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'The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda'

Gen. Romeo Dallaire was commander of the U.N. peacekeeping forces in Rwanda 10 years ago during one of the worst massacres in modern history. Some 800,000 Rwandans were killed in 100 days. Most of them were Tutsi and moderate Hutu civilians. During that time Dallaire and his troops were denied authority to intervene. The experience changed him, tormented him, and filled him with guilt. He suffered from post traumatic stress syndrome, was suicidal and depressed. He's written a new account, Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda.

45:31

Other segments from the episode on May 17, 2004

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, May 17, 2004: Interview with Romeo Dallaire; Review of The bad plus' new album "Give."

Transcript

DATE May 17, 2004 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
NETWORK NPR
PROGRAM Fresh Air

Interview: Romeo Dallaire discusses his book "Shake Hands with
the Devil" about the Rwandan genocide
TERRY GROSS, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

It was supposed to be a classic peacekeeping mission when the Canadian General
Romeo Dallaire took over the UN observer mission in Uganda and Rwanda. Rwanda
was negotiating a peace agreement ending its civil war, but a few months
later, in April of 1994, the plane carrying the Hutu president of Rwanda was
shot down. Hutu extremists accused the other ethnic group, the Tutsis, of the
assassination and, in retribution, began a massacre of Tutsis that turned into
genocide. An estimated 800,000 Rwandan men, women and children were murdered
in 100 days. Unable to stop the slaughter, General Dallaire remained in
Rwanda and tried to protect as many people as he could. In September, he
returned home.

Four years later he testified at the International Criminal Tribunal for
Rwanda. After that, he says his mind and body decided to give up. Suffering
with post-traumatic stress disorder, he was given a medical discharge from the
army in 2000. He's now special adviser to the Canadian government on
war-affected children. He describes his recent memoir, "Shake Hands with the
Devil," as a story of betrayal, failure, naivete, indifference, inhumanity and
evil. Ten years after the genocide we invited him to share his story.

Let's go back to when you were first going to Rwanda. Could you just describe
what your mission was there?

General ROMEO DALLAIRE (Author, "Shake Hands with the Devil"): Well, the
mission originally was to command a UN observer mission on the border of
Uganda and Rwanda. So I had that mission that was given to me, operating out
of Ugandan side of the border to monitor whether or not equipment was coming
in from Uganda to reinforce the rebels. And then, subsequently, with the
peace agreement being signed in early August, I was given the task of
conducting assessment of whether a UN mission would be plausible to assist the
Rwandans in implementing their peace agreement and then, subsequently, was
given the command of that mission, military command. And my task was to
assist in establishing an atmosphere of security with the Rwandans in order to
implement their peace agreement. So it was a very classic chapter 6 force, a
mutual force between two ex-belligerents who actually want peace.

GROSS: So you weren't expecting anything extraordinary--you know, anything
out of the ordinary, not that a peacekeeping mission is ever ordinary. But...

Gen. DALLAIRE: No, but you're quite right. What was expected was very much a
Cyrpus scenario, in which the will on both sides was very committed to the
peace agreement. And they essentially needed a referee there just to make
sure that if there was any altercations or any problems that might arise, that
some of the neutrals were there to assist in solving it. And that's the
essence of a classic Chapter 6 mission.

GROSS: Now the genocide started after the president of Rwanda was shot down
in his plane on April 6th of 1994. At what point did you realize that the
world in Rwanda was about to change?

Gen. DALLAIRE: Well, the work-ups to the actual event had made the scenario
very, very complex and very tense. So we were already in an atmosphere of
either a resolution or a blowout, and we were sort of sitting, monitoring both
sides and anticipating, hopefully, a positive one but very much aware that a
negative solution might be coming, and that is a humanitarian catastrophe, as
we had been informed. And so when the president's plane went down, my first
reaction was that the whole mission, the whole scenario's at risk. But it
took till the next afternoon, within about 24 hours, when the rebel forces
decided to start fighting that the full realization that the mission formally
was now ended and that we were in the middle of a civil war and what looked
like something moving away from ethnic cleansing very much towards a genocide.

GROSS: Do you remember hearing the broadcasts on the radio that urged Hutus
to start killing Tutsis?

