Genocide in Bosnia

Bosnian Genocide, 1992-1995

State Dept. Split by Dissent Over U.S. Inertia in Bosnia

By Ruth Sinai
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, p.A4
26 August 1993.

WASHINGTON — The cable was sickening: a 9-year-old Muslim girl raped by Serb militiamen in Bosnia, left lying in a pool of blood. Her parents, forced to watch from behind a fence, restrained from going to her. They kept watch for two days, until she died.

Jon Western, a young intelligence analyst at the State Department, read the account in disbelief. Then it came to his desk again, told to U.S. investigators separately by other refugees, and he was forced to believe.

This month, he became one of four young State Department officials who over the past year have abandoned promising careers to protest the hands-off U.S. policy in Bosnia — which in their view is tantamount to sanctioning a Serb genocide of Muslims [Bosniaks].

Two other State Department Bosnia specialist have asked to be reassigned. Their indignation over Bosnian policy is said to be shared by dozens more within the department.

Not since a spurt of resignations 20 years ago over U.S. policy in Southeast Asia has the State Department known such rebellion. Then, it was to protest the extent of U.S. involvement; now, it is to protest its absence.

“I found myself going home every night extraordinarily bitter and angry,” said Western, who had been on a meteoric rise since coming to the department three years ago at age 27. The accounts and analyses he drafted were reaching the desk of Secretary of State Warren Christopher three or four times a week, he said, but the policy response was weak and vacillating.

With his wife’s support — “she saw the personal toll this was taking on me” — Western resigned, took the couple’s life savings, which they had planned as down payment on a house, and signed up for doctoral studies at Columbia University.

Several days earlier, his colleague Marshall Freeman Harris, 32, had also quit — despite his wife’s reluctance to see him give up a fast-moving eight-year diplomatic career.

“I just couldn’t stomach the policy any more,” Harris said. Nor would he consider reassignment within the department. “I lost all respect for the people who had come up with” the policy.

In a city where position and prestige are often prized over principle, the vocal resignations have drawn strong support — even within senior levels of the State Department, which discourages such public dissent.

“It shows that professionals think that American foreign policy should be government by some sense of values,” said George Kenney, 36, who started the exodus when he resigned last August over the objections of his father, a 35-year veteran of the foreign service. [*George Kenney is a controversial figure. Since 1993, he gradually sided with the Serb side. On his web site, he even promotes articles written by Srebrenica genocide denier Edward Herman]

Harris and Western point to July 21 as a rock-bottom day. It was then that Christopher — asked whether the United States would act to prevent the fall of Sarajevo to besieging Serb forces — said: “The United States is doing all that it can consistent with its national interests.”

“It was excruciating to watch,” said Harris, whose job was to monitor the suffering of Sarajevo’s Muslims and who didn’t think the United States was doing anywhere near what it could.

Several days earlier, he had drafted a memorandum for Christopher with options for easing the siege — from flying in water to sending U.S. troops. By the time it got to Christopher’s seventh-floor office, the military options had been watered down and the document renamed a “discussion paper” rather than “an action memo,” he said.

Harris was a ringleader among the dissenters. In April, he drafted a letter to Christopher, signed by 11 colleagues, urging the administration to follow through with two initiatives it had proposed: Help the Muslims get weapons to defend themselves and bomb the Serb artillery bombarding them.

The dissenters all still favor this approach and were cheered when Christopher, after meeting with them, announced a trip to Europe to enlist the allies’ support. But he came back empty-handed, and the critics charged that his efforts had been halfhearted at best.

Of the 12 signatories on the Christopher letter, only four are still at their jobs.

Written by genocideinbosnia

August 26, 1993 at 6:47 am

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