They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children: The Global Quest to Eradicate the Use of Child Soldiers

May 25, 2011


JOANNE MYERS: I'm Joanne Myers, director of Public Affairs Programs, and on behalf of the Carnegie Council I'd like to thank you all for joining us.

It is a privilege to welcome back one of the most inspirational individuals of our time, Canadian soldier, peacekeeper, and now senator in the Canadian parliament and national icon, Romeo Dallaire.

For those of you who are not familiar with our speaker, let me briefly tell you about him.

As the leader of the ill-fated UN peacekeeping force in Rwanda, he called for more troops to prevent the terror that he saw coming. But his call for arms went unanswered. Shortly thereafter, he came face to face with the horrifying reality of child soldiers participating to the fullest extent during the Rwanda genocide of 1994. His experience was captured for posterity in an earlier book, entitled Shake Hands with the Devil.

For those of you who are interested in learning more about his experience, a memorable discussion of this ordeal was recorded here a few years ago.

Although this unimaginable brutality has shaped him in profound ways, it has not taken away his compassion, resolve, or an abiding commitment to justice and a belief in the collective capacity for change.

Today he is here to talk about his present mission, which is to act on behalf of children affected by war and to end their use as weapons in conflict.

In They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children, our speaker writes about his attempts to decommission a weapons system that is itself a crime against humanity, yet is used extensively in the ongoing conflicts around the globe. The weapon he is referring to is an exploited, vulnerable child that has been transformed into an instrument of war.

As General Dallaire describes this phenomenon, a child soldier is "a commander's dream come true: perfect in technology, perfect to sustain, unlimited versatility, cheap, and expendable."

While the issue of child soldiers and their use in combat is outlawed by various measures of international human rights law, humanitarian law, labor law, and criminal law, a chasm exists between these laws and their application.

The results to date have fallen far short of what might have been expected. Child soldiers continue to be used in armed conflicts by some governments, while others are captured to gather intelligence, to be used as messengers, porters, servants, or to lay or clear landmines. Girls, in particular, are at risk of rape or sexual abuse. Such children are robbed of their childhood and experience psychological and physical suffering.

But how does one prevent such a choice weapon from being used in the first place and who will apply these laws once they are enacted? As our guest has said so many times, it is not enough to agree with what is said, but we need to remind our political elite of their enormous responsibility to protect, to assist, and to intervene on behalf of these children.

Because General Dallaire believes in leading by example, he founded the Child Soldiers Initiative, which builds on his experience navigating between the aid community and the military, in order to find a solution to this complex problem.

Before we begin to hear about his project, let me just warn you that what you are about to hear may disturb you.

Please join me in giving a very warm welcome to our speaker. General Dallaire, thank you for honoring us with your presence here today.


ROMEO DALLAIRE: Well, I must say, the introduction was going so well until you scared everybody. Thank you, however, for coming.

I enjoy very much coming to speak here (1) because it is intimate, we are face to face, which is the essence of debate, of human exchange; (2) because it's very disciplined, so we will stop on time whereas I, as a general and now a senator, have a hard time in the arena of brevity. As my chief of staff said to someone who asked "Would the general say a few words?", she said, "Just put a microphone in front of him and see"; and (3) the introduction is even better than what I have to say and so we could go right to questions. But I do want to amplify it.

Thank you very much once again for the opportunity to speak here this morning on a subject that as I speak throughout the United States and Canada with different groups, particularly at universities and with students, my aim is to make them uncomfortable.

My aim is, however, not to leave them hanging, but to make them realize that they, the youth of our nations, those under the age of 25, with this new era of revolution in communications and the ability they have now to easily to coalesce by constant communications, by all these social means, that although they have historically held the balance of power in our democracy by their numbers, if they ever voted, they now can actually implement change in such a significant way that they could alter the face of politics in our countries, in our democracies in the Western world.

We have seen a touch of that when President Obama was elected. We've seen it in a revolutionary context, which was absolutely extraordinary in Tunisia, where I watched with great interest the deference demonstrated by the elders of that country, a country that holds their elders, their deans, and their statesmen, in maybe higher regard than our youth have here of us with grey hair. They really shifted gears in their respect, and even awe, of the youth and how courageous they were, how they were able to bring about the power base that they had and apply it, and change the nature of the beast of politics in their country.

That is not, ladies and gentlemen, an insignificant moment. But it falls very much into the era into which we have stumbled. Although I will bring you towards child soldiers, the research we are doing, and the book that I produced—and I am very glad to have it published here in the United States—I want to set the environment of how this has become such a factor and how the youth is going to be an even more dominant factor, because there is a second angle to this revolutionary time with regards to youth in particular.

