All the Missing Souls: A Personal History of the War Crimes Tribunals

David Scheffer. Princeton Univ, $35 (552p) ISBN 978-0-691-14015-5
A diplomat fights an uphill battle to bring the worst criminals to justice in this dogged memoir. Scheffer, U.S. ambassador-at-large for war crimes during the Clinton administration, recounts his efforts to establish U.N. war crimes tribunals to prosecute mass killings in the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and Cambodia. He had an insider’s view of unfolding bloodbaths and provides anguished eyewitness testimony of victims’ suffering and the Clinton administration’s often feckless response. But mostly he describes his endless wrangling to set up the tribunals, a task that required delicate bargaining with U.N. potentates, Washington mandarins, shell-shocked postatrocity regimes, and the perpetrators themselves—all of whom had reason to sacrifice justice to self-interest and political expediency. (He’s especially scathing on America’s “exceptionalist” refusal to accept International Criminal Court jurisdiction over possible American war crimes.) Scheffer’s narrative is an epic diplomatic history that’s lucid but often eye-glazing in its detailed reconstructions of years-long negotiations and mulling of the niceties of international law. At times his memoir gives a sense of diplomats and jurists dithering uselessly amid hurricanes of violence, but in it we see the birth of a more responsible and civilized world order. 36 photos. Agent: (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 11/14/2011
Release date: 01/01/2012
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