally ambivalent bureaucratic bosses. So Dallaire shows himself to have been heroic, and to be humble. And yes, I understand he was writing about himself; but no, I don’t think he could have made any of this up, by the way. The whole account sounds far too authentic for that.

Dallaire also reveals himself to have been naïve, and in a very real sense, still naïve. He admits to having been, in 1994, strictly a military man who was naïve about geopolitics. He certainly emerged from his Rwandan trial by fire as a man thoroughly trained in regional political machinations; but in matters of global geopolitics, at least in 2003, he revealed himself to be still naïve indeed: On the last couple pages of the conclusion, Dallaire refers to the 911 “terrorist” attacks, and he makes it clear that he, like most of the propagandized masses, believes in the impossible official government version of events of that day. Again, this was written in 2003; I’d like to think he has seen the light about the Machiavellian/Orwellian reality of False Flag Attacks by now.

Rating: Δ Δ Δ Δ Δ
1/2014

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