QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
TED KOPPEL: Let’s see if we can go through a few of these questions and maybe you can keep your answers a little shorter so that we get to as many questions --
ROMÉO DALLAIRE: These were great answers. I’m sorry.
TED KOPPEL: You wouldn’t last long on Nightline.
ROMÉO DALLAIRE: Why don’t you invite me and we’ll see?
TED KOPPEL: The question is, what role did the media play before and during the genocide? Were their efforts thwarted because of the shocking images of American rangers being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu? Actually there was only one ranger who was dragged through the streets of Mogadishu but --
ROMÉO DALLAIRE: He was a pilot, too, I think.
TED KOPPEL: Yes.
ROMÉO DALLAIRE: As I said before, Rwanda was on nobody’s radar, so apart from the BBC and the Radio France International and maybe the Belgians you had very little media coverage. They would come in for specific events like when I opened my headquarters. They would come in when we thought we had an agreement to bring in the transitional government, and they would pour in from Nairobi and so on and do the story and then leave.So before the war it was a sideshow, if I could even call it that. When the war started everybody wanted to be there and so I had a couple hundred journalists sitting in Nairobi hoping to get on the Canadian Hercules to come into Rwanda. And I would only let in about 30 to 40 at a time, spend three days. I would feed them, protect them, move them around, ensure they got the story, and I used to use my troops to go through the lines at the risk of their lives to get those stories out.
And so the media were getting the story. The stuff was coming out. It wasn’t being published. There was a study done of ABC, CBS, and NBC during the three months of the genocide. Tonya Harding and her escapade with her colleague and the kneecapping and all that got more air time than the genocide in Rwanda.
Now, is that because there was no interest because of previous gory sights that people just didn’t want to see that, that people simply changed the channel when it’s so terrible and so don’t listen to the news? Or let me push you to an extreme and say the Americans didn’t want to get involved so let’s not make a big thing of it. À vous to choose.
TED KOPPEL: Well, actually let me offer you another alternative. I mean, frankly, I don’t think the media really care whether the government thinks it’s a good idea to get involved.
ROMÉO DALLAIRE: Very true.
TED KOPPEL: But I think that you have to introduce the element of racism, the fact that it was happening in Africa, the fact that the people who were dying were black Africans and not Europeans and you made the point before that there was a lot going on in Bosnia at that time, there was a lot going on throughout the Balkans. There were distractions, in other words?
ROMÉO DALLAIRE: Well, these people didn’t count. Remember, they just didn’t count. The Balkans, there’s a history of people who lived there who immigrated to this country and my country. They were allies during the Second World War. They were Europeans although not maybe the most developed country in Europe but they were still Europeans and as such they were close to home and it had to be rectified, and so yes, the Western world launched itself pouring up to at one point over 60,000 troops let alone the billions of money into the Balkans.I couldn’t get 2,000 troops. I couldn’t keep 450. There were more people killed, injured, internally displaced, and refugeed in less than 100 days in Rwanda than the whole of the Yugoslavian campaign and there are still thousands of troops and billions of dollars going into the Balkans. What’s going into Rwanda? What’s gone into Rwanda?.
TED KOPPEL: Actually, that leads into this question, which has a cynical tone to it. What is the point of programs like this or even Nightline if they don’t cause governments to successfully intervene in horrors like this? What will it take to get governments to do what needs to be done? What are the odds it will ever happen?
ROMÉO DALLAIRE: Well, that’s a very pessimistic perspective and if I was a pessimist, I’d be dead. I’m an optimist, but I don’t work with the factor of time. I said earlier on that I believe conflict will be eliminated, that the respective differences will be there, but it’s going to take centuries. It’s going to take centuries of people like you coming here and hopefully my part of gaining the continued momentum in regards to human rights and the respect of humanity that will in decades and decades not only create more legions of us but will attrit the self-interest based governments of the world and move the humanity to not something that you throw money at to Pontius Pilate your hands.
