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Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda Paperback – December 21, 2004

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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.
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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

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; Reprint edition (December 21, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786715103
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786715107
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (157 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #51,556 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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98 of 100 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on February 25, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This book was released in Canada several months and I ordered it from Amazon's sister site there (you can get it from them much cheaper and faster, by the way)
Dallaire was Force Commander during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and, as such, is able to provide the first insiders view of the collapse of the Arusha Accord, the subsequent resumption of hostilities between the RPF and the RGF and the rapidly unfolding genocide.
General Dallaire spends much of his book discussing his attempts to implement the Arusha Accords and, when that failed, to secure a cease-fire and protect innocent civilians. He also chronicles his frustrations with some of the troops sent to assist in the peacekeeping mission and the trouble he had getting money, supplies or even an effective mandate from the UN.
Dallaire's coverage of some important issues such as the historic Hutu-Tutsi rivalry, the role of the Interhamwe in the genocide or the US role in preventing more forceful action are cursory but, in fairness, they were not intended to be the focus of this book.
Dallaire has done the world a great service by chronicling his experience nearly a decade after his life was upended, and 800,000 Rwandan lives were lost, in one of the most horrific humanitarian tragedies in history. And while this book is a great value to those who have a relatively deep understanding of the genocide, it might not be the best introduction for those who know little or nothing about it. Dallaire provides a great amount of detail, but not necessarily the elementary background and big picture views required to understand just who was involved and what was transpiring during this chaotic 100 days.

In the end, Dallaire is a hero, as are Brent Beardsley and so many others who risked their lives to save the lives of others.
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224 of 247 people found the following review helpful By Robert David STEELE Vivas HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 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
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34 of 37 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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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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