Thursday, November 4, 2010

Roméo Dallaire: They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children

"We will stay to bear witness to what the world doesn't want to see" - Roméo Dallaire.

I read Dallaire's book: Shake Hands With Devil about the genocide in Rwanda, and it not only broke my heart but left me with a profound admiration for this man.

When Stephen Harper secretly rewrote our foreign policy, forbidding our foreign service from using terms like "child soldier", "gender equality" and "humanitarian", it had a far reaching effect.

According to Adrian Bradbury:
The terms "gender equality," "child soldiers," "international humanitarian law," "good governance," "human security," "public diplomacy" and "The Responsibility to Protect" have been blacklisted from government parlance ....These terms were once championed by Canada, are in wide use around the world, and represent a wide range of international norms and precedent.

Make no mistake, these semantic changes represent fundamental shifts to Canadian foreign policy. Each of the banned or altered terms carry with it significant policy implications, most related to the international human rights agenda. For example, when speaking of the war in the DRC, where upwards of 3 million people have been killed, and rape is widely used as a tool of war, the terms "impunity" and "justice" can no longer be used when calling for an end to, and punishment for, sexual violence.
Roméo Dallaire has written another book: They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children, in which he lambastes our shift in foreign policy and our attitude toward child soldiers, including Omar Khadr. Expect Dimitri Soudas to come with head spinning and eyes bulging, condemning Dallaire as another liberal hack.

But we have got to start listening to these people. They know. They have seen this first hand.

Michael Ignatieff travelled to Rwanda as a war correspondent with Boutros Boutros-Ghali, and saw the carnage. He wrote:
"Stretched out on the floor are row upon row of dust-coloured skeletons in rags. A dirty light slants across femurs, ankles, hipbones, shoulder joints, teeth, skulls. No flesh remains. There’s no smell of putrefaction. The clothing has faded to the colour of ash. Boutros-Ghali shuts his eyes and quietly mutters, ‘Everywhere we work, we are struggling against a culture of death."
Maybe these are harsh realities, but the country formerly known as Canada, used to care about these things. Apparently we no longer give a damn.

Geoffrey York wrote in the Globe recently: Peacekeeping passes Canada by
For nearly 40 years, Canada was one of the top UN mission contributors. By the 1990s, more than 50,000 Canadian soldiers had become peacekeepers - more than any other nation. A poll found that 69 per cent of Canadians considered peacekeeping "a defining characteristic of Canada."
What defines us now? Guns? Prisons? Gangs? If you listened to Harper you would certainly think so.

Peter Langille says: Don’t write off the future of peacekeeping
The enduring loyalty of Canadians to United Nations peacekeeping should not be treated – as it often is these days – as an unwanted remnant of the past. Canadians are correct in believing that peacekeeping has a vital role to play in the increasingly challenging world of global conflict.
If you read Lawrence Martin's book, Harperland, you'd know that Stephen Harper views our foreign policy as a "clash of civilizations" and believes he's equipped to lead us into battle because he once talked to his friend about the Cold War.

"Peace" is not in his vocabulary.

I wish Stephen Harper wasn't in mine.

Michael Ignatieff believes that Harper has burned bridges abroad
In a major foreign-policy speech on Tuesday in Montreal, Ignatieff says that Canada’s failure to obtain a seat on the United Nations Security Council should be a wake-up call about the country’s dwindling reputation abroad.

“The world forced us to look in the mirror and we don’t like what we see,” Ignatieff says, calling the UN rebuff a “clear condemnation” of the way the Harper government has conducted its politics abroad.
And Linda McQuaig believes that the UN snub could haunt Conservatives

Redesigning Canada’s role in the world has been one of the key changes attempted by the Conservatives. They’ve spent years trying to sell Canadians on a new narrative — about Canada as a nation that keenly shoulders heavy burdens in real wars, having shaken off that girlie peacekeeping stuff. Harper-era TV ads for the Canadian Forces have shunned peacekeeping images and instead urged young Canadians to “fight chaos; fight terror; fight with the Canadian Forces.”

But this attempt to repackage us as a warrior nation has always been a top-down effort, orchestrated by Conservatives and our military establishment, not a grassroots yearning among Canadians for a more muscular role in the world. Indeed, exactly the opposite has been the case.

Is she right? I hope so, because I don't like where this country is headed.


  1. I am so inspired by Romeo D'Allaire that I composed a tribute to the man. Senator D'Allaire personifies the heart of what Canada's foreign policy must aspire to be - once again, his call is unheeded. Shame on you Mr. Harper. My tribute to our Canadian hero is being played on CBC radio across the country this Remembrance Day and may be heard at my site:

    Never forget the 800,00 angels over Africa, 1994

  2. Thank you Barry. He is truly remarkable.