I couldn’t get 200 million out of the UN. I never got a budget out of the UN or the donating countries to keep my mission in the field. I was bumming money from Somalia and Mozambique.
Within three months of the end of the war on the periphery where there was about two and a half million refugees from Rwanda within 20 kilometers of the border mostly. There was over $3 billion of aid that was pouring in. Nothing inside where I had a million and a half people displaced who were dying of cholera and everything else. But on the periphery everybody was there, cameras were there, there was over-aid there, $3 billion dollars in aid. I couldn’t get $200 million to bring a decent force in.
Now, first of all that is not good business planning. It’s stupid. Secondly, where in the hell is all that aid money going? What is the principle behind it? Stay out and then Pontius Pilate your way with billions of dollars of aid and hopefully, as President Clinton did when he went through Rwanda, I believe, in 1998 if I’m not mistaken, landed at the airport, kept the engines of Air Force One running, spent a couple hours in the airport terminal, said he was sorry, said he didn’t know.
Said he didn’t know. I saw the electronic aircraft of NATO. I spent my life in NATO flying up there and all they use was Motorolas and not highly sophisticated crypto. Saying he didn’t know, saying he was sorry, and then flying to South Africa and spending four days there. Racism, the fundamental belief that exists that all people are not equal, is going to slaughter millions for years to come.
I would contend that even today after the very delayed effort in getting into Sierra Leone where I’ve been recently with war-affected children, I believe today if some outfit decided to go into Rwanda and eliminate the 320-odd blue-back mountain gorillas that Dian Fossey paid with her life to protect, if some outfit decided to want to eliminate them and eliminate a species on earth there would be today more of an effort, more of an involvement by people just like you and me and many others than there would be if they’re slaughtering them again by the thousands in that same country.
TED KOPPEL: That’s not a hypothetical, General Dallaire. That’s a reality. I was in Congo last August where over the past three and a half years two and a half million people have died of war- related causes. There are seven separate armies fighting in that country to this day even though there are peace talks going on. And in point of fact it wasn’t the blue-back gorillas. It was the silver-back gorillas.
ROMÉO DALLAIRE: Sorry.
TED KOPPEL: There was more concern about the silver-back gorillas. The frustration -- because we went to that particular part of the Congo -- the frustration of people there who say can’t you get any people to be worried about the men, women, and children who are dying here. All anybody wants to talk about is the gorillas.
We’ve already run through an hour, believe it or not. Let me just ask you three more questions here that I’ve got.
ROMÉO DALLAIRE: Well, I was just going to say that Kofi Annan in that same winter of ’93-’94 --
TED KOPPEL: This is a Kofi Annan question. Let me ask you the question.
ROMÉO DALLAIRE: Then I’ll make my point anyway.
TED KOPPEL: I was going to say you can give me the answer and then I’ll ask the question. At the time of the genocide in Rwanda, Kofi Annan was in charge of UN peacekeeping operations. What responsibility do you think he bears and in your view has the UN done enough to accept its responsibility?
ROMÉO DALLAIRE: I also got that question when he got the Nobel peace prize and it is my belief that the Department of Peacekeeping Operations was overwhelmed. It was overwhelmed, it was tired, and it was playing by the rules because the whole Western world was gun-shy and it was standing there with nobody wanting to play. And so it reacted under the influence of the Secretary-General, which in itself is another story of the time, and the Security Council, and the permanent five, and in particular UK, France, and the US. They did not move the yardsticks in that zone of the world at that time.
So DPKO, its only fallback was to play by the rules as it was imposed on it by the nations who provided the troops and the resources for that mission. So that’s what they did and that was simply not enough. And nobody, nobody took the chains off of Kofi Annan, Iqbal Riza, or General Bari to be able in fact to do more.
So I don’t say they were failures. I don’t say that they didn’t do a good job. I’m just saying that with all those missions and with the restrictions imposed on it there were countries that were not going to provide any money to that mission. The chief of staff of the army came to visit me before the war and said, “General, do you know what your mission is?” And I’d say, “General, yes.” “Well, let me tell you what your mission is.” And they would tell me that my mission was to guarantee that all my soldiers would come back home safely and I’d tell them, “You’re on the wrong mission.”
