Category: Reader Response


SHWTD Response 9 (11/1/09)

Nolan
400-450 November 1, 2009
Shake Hands With the Devil, Roméo Dallaire.

In this section of pages, Dallaire has been working to reduce the violence in Rwanda. Very little of it has dissipated, but it has been slowed down a degree. Sadly I do not feel that it will stay this way very long, because it is such a small sudden change, and in this book nothing lasts unless it is a big change. Either way, I am excited to see what happens next.Roméo has recieved more vehicles from the United States, and though UNAMIR had to pay a rather large sum of four million dollars to lease the vehicles, they were a much needed tactical resource and advantage. I have noticed thatRoméo’s troops obey him much more than they did earlier in the book. This has lead to more power in UNAMIR , and no troops, guns, vehicles, or bombs were obtained to have this power gain, it was simply the troops listening to him. It is amazing how many unsung heroes are in this book, any yet how little they have been praised and brought to public attention.

Lately the violence in the book has been reduced, but it was by a minimal degree. UNAMIR troops are still dying, and Rwandans are still being massacred. It pains me to read this, and realize just how belittled Dallaire must have felt when he was in many of these situations. He certainly must have been affected for many years by the memories of dead bodies piled up and rotting in a ditch beside the road. The worst part it that he saw not one or two bodies, but thousands of bodiesduring his efforts in Rwanda, and could only hope for relief. I believe Dallaire has become desensitized to some fears lately. In one scene in this book, a Mortar exploded 10 meters away from him and his troops, they all instinctively dropped to the ground, confirmed that no one was hurt, and ran to take cover in some of their armored vehicles.Dallaire on the other hand did not take cover in the vehicle, but simply put his flack jacket on and walked over to the crater the mortar had created so that he could determine some facts about it.

The passage that caught my attention this time was actually on the very first page. the passage was, “… I found out that Captain Diagne Mbaye of Sengal had been git by mortar fragments fired bu the RPF at an RGF roadblock while he was bringing back a message for me from Bizimungu. Diagne was dead before he hit the dashboard. He was the Military observer who had saved Prime Minister Agathe’s children, and in the weeks since he had personally saved the lives of dozens upon dozens of Rwandans. Braving direct and indirect fire, mines, mobs, disease and any number of other threats, he eagerly accepted any mission that would save lives.” It makes me sad to realize that the hero in this passage will go unknown to many, and even to those he saved who might not have a name to go with the face that saved them. This is not the first time a hero has died in the book,in fact , many have died, and none have been publicized for their great deeds. Shake Hands With the Devil is still a great book despite the pain it contains. I am very excited to see what happens next.

Nolan
300-350 October 25, 2009
Shake Hands With the Devil, Roméo Dallaire.

In this section of the book, Roméo has been in-between fire in the ongoing civil war in Rwanda. He has sheltered many Rwandan refugees, and evacuated them by means of plane. Roméo has shown tremendous courage and bravery in this section of the book. Roméo has been nearly shot several times now, and has been in extremely close proximity of exploding bombs for quite some time now, and has shown little wavering in his courage. There is the possibility that Roméo left the accounts of his fears out of the book for various reasons, but I doubt that this is the case. Romeo must have a lot of faith in the organization he is working for, and helped form; UNAMIR, because little has gone right lately, and what has gone right for the most part has been relatively insignificant. The biggest thing that has gone right in this section of pages was that Roméo managed to get a few SUV fulls of refugees onto a plane, and was able to send them somewhere safer. This seems like it would be a big achievement, but sadly it was not due to the numbers of those being killed in the cities every day.

I have a feeling that things will get a little bit better before Roméo has to leave Rwanda (If he has to). Roméo has done so much to help those people, and has received so little in return. He asks for small favors, and small amounts of supplies, but they are rarely ever receved. Even from the sponsoring countries, Roméo receives little support with supplies or monetary needs. I predict that the violence will continue for a little while longer, and then Roméo will be forced to leave for his own safety, but that he will continue to work for a resolution to the violence even while outside Rwanda. Sadly though, I do not feel that his efforts once outside Rwanda will be well received, or effective. Roméo has been expending supplies at an alarming rate, and I don”t know how much longer that will be able to last. He has received access to supplies in various areas of Rwanda, but has had little to no resources to be able to obtain those goods before one of the rival Rwandan groups did. Even when Roméo did have access and resources to obtain the goods, he was fired upon by a violent faction over goods that belonged to UNAMIR at that point.