Gen. DALLAIRE: Well, those broadcasts were given in Kinyarwanda, so they
rarely spoke in French or in English, which I speak, and so they were
always--when we were able to get the people finally translated for us. And,
yes, I still have transcripts of those very explicit instructions given by
that extremist radio to people to--where to go kill the Tutsis, how to kill
them, making sure that they killed the children because the rebels that are
attacking now are the children of those that they had killed in the '50s but
had ...(unintelligible) to kill those children.

GROSS: General Dallaire, you write in your book, `Commanders spend their
careers preparing for the moment when they will have to choose between
lose-lose propositions in the use of their troops. Regardless of the decision
they make, some of their men will almost certainly die.' You had one of those
lose-lose decisions at the beginning of the genocide. Would you describe the
decision you had to make?

Gen. DALLAIRE: Well, it was a decision that when I was going to a meeting to
retake stock with the military commanders and those who, at the time, we
believed had been moving coup d'etat that ultimately was going to move to the
ultimate plan of the mass killings, I went by one of the military camps and
saw a couple of my soldiers, who were laying on the ground 50, 60 meters away.
And being prevented from stopping there, I went to the meeting. And it became
quite obvious to me that the bulk of my force was vulnerable and that we are
actually now becoming potential targets and that, in that light, I had to
either decide to go and rescue those soldiers that may still be alive in that
camp or negotiate for them to come to life and try to bring my forces into a
position to be more secure.

GROSS: What did you decide to do?

Gen. DALLAIRE: Well, I decided to negotiate because I didn't have the forces
because we were Chapter 6, deployed to be able to go and conduct a
counterattack. And at the lower levels they attempted it and got nowhere.
And my decision was we'll negotiate because the potential of more casualties
was much higher than the potential of saving those who were in that camp.

GROSS: So were you successful at getting your men out of this camp?

Gen. DALLAIRE: No, the 10 soldiers that were in that camp ultimately were
slaughtered.

GROSS: After 10 of your men were massacred, how did it affect what you
thought you should be doing with the men who remained? How'd it affect what
you thought your mission should be?

Gen. DALLAIRE: Well, at that time until the end of that day, my mission was
to try to continue to prevent--that the rebel forces would ultimately launch
their offensive. And then what would I have? I would have had both
ex-belligerents going back to war, and as such, there was no peacekeeping
mission. Now when that actually happened, I had two options. One option was
to remain and to assist as much as we could where these crimes against
humanity was happening, to continue to convince--try to work out truces and
cease-fire negotiations and, ultimately, to prevent, whatever we could do, the
genocide and protect as many Rwandans as we could. The other option is not
having any mandate, and New York giving me no mandate. And the countries that
had given--not given; in fact, leant the troops to the UN under my command had
leant them only for a peacekeeping mission, classic. My orders should have
been technically to simply order all my troops to hunker down and implement
the evacuation plan.

GROSS: And what did you do?

Gen. DALLAIRE: I requested reinforcements. And by the end of the second day,
we had over 20,000 Rwanda under our protection. And so I decided that we
would stay and protect them, continue to negotiate to get a cease-fire.
However, because we were low on food, water, supplies and ammunition and
because the nations, like Belgium and others, Bangladesh and so on, had
ordered their troops out or not to do anything, I essentially by the fourth,
fifth day, was a commander of about 800 soldiers, which were principally the
Guineans and the Tunisians and some observers.

GROSS: And that was down from a force of about 4,000?

Gen. DALLAIRE: No, 2,600.

GROSS: Twenty-six hundred, OK.

Gen. DALLAIRE: Yeah. And even at that, the Guineans arrived with no
equipment. They simply don't have the equipment to do the job. So I received
orders then to totally pull out the force, which I refused. And because there
was no cavalry and no resources to even sustain the forces I had, and I was
taking casualties from mortar and artillery fire and stuff like that, I
recommended that--reduce my force to the minimum of about 270 to 300 troops,
so we can continue to protect--now by then we had over 30,000 people--and,
also, continue the cease-fire negotiations and be a foot on the ground if we
finally decide to give me reinforcements.