The first one is their ability now to be so conscious of what is going on and to be able to feel the balance of power that they have through the revolution of communications. That is being exercised.

The other arena that they are getting more engaged in is nongovernmental organizations. They are finding a home there.

It is rather interesting that some informal statistics that are being taken, certainly in Canada, are showing that the youth under 25, the undergraduate or the post-high school group, are going far more to South America, to Africa, to conflicts, zones, or countries, essentially developing countries, and sniffing out what's going on there, than they are going to Paris, London, or Berlin.

I think that is the most phenomenal exercise that they could do and a consciousness that is of our era, because that's where the real action is going to continue to blossom into the future. It is where 80 percent of humanity is and where 80 percent is in significant disconnect with the 20 percent of the haves, with us.

We stand there with a certain pretentiousness and say, "Hey, we're off to Mars. Obviously humanity is advancing because we mastered technology and we've been able to bring together and coordinate all the resources to do that and our societies have thrived because of that."

But to say that humanity is advancing when we know that 80 percent is living in inhuman conditions is a bit of an exercise of disconnecting one side from the other.

That pretentious position that we, the elders, have developed, of saying that we're moving the yardsticks forward, has not been fully accepted by the youth because they are seeing that there is more to it than what we have been able to do in humanity thus far. They are seeing it because of that instrument of globalization, which they are now evolving into far better than what we have ever been able to do.

Going to Africa when we were 20 or 21 was a significant leap. It was not only technologically—the communications were not there, and transport availability was not necessarily as easy, complete, and available as today—but the mere thought of going to Africa seemed to be so far away; it seemed to be another world.

To them it's not another world. To them it's part of that very small, very fragile, bluish ball in space that our astronauts have projected and have often said—and even the two Italian astronauts that are up there right now, as they spoke to the pope recently, they said: "We don't see borders up here. And you're right, my Holy Father. Why is there conflict on earth? It makes no sense for that small, fragile ball to be like that."

They have been able to grasp grander, more great strategic focuses, at a faster rate, and with more of a sensitivity to it, than we have. They seem to understand things like human rights for all human beings. They consider that human beings in those other places are human; they're not another entity—they are someone I can Skype; I could actually talk to a kid my age in a high school in Mali if we just get on the computer with a satellite link, and, bingo, we're face to face right there in real-time.

To them, the reality of human beings in other places is not something that needs a whole logistics and a nearly mental shift in comprehending that they are actually like us. To them, they're next door.

My son, who played video games far too much, was playing with a kid in Moscow and another one in Rio. To him they were next door. To me, I couldn't believe it.

These notions that they have acquired are absolute godsends—if I can use the term—in this complex era in which we have fallen into, because we have stumbled into this new postmodern era since the end of the Cold War. We didn't find leadership and we didn't have any concepts of what really was going to come about when George Bush Sr. said  at the end of the Cold War, "We're entering a new world order."

Well, it didn't take long. As we were pulling the forces back, I was serving General Sullivan, who was the commander of the U.S. Army. He had to reduce the Army from about 1.3 million to about 800,000, and on top of that bring them all home. He had less than four years to do that. But at the end of it, he had to make them more effective than they were before, in a time when in fact the enemy had disappeared.

It's pretty hard to continue to train and do vehicle recognition on Warsaw Pact equipment when the Warsaw Pact doesn't exist anymore. So what do you train on? Who is the enemy? What will be the threat?

We started to realize that we had fallen into an era where that threat is ill-defined but still is there. We stumbled into an era in which we didn't really have the tools to gain and maintain the initiative at a time when so many countries started to implode. We had so many failing states. We had civil wars and humanitarian catastrophes on scales that were unheard of, and had taken the concept of "never again" and thrown it out the window.

"Never again" was for all of humanity. But it didn't work, and it didn't work inasmuch as when it was tested in other scenarios, it failed. So what do we do about that? Do we stand by and watch it?

One would say that as we stumbled through the early parts of the 1990s, that was a policy—"Oh yeah, they're in Africa, they're slaughtering each other. It's sort of nearly in their genes. When things go bad, they'll go at each other, and there will be some killing and massacring for a short while, and then we'll send in some money and some do-gooders, and things will be like before." Well, things did not happen that way.

They're not like before because we're not buying off dictators like we used to, to keep a grip on those countries, nor is the other side.

On the contrary, we're telling them, "We want you to become a democratic state. We want to see the democratic institutions. We want to see rule of law, good governance, human rights, and gender equality. We want you to do that rapidly, because if you don't, we may not be able to support you through the IMF [International Monetary Fund], the World Bank, or bilaterally, because we are out of the business of dictators and holding countries nearly to ransom. We're in an era where we want the people to be able to believe in human rights, we want to expand that, and we want to expand democracy as the instrument of the guarantor thereof."

