8:40 p.m. February 4, 2013

George Ruggiu, Genocidal Prince of Dorkness

People love to lie about “dark” stories. Usually there’s not much darkness in them, just standard human behavior: wiping out an enemy tribe, wanting to screw somebody socially unacceptable, killing a competitor. Those stories may not be pretty, but there’s nothing “dark” about them. You can see the same stuff on any Nature documentary, and with better-looking mammals playing the lead roles.

But now and then I run across one that really is dark, like the story of Georges Ruggiu. (HT to Mobutu Sese Seko who Tweeted me about this story.)

This is the real thing. It’s part of the Rwandan Genocide, and that was grim enough. But trying to wipe out a people you don’t like isn’t unusual in human history (no matter what the Holocaust Lobby says). Ruggiu’s part in that bloodbath is the really dark part. And speaking of “dark,” did I mention that Ruggiu is a white guy? Whiter than white, in fact. A dweeb, a dork, a classic North European do-gooder. A weakling who lived with his parents until he was 35 years old, volunteering to babysit drug addicts and old folks.

You can look and look at Ruggiu’s empty European life, hoping to find some complicated serial-killer psychology, and it’s not there. He was a late addition to the Baby Boom, born in 1957. He grew up in Verviers, Belgium, and nobody remembers much about him there.

Not the sort of guy you’d expect to fly to Kigali, the Rwandan capital, just in time to take a job as star DJ at Radio Mille Collines (“Thousand Hills Radio”), broadcasting non-stop calls to Hutu listeners to track down and kill their Tutsi neighbors. But that’s what Ruggiu did, and by all accounts, he loved it. He lived the Genocide 24/7, eating his meals and bedding down in the barracks where the Hutu militia officers lived, chuckling at their little anecdotes about the day’s hunt.

If you want to know how these guys talked about their daily killing sprees—which you might not if you want to keep your faith in the species—the best account is Machete Season by Jean Hatzfeld, a French guy who interviewed Hutu genocidaires in prison. Every one of the men Hatzfeld interviewed had killed hundreds of people, mostly women and kids, but they slept fine and they were happy to relive the glory days when every morning they’d go out with their pangas (machetes) and try to flush the few local Tutsi who were still alive from the swamp where they were hiding.

These were the guys Ruggiu flew all the way to Kigali to hang around. There’s no evidence he ever swung a panga himself; he’d have fainted at the first skull-crunch. He was a groupie, a joiner, not a killer—and there’s something much creepier about that. His job was to be a white foreigner who was just as much in favor of slaughtering the Tutsi “cockroaches” as any Hutu.

As far as I can find out, Ruggiu had never even met a Hutu until he moved away from home at the tender age of 35. He went to Liege to study Social Work, met a Hutu militant there, and “befriended” him. Now, being a Californian, I assume everything’s about sex, so I figured “befriended” meant “took up with.” I tried out my sex-theory on Luca, this Italian genius who’s kind enough to write to me and point me in the right direction with difficult stories. I asked him, “Luca, don’t you think that Ruggiu, coming out of his sexless life at home, fell in love and took his boyfriend’s view of Rwanda as true?” Luca, who knows Europe a billion times better than I ever will, smacked down my amateur-Freud theory hard:

“But the point is that there's nothing "sexless" about Belgium. Belgium (and Switzerland) are the ultimate devious-sex-by-numbers place: you go around Geneva and there's a swinger / spanking / S&M club every two blocks, and the same goes for Bruxelles. It’s an entire society designed around the notion that bloodless, pointless experiences are what are you gonna have for the rest of your life... until even sex, normally the ultimate subversive, revolutionary pursuit, suddenly becomes just one of the many dull opportunities you've walking outside your door... wouldn't you just go to Rwanda?”

That answer surprised me at first, but the more I thought about it, the more sense it made. The paradox here isn’t Rwanda; the Rwandan Genocide, horrible as it was, wasn’t anything unusual in terms of human behavior. The real oddity here is Northern Europe, post-1945. I’ve always felt like it was weird to impose a conscience on a continent the way the US and USSR imposed one on Europe after 1945. It’s not natural for a tribe of human primates to have one of those. It’s got to be tough to handle, especially when the rest of the world gets to go on living normal meerkat lives with no conscience, no memory, none of those options no one in their right minds would buy. The blankness guys must feel, growing up in a country like Belgium, with no birthrate, no morale, no crusades; everything over, a big museum full of battle sites but with nothing to fight for now. What can a Belgian fight for now? Some soccer team? “Europe”? Yeah, I can definitely see why a blank dude like Georges Ruggiu would go to Rwanda, where normal human behavior, with no conscience at all, was still going strong.

But there’s another way you put little Georges’s field trip to the massacres into historical context. Just focus on what forced the rest of the world to impose that big NCAA penalty on Northern Europe in 1945. I mean, let’s face it: those guys were getting a little out of hand. Irrepressible to a fault. I’m sure I don’t need to supply the illustrations here; most of my readers, if I know y’all and I think I do, spent half their adolescence staring at those illustrations (and going “tsk-tsk, the horrors of war, huh?” when anybody looked over your shoulder). Northern Europe from 1900 to 1945 took normal human xenophobia and bloodlust to a whole new level by adding their phenomenal organizational skills to it. Worst of all, they broke the 11th Commandment of European Imperialism: “Thou shalt not be as bloodthirsty with thy fellow Europeans as thou art in the colonies, where nobody’s watching.”

