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Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda Hardcover – October 3, 2004

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 584 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; 1st Carroll & Graf Ed edition (October 3, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786714875
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786714872
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.2 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (127 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,030,157 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

As former head of the late 1993 U.N. peacekeeping mission in Rwanda, Canadian general Dallaire's initial proposal called for 5,000 soldiers to permit orderly elections and the return of the refugees. Nothing like this number was supplied, and the result was an outright attempt at genocide against the Tutsis that nearly succeeded, with 800,000 dead over three months. The failure of the U.N.'s wealthier members to act as the tragedy unfolded obliged the author to leave military service to recover from PTSD (as well as the near breakdown of his family). While much of the account is a thickly described I-went-here, I went-there, I-met-X, I-said-this, one learns much more about the author's emotional states when making decisions than in a conventional military history, making this an important document of service—one that has been awarded Canada's Governor General's Award. And his descriptions of Rwanda's unraveling are disturbing, to say the least ("I then noticed large piles of blue-black bodies heaped on the creek banks"). Dallaire's argument that Rwanda-like situations are fires that can be put out with a small force if caught early enough will certainly draw debate, but the book documents in horrifying detail what happens when no serious effort is made.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* On June 27, 1993, Dallaire--a career man in the Canadian military--was informed that he might be asked to lead a UN peacekeeping mission in Rwanda, to which he replied excitedly, "Rwanda, that's somewhere in Africa, isn't it?" Fourteen months later, he would return from his service there a nearly broken man, having failed to prevent the unfathomable massacre of 800,000 Tutsis and Hutus, which took place over a mere 100 days. From meticulous diary entries he wrote during his service there, Dallaire pieces together the inside story of what went wrong. He puts unsparing blame on the circular failure of the UN: lack of support from member countries, especially the U.S and the Security Council, which led to lack of respect for the UN, which then led to lack of support from member countries. He blames the warring sides, especially extremist Hutus, for planning the genocide during peace talks, knowing the UN would not have the courage to enforce the peace: "They knew us better than we knew ourselves." And he blames himself for his political naivete and his inability to convince the UN of the gravity of the situation, which has now spread to neighboring Congo. For those who would understand the inexorable but entirely preventable unfolding of the Rwandan holocaust, this account, told from the eye of the storm, is indispensable. Alan Moores
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

This book really changed the way I look at the world.
General Romeo Dallaire's book, "Shake Hands with the Devil" is an important and compelling book.
Brooke A. Palmer
He also did a fine job writing it, the book reads quite well.
Francois-Xavier Jette

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

221 of 244 people found the following review helpful By Robert David STEELE Vivas HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on June 29, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I read this book with the eye and mind of a professional intelligence officer long frustrated with the myopia of national policy constituencies, and the stupidity of the United Nations Headquarters culture. General Dallaire has written a superb book on the reality of massive genocide in the Burundi and Rwanda region in 1994, and his sub-title, "The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda" is where most people end up in reading this book.

I see things a little differently. I see this book as a massive indictment of the United Nations culture of "go along gently", as a compelling documentary of how ignorant the United Nations is about impending disasters because of its persistent refusal to establish a UN intelligence secretariat as recommended by the Brahimi Report, and as a case study in how the Western nations have failed to establish coherent global strategies--and the intelligence-policy dialogues necessary to keep such strategies updated and relevant.

According to the author, 15 UN peacekeepers died--over 800,000 Rwandans died. The number 15 is not larger because Belgium, Canada, and the US explicitly stated that Rwanda was "irrelevant" in any sense of the word, and not worth the death of a single additional Western (mostly white) soldier.

Although there has been slight improvement in the UN since LtGen Patrick Cammaert, NL RM became the Military Advisor to the Secretary General (see General Cammaert and other views in
...Read more ›
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Surdas on March 29, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book a few days after it was released and read it within a week. It is an extremely compelling account of a horrific event from one of the few people who tried to stop it. He looked at dead or orphaned children in Rwanda and saw his own young children. He exhorted the UN and the powerful nations of the world to send him a few thousand troops, so that he could save hundreds of thousands of innocent lives. In the end, political calculus was more important to those nations than the lives of almost a million Africans. This book really changed the way I look at the world. Another really good book for exploring the role of politics in refusing to prevent genocide is "A Problem from Hell" by Samantha Powers.
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Avant-Captain_Nemo on May 11, 2005
Format: Paperback
The terrible truth about General Dellaire's book, "Shake Hands With The Devil" is that it is so well written it takes its place among the literary classics devoted to history such as Julius Caesar's Memoirs and Gibbon's Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire. The General shows a profound awareness of literary tradition and wields it ruthelessly to expose the ruin at the heart of global humanity and how it lead to the brutal rapes, mutilations and murders of almost a million human beings in the country of Rwanda. Corpses are piled everywhere and they fill the rivers and lakes of the country. The odor of death - perhaps the most diabolic odor in the world - is so strong and intense that the General feels it is impossible to physically move. The body of a boy trembles and the General trys to assist the lad but the body crumbles to pieces filled with worms and insects that had caused the flesh to quiver.

But there is something truly disquieting beneathe all of the evils and dark strategems described by the General. His book is essentially a work of atonement - but it goes furthur. He contaminates us all with his atonement because almost all of us (myself especially) are guilty of the genocide. We did absolutely nothing while the political and economic alliances that seek to dominate our world handed the people of Rwanda over to unnatural horrors.

Those of us of rational age are guilty. We must all follow in General Dellaires on-going work of expiation.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Ursula Thomson on April 19, 2004
Format: Hardcover
A most powerful book that will leave you speechless - at the horror, at the incomprehensibility of the Rwandan genocide, as well as at the travails and struggles of Dallaire's UN mission under tremendous odds. The author involves you by his day to day observations, you feel the daily grind of his army life as well as the unique frustrations placed on him by his UN superiors. Yes the Rwandan genocide could have been stopped had he had the manpower and means - how efficiently we will never know. But to have to stand by while people who expected help were butchered, while endless paperwork had to be filed, while the "genocidaires" went freely about their business thumbing their noses at UNAMIR - it becomes clear why many like Dallaire suffered intensely of PTSD - how can one erase the images? They wrench the soul.
Living in Rwanda and being able to associate places and names, listening to people - all of whom were touched by "la guerre" and who lost family - brings the genocide even closer , although there are no more answers now than when Dallaire was there. I do not know how Rwandans can cope, living next door to returned killers whom they perhaps know personally. I do not know how they can look at the bones of those slaughtered and go on tilling the fields, doing their chores, smiling and hugging... But as one Rwandan said to me, what choice do we have but to forgive, we cannot hate for the rest of our lives (he lost his brother and family while he himself hid for three months and so managed to survive). Instead, he has turned his brother's property into a restaurant, where there is music and dancing - he thought his brother would like such a memorial.
When Dallaire came to Rwanda for the ten year memorial celebration, he saw hope among the people again - may he be right. Plus jamais.
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