Chasing the Flame: One Man's Fight to Save the World
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In this perfect match of author and subject, Pulitzer Prize-winner Samantha Power tackles the life of Sergio Vieira de Mello, whose work for the U.N. before his 2003 death in Iraq was emblematic of moral struggle on the global stage. Power has drawn on a staggering breadth of research (including 400 interviews) to show us a heroic figure and the conflicts he waded into, from Cambodia's Khmer Rouge to the slaughter in Bosnia to the war-torn Middle East. The result is a peerless portrait of humanity and pragmatism, as well as a history of our convulsive age.
Mello bucked the complaints of his peers, whom he wrote off as purists, and for the first time involved UNHCR in returning refugees to a Khmer Rouge–controlled area, known as Yeah Ath, or “Grandmother Ath.” On January 13, 1993, UNHCR helped 252 Cambodians in the Site 8 camp move to Yeah Ath, which he considered a pilot return village.21 The Khmer Rouge managed to deliver unmined, fertile land, and “BLACK BOXING” 113 the returnees used the UNHCR household kits to build houses, a pagoda, and a
in a river village.The killers scattered leaflets that demanded that Akashi rid the country of Vietnamese. A month later the Khmer Rouge killed eight people, including three local policemen and an eight-year-old girl.19 In his correspondence with UN Headquarters, Vieira de Mello noted a “clear trend” in the Khmer Rouge ranks toward “isolationism, introversion and pathological suspiciousness.” But while his boss Akashi favored sanctions, he continued to believe that further punitive measures would
UNTAC staff had vanished from the country. The mission had cost $2.5 billion, by far the most expensive in UN history, but it left little tangible behind it—besides a fragile, divided government.40 The following year Vieira de Mello got word that the Cambodian army had attacked and completely destroyed the Khmer Rouge’s “model village” 128 CHASING THE FLAME settlement of Yeah Ath, sending several thousand people fleeing yet again. He later described the event as “one of the saddest moments in
savored the sounds of Mozart’s Mass in C Minor, Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem, and Schubert’s Ave Maria.The concert was broadcast live on local television, but because the city lacked electricity, few Bosnians could watch. The concert’s main effect was to make Sarajevans who heard about the performance feel slightly less alone. In the forty-five minutes in which Hendricks sang and Vieira de Mello listened, half a dozen shells landed within a hundred yards of the TV studio that had been converted into a
expired, Akashi admitted to UN Headquarters that the exclusion zone was not entirely clear of heavy weapons. Nonetheless, he declared the Serbs in “substantial compliance” with the terms of the ultimatum.43 He told CNN,“There’s no need to resort to air strikes.”44 As soon as the announcement was made, a relieved Vieira de Mello joined a group of military officers for a late-night whiskey toast at the residency. “Živeli,” he exclaimed in Serbo-Croatian, amid the sound of clinking glasses.“To