It was quite a shock that, all of a sudden, all that was in fact falling apart. We were being dragged into areas that some of us had a hard time finding on the map, let alone going to your intelligence community and asking them for a briefing before you take off into the middle of a civil war, to find out that the best they had was a four or five-year-old National Geographic assessment. After I read National Geographic's review of Quebec City, where I live, I've had a little bit of a more objective perspective as to what was written on those pages at times.

So we find ourselves in this new era where the threat was out there. The threat was to civil societies. The threat was putting under enormous duress our concepts of democracy and human rights, at a time when we wanted it to thrive, at a time when we felt that, through the peace dividend and the stability of having this Euro-centric power balance out of the way, we can actually see enormous progression, only to find that new dimensions had entered into the fray.

This is leading me—and I'm doing my best to get there—to child soldiers. We entered an era where the other side, or the threat, or the "bad guys" as we like to say, were playing by a whole different set of rules than what we had been used to for centuries: the classic instruments of diplomacy, of nation-state, of use of force, that we had built under all the different conceptual instruments that led to war, yes, but within parameters of humanitarian law and the law of armed conflict.

This weekend I came back from a conference on sovereignty and the use of responsibility to protect and humanitarian intervention in Münster, Westphalia, where in 1648 we started this new exercise.

We had perfected it by the end of the Cold War. But then, all of a sudden, we entered an era where a whole group decided not to play by those rules.

You had a group of politicians who were in power who realized that they would have to share power because of the expression of the people to go democratic, to bring in a multiparty system, and to actually have representation, equal opportunities, and the same rights as others.

Those in power were well educated in schools in Canada, the United States, and Europe. They're not dummies; they knew exactly how to maneuver and look at the situation. They decided that the way they are going to hold power is: "We're simply going to wipe out the opposition. What we are going to do is we're going to kill 1.2 million people who are the threat to our ability to maintain near-absolute power within a sort of dictatorship."

And they implemented it. We're talking 1993. They slaughtered 700,000. They slaughtered about 100,000 of their own who were too reconciliatory, and they were on their way to continue. And it wasn't because we intervened. It wasn't because the UN called it a genocide and promised me troops. It ended because the Rwandans successfully stopped the war themselves.

But they actually created a scenario in which the other side is playing by none of the rules. We saw it in Yugoslavia, Somalia, Rwanda of course, Srebrenica and the like.

This explosion of catastrophic failures that we had, where extremism was actually gaining the upper hand, and doing it with near impunity, started a reaction on our part, of saying: "What are we doing wrong here? Why is this happening? How come we're not anticipating these things? How come in fact, even when we are in the middle of them, we are not doing very well in attenuating them, reducing them, or even stopping them?"

We entered the new millennium, not with a catastrophic failure of our information systems, which was the focus at the time—every computer and everything was going to crash; and how much did we worry about that, and that didn't happen? What was crashing, however, was the structures of human security, the structures of use of soft power, hard power, smart power.

How do we handle this era where we are seeing a continued escalation of extremism, of noncompliance to any of the international conventions or laws, and these violators are getting away with it, and they are destabilizing not only countries, but it is starting to affect us through access to natural resources that we want?

Then we had 9/11. That was a culminating point. This got close to home. I live in Quebec City. New York is very close to home. The world power is hit at home.

This was a shock to the world, and it was a shock to this nation also, because there was this sense of innate security in the United States. Nobody had really ever attacked us at home. We had Pearl Harbor, but the land mass was protected.

I like to say that that's not quite correct, that no one has ever attacked the United States at home.

When I speak at military institutions, particularly American ones, I like to imitate one of your generals, called Patton. Really what I like to do is imitate George C. Scott who plays Patton in the movie. [Laughter]

At the start of the movie he comes on the stage, he's got this humongous American flag behind him, he's got all his bells and whistles on, as he was a bit of a megalomaniac, and says: "Gentlemen"—because it was a man thing—"Gentlemen, the aim of the exercise is to make the other poor bastard die for his country." Classic warfare, attrition warfare, and that's it. The one left standing wins.

So when I go to American institutions like that, I go on stage and I put a big Canadian flag behind me. When I was in uniform, I had my bells and whistles, but now I get away with maybe a humanitarian tie or something like that. I stand there and I say: "I come from a country that beat you guys twice."

You cannot imagine the reaction. You have 1,200 people and they have a very similar reaction to you. You can hear the gears turning. They say, "What's this guy talking about?"

And this is after 9/11. There is an incredible sensitivity—Europeans still can't figure that out—of why this attack on U.S. land was so profound. If you lived in Poland, you really don't understand it, because you've been attacked every decade from every angle. It's nothing new; it's part of the heritage. But here it's different.