My mission is to assess the risks and if there are casualties to assess those casualties and whether I can accomplish the mission. Those countries influenced the leaders on the ground and they chose what they wanted to do. There is a country that refused to let Rwandans inside the armored vehicles, particularly moderate ministers and so on, refused to let them in because their country had ordered them not to let any Rwandans in the vehicle because it would put them at risk.
TED KOPPEL: Why are you cloaking them? I mean, why don’t you just mention the country?
ROMÉO DALLAIRE: In my book. It comes out in October. Random House.
TED KOPPEL: There you go. You --
ROMÉO DALLAIRE: Kofi Annan in the December time frame had signed an agreement with 69 countries. I don’t agree with any UN army. I mean, don’t ever do that. One, you never know its loyalty, two, the hiring practices are something, and if it fails what the hell do you do with it then? So you don’t want that and you want responsible nations and their politicians to be held responsible for providing troops but they must provide them for the humanity and not just for self-interest.
Sixty-nine nations said Kofi Annan, you call us and we’ll provide troops. And they were pouring them into the Balkans and so on. Within the first few days of the Rwandan war and genocide Kofi Annan went to all 69 countries. Not one of them provided one soldier.
TED KOPPEL: General Dallaire, this will be the last question and it brings us back to where you and I began a little over an hour ago. The question reads as follows, “Many people have forgiven or not held you responsible for this tragedy. Does this knowledge bring you any peace, any comfort? Do you allow yourself the flexibility of being human?”
That’s what we call right across the plate right above the knees. You can knock that one out of the park.
ROMÉO DALLAIRE: I think the only thing that permits me to respond that there might be a semblance of serenity that is coming is the fact that I take nine pills a day – and apart from that you just can’t Pontius Pilate 800,000 people, nearly 300,000 children, child soldiers killing parents.
You just can’t walk through all that blood and all that gore and all that sound. You can’t just walk by a woman who has just given birth beside the road in the pouring rain with thousands of people walking by her and she picks up her child and she tries to arrange herself, stands up, takes three steps, falls down, and dies. Who takes care of the kid? Everybody is under terrible duress. You can’t walk away from that.
You can’t just say well, it’s eight years ago or nine years ago and you did what you could. Did I do everything I could? Did I have all the tools? Did I or should I, like you said, have walked up to Kofi Annan or Boutros-Ghali and throw my commission in front of him and say, “To hell with you. Nobody’s coming so I’m going”? Should I have commenced opening fire? The first morning it was made very clear to me that if I opened fire I would become the third belligerent because then it’s open season.
But with the force I had there was no way that I could open fire and guarantee the security of my force. I didn’t have enough ammunition to be able to hold out in a fire fight for more than half an hour. Those are the nations that sent the troops without the ammunition and the bartering between the UN and those nations, who is going to pay the ammunition, and in the middle of the war we had none.
No, there is no conceivable way of actually being able to walk away from the immensity of what it is. You can’t imagine the smell, the sounds of dogs eating humans throughout the night howling by the hundreds, of seeing children living amongst the corpses of their families because there’s nowhere else to go and there’s no orphanage and nobody could pick them up at the time, of watching women who are being moved to safety and all of a sudden a sniper just shoot her head off and say that you can come back from that.
And imagine the moral dilemmas we had of all those people calling that morning screaming at the end of the phone for me to send troops to get them and hearing the people smashing down the door and shooting them at the end of the phone or deciding which I could go and rescue and which I couldn’t go rescue. Of the moral dilemma of the soldier who is all of a sudden seeing a crowd encouraging a girl of 14 or15 with a machete and a child on her back to kill another girl of 14 or15 with a child on her back. What do my soldiers do?
