REMEMBERING THE WESTERN INACTION IN BOSNIA, FLASHBACK TO 1993
PHOTO: Manjaca concentration camp. Courtesy: The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.Bosnian Genocide: Will the West Ever Act?
By Niaz Khan
2 May 1993.
2 May 1993.
(Niaz Khan, Ph.D, teaches journalism at Livingston University in Alabama. He writes frequently for the Muslim press in America)
LIVINGSTON -- Might is right. The rape of Bosnia continues as the world looks on with very little reaction. In the name of "ethnic cleansing," a sophisticated and newly coined term for genocide, Muslim children, women and men are being murdered, raped and tortured by the Serbs to create a Greater Serbia.
Once a Bosnian ally, the Croatians, fueled by the territorial ambitions of their President Franjo Tudjman, have also begun their brand of Muslim ethnic cleansing.
According to United Nations' estimates, the war has resulted in 134,000 dead and missing, and another 2 million have been forced out of their homes.
The relentless thunder of Serbian artillery has not only been successful in raining death on the innocent Muslims, it is achieving the goal of forging a greater Serbia by overrunning a Muslim hamlet here, a Muslim town there, as was evident in the capture of Srebrenica just a few days ago. Sarajevo, Bosnia's capital, is under siege, so are countless other cities and enclaves.
Serbian brutality hardly stops there. A planned effort at starvation and denial of medicine and other basic necessities to the Muslims has continued through the bitter Eastern European winter. Adding insult to injury -- literally -- the Serbs are demanding $75 for an exit visa for every Muslim adult and $50 for every Muslim child to leave their own homes.
In the case of Bosnia, the moral imperatives of the West and the U.N. have been absent: applying only ineffective sanctions, air-dropping some aid; providing a few British, French and Canadian peace keepers; and policing the Bosnian skies to keep Serbian planes out.
On top of that, the U.N. peace plan, a concoction of former Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and former British Foreign Minister Lord Owen, legitimizes Serbian aggression through the division of Bosnia into 10 semi autonomous regions, hands the Serbs many Muslim areas.
Nevertheless, the Muslims and Croats opted for the plan, but the Serbs defiantly turned it down.
In its wake, President Bill Clinton is still in his do nothing mode, finding different reasons for not fulfilling his campaign promise of taking action in Bosnia to alleviate the suffering of the helpless victims.
Strangely, the U.N. appears important now, especially so because in the last two years it spearheaded Kuwait's liberty and sustained Somalia's starving.
Excuses are being offered that an international coalition of the type that brought Iran's Saddam Hussein a few pegs down is difficult to assemble against the Serbs, because the U.S. is not providing any leadership, and Britain, France and Germany -- Europe's three major players -- are not willing to do anything substantial for the Bosnians but offer lip service.
Reasons for this apathy was most accurately depicted by a cartoon in Canada's Times-Colonist of Victoria, B.C., which shows a yes/no checklist for the West to get involved in another country's affairs, and they are listed in this order: Do they have oil? Are U.S. business interests threatened? Are we down in the polls? Can we use our nifty new weapons? Is CNN covering it?
To that list, another question should be added: Are the victims Muslims?
Seething in anger, the majority of the 3 million U.S. Muslims feel that the Bosnians' Muslim faith is the key reason for the West to allow the extermination to continue, for fear that an Islamic country will be formed in the heart of Europe.
In addition, the U.N.'s lukewarm efforts are being blamed on its Christian secretary, Gen. Boutros-Ghali, despite the fact that he is from Muslim Egypt.
Perhaps there is gnawing fear that Muslim Bosnia and Muslim Albania, when they form brotherly alliance, will bring havoc on the rest of Europe.
If the West and Boutros-Ghali are motivated by anti-Islamic feeling, the most obvious question is the puzzling silence of the Islamic nations.
Of those Muslims who have openly expressed support with men and material, Iran and the Afghan guerrillas -- veterans of the war with the former Soviet Union and its puppet government -- top the list. The rich and powerful Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates -- even radical Libya and others in the Islamic Conference -- have yet to make any attempt to stop the Serbs and their friends, knowing full well that they hold the all-powerful weapons, oil, in their hands.
Hardly any hurdle appeared for Saudi Arabia and a dozen or so Muslim states to come together, with Western nations, and beat up Iraq.
Iran was not right in what it did, but the atrocities against the Kuwaiti people, for which it was appropriately chastised, were not of the magnitude now taking place on the killing fields of Bosnia.
Simply put, Iraq received the thrashing because it is a Muslim country that was becoming a military threat to Israel and attempted to ingest an oil-rich national vital to Western interests.
Yet many Western leaders have spoken out against Serbian atrocities, like U.S. Sen. Joseph Biden, who upon returning from trip to the Balkans in March said, "The U.S> must lead the West in a decisive response to Serbian aggression, beginning with air attacks on Serbian artillery."
Forty-six congressmen petitioned President Clinton to stop the genocide, and 12 State Department officials wrote a memo to Secretary of State Christopher Warren urging the use of force against the Serbs; so did American U.N. Ambassador Madeleine Albright.
Former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz recently said on Good Morning America, "Stop this killing, murder, genocide and rape." Anotehr voice, incessantly urging her government to use force in the former Yugoslavia, has been that of the former British Prime Minister Lady Margaret Thatcher.
Alas, Shultz and Thatcher are not in power.
A few days ago at the dedication ceremonies of the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., Nobel laureate and human-rights activist Elie Wiesel, himself a Nazi death survivor, pleaded with Clinton to do something in order to stop the wholesale massacre of the Bosniaks. Clinton can do more than something, he can do many things. First, he should tell Serbia's main ally, President Boris Yeltsin, to rein in Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, otherwise the aid promised to Russian will stay in the U.S.
Second, Clinton must actively pursue a broad alliance which will be willing to take the necessary risks to put an end to an international disgrace.
Finally, the U.S> president must seek an international war-crimes trial for Milosevic and others whose hands are stained with the blood of Bosniaks.
Failure on the part of the world community to respond to the anguished cries of Bosnia will signal to those bullies whoa re waiting in the wings that riding roughshod over ethnic and religious minorities and smaller nations is perfectly OK. As civilized people, we cannot allow that.
No more videos of dead, maimed and suffering children on the evening news, please. It does not matter whose children they are.