So I say: "Yes. The war in 1775, when General Montgomery came north and attacked Montreal and Quebec City, and we fought him off in a snowstorm on New Year's Eve in 1775. He was killed there in front of his troops. There is a big cairn to his honor of being there, which is usually under about five meters of snow, but it's there. You withdrew, and so we remain Canada as an institution. We followed up the forces down on Lake Champlain and the Chaudière River. So there's that one."

"And then," I say, "The War of 1812."

They say, "Wait a minute. We won the War of 1812."

I said, "No, we won it. You guys came north, found this town called York on the big Lake Ontario, and you burned it down. It's Toronto. I'm from Montreal. That doesn't bother me much." [Laughter]

I say: "So what did we do? We came south. We found this town built on a swamp—I mean it's a swamp, it's hot, it's humid, there are mosquitoes all over the place. We do you a favor, we burn it down. What do you do? You rebuild it. It's Washington."

"So," I said, "I'm not too sure who really understood the winning or losing of that war."

But all this is to simply say that when we entered the new millennium and this decade we didn't have the answers yet. These catastrophic failures were ongoing, and in fact they were at home.

What was the reaction? How did we handle these new threats? We had not seen the threat of a new weapon that was invented during this timeframe, called the child soldier. It hasn't been seen on this continent.

We are working in South America in the drug wars with the drug barons. I was in Rio, where they kill nearly 2,000 young children every year who are in the favelas moving the drugs.

But we've not seen the use of child soldiers. In fact, we, Canada and the United States, we're the big emissaries of pushing the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and got it approved in 2000. That says that "no youth is to be recruited, trained, armed, or used in conflict under the age of 18; and, if such a youth is demobilized, they are to be rehabilitated, reintegrated, and not put through a criminal punitive process." We signed that. In fact, we got a huge amount—over 130-odd countries—very rapidly to sign up to this Protocol.

That Protocol was because people had decided that maybe a new way of conducting conflict was by being more inventive. You had HIV-AIDS taking out whole tranches of the adult population.

At the end of the Cold War, nobody stood there and said, "We're going to start demobilizing not only our nuclear weapons but also our non-nuclear weapons, our classic uses of weapons." And so the Warsaw Pact and us had hundreds of millions of light machine guns and weapons available because they were in the mobilization stocks. They were still in the grease that had been produced during the Cold War.

Nobody said: "We destroy all those because we don't need them anymore." The good civil servants said: "Our people have paid taxes. Those are still good. What do we do with them? Maybe we can make a buck." And we did.

So we had the massive proliferation of small arms. You can get a brand-new AK-47 for three bucks in these conflict zones, and the guy who's selling it is still making a profit. You have massive numbers of light machine guns that a nine-year-old can carry, use, maintain, and be quite effective with.

You have also at the same time come to a crux in many of these countries where not only are we working on shifting gears towards democracy, but we're also seeing significant overpopulation. We're seeing many countries who can't even feed themselves anymore. They are in a dependency created by all of the extraordinary work we did in reducing infant mortality, by bringing in better hygiene.

We increased their population, but we didn't give them anything to help them utilize all that brain power and manpower. We didn't build the infrastructure through our international development to employ them, to educate them, and to make them a thriving part of their societies.

On the contrary, we created a whole whack of disenfranchised youth. We exacerbated the poverty and the frictions. All of a sudden, we have countries where demographics are that over 50 percent of the population is under the age of 15.

You've got this atmosphere of impunity by extremists in imploding nations. You have civil wars—it's Rwandans who killed Rwandans—with leaders who are prepared to do whatever is required to maintain power because they have had it for a while, or to gain that power without going democratically, and you've got the prevalence of small arms and unlimited access to those who can use these weapons—that is, children.

You can abduct children from schools and homes, you take them into the bush, you line them up, you kill a few, you've got access to drugs, you indoctrinate them, you arm them, you keep them under control through fear, you abuse the girls and some of the boys in order to completely deconstruct any social structure, and then you use them as a primary weapon of conflict.

Some people, when they read what I'm working on, say: "Child soldiers, this is an old story."

It's true that we have seen youth in the past involved—drummer boys, bugle boys, and things of this nature. We've seen also Germany at the end of World War II shift the Hitler Youth into a militia and use them to the last male to defend the country, and so the youth were heavily engaged. In fact, our forces that faced them found them to be totally immersed and ruthless, and quite effective when they were being used.

But was that the norm? Were children in those historic conflicts really the primary weapons system of the conflict, or were they a last-ditch effort or just sidelines?

Well, what happened in Mozambique? In the end of the 1980s, as weapons became more prevalent and as the adult population was being hit by HIV-AIDS and the problematics of establishing the power bases that they wanted to maintain, they said: "Why don't we use these kids?"

