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.Read more ›
Was this review helpful to you?
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 ›
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.
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.
Was this review helpful to you?