UNITED NATIONS, July 11, 2005 (AP) -- The world's repeated promise of 'never again' in the face of mass human slaughter has become a hollow, meaningless refrain, the former U.N. commander in Rwanda said Monday.
Romeo Dallaire, the retired Canadian general who criticized world leaders for their failure to stop the 1994 Rwanda genocide, was typically outspoken when asked to comment on Monday's 10-year anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre.
"Oh jeez, that 'never again.' Never again, we said that also in the late 40s when this outfit was building itself up," Dallaire told reporters. "Never again is not an instrument that's been effective."
Dallaire, now a senator in Canada, was in New York to discuss a peacekeeping mission starting up in Sudan's Darfur region. He said that the presence of African Union troops had improved the situation.
The Srebrenica killings began July 11, 2005, when Bosnian Serb soldiers overran the U.N. "safe zone" and led off and slaughtered some 8,000 Muslims. Outgunned Dutch U.N. peacekeepers did nothing to intervene.
The catastrophe occurred a year after the Rwanda genocide that saw Hutu extremists kill more than 500,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus. Dallaire, the U.N. force commander in Rwanda at the time, had repeatedly warned of the looming slaughter from the capital Kigali and sought more troops and authority to stop it, but was refused.
The United Nations itself was established in the shadow of World War II and the Holocaust _ when the promise of "Never again" first originated. Then, in 1998, President Bill Clinton stopped in Rwanda to apologize for the world's failure to prevent the 90-day slaughter, declaring: "Never again."
Dallaire said even labeling a crisis genocide wasn't enough to draw international help. Using the term is useful for legal proceedings against the perpetrators afterward, but not as a way of spurring action to stop a catastrophe, he said.
"How many genocides do you need, how many bodies do you need piling up to finally get the idea that genocide is an instrument of ... prevention or at least of stopping catastrophes?" Dallaire said.