The West Aided Bosnian Genocide with Silence and Arms Embargo
Silence is Unforgivable, Bosnian Genocide Won’t Go Away
By Anthony Lewis
20 October 1993.
On Oct. 9, Radovan Karadzic, leader of the Serbs in Bosnia, said his forces considered the war “finished” and would not renew their attacks on the small areas held by the Muslim [Bosniak]-led Bosnian government.
“The Siege of Sarajevo is over,” he told John F. Burns of The New York Times. “We don’t want any more territory. We have enough already.”
On Oct. 16, exactly one week later, the Serbs attacked Sarajevo with a devastating artillery barrage. Starting before dawn and continuing for 12 hours, they fired thousands of shells from tanks, heavy guns and mortars in their positions on hills around the capital. They also rolled oil drums filled with explosives down the slopes into residences.
That Dr. Karadzic’s kindly undertakings turned out to be lies is hardly surprising. Who would believe a mass murderer’s promises to be nice from now on?
But the episode is nevertheless profoundly important. It shows us that there is no end in sight for the genocide in Bosnia, wishful thinking to the contrary notwithstanding. And it shows us how confident the Serbian aggressors are that the world will not care.
President Clinton and his foreign policy advisers have put Bosnia on the back burner, desperately hoping the issue will go away. Ditto the appeasement governments of Britain and France. Because the public’s sensitivity to any disaster dulls in time, newspapers have moved the story off the front pages.
But it will not go away. People are still being bombed and starved to death in the heart of Europe because of their religion. And some Americans are not going to stop caring.
Sarajevo has been under siege for more than 18 months now. More than 300,000 people are trapped there, scrabbling for existence in what was once an exceptionally cosmopolitan, cultivated city. The average resident has lost 25 pounds.
In northern Bosnia two enclaves, Maglaj and Tesanj, have been cut off since June by Serb and Croat forces vying for control of the area. The only food residents have had came from emergency airdrops, and they are out of water and medicine and fuel for electric generators.
The U.N. has been trying to get relief convoys through to the two enclaves. On Oct. 14, Karadzic and President Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia promised to allow “free passage” of relief convoys through Serbian-held territory. But Serbian forces on the scene continued to block the relief convoys.
If the situation is bad now for hundreds of thousands of Bosnians, it will soon be much worse. Official of the U.N. and private relief agencies are warning that winter may bring mass starvation and death from cold, because they do not have the necessary supplies — or money to buy them — even if it becomes possible to cross siege lines.
What is the answer of the supposedly civilized world to the destruction of a people, and of the United Nations’ member state, in Europe? It is evasion. It is silence.
The silence is unforgivable because we know. The Bush administration could not, and the Clinton administration cannot, pretend to be ignorant of the savagery being carried out in Bosnia. Patrick Glynn of the American Enterprise Institute writes in the Oct. 25 issue of The New Republic:
“At a time when a museum to Holocaust victims was opening in Washington to great fanfare, history will record that two administrations refrained, in the face of overwhelming evidence, from countering a blatant program of genocide in Bosnia whose scope and nature they fully understood.”
Some say the United States should not be “involved” in the fate of Bosnia and its people. But we are involved. We voted and pressured for the U.N. arms embargo that deprived Bosnia of its natural and legal right to defend itself. For that reason alone, beyond the fact of our long commitment to European stability, we have a heavy responsibility.
President Clinton must know in his heart that he has the responsibility of leadership here. It is difficult, increasingly so because of American public discontent with commitments abroad. But I do not believe an American president should want to be remembered as one who allowed a second European genocide.