Shake Hands with the Devil


in Bombs and rockets, Films and movies

There isn’t really any appropriate way to talk about a film like Shake Hands with the Devil (2007), given the way in which it is a recasting of a historical episode such as the Rwandan genocide. I suppose one can direct blame, as a response: at the great powers, at the United Nations, at Belgium, at the belligerents, at the genocidaires. Appropriate as that may be, the sheer appalling character of what was undertaken by human beings makes me wonder whether it would have been better if nothing in the universe had ever awoken to cognition, if all the atoms in all the rocks and stars had just interacted dumbly from the unfathomable origin of space and time to the entropic silence that will be the end of it.

One thing that is demonstrated by the experience of watching is the power of film as a medium; having read Dallaire’s book and even seen him speak, the horror was never conveyed with anything approaching the same visceral quality. In response, you can’t help but wonder what we really ought to be doing in Afghanistan now, or in Darfur.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Milan October 2, 2007 at 10:07 pm
KnowsMilanWell October 2, 2007 at 10:43 pm

Appropriate as that may be, the sheer appalling character of what was undertaken by human beings makes me wonder whether it would have been better if nothing in the universe had ever awoken to cognition, if all the atoms in all the rocks and stars had just interacted dumbly from the unfathomable origin of space and time to the entropic silence that will be the end of it.

“Nevertheless they lifted the entire ship from its resting place, smashed it on anvils of platinum and, when it fell apart, immersed the pieces in heavy radiation, so that it was reduced to a myriad of flying atoms, which keep eternal silence, for atoms have no history, all are equal to each other, whether they come from the strongest of stars or from dead planets, or from intelligent beings, both good and evil, because matter is the same throughout the Universe and no one need have fear of it.”

-Stanislaw Lem

. October 2, 2007 at 10:46 pm

From today’s news:

Dallaire describes ethnic cleansing in testimony

“Government-backed militia set up a series of roadblocks with the intent to separate and slaughter Tutsis during the 1994 Rwandan genocide, former general Romeo Dallaire testified Tuesday.

“It was simply there as a tool of ethnic cleansing,” Dallaire said of the maze of roadblocks. “There was no military or technical value. It was purely to destroy human beings.”

Dallaire, the former commander of United Nations peacekeeping troops in Rwanda in 1994, spoke at the war crimes trial of Desire Munyaneza.”

. October 2, 2007 at 10:50 pm

“Dallaire’s testimony outlined the context that could elevate the alleged crimes from rape and murder to genocide.

Dallaire said that targeted rape and murder spread across Rwanda at the hands of the Interahamwe militia, a unit of which several other witnesses said Munyaneza was a leader.

He described finding piles of half-burnt Tutsi identity cards at the scene of massacres, and detailed tactics used by Hutu extremists to massacre Tutsis and Hutu moderates.

Hundreds of Tutsis would be tricked into seeking refuge inside churches where they would be kept and slaughtered over several days, he said.

During his testimony, the former general also described an atmosphere of distrust between Rwanda’s Hutu government and the Rwandan Tutsi rebels during talks to establish an interim government leading up to the war.”

Milan October 2, 2007 at 10:57 pm


You do know me well. That quote was in my head for a good part of the film.

Milan October 2, 2007 at 10:59 pm
. October 3, 2007 at 9:26 am

Rwandan rivers choked with bodies, Dallaire says

‘Saw them. Touched them. Smelled them. Moved them. Of all ages,’ retired general tells a Montreal courtroom

Milan October 3, 2007 at 1:49 pm

Dallaire blames France at genocide trial

Retired Canadian general Romeo Dallaire slammed France Wednesday during testimony at a landmark war crimes trial, saying the country helped those responsible for Rwanda’s genocide escape to freedom.

Anonymous November 6, 2007 at 11:39 am

“I cannot help thinking that liberal civilization – the rule of law, not men, of argument in place of force, of compromise in place of violence – runs deeply against the human grain and is achieved and sustained only by the most unremitting struggle against human nature. The liberal virtues – tolerance, compromise, reason – remain as valuable as ever, but they cannot be preached to those who are mad with fear or mad with vengeance.”