So we’ve got at least two ways to explain Ruggiu’s Kigali career as DJ J-‘Cide: either it’s proof the post-1945 repression of normal human bloodlust just forces it out in sick, strange ways; or it’s proof that his tribe, the Northern European palefaces, are such bad seeds that they’ll squirm their way to where the massacres are popping no matter how you try to calm them down.

A lot of Europeans would vote for the “bad seed” theory, but say it only applies to Belgium, not all of Northern Europe. After all, the Germans have been ridiculously well behaved for going on 60 years, while Belgium’s been making its mark for sick child-sex/murder stories. You know the line: “What's Belgium famous for? Chocolates and child abuse, and they only invented the chocolates to get to the kids.” This isn’t likely to be a very productive line of investigation, though—which is a polite way of saying that if we start comparing European countries’ hate-stereotypes of each other, we’ll be here til the sun goes nova.

What you can say, comparing Europe then and Europe now, is that the colonies drained off a lot of sick young men. Sadism, buggery, kiddie-fiddling, murder—it was all just fine if you did it under a tropical sun, which is one reason the biggest colonial powers, Britain and France, get a pass when we’re imposing consciences on countries. In 1910, Georges Ruggiu would be just another colonial officer, putting his genocide-PR skills to work for a Belgian governor. Now, he stands out as the only white face in a crowd of Hutu genocidaires.

And that’s part of the story too: Ruggiu stood out, and the Hutu appreciated him for it. No need to pretend we’re over the whole colonial/racial experience, even if we like to pretend like it in public. Ruggiu had the kind of European face—long thin nose, long chisel-face—that African cartoonists use when they’re making caricatures of Europeans. To them, it’s a scary, alien face, and I’m not going to contradict them.

And Ruggiu’s whole career in Rwanda shows how much these mentally-confused Hutu still worshipped that kind of face. Here’s Ruggiu, the ultimate nobody, just another body housed in those Matrix-like Bauhaus blocks they use to stack people in the Low Countries—getting off the plane in Kigali, in 1992, to go to the wedding of one of his new Hutu pals… and he sees 50 people cheering his arrival. That had to mean a lot to somebody who’d been squished into modern Belgium.

They say abused kids love their parents more than kids who had good parents, which would explain why the Hutu wanted a Belgian white on their side. The Belgians, true to form, didn’t conquer Rwanda; they had it tossed to them by the Allies. Rwanda had been a German colony since 1894, and the Germans had done pretty well. Not that they always did; check out what they did to the Herero if you want to get sick. But the German aristocrats who grabbed Rwanda understood the Tutsi princelings who ran the place and left them in charge. It was when Belgium was given control of Rwanda by the League of Nations, that bulwark of peace, in 1923.

The League, aka The League of Retarded Gentlemen, decided that Rwanda should be added to the Belgian colony of Congo—yep, that’s right, the tropical GuLag that the Belgian King, Leopold II, owned and ran as his personal rubber plantation from 1885-1908, with free amputations and floggings for substandard tappers. Rwanda, lucky Rwanda, inherited the same scum who’d been Leopold’s enforcers in Congo, and they showed their usual enthusiasm. From 1923-25, they conducted military campaigns against Western tribes—see, the tribes in the West, nearest Congo, had the best chance to hear about the blessings of Belgian rule and so were ready to fight to the death against it.

The Belgians, like the Germans, favored the Tutsi, using them to do the colony’s dirty work and setting them up nicely to be massacred once the European overseers left. The Belgians brought all the voodoo tricks of Eugenics with them, measuring Hutu and Tutsi skulls (and finding the Tutsi skulls much nicer, as skulls go) and coming up with crap migration theories to explain why the Tutsi were alongside mere “Bantu” like the Hutu. All this, you can imagine, went a long way to ensure there’d be an inter-ethnic love-fest when independence came.

The worst thing the Belgians did was stay. They didn’t even pretend to leave until 1959, and even then they tried to keep the best jobs for themselves and their brothers-in-law. After 1959, they managed to find a new way to deliver the worst of both worlds by withdrawing their military power (such as it was; they’re better at making and selling guns than using them) but leaving their Tutsi pets in place.

The first huge massacre of Tutsi came with almost no delay, in 1962. From that to the biggest massacre of all, the 1993 genocide that killed 800,000 Tutsi, all that changed was that a big media industry in teaching Hutus to hate Tutsi grew up in Rwanda. The Arusha Agreement, signed just about the time Ruggiu arrived in Kigali to stay, set rules to keep hate off the public airwaves. For instance, every broadcast had to include one Tutsi and one Hutu broadcaster. Like Mark Ames said when I told him about this rule, you’d imagine it went like Hannity and Colmes:

Hutu broadcaster: Kill the Tutsi cockroaches!

