Shake hands with the devil


Shake hands with the devil


I just finished Romeo Dallaire’s account of the Rwandan genocide. Like many others I have been deeply impacted the book. This is the only book I’ve read that put me in some form of shock as I read it. It was like I couldn’t process what I was reading and now that I am finished it is slowly sinking in. The only time I felt remotely like this is when I studied the effects of colonization in Canada. We all like to think we are the good guys. It is profoundly disturbing when you realize that your country could have done so much more but didn’t.

This book has shaken my faith in the moral integrity of the western world.

I am eagerly anticipating the movie Hotel Rwanda.

  1. #1 by Rev. Mike on January 23, 2005 - 5:53 pm

    I’m not sure how to comment on this without sounding like a jerk, but here goes — how do you expect people to act who, although made in the image of God, are broken and fallen, thoroughly and completely, in every grain of their being? I’m not certain where you’re coming from here, unless you really think that people actually have the ability to act with integrity to their moral pronouncements.

  2. #2 by Leighton Tebay on January 23, 2005 - 11:38 pm

    I expect people to not turn a blind eye to the senseless slaughter of hundreds of thousands of poeple.

  3. #3 by Rev. Mike on January 24, 2005 - 8:48 am

    Granted. But when they do, are you really so surprised that it shakes your faith in the moral integrity of civilization?

    I guess my only point is that people are acting the way people act. This is the flip side of kicking America for its “imperialistic” or “hegemonic” behavior, or western civilization as a whole as “colonialist.” If we act, we’re condemned. If we don’t, we’re condemned. At some point, it’s like the old psych experiment where they zapped the mice regardless of how they responded, and eventually the mice just curled up in the corner and waited to die.

    We’re a whole civilization of Martin Niemollers, waiting to act until the day they come for us, and then there’s no one left to stand up for us. I think you and I, along with Darryl, are probably on the exact same wavelength in some of the stuff we’ve written over the weekend. I just found your choice of words curious here.

  4. #4 by Rev. Mike on January 24, 2005 - 9:05 am

    Let me try this one more time. If all you’re saying is that it makes you despair of human goodness even more than you already had, I’m with you on that. If you’re saying you’re surprised by that, which is what I hear you saying, then I’M surprised to hear you saying THAT.

  5. #5 by Leighton Tebay on January 24, 2005 - 9:41 am

    Mike:

    I think that the situation is different with Rwanda. There was already a UN Mission on the ground that was accepted by the two factions in the civil war. This was not a question of whether the western powers should invade.

    The genocide started and the west pulled out! The Belgians lost 10 troops and withdrew their entire force. The Kiwi’s, who chaired the security council were consistently frustated by inaction of the US, Britain and France. The Brits offered Post WWII era trucks that didn’t work. The US offered 50 mothballed Cold War era APCs but then asked the UN to “lease” them for some ridiculous sum of cash, so they never ended up there.

    This whole situation has nothing to do with colonialism or imperialism. The West refused to supply the mission adequately. They refused to send more troops because the potential loss of a few dozen western soliders meant more than tens or hundreds of thousands of Rwandans.

  6. #6 by Rev. Mike on January 24, 2005 - 11:25 am

    Which was cowardly. No excuses there. After Mogadishu, our leaders were convinced that we in the west were unwilling to consider the specter of our troops coming home in body bags. But how does a leader respond to the mixed signals from the electorate when they hear the hue and cry over tens of thousands of Rwandans, but hundreds of thousands of Iraqis would have been an acceptable loss for many? Just the cost of doing business with Hussein?

    Already the mocking reaction to Bush’s inaugural address suggests that we truly are not willing to pay any price, to paraphrase Kennedy, to ensure anyone else’s freedom from tyranny. Genocide is only the logical and extreme extension of that tyranny. What I don’t get is why we’re so willing to tolerate the tyranny, but genocide gets us all worked up.

  7. #7 by Jordon on January 24, 2005 - 12:16 pm

    Rev Mike, the US rejected a plea from the UN to fly over and jam AM radio signals because the cost would be $5000 an hour, even though the AM radio was how the genocide was being organized. The U.S., England, and France were responsible for allowing the genocide to continue as they stonewalled others on the security council from acting because of their own self interests. For as the late Dr. Martin Luther King said: “Man’s inhumanity to man is not only perpetrated by the vitriolic actions of those who are bad. It is also perpetrated by the vitiating inaction of those who are good.”

