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'Complicity with Evil': The United Nations in the Age of Modern Genocide Paperback – 7 Mar 2008


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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (7 Mar. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300126085
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300126082
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 12.7 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 935,580 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'Complicity with Evil is a riveting, if depressing, account of the UN's failure to act on the knowledge that mass murder is taking place.' --Nick Cohen, The Observer

'LeBor writes honestly and vividly ... his style is tight and factual: the events he describes need no amplification.' --Daniel Hannan, The Daily Telegraph

'LeBor pulls no punches in his indictment of the UN under Annan. With key documents to hand, he rightly identifies the main failings of the system as its lack of accountability, and a cult of neutrality in which 'all sides are guilty'.' --Anne Penketh, The Independent

From the Author

This book is rooted, most of all, in my experiences as a correspondent
during the Yugoslav wars. The time that I spent in Sarajevo in the summer
of 1992, and in other parts of Bosnia during 1993, had a profound effect
on me. I could not believe then, and still cannot believe now, that Europe,
and the world, in the late twentieth century, could simply sit back and let
a multi-cultural, cosmopolitan country be pounded into rubble by an army
that targeted women, children and civilians. This appeasement of genocide
by the UN and the international community helped lead to the massacre in
July 1995 of 8,000 men and boys at Srebrenica by the Bosnian Serbs.

Tragically though, Srebrenica was not an isolated incident, but part of a
repeating pattern of failure by the UN to confront genocide. It happened a
year earlier, in Rwanda in 1994, when 800,000 people were killed by Hutu
militias. Genocide continues now in Sudan, where more than 400,000 have
died and more than two million been made homeless in the conflict in
Darfur. That's why the book focuses as much on Darfur, an ongoing crisis,
as well as the tragedies of Rwanda and Srebrenica, which happened over a
decade ago.

The title, 'Complicity with Evil', is the UN's own words to describe its
failures. It is taken from a UN report on peacekeeping operations,
published in August 2000. Many UN officials themselves recognise that the
organisation's obsession with neutrality and impartiality has had
disastrous results. The report's executive summary notes: "Impartiality for
United Nations operations must therefore mean adherence to the principles
of the Charter: where one party is clearly and incontrovertibly is
violating its terms, continued equal treatment of the parties by the
United Nations can in the best case result in ineffectiveness and in the
worst may amount to complicity with evil". This book is a considered
critique and I make clear throughout the book my respect for the UN's
humanitarian operations and their staff who have saved many thousands of
lives in crisis zones, often working in conditions of great danger.