Tutsi broadcaster: Crush the Hutu peasants before they kill us all!

But actually, it wasn’t like that. There were always a lot of smart, reasonable people in Rwanda, people who didn’t buy the tribal hatred—and I’m not talking about Don friggin’ Cheadle looking troubled (probably about keeping up that fake accent) for two hours in 'Hotel Rwanda'. The smart, sane people just had too much history going against them. And when Ruggiu got off that plane, he was like a walking virus, an official Colonial endorsement of the worst of that history.

But this time, because he happened to’ve sat at the Hutu table at that University cafeteria in Liege, he was on the Hutus’ side. Think how much that must have meant to the Hutus, who’d been the little people, the peasants, the ignorant, for so long. Of course, there was still that pesky Rwandan fairness doctrine that said you had to have a Tutsi voice on-air, but some rich Hutu got around that in classic Texas style: they funded a private station, the first in Rwandan history, where Hutu hate was the playlist 24/7. And the star DJ was none other than that little pasty dweeb, Georges Ruggiu.

Of course Ruggiu didn’t speak Kinyarwanda, the common language of Hutu and Tutsi, but most Rwandans speak some French, especially the elites, so he got his message across. It was a simple enough message; “Clean your house! Get rid of the cockroaches!” The station was careful not to say “Kill” or “Tutsis,” but nobody ever seriously argued they were talking about anything other than chopping up every Tutsi in the country. Which they damn near did.

When the RPF, the Tutsi resistance, swept through Rwanda, Ruggiu was already gone, slunk away to the refugee camps in Eastern Congo with his Interahamwe (Hutu death squad) friends. I don’t know what the moron thought, but he didn’t have much of a future blending in with the masses as the only white refugee in the camps.

And yet he was able to flee again, this time to Mombasa on the Kenyan coast. This confirms an impression I’ve had ever since 1993 that the “international community” was in bed with the Hutu genocidaires from the beginning, and barely even pretended to hunt down the leaders of the Interahamwe. Those pigs ruled the camps just like the Khmer Rouge ruled the Thai camps after 1978—and both with the total cooperation of the West.

You can guess what a cling-on, a joiner, a groupie, like Ruggiu did when he got to Mombasa, on the edge of the Muslim world. Yup, he shaved his hair and let his Lincoln beard grow and converted. Renamed himself “Omar,” just like Omar Bongo, the Muslim-for-Profit dictator of Gabon. He stayed hidden in a Somali Muslim community there for years—another interesting example of how much a white face can do for you in some places. I’ve seen it myself in Saudi, Muslims treating each other pretty durn crappily and all but flirting with any white expat who shows any sign of interest in Islam. I’m sure Ruggiu exploited that attitude to get the help he needed to stay off Kenyan police radar. They finally grabbed him in 1997 and he went on trial at the ICTR, the poor excuse for a Rwandan Nuremburg prosecution.

And once more you can probably guess what he did. Yup, turned informer, told on all his Hutu comrades, and got off with a miserable 12-year sentence. Of course there was no justice for any of the defendants; justice would be standing in line to have your head hacked open with a panga. The death penalty was off the table—more of that weird European squeamishness that seems to come and go so unpredictably—but the Hutu gang bosses who Ruggiu informed on got life, at least.

They were a little peeved with him about informing on them, and beat, raped, and otherwise punished him so badly he had to go into protective confinement in a Tanzanian prison. It’s weird to think that those beatings and rapes, at the hand of his fellow scum, were the only real punishments Ruggiu ever got. Another depressing coincidence: the prison was in Arusha, the Tanzanian town where they signed the agreement that was supposed to keep the peace… a few months before machete season started.

Ruggiu survived his beatings and was transferred to Italy (his dad was Italian and he claimed status) after serving eight years. A few months in an Italian prison, and he was released early.

He went back to Verviers, the dead-dull Belgian town where he grew up. By all accounts, he’s been sitting there ever since.

Like the Army would say, “Lessons learned”? Well, we can rule out “psychology” and sex and abuse and all the other Oprah excuses people love to cuddle like a dachshund. None of the above. Nothing unusual about Ruggiu at all. So what does that leave you with? Well, take a scissors, cut Ruggiu out of the photos, and what you have is Belgium circa 1990. I’ll let my source, Luca, a smarter man than I’ll ever be, explain how that background, the castrated landscape of Northern Europe after 1945, explains Ruggiu. And keep in mind, I’m not letting this pig off the hook in any way. In fact I’d be happy to put him on a hook and let him think about what he did for a few days. But when the man is a blank, a nothing, you keep coming back to the background. So here's Luca on the place that created this pathetic monster:

“J. G. Ballard always said that he only understood the reason behind the birth of the Badeer Meinhof gang when he came to northern Germany in the mid-80's, and he saw all these nice villages, al ordered and neat and incredibly clean, and he suddenly realized that if you were young and rebellious and born into such a society that was constructed around the concept of shielding you from anything bad or cruel or violent or remotely connected to terrorism... you HAD to become a terrorist. It may be an incredible over-simplification, but it's not far from the truth.”