Tuesday, January 24, 2006


I continue referring to Madeleine Albright's memoirs 'cause I'm way into the book right now. Yes, I know it's been out for several years so big deal but until recently, it's been a shelf-stuffer, occupying bookcase space and serving as an illusory indicator of "well read person living in this home".

It's not just any old copy, mind you: When Tonny (my husband/partner-type person) heard me talking about plans to attend Albright's San Fran book signing years ago, he rushed out and got me a copy which now bears Ms. Madam's inscription to Stefie Stef. Tonny's a good guy, eh?

But I didn't come here to boast.

I'm still at the book's start. Madeleine - we're on first name terms since the book event - is writing about her term as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., recounting the wars in Somalia and Rwanda. She prefaces by apologizing for Rwanda, saying that she was among the majority who didn't realize that the Hutu-Tutsi fighting was masking a wave of genocide of sickening proportions.

I read in amazement and horror, recalling a colleague's descriptions of being sent to cover the mess for Reuters, and being greeted by a putrid wave of warm air carrying the scent of decaying bodies as he de-planed on the tarmac in Rwanda. Despite seeing active duty in Israel's military and weaving in and out of the territories as a journalist, he had never witnessed anything of that proportion in his life. He came back affected. Surprise surprise.

I read this stuff and contemplate other genocides - the Holocaust, Bosnia, Sudan - and wonder: How do these guys keep the momentum going? In other words, how does a band of machete wielding rebels go into a hospital, slaughter the staff and then come back the next day to finish off the patients? What do they tell themselves in order to keep the hatred burning and the dogma alive day after day, enabling them to kill off millions of women and children? Psychologically, does the "war state of mind" turn Nazis, Hutus and Janjaweed into some sort of sci-fi, killing zombies?

Apparently so. Years ago I read Chris Hedges' War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning in which he discusses the lethal, addictive attributes of war. A NY Times and former Christian Science Monitor reporter, Hedges was in and out of nearly every, major war zone during the 80's & 90's, including spending time in HLC (Holy Land Central). He also goes into the addiction journalists covering conflict encounter. I suggest giving his book a read. It's a frightening, eye opener.

Over and Out for Now.

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