A new book blasts Canada's best-known general, Lewis MacKenzie, for his role in the brutal war in Bosnia.
CBC television and radio reporter Carol Off writes that Gen. MacKenzie played a leading role in dissuading the world from stopping the slaughter.
As the high-profile United Nations commander in Sarajevo at the beginning of the 1992-95 war, the general "saw it as his responsibility to tell the world that it should not intervene militarily in what was -- like Rwanda -- a premeditated and extended act of terrorism on a civilian population," Ms. Off says in The Lion, the Fox and the Eagle: A Story of Generals and Justice in Rwanda and Yugoslavia.
"Instead of demanding a mandate to stop the ethnic cleansing . . . MacKenzie encouraged the UN to do what it was already disposed to do: nothing."
The retired major-general denied the charge in an interview last night.
He conceded that he advised U.S. leaders not to intervene because he believed Washington would lose credibility by getting involved in a messy regional conflict.
"My message was to the Americans," he said. "At no time did I ever say that other people should not intervene."
Gen. MacKenzie represents the fox in the title of Ms. Off's book. Louise Arbour, formerly the chief prosecutor for the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague (and now a Supreme Court judge), is the eagle. General Roméo Dallaire, UN commander in Rwanda when the killings began there in 1994, is the lion.
Gen. MacKenzie comes across as the least admirable of the three. Ms. Off draws an especially sharp contrast between Gen. Dallaire and Gen. MacKenzie. "Two Canadian generals witnessed genocide and ethnic cleansing in two countries," she writes.
"One general attempted to stop the slaughter in Rwanda by warning the United Nations that the horrors were about to begin. The other general told the UN, and the international community, that there was little anyone could do to deter the violent people of Bosnia from killing each other."
Ms. Off says that, like many Canadians, she regarded Gen. MacKenzie as a hero when he arrived in Sarajevo in 1992, quickly establishing himself as a blunt-spoken, articulate and media-savvy commander. "Only later, when I learned that the word 'MacKenzie' had entered the Bosnian vocabulary as a pejorative for peacekeeper, did it occur to me that there might be more to the story."
Ms. Off criticizes the general for telling his UN masters that the Bosnians, not the Serbs, were the greatest source of trouble in Sarajevo.
In memos to UN headquarters, he blamed Bosnian leaders for repeatedly breaking ceasefires, she writes. In fact, Ms. Off says in the book, Serb extremists were the main aggressors. They had gobbled up and ethnically cleansed 70 per cent of the country.
In a chapter called Major-General Superstar, she says Gen. MacKenzie's appearances may have had an influence on decision-makers as important as then-president George Bush of the United States.
Gen. MacKenzie said he is disappointed with Ms. Off.
He said he spent several hours being interviewed by the journalist, and "everything was all superpositive and friendly and chummy."
Only at the end of the sessions, he said, did Ms. Off tell him she planned to be critical of his role.
The book will be published by Random House Canada on Nov. 18.