The passage that struck me this time around was, “… Brent looked through a broken panel on the roof and saw an unexploded 120-millimeter mortar bomb wedged between some pipes. He passed on the job of safely removing it to one of the Polish engineer officers who had witnessed the Gikondo Parish Massacre. We found out later that he had simply picked up the unexploded bomb and carried it through the building, out of the compound and across the street where he set it down. It could have exploded at any time. Brent suspected he suffered psychological damage and had a death wish after witnessing the Gikondo massacre. The officer was repatriated shortly afterwards, not the last psychological casualty of UNAMIR.” (Dallaire, 310). This is one of only two instances of foreshadowing that I have picked up on in the book, and I have a feeling that Dallaire himself will be a victim of psychological after affects from the horrors witnessed in Rwanda. There is just something about that passage that leads me to believe that he will be the primary victim referenced in the quote, and not one of his co-workers. Thus far I still very much enjoy Shake Hands With the Devil, and can not wait to see what happens next, and how it is resolved.

Reader Response 5

Nolan
200-250 October 18, 2009
Shake Hands With the Devil, Roméo Dallaire.

Since the last response, many major events have occurred in the story. Not very many good things have happened lately in the book, and several important political figures have died. In a horrible plane crash, the president of Rwanda- Habyarimana has died along with the military advisor, and the president of Burundi. I am impressed with how Roméo has responded under the stress, and at points even put his life on the line to ensure peace. At first it did not seem that the situation in Rwanda would deteriorate all that badly until now. I now understand the name of the book, seeing just how quickly things got out of hand. I believe things could have gone better had Roméo’s troops cooperated with him better. Many of the troops that were brought from other countries to help Rwanda are lazy, and cowardly. In the current situation, many soldiers have hidden from command to avoid going to battle.

I am still unsure whether things will become better or worse from this point on. From the looks of it it seems that things have a high chance of becoming worse, and spiraling further into chaos. The troops are cowardly, there is barely enough ammunition for a two minute firefight, and most of the artillery shells were used during training operations, and never replaced because of an argument over who should pay for it. The civilians are scared, and have gone into hiding, while some have started killing over the whole ordeal. The Rwandan militaries have armed themselves for fear of further attacks, and the presidential guard has begun senselessly killing everyone, including the next person in line to become the leader of Rwanda. On the other hand, UNAMIR though week in arms has become a somewhat powerful political organization, and there is a possibility that Roméo could bring this all back under control. Roméo has several powerful and smart commanders with him, and control over some military power; weak, but military power none the less.

The passage that interested me this time around was “… The corporal watched as we went by him, then yelled at me and gave orders in Kinyarwanda, which were followed by the sound of weapons being cocked. I told Maggen that we would keep walking. Other order were yelled but no shots rang out.” (Dallaire, 235). This was said at a roadblock shortly after the president”s plane had crashed. I do wish the author had been clearer, as I do not fully understand whether or not he simply walked through the roadblock or not. If he did, that must have taken tremendous courage, and once again, I am impressed by Roméo’s qualities as a leader. Roméo was clearly born to be a leader. Though this situation has gone downhill rather quickly, none of it was under his control. He has commanded, and inspired thus far, and I believe will continue to throughout the book. He has kept up a rather large demilitarized zone, and has done a good job of keeping the area safe. Everything that he can control seems to go well, but sadly there is a lot that he cannot control. Shake Hands With the Devil is a very interesting work of literature, and reading it has been an enjoyable experience.

Reader Response 4

Nolan
150-200 October 12, 2009
Shake Hands With the Devil, Roméo Dallaire.

Picking up where I left off in Shake Hands With the Devil, the story has progressed quite rapidly, and Roméo’s mission has incurred a rather considerable amount of turbulence. The mission has been slowed by a number of factors ranging from low reserves of resources to a conspiracy from inside Rwanda determined to make the operation fail. I have been impressed by how Roméo has overcome many annoyances and problems. One example was when his troops were delivered one hundred vehicles, (something he had fought long and hard to get)  and they were parked in an area where the government wouldn’t let Roméo send in security, the vehicles ended up being vandalized due to the lack of security. To make matters worse, the company chosen to move the vehicles to Roméo’s base hired civilian drivers to do the task, and when they reached their destination, only thirty vehicles were drivable, and of those thirty, some had been removed of seats, radios, and windows. Roméo was angry at first, but soon realized that it was more transportation than he had originally. I’m confused about why he was unable to supply security to the vehicles, and i wish that were better explained.

