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Romeo Dallaire, Still Bedeviled

By Richard Leiby
Wednesday, February 9, 2005; Page C03

That's entertainment: In "Hotel Rwanda," Hollywood took the usual liberties in compressing the wrenching experiences of Romeo Dallaire, the Canadian army general who led the benighted U.N. peacekeeping force during the African genocide of 1994, into a hard-drinking character played by Nick Nolte. "I don't agree with the portrayal," Dallaire told us last week while here to promote the American edition of his memoir, "Shake Hands With the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda." He calls the Oscar-nominated movie "okay," adding, "Nolte did portray some of the dilemmas and frustrations we went through. But I really don't have much more to say about it."

Some Africans who escaped the ethnic slaughter thanked Dallaire for saving their lives and hailed him as a hero during his appearance before an overflow crowd at Barnes & Noble in Georgetown. The now-retired lieutenant general caustically noted the media's current fixation with Michael Jackson's trial at the expense of the ethnic-cleansing story in Darfur, comparing it with continuous coverage of O.J. Simpson and Tonya Harding while the Rwanda crisis raged barely noticed a decade ago. To the Western world, Rwandans seemed to be "of no consequence," he said. "Are Darfurians of no consequence?"


Romeo Dallaire (seen here last February) was called a hero at the Barnes & Noble in Georgetown. (Christophe Ena - AP)

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Dallaire's compelling true story has been captured in a film, also called "Shake Hands With the Devil," which recently won the audience award for world documentary at Sundance. Yet another movie is coming: He told us he's reviewing the script for a feature film based on his book and expects it to be screened at Cannes next year.

A Full Plate, One Way or the Other

• Congress at work: They're fighting fat one hour and feasting the next.

Olympic champs Dominique Dawes and Donna de Varona are due on the Hill this afternoon to promote the obesity-fighting theme of the 19th annual National Girls and Women in Sports Day. Lawmakers, meanwhile, will sport pedometers and hopefully eschew the Capitol subway system in favor of foot power. The reception in the Dirksen Building promises "light refreshments" -- easy to walk off -- but there will be a heartier menu at tonight's congressional dinner put on by the Washington Press Club Foundation.

Meanwhile, politicians and activists will gather at the U.S. Botanic Garden for the Congressional Hunger Center's 10th annual gala, where awards will go to Sen. Elizabeth Dole, former agriculture secretary Dan Glickman, hunger caucus founder Tony Hall and radio host Al Franken. No dinner -- but heavy on the hors d'oeuvres, including grilled shrimp.

Ari Fleischer Won't Throw the Book at Bush

• Now here's a shocker: Don't expect to read anything critical of President Bush in former White House spinner Ari Fleischer's new memoir, "Taking Heat." Fleischer had "several" policy disagreements with Bush, he says in an interview in the March issue of GQ, but won't talk about them or cite any mistakes his boss might have made: "I believe in the man. I believe in his policies," he says. "I choose not to be a critic."

Then again, he also compliments Hillary Clinton as a "talented cookie," saying she could clinch her party's 2008 presidential nomination because "I don't think anybody can beat her in a Democratic primary." (Red-state base, start your salivating.)

The Usual Suspects

An occasional feature revealing the secret lives of oft-quoted experts.

MARSHALL WITTMANN

Occupation: Senior fellow, Democratic Leadership Council; former communications director for Sen. John McCain.


Born: June 11, 1953. Grew up on Live Oak Street in Waco, Tex., "just a few miles from both the current Bush ranch and the old Branch Davidian compound."

Marital status: Married; two children.

Childhood pets: "A dog, Spot -- the mandatory name for all Waco canines."


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