Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Two Generals from North America

This is a re-published posting - my previous (same) posting appeared to be corrupted, losing some vital sentences. I have retained the same publishing time stamp.

Tonight I saw two TV programmes, each about a general. Both are North Americans – one from the United States of America and the other a Canadian.

The first was a documentary about the Abu Ghraib torture scandal titled ‘Big Storm – the Lynndie England Story’. The synopsis in the TV guide stated she joined the army to see the world, but the world saw Lynndie England instead – in graphic photos and films of prisoner abuse in Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib prison.

It was a documentary about US Defence leaders shoving responsibility and blame downwards - apparently they weren't believers of Truman's "the buck stops here." My earlier topic showed that Lt General Ricardo Sanchez, the US top military man in Iraq, had in fact authorised those illegal interrogation techniques.

In the programme, viewers also saw Senator John McCain slicing Donald Rumsfeld up at a Senate Inquiry on the Abu Ghraib torture. The latter and one of his generals were attempting to evade a question by McCain about the ‘line of command’, but the Senator, a former military man himself with extensive military and combat experience, and a stint in the notorious ‘Hanoi Hilton’ didn't allow them to get away with it. One could see the sorry saga of the cover-up and the delegation of blame downwards. The documentary also indicated that the use of torture was not an isolated case at Abu Ghraib but a widespread and systemic problem in the US military stretching from Guantano Bay to Afghanistan.

The director of the documentary Twan Huys stated "Is she guilty? Yes. Is she ultimately responsible? No. This (American) government is very clever at painting reality as they see it, or as they want it."

Huys added that Lynndie England has been made the poster child of torture in prisons. This reminds me of how the Pentagon fabricated the Jessica Lynch heroic rescue, and stage-managed her image into that of an iconic American heroine.

The second documentary was a focus on Lt General Roméo Dallaire, a Canadian general serving with the UN in Rwanda, and his valiant but futile efforts to stop the genocide. His repetitive appeals for intervention by the major western powers were ignored. It seemed that Rwanda-Bururndi didn’t have any strategic interest for the West. The tragic consequence was the genocidal slaughter of 800,000 Tutsis by the governing Hutus.

George Moose, then U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs, in an interview revealed how the US actually blocked any effective response by the world to the genocide. He mentioned U.S. preferred decision to support a drastic reduction of U.N. peacekeeping forces and to evacuate Kigali. He exposed the rationale for rejecting General Dallaire's appeals for reinforcement and the US evasion in referring to the word ‘genocide’.

Dallaire was so traumatised by the slaughter and blamed himself for his ‘failure’ to stop the genocide that he attempted suicide and took to drinking. He mentioned the genocide in these terms:

"My soul is in those hills, my spirit with the spirits of all those people who were slaughtered ..... Lots of those eyes still haunt me, angry eyes, or innocent eyes. But the worst eyes that haunt me are the eyes of those people who were totally bewildered. They're looking at me with my blue beret and saying, ‘What in the hell happened?’"

He resigned from his UN post, and now dedicates himself to the wretched Darfur genocide. He was recently recognised for what he actually has been, a hero, who was let down by western nations ignoring the crisis (no oil in Rwanda-Burundi?). The Canadian Governor-General, Adrienne Clarkson (don't let her name fool you - she's of Chinese ethnicity) decorated him with the Pearson peace medal.

The film Hotel Rwanda attempted to depict his story, but critics complained that the film has unfairly and inaccurately put Dallaire in a bad light as a weak UN commander. However, Dallaire said he didn’t mind as the film would be good in highlighting to the world about a tragedy that ought not to have happened.

He said rather succinctly that Africans like Rwandans don’t have the sort of powerful lobby the Jews enjoy, thus the film would be excellent in reminding people they shouldn’t just stand by the sideline as unconcerned onlookers while a genocide was going on.

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