It can't be more sophisticated than that because, although the concept is sophisticated, it is brilliant in its simplicity. We have not yet found a more sophisticated end-to-end low-technology weapons system in the inventory for up-front shooting, killing, and maiming with absolute abandonment, because they are drugged up, they are under duress and fearful, and they don't really know all the parameters in which they find themselves in of right and wrong. They're nine, ten, 12 years old, and adults are telling them to shoot, to kill, and to maim.

In many of these male-dominated societies the women do a lot of the work. Forty percent of child soldiers are girls. They run the bivouacs. They are the logistics base. They get the food. Also, they are the sex slaves and bush wives of the commanders. There's nothing that meets this.

When they are sick or injured, you just throw them in the bush and you go get some more. And there are all kinds of ammunition and weapons.

We have stumbled upon this weapons system that is effective, cheap, and complete. The question is: How do we counter that? How do we make the use of children a liability? How do we stop people from reverting to using children as the primary weapons system of a conflict?

We are not unsophisticated, and so we looked at the problem. In 1996, we had Graça Machel, the wife of Nelson Mandela, who did a seminal study on the problem. She estimated that there were about already 300,000 children at any one time in over 30 conflicts in the world that were the primary weapon either by a state or nonstate actor.

We got into the realm of let's find the solution. We concentrated with our good lawyer friends, of whom there are a few probably here this morning, and we created law. We needed a reference, so we brought in the Optional Protocol on Child Rights.

We created in the UN the whole domain of child protection in countries in conflict of which child soldiers are present. We've got a USG [under-secretary-general] now that looks at that, that just sent out another report. We name and shame countries that use children and organizations that do it.

We created the International Criminal Court finally and made the use of child soldiers a crime against humanity.

Thank God, they also made rape a crime against humanity—they put it under the premise of torture—because rape is also one of the new weapons of our era.

It brings me back to that great movie Apocalypse Now. Duval is in there, with all the weapons and blasting away: "We'll be home by Christmas and we're having steaks tonight." At the other end you've got Marlon Brando, who has gone native, who says, "The only way to win is to be more ruthless than the enemy." So you have this state of affairs of ruthlessness.

One of the instruments of our era is to create rape sites; they deliberately rape young women and girls in order to create horror, and with horror you instill fear, and with fear you gain control of the population.

We entered an era where the civilian population is the primary instrument of gain of war but also of conflict.

The extremists in Rwanda were able to move 4 million people outside the country, in the periphery, as a power base that they felt that they would be able ultimately to use to negotiate. One of the ways they used it was not only by genocide but also by rape and rape sites.

We are into this era where we have pulled out all the laws and discovered what the problem was. But how successful are we in stopping this? I'll end with this because of time.

Where are we now, 17 years, 16 years, or so after Graça Machel's study? There are about 250,000 children still being used around the world in these conflicts. Although we have all the means to arrest them and to put the leaders into jail to fight the impunity of that, there isn't much desire to do it. We don't want nuclear war, we don't want biological war, we're taking every effort we can to not fall into any possible class war or conflict, but I haven't seen anybody saying: "The war in Sierra Leone was based on children, on both sides. That's enough for us to intervene." The use of children as a weapon of war should be as abhorrent as using nuclear weapons, as using any other weapons.

That debate is still there. The NGO community—UNICEF, Save the Children, War Child, and so on—is working massively at demobilizing whatever they can sneak out, and rehabilitating and reintegrating child soldiers. They are doing extraordinary work.

As I looked into the problem in 2004 when I was at the Kennedy School, of these new concepts of conflict resolution, no one was actually looking at how to neutralize these children as a weapons system.

I've created a bit of a stir—and the book is part of that—within the rights community by actually calling children weapons of war; of actually saying that stopping the use of child soldiers is not a social program, as we see even in the UN missions, where we handed it over to the social people, it's a mainstream security problem.

How do we solve that? How do we neutralize that force? If it was a tank, it would be an antitank system or another tank.

How do we stop the use of child soldiers? How do we prevent the solution from being reverting to our fundamental right of self-defense or, when we're tasked with a mission of protection, to simply blow them away, by simply killing them? Do you kill children who kill, who are drugged up, under duress, and are not fully conscious of exactly what they are involved in? Is the solution to protect, trying even to apply the responsibility to protect concept, to simply kill these kids?

I discovered that not one country of the world has anything in their doctrine on child soldiers. I am a graduate of the Marine Corps Staff College. My Marine Corps friends, progressive as they are, and wanting to make sure they continue to serve the country and not get gobbled up by the Air Force and the Army, are always very inventive. They said in their doctrine: "In circumstances of facing child soldiers, you are to avoid confrontation." That is not very effective.