One of the key arguments of my book is that the relationship between the
Secretariat, the permanent UN officials, and the Security Council needs to
be reformed. In all three crises examined in `Complicity with
Evil',Secretariat officials have prioritised the political demands of the
Security Council over the UN's founding humanitarian mission. Kofi Annan,
head of peacekeeping during both the Rwandan genocide and the Bosnian war,
helped shape UN policy as well as implement it. In January 1994 he refused
General Dallaire, the commander of the UN mission in Rwanda, permission to
raid the Hutu arms caches, and did not tell the Security Council that
General Dallaire had asked to do so. In May 1995, Yasushi Akashi, the most
senior UN official in the field in the former Yugoslavia, refused to
authorise an airstrike against the Bosnian Serbs after they shelled
Sarajevo, even though there was a mandate to do so. One of Akashi's reasons
was that such an airstrike would `weaken' the then Serbian President
Slobodan Milosevic, who was later put on trial for war crimes and genocide.
Akashi's cable is included in the book.
With regard to Darfur, in 2003 the powerful Department of Political Affairs
downplayed a year's worth of warnings from the field about the atrocities
there because the DPA wanted to prioritise a separate peace agreement over
the conflict in southern Sudan. These were decisions taken not by the
Security Council, but by UN officials. It is not only legitimate, but
vital, to examine the role and influence of UN officials on the UN's
decisions and actions on subsequent events, especially when the
consequences can be so tragic. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Seth J. Frantzman on 23 Aug. 2007
Format: Hardcover
`Complicity With Evil', the title of this interesting and important work, is derived from the U.N's self-critique of its operations in the 1990s. In short this is LeBor's thesis, the U.N has paved a road to hell with good intentions in the Balkans, Rwanda and lately in Sudan. Many readers may find it troublesome that half the book is devoted to the Bosnian-Serb war, and principally to the massacre at Srbrenica in 1995. LeBor notes that he hopes to "provide a detailed template for understanding why the U.N has not stopped genocide in Darfur." This is a worthy endeavor, but it sheds light on the most significant problem with this book, it is far too detailed on the subject LeBor is most familiar with: Bosnia, and ignores the really massive genocides of the last thirty years, from Cambodia to Rwanda and Darfur, where millions of have died, rather than thousands, where whole peoples have been almost whiped off the earth.
The greatest contribution of this book is the analysis of the inner-workings of the U.N, its slow incompetence and competing interests that time and again frustrated any efforts by any parts of it to do anything in the conflicts discussed. However LeBor's claim to offer a new insight into the Balkan wars and the ethnic-cleansing(page 7) is inaccurate when it comes to framing the Bosnian-Serb conflict. LeBor's bias against the Serbs is shown again and again: "The Bosnian-Serbs killed their prisoners...many of the killers enjoyed their work" and "the killings of Srbrenica were not carried out by battle-enraged soldiers."(pages 117-118) "The Bosnian-Serbs proved less efficient in fighting proper soldiers than in shelling women and children.(page 129)"

The author asks rhetorically "where did this come from, this hatred of Bosnian Muslims.
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By BSP on 28 July 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Brilliant!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4 reviews
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Mixed Bag 26 Nov. 2006
By maskirovka - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This book excites conflicting emotions and thoughts in me. On one hand, I have little use for the UN as a force for security in the world. Bosnia, Kosovo, Rwanda, Iraq, and Darfur have convinced me that if I ever was told that my life was in the hands of the UN, I should start writing out my last will and testament.

On the other hand, I spent six months in the former Yugoslavia in 1994 in the American contingent to the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR). I was located up in Zagreb, Croatia and only got into Sarajevo once.

But I feel that I had a pretty good handle on what was going on down there, and I don't totally agree with the author's take on it. LeBor pretty much scoffs at the "ancient hatreds" theory of the conflict, laying virtually all the blame at the door of Slobodan Milosevic, Radovan Karadzic, Ratko Mladic, and many other infamous Serbs. But while I am willing to say that Milosevic and his murderous little helpers bear the main share of the blame for what happened in Croatia, Bosnia, and later Kosovo, they couldn't have done what they did without some historical factors giving them material to work with.

Let's talk about the "ancient hatreds" problem first. LeBor doesn't explore why the Serbs would have been so susceptible to a leader like Milosevic. You don't have to go back to the medieval era to know why. You just have to go back to World War II. In that conflict, the Serbs suffered greatly at the hands of the Nazis' minions in Yugoslavia, the Ustasha (fascist Croats) and worthies from the "Handschar Division" (a Bosniak division of the Waffen SS). It's too complicated to get into here, but with that sort of "not so ancient history," one can understand why the Serbs might be a little unhappy at being minorities in a Croatian state or in a Bosnian state dominated by Croats and Muslims.

