all know about Romeo Dallaire. He is still pictured in newspapers
as a proud general. It's difficult and sad to imagine him
as he was found two weeks ago, drunk under a park bench. He
appears to be a man whose life is shattered.
35-year military career met a shameful end in Rwanda. As commander
of a misnamed ''peacekeeping'' mission, he was charged with
the impossible task of securing a non-existent peace. His
urgent requests for reinforcements were ignored by his superiors,
Canadian general Maurice Baril and Kofi Annan at the United
Nations. When he was denied permission to take aggressive
action, he was left under-armed, hand-tied and powerless.
was as a soldier obeying orders that Gen. Dallaire stood by
and watched as 800, 000 Hutu and Tutsi civilians, along with
10 Belgian peacekeepers, were tortured and killed. Now it
is as a lonely man that he suffers the consequences.
failure became front page news; the genocide horrified the
public. The Belgian Senate branded Dallaire ''careless and
unprofessional. '' Reportedly, like soldiers through the ages,
he has considered death, his own death by suicide, as a solution
to the disgrace, the shame and the guilt.
overwhelming feelings -- an unfathomable mixture of rage,
pain, loneliness and utter despair -- given the magnitude
of what happened in Rwanda, suggest to me that he is a good
devastated by what happened.
I am old-fashioned, but I think there is something noble about
a man who cannot accept that he watched, rather than fought,
as people around him were being tortured and killed. I wish
that we were not, as a society, so caught up in the idea that
the problems are in his mind and that what he needs is to
go through a healing process. It sickens me to realize that
we have turned Romeo Dallaire into a psychiatric patient.
And to realize that he is now caught up in that debilitating
role to the extent that he talks of ''his personal battles
with the fallout from his mission in Rwanda'' and believes
that getting drunk and sleeping under a park bench is merely
an indication that his therapy hasn't worked yet.
a letter read on CBC Radio's This Morning, General Dallaire
said the problem ''appears, it grows, it invades and it overpowers
you. In my current state of therapy, which continues to show
very positive results, control mechanisms have not yet matured
to always be on top of this battle.''
say the major goal of therapy after trauma is to achieve ''cognitive
completion,'' to somehow bring together the stressful experience
with enduring beliefs about the world. It seems absurd to
reduce Dallaire's suffering to simplistic theory and to label
his condition as a disorder that ''good psychological treatment''
help, to pathologize this man, is to trivialize and depoliticize
the issues. When we hear Dallaire speak, we no longer hear
an esteemed general who could talk of ill-planned peace missions,
poor military strategy and bad judgment at UN headquarters.
Instead, we hear a psychological invalid who has learned to
use words like stress and healing. Gen. Dallaire has lost
his voice as an experienced soldier and now serves as a spokesperson
for the therapy industry.
for one, would like to hear him speak about the horrific reality
of the situation and the inability of western political and
military strength to intervene in ancient ethnic conflicts.
I would like to know what he thinks about peacekeeping when
there is no peace, and what he might say about the 11-year-old
Rwandan boy, whose only surviving relative is a five-year-old
sister, found among the bodies of their parents and other
family members, and who said: ''I will hunt the killers to
the end of the world. I will kill their children when I grow
up. I know the killers; even 70 years from now, I will remember
how they and their children look.''
Dallaire may be paying the cost of the UN trying to do something
in a situation where nothing will help. Perhaps, if his attention
were not so inwardly focused, he could help us face the reality
of war, thereby avoiding future ill-fated peace missions.
this is not what our government would want in this era of
international co-operation. And so we label him as a patient,
bind him in therapy, belatedly declare him an ''exemplary
general,'' and leave him in silence as we watch another genocide
erupt, this time in the neighbouring Congo.