Journey into Darkness: Genocide in Rwanda

Journey into Darkness: Genocide in Rwanda

Journey into Darkness: Genocide in Rwanda

Journey into Darkness: Genocide in Rwanda


In July 1994, Thomas P. Odom was part of the U.S. Embassy team that responded to the Goma refugee crisis. He witnessed the deaths of 70,000 refugees in a single week. In the previous three months of escalating violence, the Rwandan genocide had claimed 800,000 dead. Now, in this vivid and unsettling new book, Odom offers the first insider look at these devastating events before, during, and after the genocide. Odom draws on his years of experience as a Defense Attaché and foreign area specialist in the United States Army to offer a complete picture of the situation in Zaire and Rwanda, focusing on two U.S. embassies, intelligence operations, U.N. peacekeeping efforts, and regional reactions. His team attempted to slow the death by cholera of refugees in Goma, guiding in a U.S. Joint Task Force and Operation Support Hope and remaining until the United States withdrew its forces forty days later. After U.S. forces departed, Odom crossed into Rwanda to spend the next eighteen months reestablishing the embassy, working with the Rwandan government, and creating the U.S.-Rwandan Demining office. Odom assisted the U.S. Ambassador and served as the principal military advisor on Rwanda to the U.S. Department of Defense and National Security Council throughout his time in Rwanda. His book candidly reveals Odom's frustration with Washington as his predictions that a larger war was coming were ignored. Unfortunately, he was proven correct: the current death toll in that unfortunate country is close to three million. Odom's account of the events in Rwanda illustrate not only illustrate how failures in intelligence and policy happen, but also show that a human context is necessary to comprehend these political decisions.


With the fall of the Berlin Wall in December, 1989, the world changed dramatically. The Cold War era that existed for almost fifty years gave way to the New World Order that some have described as “long on new and short on order.” The pace of change during the last decade of the twentieth century is unprecedented. The Information Age has brought us closer together in a very real sense, and all institutions were impacted by this change. No institution faced greater change than the U.S. Army.

Built primarily as a threat-based force, designed to defeat the Soviets on the plains of Europe, the U.S. Army found itself involved in new and different situations and in places it, as an institution, knew precious little about. Fortunately, in recognition of its global responsibilities, the army had developed a Foreign Area Officer Program, which quickly became the cornerstone of the effort to adjust to this changing world. Foreign Area Officers, or FAOs as they are commonly referred to, are regional specialists trained in the language, culture, history, and politics of their target area. Typically an FAO undertakes intensive language training, attends a master’s degree area studies program, and then spends a year in the area. Many attended foreign military schools during that time, followed by nearly a year of regional travel. They have always been important assets, but with the end of the Cold War they became invaluable, particularly in their role as strategic scouts for the U.S. military.

These soldiers-scholars-warriors provided valuable intelligence to the army and the nation concerning the specific situation in their country. They were soldiers first and foremost, who demonstrated enormous dedication and selfless service. America owes them a great debt of gratitude.

Tom Odom is one of these people. The story of his experience in Africa captures in a larger sense the challenges FAOs faced and the conditions they endured. They were truly on the front lines, often lonely, and we asked a great deal of them. In hindsight, maybe the . . .

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