GROSS: My guest is General Romeo Dallaire. His new memoir is called "Shake
Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda." We'll talk more
after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: My guest is General Romeo Dallaire, the Canadian general who headed
the UN peacekeeping force in Rwanda just before and during the genocide 10
years ago.

At what point did you realize that what was happening in Rwanda went beyond
civil war, that it was actually turning into genocide?

Gen. DALLAIRE: Well, by the fourth day, in that ballpark, we had seen that
the political decapitation had ebbed. In fact, literally, all moderates,
Tutsi or Hutu leaders, of any sort were targeted. And they had been on a
list, and the extremists, who knew exactly where they lived, had targeted them
and went in and killed the bulk of them with their families, with some of them
escaping. Some of them we were able to get out. And then the killings
continued, and by then the term `ethnic cleansing' was very much in use. I
had already sent my previous command troops to Yugoslavia and so on, so that
was what we thought was evolving.

And it took, in fact, right up to around the 26th that I finally agreed with
the ICRC, the International Red Cross, representative, as we discussed this
absolutely catastrophic continuum of slaughter, that we were in the middle of
a genocide. And it took that long because, to me, genocide was equivalent to
a holocaust. That's all we had been educated. And so I just couldn't imagine
a holocaust. And so it took time to finally grasp the fact that this was a
genocide, and we had to influence the international community accordingly.

GROSS: What did you do with the limited, the small, number of troops that you
had to actually protect, you said, about 30,000 people?

Gen. DALLAIRE: Well, we had five sites that were strong sites, like the
National Stadium, hospital and so on. But it was far more by the
realization of the extremists that although they're massacring and killing and
hope we all leave, so they wouldn't have witnesses, we were staying and that
it behooved them to tread lightly on coming in and killing the people in our
protected sites, although there were altercations also with the rebels because
we were protecting Hutus also. And that dominated a lot of our work. I mean,
just to try to feed them, give them water, medical supplies--here we were
protecting people, and at the same time they were dying because we couldn't
get anything to them. My soldiers were getting sick because they couldn't eat
or drink water because they were surrounded all the time by these Rwandans,
who had nothing. So it got complex on that side.

The other side is I continued to negotiate cease-fires and, also, provide
troops in order to go and save people that we had received requests through
the UN. Although the French, the Belgians, the Italians and the Americans had
evacuated nearly all of the white population in the first days of the war,
there were still many remaining. And, also, the bulk of the Rwandans who had
helped these people were still on the ground. And so we were sending out
patrols, risking their lives trying to save these people.

GROSS: Much of the genocide in Rwanda was carried out with machetes. How did
the fact that that's the way so many of the murders were being
accomplished--how did that affect your mission in terms of what you needed to
do to protect people, in terms of what the medical needs of the people around
you were like and...

Gen. DALLAIRE: Well, it's one of the most horrific ways of killing people. I
mean, in regards to young children, it's very effective because their heads
come off rapidly, or they can cut them in two. But with adults, you've got to
hack and slash a couple times. And these extremists, the militias and so on,
at times were drugged up or boozed up and had been killing all day, so it's
very fatiguing. And so what they resorted to is instead of ensuring the
people were dead--is that they injured them enough that they were immobile and
that they would bleed to death.

And so, ultimately, what happened is that you had people literally dying over
days in the heat or in the--thrown still alive but suffering in latrines or
situations like that or thrown into the water injured and still alive, not
able to save themselves. And those scenarios created incredible moral
dilemmas in as much as there was in large parts of Rwanda up to 30 percent of
HIV/AIDS before the war started. And soldiers don't run around with rubber
gloves, and so the blood was all over the place. And to what extent those
soldiers exposed themselves in helping people to contracting HIV/AIDS? And it
was interesting that the bulk of the forces that I had responded that they
would not put the lives of the soldiers at risk in trying to save these people
in any way, shape or form because of HIV/AIDS. But a few countries said that,
`AIDS or no AIDS, people are suffering.' Their guys would go in.

GROSS: What was your view of that? What did you think was the appropriate
position for the troops to take?