Lately, Roméo has added footnotes to the end of certain passages. These footnotes clear up loose ends and tell resolutions of side stories that are contained in previous pages. This addition came as a welcome surprise, as it has helped me understand what is going on, and no longer leaves me wondering how an event ended. Something that annoyed me was when the author wrote about an attack on a village that took place sometime in November, and the attackers were unknown, he provided a possible group who may have been responsible some fifteen pages later and only referred to the attack as “the November attack”. This attack was rarely talked about between those pages, and I had almost forgotten about it. Roméo and his crew have been going through a cycle of having freedom and control, and then having none at all. I predict that this cycle will continue, but that it will slow down considerably, and eventually diminish. Something I wish could have happened differently was how one of Roméo’s informants disappeared. Roméo said that he did not know what ever happened to him, but he was such a useful character I wish we could have known what happened to him.

A passage that stands out to me is, “I was stuck as I had been with the earlier killings, but I was determined to get to the bottom of this murder of children.” This passage stuck out because Roméo has made similar claims at least four other times in the book. In at least two other instances he has made it a goal to adopt a specific child, and bring them back to the west. The author at the beginning of the book had an incredible talent of conveying emotion, but in this particular section, that talent has been somewhat lacking. He depicted a scene of of grotesque violence on a road, complete with blood, and even brains, but he tied absolutely no emotion to it. This is very unusual for him, and I hope it doesn’t persist much longer. At times the book is hard to follow, and at others it is entertaining, and easy. I am confused as to why this is. Shake Hands With the Devil is a moving book, and has informed me greatly of the horrors in Rwanda.

Reader Response 3

Nolan
79-110 October 12, 2009
Shake Hands With the Devil, Roméo Dallaire.

Dallaire is still in Rwanda, though he has left several times to attend UN functions in New York since the last response. The book is still moving along along at a more rapid rate than the first part of the book, but seems to be plateaued right now. Things have leveled out, and Dallaire has gone into detailed accounts of peacekeeping work, and what sacrifices he had to make in America to make many of the things he needed happen. Many of Dallaire’s outlines and plans had to be amended in order for the UN to pass them. At times Dallaire would call for 5,000 troops, but only be granted 2,600 of them. I find this to be a very important part of the story, as from what I take from it, this book is about how peacekeeping failed later on as a result of many of these compromises. As of now, the operation is quite successful, and a large demilitarized zone has been set up for the hutus and tutsis, and has been enforced well. Dallaire’s imagery in his writing has seemed to fall recently, but I feel that it will be back soon, as this is something he is quite good at.

A possible idea I think I see emerging is just how bad many of the compromises Roméo is forced to make. He is shortened money, troops, resources, and other necessities.He calls for one amount of something, and he is granted half, or sometimes less of it. At times he is downright rejected in his efforts to attain more resources, and often has trouble gaining control of just one more unit, may it be monetary, a soldier, or food. He seems to be able to work under pressure well, and deal with the compromises given to him by the UN. I feel this is why he has been successful so far. Back on the topic of the writing of this book, I have still not seen very much dialogue in this book, and that which does emerge is usually one sided. In a way, this is understandable considering this is Dallaire’s side of what went on, and he does not have the ability to get in the heads of those who worked with and against him. Much of the information being provided by Dallaire to me in this book is becoming more and more useful as I read it, as it is making comprehension of the events unfolding much easier to undertake. I have no doubt that Roméo will continue providing information pertaining to the situation in this way.

Roméo has a very unique style of writing as I mentioned before. He gives the reader more than enough information at times, and just enough at others, and all of it is related to the events going on at the time. He still uses his talent of visual description in the book, but less of it has been memorable. Along with the imagery, I have still yet to come across any lines that really strike me as unusual or powerful. I have high hopes that I will come across more memorable material in the next set of pages. I think that if the book had more real dialogue, there is a possibility that there would be more memorable material. I think that there is so little dialogue in this book because it is probably both hard and painful for Roméo to remember much of what was said during the operation, especially that which was said to, and received from now fallen comrades. As mentioned in the past two responses, I am still very pleased with the book even if I do feel lost, or over my head at parts.

Nolan

50-79 October 11, 2009
Shake Hands With the Devil, Roméo Dallaire.