Michael Ignatieff

. October 29, 2009 at 2:12 pm

Munyaneza gets life in jail for Rwandan war crimes
1st conviction under Canadian law for war crimes committed abroad
Last Updated: Thursday, October 29, 2009 | 11:48 AM ET
CBC News

A Rwandan man found guilty under Canadian law of war crimes committed in his home country has been sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.

Quebec Superior Court Justice André Denis handed down the sentence for Désiré Munyaneza in Federal Court in Montreal on Thursday morning, in a precedent-setting case that has been tracked by international legal observers for years.

Munyaneza, 42, was the first person to be convicted under Canada’s relatively recent Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act.

The former Rwandan businessman was found guilty of seven charges under the law, all related to atrocities he committed during the genocide, when an estimated 800,000 Rwandans, mostly minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus, were raped and murdered.

. September 14, 2010 at 3:32 pm

“The draft UN report, leaked last week, will be harder to brush off. It suggests Mr Kagame’s mostly Tutsi army attempted a counter-genocide in the mid-1990s in parts of Rwanda’s vast and unruly neighbour, Congo.

Mr Kagame’s rebel army swept through Rwanda from Uganda in 1994 to halt the genocide in which Hutu death squads slaughtered around 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus. The perpetrators of the genocide—a mixture of politicians, priests, and militias—fled to Congo where they hid among more than 1m genuine Hutu refugees. When the génocidaires regrouped to continue their fight Mr Kagame ordered an invasion of eastern Congo in 1996. This triggered a war that drew in six more countries (Burundi, Uganda, Angola, Zimbabwe, Namibia and the Central African Republic) and led to the deaths of about 4m people, mostly from disease and ill-health.

A team from the UN’s Office for the High Commissioner on Human Rights, charged with documenting the most serious violations of human rights and international law during the conflict, catalogued 617 incidents that occurred between 1993 and 2003. The result is a detailed inventory of horrors. People are chopped up, shot and burned to death. Over the 500 pages or so of the report none of the countries implicated in the violence comes off well. But 104 out of 617 incidents involved the murder, often on a large scale, of Hutu refugees by Mr Kagame’s forces and allies. The report’s authors say that some of the incidents, if proven in a court of law, “could be classified as crimes of genocide.” Rwanda’s army made “no effort” to distinguish between civilians and combatants, instead killing “probably several tens of thousands” in the “relentless” pursuit of Hutus, according to the report.

This detailed reporting of alleged Rwandan crimes seems to back up what human-rights activists have been arguing for years: that Mr Kagame’s commanders should be held to account just as the Hutu perpetrators of the 1994 genocide were. Indeed, the report’s findings claw at the heart of Mr Kagame’s moral authority. “Mr Kagame’s reputation is based on being the man who ended the genocide and now he’s accused of perpetrating one,” says Jason Stearns, a Congo expert. “

. June 3, 2014 at 5:40 pm

WASHINGTON — On April 12, 1994, six days after a plane carrying Rwanda’s president was shot down, setting off a wave of killings, Madeleine K. Albright, the American ambassador to the United Nations at the time, sent a cable to the State Department proposing that the United States take the lead in pushing to withdraw the United Nations peacekeeping force operating there.

Ms. Albright’s tersely worded cable, recently declassified, starkly captures the reluctance of the United States to respond to the deepening crisis in Rwanda. When most of the United Nations force was withdrawn shortly afterward, leaving the violence almost completely unchecked, the crisis rapidly escalated into one of history’s most grimly efficient genocides, with some 800,000 people killed in less than 100 days.

Twenty years after the genocide, the National Security Archive and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum have obtained nearly 300 secret cables from the United States, Britain, New Zealand and other members of the United Nations Security Council during the fateful weeks when events in Rwanda spiraled out of control.

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