Gen. DALLAIRE: Well, three contingents made it quite clear that they would
intervene: a Dutch contingent, a Guinean contingent--the Guinean army had
been trained by the Canadians since their freedom or their independence in
1962--and the Canadians. And so in one case--there was a test case of one of
those contingents, and the officer wasn't even able to give an order either to
go in or not to save these people. The troops themselves were in helping the
people.

GROSS: Could you have gotten a shipment of rubber gloves from the UN?

Gen. DALLAIRE: I couldn't even get ammunition.

GROSS: You couldn't get food. What am I thinking? Yeah.

Gen. DALLAIRE: There was nothing coming in. We had been totally and
completely abandoned. The only people that were left there were some Red
Cross with some (French spoken) and the limited forces that I had left, which
were mostly Tunisian, some Franco-African officers and the Guineans. And
there was absolutely nothing. We ran out of food and water and medical
supplies ourselves.

GROSS: Early in the genocide there was a radio station that was exhorting its
listeners to kill Tutsis. A little later into the genocide one of the people
on the radio, I believe, was exhorting its listeners to kill you. And I think
they were identifying you as `the white man with the mustache.'

Gen. DALLAIRE: Yes.

GROSS: What can you tell us about what was actually said in the broadcast?

Gen. DALLAIRE: Well, the broadcast indicated that I, through my work, was
sympathetic to the rebels and that, in fact, wherever I went, the rebels would
be following within a week or two. And the reason that they used that is the
fact that whenever I met with the extremist leaders, they were so terrible in
defending their positions in the civil war parts of it--is that they would
often be overrun by the RPF. And so the radio simply made it clear that
people, if they saw me, should kill me because I was essentially working for
the other side. And so when that came out, I had still some white officers
and some of them had mustaches--Europeans. And they all started to become
targets, and people had to fight off mobs and the like. So I had to order
their evacuation just for their own safety.

GROSS: Because they were white and had mustaches.

Gen. DALLAIRE: Yes, and they looked a bit like me, and it was close enough
for the mob.

GROSS: Did you shave?

Gen. DALLAIRE: No.

GROSS: Really? Why not? If they're looking for a mustache, why not take it
off?

Gen. DALLAIRE: No, there was no way that I was going to camouflage myself.
In fact, I never even changed uniform to be in combat uniform. I remained in
my dress that I always had even before the war. I wore a flak jacket. And
then because of the threat, I was ordered to carry a pistol. And I would not
always go in my 4X4. I would at times, depending on where I was going, use an
APC, though.

GROSS: I'm sorry, what's an APC?

Gen. DALLAIRE: An armored personnel carrier.

GROSS: Oh, I see. OK. Did anyone come close to fulfilling the command to
kill you?

Gen. DALLAIRE: Yes.

GROSS: What happened?

Gen. DALLAIRE: I'm not going to talk about it.

GROSS: General Romeo Dallaire commanded the UN peacekeeping force in Rwanda
just before and during the genocide. He'll be back in the second half of the
show. His memoir is called "Shake Hands with the Devil." I'm Terry Gross,
and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

(Announcements)

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: Coming up, "Shake Hands with the Devil"--we continue our conversation
with General Romeo Dallaire, the commander of the UN peacekeeping force in
Rwanda 10 years ago during the genocide.

Also, Kevin Whitehead reviews the latest recording by The Bad Plus.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross back with Romeo Dallaire, the
Canadian general who led the UN peacekeeping mission in Rwanda just before and
during the genocide. Last month he returned to Rwanda on the occasion of the
10th anniversary of the genocide. He's written a memoir called "Shake Hands
with the Devil," in which he describes his predicament during the massacres
commanding a few hundred soldiers who were allowed to use their weapons only
in self-defense. They were surrounded by murdering mobs, cut off from the
rest of the world.

Would you be comfortable talking about that kind of dual feeling of
responsibility and helplessness when you were trying to protect people and
there are, you know, a few hundred men under your command, who you want to
protect as well? And yet the circumstances are so extreme that it's really
impossible to ensure anybody's protection.

