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Ari Kohen: Roméo Dallaire’s moral rage and the soul of Canada

Romeo Dallaire

Romeo Dallaire

Over at Running Chicken, my friend and colleague, Ari Kohen, has an excellent post on Roméo Dallaire’s commentary on the Khadr debacle.  Kohen writes:

“The rage I have is towards our ineptness and sense of irresponsibility to those who expect us to be in a leadership role.”

The thing I like about Roméo Dallaire is that he encapsulates my (admittedly possibly skewed) thinking about Canada.

To wit:

It is clear that part of his determined engagement in fanning a “growing backlash among average Canadians who are starting to sense that this country ain’t what it used to be” is his continuing fight for his own emotional equilibrium after suffering post-traumatic stress disorder and suicidal despair when he returned from Rwanda in the mid-nineties.

In short, Dallaire stands at the head of a movement that takes issue with the fact that the country isn’t moral or other-directed enough. And he takes this position because of his experiences in Rwanda, where he led a ragtag group of peacekeepers that was prohibited by its UN mandate from doing anything to stop the genocide. If you haven’t read Dallaire’s book about his experiences in Rwanda, Shake Hands with the Devil, I recommend it.

It’s difficult not to contrast Dallaire’s position — and the position of Canadians who criticize themselves for not caring enough about others — with that of Americans. While Dallaire was on the ground in Rwanda, American politicians were not only not contributing to UN efforts but were actively making things more difficult by agreeing to lend equipment and then demanding payment before releasing that equipment. For more, read Samantha Power’s A Problem From Hell.

And how about this quote, regarding the detention, trial, and plea deal of Toronto-born Omar Khadr:

“It’s going dead against the [Geneva] Conventions we have agreed to, the conventions that call for child soldiers to be handled differently and that those who use child soldiers to be seen as conducting crimes against humanity. We have pushed that internationally. We’ve been tested with one of our own, and we have failed flagrantly”

What Dallaire can’t abide is that the Canadians didn’t stand up to the Americans in this case; it’s the Americans who believe the Geneva Conventions not to apply to all of the people detained at Guantanamo Bay and it’s the Americans who make no distinctions between children and adult combatants. But the Canadians, Dallaire argues, should be better than their neighbors and should push back against the Americans with regard to the importance of international law.

I hope the majority of Canadians take pride in the position that Dallaire ascribes to them and I hope they ultimately follow his advice about taking a leadership role on human rights and international law.

Full article here.

Very well said.

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Anthony Clark Arend is Professor of Government and Foreign Service at Georgetown University and the Director of the Master of Science in Foreign Service in the Walsh School of Foreign Service.

Commentary and analysis at the intersection of international law and politics.