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Alternative Law Journal

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Editors --- "Bits" [2000] AltLawJl 80; (2000) 25(4) Alternative Law Journal 207


Fighting for Peace: Lessons from Bosnia

by General Sir Michael Rose, Warner Books, 1999, 393 pp, softcover.

This book should be prescribed reading in any university International Law course. It demonstrates yet again the notion the law in the books is not always the law in action.

Certainly students of international law need to study the Corfu incident, to examine ICJ decisions like Nicaragua v United States and to read the text of the ICCPR, but what actually happens on the ground gives real meaning to the nomos.

The book is written by a former UN commander in Bosnia who served there in 1994. It has been reissued with an updated Preface to cover recent events in Kosovo. Rose, a British General [usual pedigree-born in former British India, educated at Oxford and the Sorbonne, in the Guards and the SAS, service in Northern Ireland and a few other parts of the Empire] gives a highly personal and colourful account of his dealings with the various local and international par­ ties who were involved in trying to deal with peacekeeping in Bosnia.

Rose demonstrates that irrespective of how many agreements were negotiated and signed, what actually happened on a day to day basis usually bore no relation to the words on a bit of paper [as it appears the signatories always intended] so other methods had to be employed that kept the objective of peace in sight. The UN soldiers and civilians on the spot come out of this account as real peace heroes.

The Americans, according to Rose, in essence wanted to bomb everything in sight, and he seems have spent a lot of his time trying to counter these plans. Rose says: he kept trying to keep the UN neutral, whereas the Americans were pro-Muslim [a result says Rose of a better carnpaign of information distortion than the distortion campaigns of the other parties].

Every so often Rose did use force to achieve results [in other words getting one side or another to actually do what they had agreed to do] but perhaps those behind the Kosovo interlude should have read Rose's comments about air power, which the UN authorised him to use within limits. Various attempts to use air power either didn't succeed or couldn't take place and, after describing a highly successful attack on a pigsty [the target was a tank], Rose observes:

The UN was beginning to be rather sceptical about the capabilities of NATO aircraft. They could not engage targets in cloud, in rain, at night, or with the sun in their eyes. They were beginning to sound very like British Rail. [p.262]

Events in Bosnia got worse in 1995. One wonders if this was as a result of the UN's approach or a failure of the inter­ national community. International law really only has any normative force as a result of the conduct of the national players in situations such as those in Bosnia. As Rose claims the UN proposals of 1994 became, with very little variation, the American generated Dayton Agreement of November 1995 (p.155).

I wonder if General Cosgrove read this book before he went to East Timor. • PW

The Rhythm Section

by Mark Burnell; London, Harper Collins Publishers, 1999

The Rhythm Section is the tale of a young British woman's journey from drugs and alcohol to international terrorism and her eventual emergence as a strong and renewed person. The plot has all the elements of a Hollywood blockbuster.

Stephanie Patrick loses her parents and a brother and sister in a plane crash over the Atlantic. In the aftermath Stephanie buries her grief and guilt in the emotional oblivion of life as a drug-dependent prostitute. The story unfolds two years after the crash. Enter, one investigative journalist, who has evidence that the Boeing 747's demise was no accident. He believes it was caused by a terrorist bomb. The journalist, Keith Proctor, takes the somewhat emaciated Stephanie in and gives her support and space to get her health back. Based on the information gleaned from Proctor's investigations, Stephanie plots her revenge. Ultimately, Stephanie uses her training and experience as a terrorist agent as a means to put her life on a new course.

The Rhythm Section is an entertaining, well-written, action thriller. The third person account is interspersed with italicised first person narrative in the voice of Stephanie. This technique enriches the development of the main character and enables the author to avoid presenting the usual characterisation of action leads as unwaveringly stoic, tough, and never self-doubting. True, most of the other characters are stereotypical of what one would expect in an action thriller but The Rhythm Section, as is the case with most stories of this genre, is sheer escapism. If you get tired of reading intense novels about the unfolding of ordinary lives, then this clever tale is just the thing. • DM

Remembrance Day

by H. Porter, Orion Trade, 1999; 373 pp; $22.95.

'It was seven thirty-five when the street exploded.' With these words Remembrance Day throws the reader into a journey of suspense and intrigue. Just imagine how effective a terrorist would be if they could detonate a bomb from the other side of the world.

Porter's debut novel tells the tale of a young Irish molecular biologist, Lindow, who is unexpectedly thrown into a game of cat and mouse between the British Security Service, New Scotland Yard's Anti-terrorist Squad and the IRA.

The prime suspect in a Central Lon­ don bombing, Lindow has to come to terms with the covert actions of his younger brother before imitating him in order to prove his innocence. In between falling in love and avoiding the fallout of a political power struggle, Lindow spends most of the novel trying to stay alive.

Porter writes in such a fashion that readers often finds themselves second guessing the motives of his very believable characters. Add to this intrigue a mass murderer who combines computer technology and mobile phones with horrific outcomes and the result is a genuinely page turning experience. This debut novel takes the reader on various interwoven sojourns before finally revealing the master plan. • DM

BITS was compiled by Debi McLachlan and Peter Wilmshurst.

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