Gen. DALLAIRE: Well, on one night within the first 10 days of the war
starting, we had one in particular, but a couple moderate leaders in my
headquarters. And the troops I had at that point defending the headquarters
were far from being most effective troops. And so on one night, as I was
walking around the perimeter defenses and on the roof of the headquarters,
pitch black out--fighting had been going on in the areas between the rebels
and the elite paracommandos of the extremists, who were trying to get at my
headquarters to get these guys out--it came upon me, this feeling of a bit
like Gordon of Khartoum, where you had been totally abandoned. I mean, there
was no desire to come and reinforce you whatsoever. You were exceptionally
limited not only in quality of troops and quantity but also in resources to be
able to sustain any operation. And so you were simply left abandoned to a
survival situation.

And that got worse a couple nights later when our communications were shot
out, and so there were absolutely no communications whatsoever with the
outside world. Totally, totally, totally abandoned by the world. And so you
could either live that despair and prayed that nobody attacked or, as a
commander, take heart in the fact that you still have a command and that the
responsibilities to protect were still there and encourage your troops to feel
the same way and motivated to do so. And...

GROSS: I'm assuming that what you did is the latter.

Gen. DALLAIRE: Well, in fact, that's what we did for--well, I never got the
reinforcements until after the war.

GROSS: What do you think the rest of the world could have done? You said the
world abandoned you; you had no connection at all with the outside world.
What do you think could have been done to help the troops and to help the
people who were being massacred?

Gen. DALLAIRE: Well, before the actual war, for about three months, the world
or the bodies of decision knew the incredibly high risks of this peacekeeping
mission failing and that we would be faced with a catastrophic failure because
we had had an informant that described exactly ultimately what happened. But
there was absolutely no will in anybody to either send us troops nor to change
the mandate to permit me to curtail the actions of the extremists in their
training, distribution of arms and the like. And so for those three months no
one was interested in giving me more capability to prevent the genocidal civil
war to be launched.

Once it was launched, then nations that have the capability of deploying
troops rapidly to destroy rate--at the essence the destructive forces, the
militias, so that they wouldn't propagate throughout the country and, in fact,
we would stop the killing very rapidly--those countries that deliberately took
decisions not to intervene--I mean, the Americans on the morning on the 7th of
April--we were barely 12 hours into this situation--in the Security Council,
in the working room told everybody that not only were they not going to
intervene, but they were going to help nobody who wanted to. And when I had
up to four Franco-African countries all ready to send me troops, but they
couldn't get there because there was no strategic lift--and once on the
ground, they had no equipment--it was deliberate actions that Rwanda and
Rwandans simply don't count because as that's going on, we're pulling tens of
thousands of troops and billions of dollars into ex-Yugoslavia. And the
question is: How come one gang gets all that support, and the other gang gets
nothing?

And what we saw, in the lack of depth in the media--they came in to take the
pictures of the gore but absolutely had no depth into why this was happening
and why it was significant, in as much as they turned it into banal tribalism.
And it was not tribalism. It was people, extremists, who didn't want to give
up power, didn't want to share power and aligned themselves in a way that they
were going to eliminate the potential enemy, which happened to be in one
particular tribal group. So as we banalize Rwanda--it's of no strategic value
of geography, no strategic value resources, it's only got tainted coffee--and
as one officer told--you know, he said, `The only thing in Rwanda are humans,
and there's already too many of them. It's overpopulated.'

And so as we banalize that and don't want to get involved in a very messy
situation in Rwanda with blacks in Africa killing each other,
Yugoslavia--that's different. This is more sophisticated. You know, these
are great religions who have been in friction for so long, and their
ethnicities have evolved. People have studied it. You've got the Ottoman
Empire impact. Oh, yes, and they were allies in the Second War II, and we
know some of them, and so they're very important. And the fact that they were
in Europe makes them only more important and, ultimately, probably because
they were white made them that important. And that's why Yugoslavia got
everything, and in Rwanda we pulled everything out. And so ultimately there
were more people killed, injured, internally displaced and refugeed in the 100
days in Rwanda than the six years in the Yugoslavian campaign. And nobody
came nor cared.

GROSS: Even though the former Yugoslavia got much more in the way of military
support and other support from Western countries, the role of UN peacekeepers
there has been questioned by many people. I'm wondering, like, just from your
experience in Rwanda, what do you think we need to be rethinking about the
role of peacekeepers and the resources that we give them?