The research we are still doing now in the field is done with academic rigor. So much in the past has been anecdotal and merely emotional, so we are bringing it through an academic rigor, through university studies, professional research in the field, in application with military, police forces, NGOs, and academics.

We are trying to find a way to neutralize child soldiers without killing them. It can be everything from nonlethal weapons, to how does the NGO trust the soldier or policeman who is out there in the field and exchange the intelligence information they have to know what's going on. There are indirect means of getting at the leaders; indirect means of protecting the villages, the youth; indirect means of sucking the children out of the system. That's where we're at. We're still working at those indirect means.

I'll end with the following. What I'm doing is really based on a lot of my first experience in Rwanda and then subsequently in Sierra Leone and central Africa. I had a patrol that went into a village. The village was wiped out, but the church was still standing, which was unusual, because usually churches were slaughterhouses. So they went and they busted down the doors. There were about 150 people still alive in there.

The sergeant was on the radio, calling my headquarters for trucks to move these people to a safer place. As he's doing that, there's about 30 boys and girls armed with AK-47s, nine to 16, who opened fire on his patrol and the people he was protecting.

On the other side of the village came out of the woods about 20 girls, same ages, some of them pregnant, and they are human shields behind which other boys and girls are shooting at the sergeant, at his patrol, and the people he is protecting.

The question is: What does the sergeant do? He's got nano-seconds. The bullets are flying and people are being hit. What does he do? Do you kill children who kill?

When you do, what is the impact on your own soldiers who've got two kids back home? How many of them can they blow away to do their mission?

We are in an era where we are still stumbling through. We don't have the fundamental conceptual base of conflict resolution where we're involved, from Haiti down here, all the way up to Afghanistan and Iraq, and maybe even Iran someday. We're into all this, where we used to have Clausewitz up there on war and we used to have Chapter 6 refereeing without a red card down here in peacekeeping.

As we stumble through, as we move people into the field, we cannot give our politicians the warm, fuzzy feeling that we know exactly what we are doing. And because we don't have all those answers, it's difficult for them to take the decisions on what to commit, and it is more difficult for us in the field to resolve these incredible ethical, moral, and legal dilemmas of conflict resolution in our time.

Thank you very much.

Questions and Answers

QUESTION: Lansing Lamont.

You and I met for the first time 19 years ago, when you were a general, head of a military district in Quebec.


Then you went on to that disaster in Rwanda. And, as you pointed out in your first book, Speaking with the Devil, you had a hell of a time getting the United Nations to honor your request for more troops.

Do you think, two decades later, that the United Nations has improved in its response to potential genocides in terms of response time, sympathy, and attitude?

ROMEO DALLAIRE: I'm so glad that we've waived the 9:15 limit on this morning to respond to that question.

Concretely, after that and Srebrenica, Brahimi brought in massive reforms in the peacekeeping tactical dimension. By 1999, there had been introduced significant changes in that.

Then, in 2001, Canada, with the United States and a great man, Gareth Evans, who was the foreign minister of Australia, produced the concept of responsibility to protect, which was agreed to in 2005 by the General Assembly—the only, or nearly only, reform of the UN to meet the challenges of our time.

Kofi Annan was supported a lot by the United States in both his mandates to bring reform into the UN and produced that 101 list of reforms for everything from the Security Council on down. The ambassador of the United States at the time, who had a mustache like mine, a couple of months beforehand scrapped all that and said we would not implement it. No one has really picked up the ball since then.

How have they done? How are they doing? I would use—it may be controversial here—Libya and responsibility to protect as an example. Responsibility to protect as a term in this case wasn't used too often because small countries are worried about it. They are worried that the big countries are going to use that as an excuse to go in and beat up on their dictator. The big countries, we discovered, with responsibility to protect, are at times not too keen on it because it will drag them into things that they don't necessarily want to do. So the jury is still out on how it is being applied.

But, at least, in Libya we went rapidly at politically and economically isolating the country, going after the president, and ultimately even getting the International Criminal Court to call him to task. We were doing fine in the first week.

But when Gaddafi said, "I am going to maintain power, and I'll do that even if I have to crush all those cockroaches to do it"—that was the signal to go to Phase 6 of responsibility to protect in extremis, and that was boots on the ground, to protect the innocent, let them coalesce. If Gaddafi's army wants to take us on, fine. But we are not there to fight his army—let the rebels do that; we're there to protect the innocent in order to permit the conflict to maybe resolve itself without a massive abuse of human rights or massive destruction. That's where we failed.

So the will to intervene is still not resolved. The political risks are seen to be too high for other human beings.

