Green means much more on the maps and screens of those who make decisions in combat zones. This colour has come to join the ‘red’ of foe and ‘blue’ of friendly to denote the other human players in the strategic environments called up by the three D’s of diplomacy, defence and development or the actors faced in conducting the three-block war concept. ‘Green’ HUMINT is now required for situational awareness.

When the Army incorporated the three-block war concept into training scenarios in 2005, ‘MSF’ began to appear as part of this process. The MSF is, of course, the widely known acronym for Doctors without Borders, an international humanitarian organization that received the Noble Prize for Peace in 1999. Awareness is one aspect. Knowledge about the people behind the green icon is another. Two books by a small Canadian publisher go a long way towards providing ‘green’ human intelligence about the MSF.

No One Can Stop the Rain (2005) is the latest of the Toronto-based Insomniac Press offerings. A doctor, Wie Cheng, and a Nestle marketing executive, Karin Moorhouse, share their thoughts as they worked in Kuito, Angola in 2000-2001. Written originally as e-mails for friends and relatives, the collection of anecdotes brings together two perspectives of life on the frontline of a large humanitarian relief organization.

As sort of an after action report, the epilogue with “whatever happened to…” permits readers to judge for themselves whether this couple made a difference. Black and white photos complement the text.

Their book continues an Insomniac tradition that started with Cruel Paradise (1999) by Leanne Olson, a former Winnipeg nurse who published an expansion of her personal journal on her experiences during the 1990s in Liberia, the Congo, Burundi, Albania, Bosnia and Angola. Her account is much more intense. As she states in her introduction, “nobody ever comes away from a war unchanged.” Her story illustrates the truth of that statement – she was changed.

Olson faced death several times. Moreover, the opportunity to be traumatized was ever present. In one of the most gripping passages, she describes being one of the first foreigners on the scene of a massacre at Mokoto. She might be said to have “cleaned up after the Devil.”

Turning back to the strategic level, Hope in Hell (Firefly, 2004), a much more widely publicized Canadian book written by Dan Bortolotti, provides insight into the organization itself.

The killing of five MSF workers in an ambush was part of the decision to withdraw from Afghanistan after years of a MSF presence throughout the post-Soviet Afghan conflict that led to the triumph of the Taliban and, indeed, during the national struggle against the USSR when the MSF became associated, for better or worse, with the Mujadheen. Bortolotti helps readers understand the other factors leading to the MSF decision to suspend Afghanistan operations.

These three Canadian books offer insight into the mindsets of the people who populate this major ‘green’ symbol in the field of humanitarian assistance, whether in relief such as the case with MSF teams following the Pakistan earthquake or development such as in Haiti with a MSF hospital. Canadians involved in implementing the 3 D’s or conducting the three-block war can expect to meet the people of the MSF.


Dreamland: How Canada’s Pretend Foreign Policy Has Undermined Sovereignty
Roy Rempel
McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2006

Canada needs a non-ideological foreign policy if it is to avoid becoming a de facto US protectorate, Roy Rempel argues, suggesting we’ve lost sight of our national interest in favour of partisan policies. Dreamland debunks the myths of Canadian foreign policy and lays a course for a more productive US-Canada partnership.

First Foreign Posting: Moscow 1957-1959
Naomi Ziman Roberts and Peter M. Roberts
Penumbra Press, 2005

Told through letters home to family and friends, Naomi Ziman Roberts chronicles her experiences in the Soviet Capital with her husband, a young Canadian diplomat, on his first posting, capturing Russia in the late 1950s and the life of a foreign diplomat.