Gen. DALLAIRE: Well, I think the first thing is to get the big powers out of
the business and get the middle powers to pull their weight through the
UN--always through the UN--because there is no single-nation-led coalition
that will have the transparency or the impartiality of the UN, even with its
warts. And so the big powers, instead of attriting their combat capabilities
and their strength through the threat of use of their strength, they are, in
fact, going into these operations and becoming very vulnerable and,
ultimately, risking the rest of the operation. Certainly the Americans in
"Black Hawk Down" in Somalia is a perfect example. And even today in Baghdad
or in Iraq, seeing US forces deployed there after they had fought their way to
Baghdad, I think, is a most catastrophic scenario.

What these peacekeepers today require is a whole set of new skills based on
far more an intellectual basis than the pure warrior ethic that is trying to
be watered down. And so what we're looking for today is, in fact, people who
can be warriors but also have the intellectual depth to be able to be conflict
resolvers and so be value added and be in the alleyways and talking with the
people and helping them resolve the problems. And so that's why we want the
officers particularly in middle powers to have skills and knowledge
particularly in anthropology and sociology and philosophy, so they can grasp
the complexities of this era because this era is not like before. The
post-Cold War era of conflict is exceptionally complex. It is incredibly
ambiguous. And generals who run around the countryside saying that they
shouldn't go in unless they have clear mandate and exit strategies and they're
fearful of mission creep are people who are living in the wrong era.

The era is to function in such complex scenarios with this ambiguity. And
what is missing is: How do we maneuver in this? Do we have the right tools,
and do we have the right doctrines and concepts? Throughout NATO during the
Cold War, we had lexicons of action verbs--you know, `to attack,' `defend,'
and all that kind of stuff. And everybody knew exactly what it meant,
including the enemy knew exactly what it meant. However in 1993, when I was
given my mission to Rwanda, it was to assist in establishing an atmosphere of
security. Now where do I find the solution to that?

GROSS: Right.

Gen. DALLAIRE: To what extent do I expose my troops? Do I actually defend
that country while I'm demobilizing both sides against other party? And so in
that vacuum of real clear definitions or at least definitions that give you
the ballpark in which you want to maneuver, people are reverting to Cold War
methodologies. And we have been ad hoc-ing it--on-job training, crisis
managing--and not providing much value added to solving problems.

GROSS: My guest is General Romeo Dallaire. His new memoir is called "Shake
Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda." We'll talk more
after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: My guest is Romeo Dallaire, the Canadian general who headed the UN
peacekeeping force in Rwanda just before and during the genocide 10 years ago.

General Dallaire, your book, "Shake Hands with the Devil," is about your
experiences leading the UN peacekeeping troops in Rwanda just before and
during the genocide. The title again is "Shake Hands with the Devil." In
your book, you write, `In Rwanda, I shook hands with the devil, so I know
there is a god. I know the devil exists, and therefore I know there is a
god.' Who was the devil? Do you think of the devil that you shook hands with
as being one person or more of a group phenomenon?

Gen. DALLAIRE: Well, there was one person in particular, and, in fact, there
were his sort of sidekicks in the militia leaders. I had to negotiate with
these guys, although I had an option also of shooting them between the eyes.
But I'm not sure that would have provided anything for their structures were
so strong that they would have replaced them, and then the whole force would
have been, again, vulnerable. But what I saw in those people, in their eyes,
was not the eyes of human beings. It was the eyes of evil. And I call it the
devil because then my religion sort of qualifies it as that. And they were
the devil; they were the evil. They had blood on their shirts. I mean, they
could negotiate with me with no passion whatsoever, simply saying, `Yeah, OK,
we'll stop massacring here, so that you can move, you know, people between the
lines for about two hours, and then we'll start up again.'

And so human beings don't talk of that nature. It is another entity. Even
their hands were cold, but it was like a death cold. Death cold is not a
temperature. It's a state. And so I was absolutely talking, negotiating and
touching what I would qualify as the most evil, and it is the devil. And in
the same vein, there's at least one occasion, one in particular, where
something happened in my office--I was stood there alone one night--that moved
me from a scenario of, `We've had it,' to a scenario that we were going to
sustain ourselves one way or another, and we were going to stay and we were
going to do everything we could.

