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The Endless Debate over the ‘G Word’ Major Brent Beardsley Canadian Forces Leadership Institute, Royal Military College of Canada I am an infantry officer in the Canadian Army of the Canadian Armed Forces. In 1993–1994, I served as the personal staff officer to then Major-General Roméo Dallaire, the Force Commander of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR). As such, I was a witness, a bystander, and an occasional rescuer and helper to what the Organization of African Unity labeled ‘‘the Preventable Genocide.’’ One of the major reasons the genocide in Rwanda was not prevented or stopped was the endless debate in April, May, and June 1994, when the majority of attention and effort was focused on debating whether or not genocide was taking place in Rwanda instead of on preparing and conducting a multi-disciplinary (including military) intervention to stop the killing. For days, weeks, and months the discussions went back and forth between those who labeled the catastrophe a genocide, and demanded that the international community live up to its obligations under the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (UNCG) and intervene to suppress the genocide, and those who argued that the situation in Rwanda was not a genocide but ‘‘just gross violations of human rights, crimes against humanity and war crimes’’ (as if these were acceptable crimes to ignore). The failure to intervene permitted the genocide to largely run its course, consuming between 500,000 and 1 million innocent men, women, and children. On too many occasions, especially during the genocide in Rwanda and the current genocide in Darfur, the organs of the international community have been far more focused on conducting some form of academic or legal debate over the use of the word ‘‘genocide’’ to describe these catastrophes than on focusing our attention and efforts toward actually doing something to stop the killing. Never were we more frustrated and saddened in Rwanda during the genocide than when we were informed on a Friday that the Security Council had adjourned for the weekend, without decision. We knew that while the diplomats and bureaucrats would be enjoying the culinary delights of Manhattan, another 10,000 to 20,000 innocent men, women, and children would die while the world discussed, debated, contemplated, and, inevitably, let the genocide run its course. While the determination of genocide is not a matter to be taken lightly, it must also not become an excuse to procrastinate while thousands are dying. As a witness to the events of 1994, I have had to live with the failure of the international community to identify the catastrophic killings in Rwanda as genocide in a sufficient matter of time in order to intervene to stop the killing and save Rwandan lives. I have also had to live with my own role as a member of UNAMIR for our failure, for my failure, to prevent or stop the genocide. I do not wish to see the same mistake made again, and, therefore, I appreciate the opportunity the editors of this new professional journal have given me to presenting this opinion piece on the current situation in Darfur. I do not claim to be a genocide scholar or an expert in anything other than my chosen profession, and I do not consider my opinions any more valid Major Brent Beardsley, ‘‘The Endless Debate over the ‘G Word’.’’ Genocide Studies and Prevention 1, 1 (July 2006): 79–82. ß 2006 Genocide Studies and Prevention. than others’. I approach this topic with the experience of a witness to a genocide, and a witness to the failure of humanity to stop the Rwandan genocide; I only wish to offer some ideas, which I hope will spark a far greater debate among better men and women than I and a greater effort in developing a more effective response to the ongoing genocide in Darfur. In 2004, on the tenth anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, leaders from across the world or their representatives, scholars, activists, and survivors gathered in Kigali, Rwanda, to commemorate the genocide and lament the failure of humanity and the international community to prevent or stop it in 1994. The sacred...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1911-9933
Print ISSN
1911-0359
Pages
pp. 79-82
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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