The fear of casualties that was introduced by President Clinton on Mogadishu, when those 18 rangers were killed in October 1993, that produced the Presidential Decision Directive 25, one month before the genocide in Rwanda. That said the United States is not going to intervene unless it's in its self-interest. That set the stage for everybody to be gun-shy.

To go back to your question—and I'm giving you my short answer here—is the UN better at it? I would say that structurally the Secretariat and so on is a lot better at it. The question is: What role does the UN play in this? Is the UN the culprit? Is the UN the entity that we are to hold responsible for the failure in Rwanda?

I made mistakes in the field. They made mistakes in New York, in the Secretariat and so on. But where was the heart of the mistake? The heart of the mistake is in the subtitle of my first book, which is "The Failure of Humanity to Rwanda." It was in the 193 other countries that decided by their inaction—because inaction is an action, it's a decision—not to give the UN the resources to reinforce me, to stop the genocide, nor to influence the Security Council to change my mandate to be able to get those troops to do something.

The real source of the problem is still in the individual sovereign states' national capitals, on their will to intervene or not, and not on the essence of the instrument of the UN.

Yes, we've got to worry about the veto power. But we can call China's bluff.

Why haven't we called China's bluff in Darfur? President George Bush Jr., just before his second election, said it was a genocide. I haven't seen any American troops in Darfur. It was the African Union that went in.

We've got elected terms. We fiddle with our positions. But in essence, the heart of the problem still remains in the sovereign states, which I believe is still fundamental, in the national capitals, and in the political elites; of being able to figure out when they are facing sovereignty, they are facing nation-state structures, they are facing massive human rights abuses, and so on, and they believe in human rights of all humans being equal, of them being able to take that decision: Do you want to go in? Are you ready for the casualties? Can you go in without self-interest? If you can do that, then human beings are at the top of the order.

While in Rwanda, I was told that "There is no oil. The country has no strategic value. The only thing that is there are human beings, and there are too many of them anyways." We haven't shifted that yet completely.

That is my short answer on that one. Thank you.

QUESTION: Allen Young.

Even if the international community was committed to the concept of responsibility to protect, clearly there are limits on resources. How does one decide, because there are so many situations where there are problems, where to intervene?

For example, in the Arab Spring, we had situations in Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, and in Syria. There are limits as to how many boots on the ground we can send in. How do we decide which of those four situations we should intervene in?

And by the bye, that's only the start. This revolutionary trend, this era in which we're in, is just starting. There are nine or ten elections coming up in Africa, of which a number of them are dictators who are "sort of" elected and where we say that there is a democratic process because there is an election. But behind the election there is nothing. The ministries don't exist. It's just central power under the guise of free elections. But there's no real democratic processes. There's no sovereignty of individuals; there's sovereignty of the state. So how do we choose?

When I was down at the Kennedy School, we had a symposium. Michael Ignatieff was there; Samantha Power, who was running the Carter Center at the time, where I was doing my work. We were discussing Darfur.

I said that I had analyzed it and we needed about three divisions to go into Darfur to protect the 2.5 million people there, and I'm not sure how much more we needed to move them back to whatever solution the comprehensive peace agreement would bring about. I got snickers from the crowd— from Harvard, imagine being snickered at!

I said, "I can't understand how you can snicker at this. Why can't we put 44,000 troops into Darfur, even though we're in Iraq and Afghanistan?"

I said, "During the Rwandan genocide I couldn't keep 450 in the field, but we put 67,000 into ex-Yugoslavia after Dayton. During the Cold War we had 2.5 million in uniform focused on Central Europe and the other guy had over 3.5 million. Where did they all go? It's all there when we're at risk. But then we got the peace dividend. All the doves turned into hawks. They need all of a sudden all these resources, and we say, 'They don't exist, we can't afford it, we can't do it anymore.' It's not that they don't exist. It's not that we can't afford it. It's do we want to afford it?"

One group that the United States, the big powers, have not tapped into is the leading middle powers—the Germanys, the Canadas. You have not gone up there and booted them in the bum and said: "Why are we going in always first, why are we getting the bloody nose, and then you sort of come in to reinforce? Why don't you go in first? You're a middle power. You've got no imperial design. You have no baggage of maybe wanting to be an occupation force. Why don't you go in? If it goes to crap, we're in to over-watch and we'll come in. But we'll politically support you."

Those powers have wimped out, have fiddled with it, whether it's in Afghanistan, where we've seen NATO being emasculated by all kinds of countries with all kinds of rules and so on. In Libya right now we sent half a squadron. In Kosovo we sent two squadrons.

Why make that difference? It's because we haven't really agreed to the fact that if we believe in that democracy, if we believe in human rights, if we believe all humans are human, then nations that have capabilities have got to get engaged and it's a responsibility to protect.