GROSS: What happened?

Gen. DALLAIRE: In fact, I was standing at the window, and the lights were
off. And there was a sort of a breeze or a sense that came through the
window, and I just felt some presence. It's sort of like a vibration or
something. And my whole thought process shifted at that moment, and so the
whole ideas of evacuation or whatever--that stuff went right out the window
with the breeze, I suppose.

GROSS: Did you consider that to be something of a religious vision?

Gen. DALLAIRE: I sensed that there was this positive force that, in my
religion, Judeo-Christian religion, says it's God. Well, OK, it'll be God.
But these entities do exist.

GROSS: So you did feel that night that what you were experiencing was the
presence of God?

Gen. DALLAIRE: There was no doubt, and there is no doubt today.

GROSS: When you were meeting with the men who you came to think of as the
devil...

Gen. DALLAIRE: Yes.

GROSS: ...you said you could have shot them between the eyes, but it probably
wouldn't have done any good. Was there ever a moment where you thought,
`Maybe I should shoot them between the eyes'? And was there a moment when you
thought maybe they'd shoot you between the eyes 'cause, certainly, you were
their enemy? So...

Gen. DALLAIRE: In fact, it's interesting that, on one occasion, I actually
took all the bullets out of my pistol and made sure I didn't have them
available in one of my meetings with them because of some of the sights I'd
been seeing that day and the night before. Them shooting me--on the contrary,
the fact that I was meeting with them to negotiate the transfer of people
between the lines gave them a great sense of importance. They were actually
meeting the general of the UN. I mean, `He wants to see us, militia leaders,
and not just the extremist generals.' To them, it was a high point.

GROSS: You emptied out your gun because you were afraid you would shoot them
if you didn't do that?

Gen. DALLAIRE: Well, certainly, the emotional position was that strong.

GROSS: You write in your book that four years after you got home from Rwanda,
your mind and body decided to give up. What happened to you four years later?

Gen. DALLAIRE: Well, I had been testifying in the International Tribunal in
Arusha, Tanzania. I had been attempting to work myself to death. And
ultimately my physical condition, because I wasn't sleeping, nor was I able to
sustain myself with healthy food or anything like that and just driving my
mind all the time, fearing sleeping and continuously invaded by scenes that
were coming back in clear digital color and so on--it got to a point where
that whole weight just collapsed. And when the chief of defense staff asked
me how I was doing on that particular day, and that'd been quite a busy day, I
said I was tired. And he said, `Well, why don't you take a month's leave?'
Then I simply broke down, and it took about seven months before I was able to
even start reading the newspaper.

GROSS: Do you feel yourself again?

Gen. DALLAIRE: Oh, much, much better. Today I'm sort of like the person who
suffers with diabetes. They've got to take their insulin every day, and I
take a few pills every day to make sure that things are stable and that I can
sleep. And I go about my business now much stronger--because I've been back
to Arusha for the principal genocide dyad(ph) and testified. The book is out,
so people know and I don't have the weight of that story still on me. And my
children will know the story much clearer through that book. And I recently
have returned from Rwanda from seeing it after 10 years. All that has moved
me quite positively.

GROSS: Tell me if you think this is true or not. It strikes me that you're
in a real paradoxical situation. You were there in Rwanda trying to protect
people at a time when most of the world had chosen to ignore what was
happening. And because you were there and because you felt so responsible,
you probably also feel guilty, although what could you possibly have done that
you didn't do? So it seems that, in a way, because you were the person who
didn't turn your back, because you were the person who was there, you're also
the person who feels this horrible responsibility that you should have done
more, you know, because you were in the center of it.

