Monday, June 25, 2012

Happy Birthday, Roméo

Poster for Shake Hands With the Devil documentaryRoméo Antonius Dallaire was born today in 1946, in Denekamp, Netherlands, the child of a Canadian soldier and a Dutch nurse. He was raised in Canada, and joined the army himself. He eventually became the Force Commander of UNAMIR, the ill-fated United Nations peacekeeping force for Rwanda between 1993 and 1994, and for trying to stop the genocide... You may have seen Hotel Rwanda. Without taking anything away from that wonderful film, let me say that its depiction of the UN office - well-enough done by Nick Nolte - is not a fair depiction of Dallaire. Watch, or read, Shake Hands With the Devil in any of its incarnations if you want to know what was going on there. But be aware: the things that happened damn near tore Dallaire's soul (for lack of a better world) into pieces.

Read the following quotes and wonder if anything has really changed since then... and then join me in raising a glass to Senator Dallaire and wishing him a happy birthday.

What is the reason for this marche seul by the developed nations? In the last decades of the twentieth century, self-interest, sovereignty and taking care of number one became the primary criteria for any serious provision of support or resources to the globe’s trouble spots. If the country in question is of any possible strategic value to the world powers, then it seems that everything from covert operations to the outright use of overwhelming force is fair game. If it is not, indifference is the order of the day.

What I have come to realize as the root of it all, however, is the fundamental indifference of the world community to the plight of seven to eight million black Africans in a tiny country that had no strategic or resource value to any world power. An overpopulated little country that turned in on itself and destroyed its own people, as the world watched and yet could not manage to find the political will to intervene.

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