  8. #8 by Leighton Tebay on January 24, 2005 - 12:55 pm

    Mike:

    Let us not confuse the issue. This post is not specifically about the US or Iraq. There are significant differences.

    In Rwanda there was a UN mandate.

    There were 800 000 people killed in 100 days.

    Military intervention would have been cheap and low risk.

    We already had people on the ground

    There was a high probability of success.

    There is a huge difference between Rwanda, the Sudan, Afghanistan and Iraq. I believe one can be completely consistent in saying the west should intervene in the Sudan, but shouldn’t have in Iraq. I do find it inconsistent when the leader of nation says we are going to bring freedom to the dark places in the world and ignores the darkest places that are the easiest to remedy, and focuses only on situations that are in their best interest.

  9. #9 by Rev. Mike on January 24, 2005 - 1:09 pm

    < ... heavy sigh ...>

    Your Honor, the defense will and has stipulated that sitting on one’s hinter parts while tens of thousands are killed for absolutely no reason other than irrational hate is wrong. The defense is further willing to stipulate that the actions and inactions of the people of the United States of America as regards the events in Rwanda, both individual and corporate through their duly elected representatives, are reprehensible.

    May it please the court, the question posed was not whether such things are wrong, but rather why it is such a surprise to anyone as to constitute a crisis of faith in the inherent good of one’s civilization.

    The defense invites all comers to read his response to a post by Darryl Dash (http://www.dashhouse.com/darryl/001914.htm), such response being posted at http://blog.revmike.us/archives/000708.html, should there be any further doubt regarding his views on responding to genocide. Furthermore, should any party come up with a means of coercing action in a recalcitrant evildoer that would not involve any form of suffering or injury, physical or mental, to be incurred by said villain in the process, which would then allow everyone involved to say that they won, the defense would humbly give thanks and acknowledge that the Kingdom of God on earth had indeed finally been achieved.

  10. #10 by Rev. Mike on January 24, 2005 - 1:16 pm

    “In Rwanda there was a UN mandate.

    There were 800 000 people killed in 100 days.

    Military intervention would have been cheap and low risk.

    We already had people on the ground

    There was a high probability of success.”

    Differences of degree, not of substance. It’s either wrong to do nothing in such situations, or it’s not. Surely you are not saying that absent a UN mandate, or had military intervention been expensive and high risk, or had the probability of success been low, that doing nothing in the face of 800,000 deaths in 100 days would have been okey dokey fine.

    The crushing of your faith in the moral integrity of western civilization suggests you don’t think so either. If that’s the case, there is no substantial difference between Rwanda, the Sudan, Afghanistan and Iraq, and I for one would support intervention in all of the above.

  11. #11 by Leighton Tebay on January 24, 2005 - 3:41 pm

    Mike:

    You wrote “Differences of degree, not of substance. It’s either wrong to do nothing in such situations, or it’s not. Surely you are not saying that absent a UN mandate, or had military intervention been expensive and high risk, or had the probability of success been low, that doing nothing in the face of 800,000 deaths in 100 days would have been okey dokey fine.”

    Of course not, but in Iraq, Afghanistan and in the Sudan 800,000 people aren’t dying in 100 days.

    I opposed the war in Iraq because I had serious doubts regime change through military action would actually improve the situation. A democratic Iraq, with a Shiite majority and the influence of Iran would eventually elect or be taken over by Islamic Fundamentalists. The kind that actually inspires and supplies terrorists that fly planes in to buildings.

    The answer to your question as to whether the lack of action on the part of Canada and the west surprises me, has already been answered. Rwanda could have been easily avoided, and we didn’t do it.

    Why am I surprised?

    I am not surprised that the United States or France bickered and stalled while hundreds of thousands of people died. I am surprised that Canada did not respond more than it did. I will say in Canada’s defence they were the ONLY country to send even a paltry force to reinforce that UN mission, and it was Canada that flew in supplies to the mission even though the supply planes were continually under fire. When the world finally decided to send more troops Canada was among the first.

    Perhaps this is something distinct about the Canadian mindset. We actually do care when bad things happen to other people, regardless of whether intervening is in our best interests.

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