Gen. DALLAIRE: Yeah, rather a great story, isn't it? The things that I have
been educated in, in my military and so many other true professional
militaries, is the fact that when you are a commander, when you are in
command, then you are held responsible for the success or failure of your
mission. And my mission was to assist the Rwandans to move to a peace
agreement, and it failed. Now many people have told me, `Yeah, but you did
what you could,' and so on. There is absolutely no solace in the fact that
you can turn around and say, `I did what I could,' when there's 800,000 people
that have been killed around you. You've lost soldiers. The country has been
disseminated and millions have been suffering. So in the first instance,
there is a continuous and will be everlasting sense of guilt of having failed
that mission. And, secondly, the inability to influence the international
community, no matter what I did, in regards to using the media, was just not
enough. I just did not influence the world to realize the extent of what was
happening, and that is a responsibility that you have in the field.

GROSS: You went back to Rwanda for the 10th anniversary of the genocide.

Gen. DALLAIRE: Right.

GROSS: How did the country look to you? And was it helpful to you personally
to go back there and see how the country had changed?

Gen. DALLAIRE: Well, I'm not sure if it was helpful in the full sense
because it seemed to be I was a bit zombie-esque. But the country is in much
better shape. The beauty of it is still there. The warmth of many of the
Rwandans is there, but very few friends have survived. And so it was a bit
lonely on that side. And whenever I was looking at these sites all rebuilt,
what was coming like a TelePrompTer in front of my eyes were the scenes in
fast forward of what they looked like during the genocide. So it was good to
touch base, but I don't think the shoe has dropped yet on its full impact on
me.

GROSS: General Dallaire, thank you very much for talking with us. I really
appreciate your reflecting with us on your experiences. Thank you. And I
wish you all the best.

Gen. DALLAIRE: Well, you're very kind, and your questions were excellent.

GROSS: Romeo Dallaire commanded the UN peacekeeping force in Rwanda just
before and during the 1994 genocide. His memoir is called "Shake Hands with
the Devil."

Photos of survivors and reports from the genocide are at the Web site npr.org.

Coming up, jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews the new CD by The Bad Plus.
This is FRESH AIR.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Review: New album from The Bad Plus
TERRY GROSS, host:

In 2002, the piano, bass and drums trio The Bad Plus put out a CD including
ABBA's "Knowing Me, Knowing You" and Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit." Last
year they released the breakout sequel "These are the Vistas" featuring
"Smells Like Teen Spirit" and Blondie's "Heart Of Glass." Jazz critic Kevin
Whitehead says he likes one thing about their new album right off: They don't
do "Smells Like Teen Spirit."

(Soundbite of music)

KEVIN WHITEHEAD reporting:

The Bad Plus, you may have read, is making jazz relevant again by renewing its
links to contemporary pop. Boosters say it's not just that they cover Black
Sabbath and The Pixies, as they do on their new CD, "Give," but that they
totally rock. I've seen them wow a college-age crowd in concert, and I like
the idea of a jazz trio that punches it out like, oh, Little Richard or The
Sex Pistols. But is this really it?

(Soundbite of music)

WHITEHEAD: That's the classic Bad Plus sound. `They're not your father's
jazz trio,' one reviewer cheers. But shouldn't a reputed power trio rock
harder than Dad's old copy of Gary Wright's "Dream Weaver"? Granted, you can
simulate rock using sledgehammer drums and a tune that goes nowhere, but why
forego the propulsive beat and interpretive leeway rock took from jazz? The
band sounds better when they remember that stuff.

(Soundbite of music)

WHITEHEAD: "Cheney Pinata" by pianist Ethan Iverson with a tip of the hat to
1968's Keith Jarretts. Iverson is a gifted jazz player who knew next to zilch
about rock when The Bad Plus formed, and in some ways he's still an awkward
fit. When he wants to make a splash here, he sounds like a classical pianist
acting out a second childhood.

(Soundbite of music)

WHITEHEAD: There are a couple of tunes when The Bad Plus are playful and
stick close to the melody and fire it up. Bassist Reid Anderson has a
pliant sound and a good beat. Lead-footed drummer David King is no
swinger, but he did write the liveliest tune on the new CD, "Laying a Strip
for The Higher-Self State Line."

(Soundbite of music)

WHITEHEAD: That's a better Bad Plus, aspiring to the high ensemble ideals set
by Emerson, Lake & Palmer.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: Kevin Whitehead writes for The Chicago Sun-Times, The Absolute Sound
and Down Beat.

(Credits)

GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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