They’re held up at the entrance of a village and they see these hundreds of people edging on this girl to kill another one. Do my soldiers open fire into the crowd killing God knows how many and injuring to go save that girl?
Does the corporal who is 19, 20, 21 coming out of our same schools take a sniper and order him to shoot the girl with the machete, probably killing her child? Does the corporal simply walk away with his guys? What’s the answer? What is the answer?
What will you be held accountable morally and what will you be held accountable technically? If he had opened fire he went directly against the mandate and God knows what the reaction was. He didn’t open fire. He negotiated and negotiated and as he’s negotiating this girl was being chopped up and her child was chopped up and the crowd roared and it was finished.
That corporal of 21 came back home and back home we had Nightline and we had hockey and we had everything else. The country is not at war. There’s no war. Rwanda didn’t affect our security. They went there because there was a belief that there were humans who needed help and found themselves totally incapable of providing that help and they come back with this new generation of injury called post-traumatic stress syndrome that in fact affects the brain because those moral dilemmas not being solved remain.
And that’s what we lived. Imagine what the Rwandans lived. I sent a section, two vehicles, to a house where we suspected there were people there that needed to be pulled out. They didn’t find them so they came back and the next day I said go check just in case. The next day they went and the whole family was slaughtered on the floor. They didn’t find them because the family wasn’t sure whether they were UN or simply people dressed up and using the UN so they hid in the ceiling. The militia saw the troops go into that house and so they tore the place apart and slaughtered them.
Sometimes you are wondering whether going to help them was putting them in danger. This is not four or five people on a block. This is thousands upon thousands upon weeks and weeks and weeks and the Western world sat there and watched one of their own.
Like in my country there was a big harouche about some person who was being mistreated by our judicial system, and people were up in arms against the Canadian judicial system. One person was being abused, his human rights.
On the same newscast there were pictures of thousands being slaughtered, of tens of thousands walking with nothing, of kids dying of thirst. My soldiers wouldn’t eat or drink any more because they couldn’t. There were so many people dying around them of thirst and no food. I started to take too many casualties. And the people back home on one side of their brain are up at arms about the Canadian who is being mistreated and on the other side of the brain see that and change the station.
You’ve got to start wondering about the depth of your belief in the moral values, the ethical values, and your belief in humanity. All humans are human. There are no humans more human than others. That’s it.
JERRY FOWLER: After testimony like that there is very little that anyone can or should say. We have a very brief presentation to make to General Dallaire and for that I introduce the director of the Museum, Sara Bloomfield.
SARA BLOOMFIELD: General, I’d like to say that you have perhaps spoken more eloquently about the mission of this Museum, about remembrance and conscience, than has happened here in the nine years we’ve been opened.
This institution is very enriched by your presence and I want to present you with something, a portrait of Raoul Wallenburg, who, in 1944, exactly 50 years before you were in Rwanda, was a man of great courage. “Courage,” a word that is so overused and inappropriately used in our society, but certainly not about Raoul Wallenburg and not about General Dallaire.
Of course, Raoul Wallenberg never lived to tell his tale and to encourage the world to reach that sense of common humanity as you have done so we thank you for your courage in 1994 and today and tomorrow. Thank you.
ROMÉO DALLAIRE:Thank you very much. Can I say one last thing?
SARA BLOOMFIELD: Yes.
ROMÉO DALLAIRE: One thing you never do is give a microphone to a general.
I would like to mention the fact that in the crowd today there are gentlemen and ladies from Rwanda, of which one is a minister of the Rwandan government who throughout that war was there. His family and friends and so on lived through that as many of them suffered of it and believed when we spoke that people do care -- except Rwanda and the response shook that enormously, and he still wonders if people do care about the little guy, about the little area, about the place that is of no self- interest.
They are magnificent people. Their culture is deep. It’s not materialistic. Their ability to cope with such incredible demands is far beyond what I see we can and they have such enormous work to do in reconciliation and bringing back their country. We all have blood on our hands. Thank you.
JERRY FOWLER: Thank you very much.