978-0-679-31049-5 / 9780679310495

The Lion, the Fox and the Eagle


Publisher:Random House Canada



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About the book:

An often fascinating account of what went wrong with the United Nations' involvement in Rwanda and Bosnia, The Lion, the Fox and the Eagle is Carol Off's journey into the heart of bureaucratic darkness. Through the stories of three Canadians war reporters. Off illuminates Canada's role in the relatively recent concept of peacekeeping. We see how the best intentions in the world can go completely wrong due to political dithering and an organization that puts its own image and survival over its stated goal--the prevention of ethnic cleansing and genocide. The Lion of the title is General Romeo Dallaire. Chosen to head a UN peacekeeping task force sent to monitor a negotiated peace settlement in Rwanda, the Quebec military man is not prepared for what he encounters there. Dallaire realizes just how helpless he is when the UN fails to heed his warnings of the ruling Hutu government's plans for wholesale slaughter of the Tutsi minority. The well-meaning general becomes a helpless witness to atrocities on a massive scale and, tragically, comes to blame himself for his inability to stop the massacre. "In a movie that plays over and over in Dallaire's head, he relives all the events of that period, all the mistakes, all the deaths, his own private horror show," writes Off. The writer is harder on the Fox, General Lewis McKenzie, the leader of the UN peacekeeping force sent to Bosnia in 1992, whose name would enter the Bosnian vocabulary "as a pejorative for 'peacekeeper.'" McKenzie's grandstanding and his seemingly friendly relationship with the Serbs is at least partly to blame for the UN's inaction, Off argues. Justice Louise Arbour, the Eagle, is the Canadian sent in to clean up the UN's messes by bringing the perpetrators and politicians behind the war crimes to court. Once again, the UN drags its feet, but the tenacious Montreal-born Arbour is able to eventually make headway in bringing some of her targets to justice.

With an unerring eye for grim ironies, Off illuminates the United Nations' "moral equivalency" and resulting policy of non-interference that has resulted in millions of deaths despite the post-Holocaust organization's oft-stated aim of never allowing genocide to happen again. "UNPROFAR, paradoxically, was there to expedite an agreement that required the people to acknowledge and co-operate with their sworn enemies," writes Off of the United Nations Protection Force sent to Sarajevo. Off isn't a flashy writer, but she fills the book with relevant, often colourful details. For example, when it came time for war crime trials in Rwanda, "Anyone who could pass the one-hour test qualified for a fast-track training program" to become a judge or lawyer.

The Lion, the Fox and the Eagle is a riveting read that is tragic, frustrating, and ultimately hopeful when some (though not all) of the power-hungry murderers, Rwandan and Serbian, are finally brought to justice. And like any good thriller, there's even a money shot--Slobodan Milosevic, indicted by Arbour, becomes the first acting head of state to be arrested. Sadly, this is no work of fiction, and we would do well to learn from the mistakes catalogued with such indignant detail in this powerful book. --Shawn Conner

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