Now, I stress, this in no way whatsoever excuses the conduct of the Serbs, but it does better explain it than the "monster plot" theory of the Balkan Wars (i.e. "but for the machinations of Slobodan Milosevic, everything would be right as rain in the Balkans").
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Interesting book with some flaws 8 Aug. 2007
By Seth J. Frantzman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
`Complicity With Evil', the title of this interesting and important work, is derived from the U.N's self-critique of its operations in the 1990s. In short this is LeBor's thesis, the U.N has paved a road to hell with good intentions in the Balkans, Rwanda and lately in Sudan. Many readers may find it troublesome that half the book is devoted to the Bosnian-Serb war, and principally to the massacre at Srbrenica in 1995. LeBor notes that he hopes to "provide a detailed template for understanding why the U.N has not stopped genocide in Darfur." This is a worthy endeavor, but it sheds light on the most significant problem with this book, it is far too detailed on the subject LeBor is most familiar with: Bosnia, and ignores the really massive genocides of the last thirty years, from Cambodia to Rwanda and Darfur, where millions of have died, rather than thousands, where whole peoples have been almost whiped off the earth.
The greatest contribution of this book is the analysis of the inner-workings of the U.N, its slow incompetence and competing interests that time and again frustrated any efforts by any parts of it to do anything in the conflicts discussed. However LeBor's claim to offer a new insight into the Balkan wars and the ethnic-cleansing(page 7) is inaccurate when it comes to framing the Bosnian-Serb conflict. LeBor's bias against the Serbs is shown again and again: "The Bosnian-Serbs killed their prisoners...many of the killers enjoyed their work" and "the killings of Srbrenica were not carried out by battle-enraged soldiers."(pages 117-118) "The Bosnian-Serbs proved less efficient in fighting proper soldiers than in shelling women and children.(page 129)"

The author asks rhetorically "where did this come from, this hatred of Bosnian Muslims." Perhaps LeBor should have asked the same questions to the Croats who elected Tudjman and admired their Nazi ancestors, the Ustasha, or the Bosnians who also ethnically cleansed all the Serbs from the Muslim parts of Bosnia. Unlike in the Holocaust, the hate in the Balkans never went one way. Boutros-Ghali was also correct in 1992 when he noted that there were "ten other places all over the world"(page 29) that had more problems than Sarajevo. One of those places was Sudan, another would soon be Rwanda.

Chapter 6 is devoted to Sudan and the following chapters detial the hypocrisy of the Arab member states of the U.N and the Islamic blocs support of the Sudanese genocide as well as the African blocs ignoring of the Rwandan genocide.

The book insinuates that the U.S has frustrated the U.N in its ability to confront genocide. However the fact is that there are more than 180 other member states of the U.N who ignored genocide in the last thirty years and two security council members, France and China, collaborated in the Rwandan and Sudanese genocides respectively.

The book's conclusion that "arguably the world is more, not less in need of the United Nations(page 265)" is hard to swallow in light of litany of evil that the book has described.

However the wealth of information provided by Lebor on obscure massacres, such as those carried out by Robert Mugabe in Operation Murambatsvina in 2005, the Egyptian massacre of Sudanese, and the thousands of Arab mujahadin that came to fight in Bosnia is important. But these interesting asides also illustrate the general lack of organization in the second part of the book. Unlike the first section on Bosnia, which is lucid, well written, and brilliantly told(if biased), the second seems to be a little cobbled together. In the final analysis, any book which takes the U.N to task for its failures is important and this book makes significant steps in the right direction.

Seth J. Frantzman
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Confusing chapter sequences 4 Feb. 2014
By White Door - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
LeBor's account of the crises in Yugoslavia was succinct and understandable-- he gave an especially good chronicle of events as they unfolded toward the time when the "safe area" of Srebenica fell. However, the latter half of his book, which examines the Rwandan and Darfur genocides, is less organized. LeBor seemed to reference both genocides so interchangeably throughout the chapters that I couldn't parse where one reference began and another ended. On the whole, there was some valuable information to be read from the book. If you've ever felt critical of the UN, or wanted to know more about it's murky history throughout the 80s, 90s, and early 00s, this book will add to your disdain for the UN of the past. I only wish that the African conflicts were delineated more clearly, because not all conflict in Africa is the same; they, too, need specific treatment before one can understand the totality of their interconnectedness.
Used it to write a paper 8 Dec. 2013
By kingpin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Definitely an educational book, rooted in the facts of the particular conflicts it covers and the role of the United Nations. I used it to right a paper while in college studying International Affairs. I wouldn't read it again, but it was worth it.
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