Since the last response, Dallaire has finally gone to Rwanda as a peace keeper. As I predicted, the book has started moving, and is becoming exponentially more interesting as it progresses. At first, I was quite worried about this book being readable due to its slow progression and dry military history and information. It was somewhat like walking bare-foot on hot sand; It is okay for a short period of time, but for a long period of time it is painful and annoying. Now that Dallaire has entered Rwanda he has now met military political figures, seen refugee camps, and met soldiers fighting in the civil war under the age of seventeen. He has met children as young as four working for the army by washing dishes and cooking meals. Dallaire conveys this experience in a subtle but visual way. I have read books in the past that portray the author’s personal experiences in a detailed way, but I find myself swallowed by the abundance of information provided, and cannot imagine what the author is describing. Roméo Dallaire gives me as the reader enough information about the scenes he saw that I feel I can accurately paint a picture of what he saw. Just one example of Dallaire’s descriptive writing is, “The scene was deeply disturbing, and it was the first time I had witnessed such suffering unmediated by the artifice of TV news. Most shocking of all was the sight of an old woman lying alone, quietly waiting to die. She couldn’t have weighed more than a dozen kilos. Pain and despair etched every line of her face…” (Roméo Dallaire, 64).

Other than the line mentioned above, I have yet to read any memorable lines so far. A lot of the writing still consists of informational fillers, for example, “The alternative to a chapter-six operation was to try to contain the conflict diplomatically (which was a non-starter in the case of Rwanda) or go to a chapter-seven, or peace enforcement mission, where the UN would sanction a coalition of nations to invade the country with offensive military force and impose peace on the parties.” (Roméo Dallaire, 71). Much of this information is relevant, but I feel the book would be a lot smoother if this information were abridged. Thankfully, there are fewer and fewer instances of this information popping up. Although there is still very little to no dialogue in these pages, true dialogue has slowly started to become a little more common, but still extremely sparse. As mentioned before, I am still highly impressed in Dallaire’s ability to convey emotion.

I cannot say I have ever seen Dallaire’s style of writing before. I can not describe what makes him different, but he is clearly quite talented. In the previous response I predicted that Dallaire would not use foreshadowing in his literature, but I have found this statement to be false, as it has been used twice between the pages I have read since I thought that. He has used it so far to tell the reader of the genocide that will ensue. The book has become quite interesting, and enjoyable to read, and i hope it stays this way for at least a little while should Dallaire decide to return to the drier informative side of himself. After some thought, I have come to the conclusion that an author’s commentary or footnotes would be extremely helpful during the slower parts of the book to keep the reader informed into the history that he wishes to tell, but provide both a detailed heavy account of the events, and a lighter, shorter, far more readable account in the notes, or commentary. I am still very pleased with the book, seeing as it has started to progress.

Nolan

0-50 October 9,2009
Shake Hands With the Devil, Roméo Dallaire.

So far in the book, the main character and author Roméo, has given a detailed history of how he grew up, and what made him want to become a military official. I think it is a great way to start out the book, because it allows me as the reader to get to know him and what kind of a person he is before the violence and sorrow that i predict will soon ensue in the book. Apart from the detailed history of is childhood, and what he had to deal with growing up as the son of an NCO in Canada, the author has given me an account of how he was informed that he would be taking up a campaign in Rwanda; a country he had very little knowledge about from the beginning. Though this section of the book has been dry and more of an autobiography than a work of military nonfiction, I believe this part of the book will set the stage for how Roméo lead a normal family life in Canada as a high ranking military general, and was then thrown into the horrors of the civil war in Rwanda. I am not yet sure if this section will provide a base of comparison for the difference between his life at home and the constant fear and terror of Rwanda, or if it simply provides much needed background into his life.

I have yet to read any truly memorable lines in this book, as most of the writing consists of informational dialogue such as, “I would do my rounds with a crusty old sergeant, Roy Chiasson, a veteran from the Korean War.” (Roméo Dallaire, 26). Something I have found quite interesting thus far in the book is that I have yet to incur any real “dialogue” between any of the characters, only minor phrases, and at some parts small one sided dialogue from another character such as, “His words were roughly-“. I was surprised by the lack of dialogue, and did not notice it until I was far into the book. I do think that the book will have more dialogue once everything is up to speed and the book has reached the heat of Rwanda. So far, the entire book has been not much of a memorable experience, as it has been filled with dry facts and history. I have high hopes that this will not persist much longer into the literature. The book has won awards for its material, so I do have faith that it will be a memorable experience.

I think that the book has been carefully laid out by Roméo Dallaire to inform the reader in chronological order, and not provide any foreshadowing, as to give the reader the same experience he had in his military campaign. I predict that the book will become interesting once Dallaire gets to Rwanda, and that writing will become less historical and more emotional. If i were the author, I would inform the reader that this is the historical part of the book and that the story will be told in the order in which the events panned out. this would be a very helpful addition to the book. Although I do feel I little bit lost in this book, I am impressed with how well Dallaire conveys emotion throughout the book when it is needed, and when unnecessary he knows how to tone it down. I am excited to see if this is true for the rest of the book. I am very pleased with Shake Hands With the Devil thus far, and intend to be throughout the entire work.