I get an RSS feed from the BBC and this showed up, the day after I went to see Romeo D'allaire. It was, terrible timing, to say the least.

BBC NEWS Wars 'less frequent, less deadly'

That's a really rose-colored report. When you think of all the genocides
and ethnic cleansings and child armies that have exploded since the end of
the Cold War, war may have gotten slightly less deadly, but a whole lot
dirtier. I was at a lecture by Romeo D'Allaire, the commander of the UN
forces during the failed Rwanda mission on Tuesday, and he asked a
question which illustrates war in these times, I'll have to paraphrase it,
because I didn't take notes, but the question goes something like this.

"We came upon a small village in Rwanda, and we were looking for
survivors, and once we came upon the church, villagers started streaming
out of it, which was unusual, because the normal way of doing things was
to round up the entire village, lock all of the villagers in the church,
and burn it down. In this case, we thought we were lucky, because the
villagers came streaming out of the church when we came into view.
Suddenly a bunch of young boys between the ages of 9 and 14 came out of
the jungle on our right, and started firing at us with AK-47s. Then a
bunch of young girls about the same ages, some of whom were pregnant,
appeared out of the jungle on our left, they were being used as human
shields by yet more young boys with AK-47s firing at us, and the villagers
coming out of the Church. Now, knowing that most of these children were
forced into camps, brainwashed, and pressed into service under penalty of
death, knowing that these children had a "Buddy system" where if your
buddy ran away, you were shot, knowing that these children where only
unknowing automatons, probably given drugs to commit this act, what do you
do? You have nanoseconds to make a decision, and bullets are killing
both your soldiers, as well as the villagers all around you."

What do you do, indeed. It's a heartbreaking question. Luckily, he
didn't ask us the answer to the question, and I think the answer he came
up with on that spot has haunted his dreams for more than 10 years now.


Powered by Disqus


20 October 2005