Review: They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children by Roméo Dallaire

Non-Fiction, Biography-Memoir

“The ultimate focus of the rest of my life is to eradicate the use of child soldiers and to eliminate even the thought of the use of children as instruments of war.” —Roméo Dallaire

In conflicts around the world, there is an increasingly popular weapon system that requires negligible technology, is simple to sustain, has unlimited versatility and incredible capacity for both loyalty and barbarism. In fact, there is no more complete end-to-end weapon system in the inventory of war-machines. What are these cheap, renewable, plentiful, sophisticated and expendable weapons? Children.

Roméo Dallaire was first confronted with child soldiers in unnamed villages on the tops of the thousand hills of Rwanda during the genocide of 1994. The dilemma of the adult soldier who faced them is beautifully expressed in his book’s title: when children are shooting at you, they are soldiers, but as soon as they are wounded or killed they are children once again.

Believing that not one of us should tolerate a child being used in this fashion, Dallaire has made it his mission to end the use of child soldiers. In this book, he provides an intellectually daring and enlightening introduction to the child soldier phenomenon, as well as inspiring and concrete solutions to eradicate it.

From the Hardcover edition.


Published Date: 2011
Source: Purchased at Indigo

“We [the international community] do not have a choice about whether or not to intervene; we have a fundamental responsibility to humanity to intervene ‘in extremis’, even with force.”

After reading “A Long Way Gone” by Ishmael Beah, I became increasingly interested in the topic of the use and abuse of children as soldiers, and reading further into the eradication of this inhumane treatment of innocence. The glory of working in a book store is that anything will and can catch your eye while you’re stocking shelves, and this book was one of them.

Gen. Roméo Dallaire wrote this book as an awareness-base biography about his fight in the plight for the eradicating of not only child soldiers but also other humanitarian efforts that he has contributed to through his years with several non-profit and for-profit organizations. I found it in the “Current/Historical” section. I had a lot of trouble finishing it, but I was still very interested in what he had to say.

Not only did I have trouble finishing this book, I also had trouble following it. I’m sure somebody who knows about acronyms, I personally should have started my own personal “mobile index”, a bookmark with all the definition terms of all the acronyms that were used:

– NGO Non Governmental Organization
– UN United Nations
– R2P Responsibility to Protect
– CIDA Canadian International Development Agency

That’s just to name a few. No, that’s not saying I don’t know what some of them meant, but there were a few where I’ve had to flip back a few pages to remember what I was reading.

“To the homeless, the poor, the beggar, the victim of AIDS and Alzheimer’s, the old and the humble, the prisoners in the prison and the wanderers in their dreams, it is our sacred duty to stretch out our hand and say, ‘In spite of what separates us, what we have in common is our humanity.'”
~ from ‘What Does it Mean to be Human? by Elie Wiesel

This book was a great resource of wealth of information for any person who is looking for a clear path on how to be part of “the solution”. Which ever one that may be. I had become attracted to They Fight Like Soldiers… when I reached a point where there were separate chapters, Gen. Dallaire had incorporated a short story of the life of a child soldier (all fiction). It was terrifying, reading what was potentially flashing through the protagonist’s mind, the thoughts, the scenes, distressful to the point where I had to set the book down. I even shed a tear near the end even when I knew what was going to happen next.

Once the story stopped and the book became more diplomatic, I had trouble keeping focus. I can’t say it was a terrible read, because I felt a little more enlightened by what I had read; inspired.

There was also a lot of self-promoting for his CSI movement – Child Soldiers Initiative – which is admirable, since it is his book and it’s a great action! He also spoke of several different ways anybody can be involved, even a fast and cheap way of contributing, “What would our symbolic action be?” Gen. Dallaire uses the idea of a small school group raising funds to help a school in the Congo get a computer as an opportunity for potential growth and making the world feel a little smaller.

“If this level of global intercommuncation were properly nurtured and developed, it would eventually be possible to create a movement that wold influence every human being who exists or will exist in the future. Such a movement could facilitate a grand design… the application of human rights and justice around the world – a global appreciation that all humans are equal, that all humans are human, and that no human is more human that any other.”

I noticed eventually the author’s targeted audience was young adults, between the ages of 18 to 30 years, the young years that he believed could be the great push on government to finally make a great change. He referenced how important the web had become and how important it can be to serve as a form of influence.

“This slow and predictable progression is no longer a given for young people today, born into a wide-open and limitless world. When we speak of ‘your’ future, we’re speaking three, four, five years down the road, because we’re not in an era of evolution or even in an era of change or reform…”

“I see a lot of evidence of instant, anonymous communication over the Web being used to foment stupidity, ignorance and hate, or to mire people in intellectual futility, serving up endless helpings of celebrity gossip or instant reinforcement of ignorant attitudes, or worse. Illegal material, such as adult and child pornography, colonizes much of the Internet, the latter being a form of child abuse that perpetrators can now easily share all over the globe, creating a virtual community of pedophiles. Youths in the developed world sit in their bedrooms imbibing the hate represented by videos of beheadings, being recruited to a cause that has little to do with the realities of their own lives, but much to do with the perversion of youth’s sensitivity to injustice, and longing for action.”

I’m sorry if this post seems to be riddled with quotes, but this was the one thing that made this book worth reading. The words used are strong, stirring, and they create an inner-reaction that you wish you could just bottle up and ship any one of these countries/continents to fix their problems.

If you read Roméo Dallaire’s Shake Hands with the Devil, and enjoyed it, you will more than likely enjoy Gen. Roméo Dallaire’s They Fight like Soldiers, They Die like Children.

4 Star




About Black ' n Write Reviewer

Library Tech grad who is currently working on a BA in Political Science and filling all her time with books.
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