I'll push it further. It came up in Münster, in the same hall where they signed that peace agreement for the Thirty Years War. It got to the point in the discussion of exactly "Where do we go, how much do we go, how do we decide?"

I raised the following point. I said: "I believe that the NGO community, which is going to be far more the voice of humanity than the nation-states will, will coalesce and influence public opinion and policies into the future far more. I believe there will be a day when they will start holding nations that have capabilities to account for not intervening. That's coming."

We are in an incredibly complex era, but a phenomenal one, because everything is there to be created.

All the old tools are not working. We don't have a new conceptual base for conflict resolution, and it's screaming for resolution as we stumble through and fiddle, and meanwhile millions are dying or are still being abused.

QUESTION: I'm David Hunt.

Senator, could you comment on the problem of reconstructing a personality which has been totally deconstructed by the drugs, the horror, the rape, and all the other things? I read a book a couple of years ago by a young man from Sierra Leone whose village got caught up in just the kinds of things you were talking about. He was eventually taken to a UN rehabilitation center in Freetown, and he was there for a number of months, in which he had temper tantrums and broke things. You wonder how on the scale required can this process be done. What is your experience with that?

It's interesting that it is not only are the youths who are caught up in this and how to bring them back, but it is the professional soldiers we are sending in against them and how do we reconstruct them after they have been caught up in these dilemmas that have physically fried parts of their brain.

Ishmael Beah, who was one of these child soldiers, has written the foreword of this book. We have the maipah [phonetic], which is a group of 11 ex-child soldiers from around the world who are part of our research team, who were able to be evacuated as non-accompanied youths, sponsored, brought into Canada, the United States, other countries, and are able to reconstitute themselves as single individuals.

But we also have immigration laws that are still out there now, that if an ex-child soldier who has gone through rehabilitation and reintegration run by UNICEF or Save the Children and so on, tried to get back into their nation that is also at the same time rebuilding itself, tries to emigrate as an unaccompanied minor, if the people at the embassy find out he is an ex-child soldier, he is prevented from immigrating. We won't even let him in the country.

So how are we doing? In Sierra Leone, which was a war where both sides, the government and the non-government used children, and there was one psychiatrist in the country. How do you rebuild the children not only when you demobilize them but also when they end up in a nation that is still trying to reconstitute itself, and so they are in refugee camps or internally displaced camps for a couple years also after that?

There's an incredible amount of data put out by UNICEF in particular, and the Red Cross and so on, on the resiliency of the youths, of their ability to compartmentalize, if they are given the opportunities within that rehabilitation process to have the time to step back and be reintroduced into processes, given skills, given time to educate, reunited with their families, or communities if the families don't exist anymore, and go from there onward.

In fact, there is one area which we are looking at, which is still new, which is the child soldier leader. He is a 14-year-old who is going on 25, who has been leading 50 kids for the last four years in combat, that the kids showed deference to. What do you do with that one? Do you just throw him in with the rest of them? Or is that one going to in fact get a little turned off, lose all his power and everything else, and decide to go back into the bush and start the fight all over again? So there are residual psychological impacts.

The extraordinary power of the families, of the communities—as an example, in sub-Sahara Africa—is such that they are finding that they are able to rebuild the youth back to power.

Except for the girls, because the girls have been used, abused. In so many of those cultures, when a woman has been abused, they are shunned. The family shuns them. The community shuns them. You've got these girls who are abducted, have been raped, probably have a child, maybe two, are sick, and you've got to rehabilitate them.

The boys, there's sort of that warrior thing that is brought back in. But the girls, because they have been sullied in their context, they are abandoned. So that's bad enough. How are they going to get back into their community with the child, which they don't even know how to give love to because they don't even remember it themselves? But then, on top of that, how do they handle the stigma of having been used?

We discovered when I was in Sierra Leone that (1) we could demobilize ten boys for every girl, because boys are less affected than girls. Girls can do all that I described earlier on. But the girls, in order to get at them, to commence the rehabilitation, you have to crack through this incredible armor that they created of guilt. The society and the cultures are so strong that the girls actually feel guilty of having been abused. You've got to break that.

The only ones that have had any success so far that I've been able to see have been the International Red Cross Foundation, who have programs of nine to ten months, where they actually keep them long enough to be able to work that through. The other NGOs, because of funding, often have three to four months. The boys can work their way through it, but the girls cannot.

And there is the creation of foster homes, which is a foreign concept in much of Africa. That's the impact.

But the resiliency of youth is phenomenal. It doesn't mean that they'll sleep well at night, but their ability, however, to go beyond it is quite impressive.

JOANNE MYERS: Time does not diminish your message. Thank you for bringing it to us today.

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