I finished "Shake Hands with the Devil" in just a little over a week and I was fascinated. The human story is so compelling-Romeo Dalliare demonstrates such courage and dedication and integrity of heart that is a rare combination. I admire him tremendously and what the UN put him through is just incredible. UN "soldiers" arriving without food or water, no tents and no vehicles. No "blue berets" to identify them as peacekeepers. Arguments over whether the crisis was an "ethnic cleansing" or a "genocide". If termed a "genocide", the UN would be required to go in with greater force, but an "ethnic cleansing" was considered a less serious situation that did not require action from the outside world. 800,000 innocent men, women and children slaughtered in 100 days. That is faster than Nazi Germany at the height of World War II, and yet one of the principals the UN is founded on is the "never again" philosophy - the world will never again tolerate a "genocide" of innocent humans based on color, creed or religion. Reading this book is so infuriating because it is apparent that Romeo Dallaire was denied the tools and means to stop what he saw coming. He only asked for a force of 5000 men to go into Rwanda to disarm the extremists and stop the killing. He was given just around 1000, including a Belgain Force, which having the colonial history that it had with Rwanda, should never have been permitted. This book is about Romeo Dallaire and his command of this mission as a "Chapter 6" peacekeeping mission. Throughout the 400 and some pages of this book, there are only about 4 or 5 paragraphs which describe the killings in graphic detail. Romeo does not see his book as a vehicle for decribing the killings so much as an opportunity to document the mission so that the "whys" can be analyzed, and the Western World can learn from it's mistakes, yet again.
I followed up the book with a viewing of the documentary, which I found at Blockbuster. Romeo describes the beauty of the Rwandan countryside in his book, but the screen brings it to life. We join the Commander as he tours Rwanda for the first time since leaving in August 1994. His suffering since leaving Rwanda has been great-medical discharge from the military, depression, suicide attempts, extensive drug therapy and pychological therapy. He blames himself for not having succeeded in his mission, but yet he stayed in a "hell on earth" to do what he could to save innocent lives. And he relived every horrid detail in the writing of this book, so that the world could share in knowledge of this tragedy and hopefully learn from it. This book has given me an education in so many ways and I am humbled by this man and his great courage.