Bosnia

Louis N Proyect lnp3 at columbia.edu
Wed Aug 2 07:36:36 MDT 1995


Louis Proyect:

U.S. policy on Bosnia-Herzegovina is being driven--as our Somalia
policy was--by pictures. Senator Diane Feinstein, Democrat of
California, was quoted on the front page of Friday's New York Times
saying that she'd switched her position on ending the arms embargo of
Bosnia because "one image punched through to me: that young woman
hanging from a tree. That to me said it all. (This amounted to a near
subliminal plug for the power of the Times, which had run the photo
13 days before.)

Journalists, too, have been inspired by that gruesome image. A
description of the photo led off last week's Village Voice article on
Bosnia and provided a starting point for Ed Koch's July 28 New York
Post column. The problem with policy or analysis by photo is that
every picture tells too many stories. Looking at one photo, Koch
immediately found himself seeing another, surefire image: "A United
Nations onlooker said that what he saw in Srebenica reminded him of
the photograph of the little Jewish boy in the Warsaw Ghetto
surrounded by Nazi troops."

The fact that, on the very day Koch's column appeared, Croatian
troops retook Bosanko Grahovo and Glamoc reminds us that this is a
civil war, making the Serb-Nazi equation simplistic. Even if you
accept the premise for the length of a Post column, Koch's desperate
search for some hero to redeem the West's failing of Jews in the '30s
led him to some truly astounding positions. "It is incredible that 22
Muslim/Arab nations and over a dozen non-Arab nations--like
Indonesia, Iran, Pakistan and Turkey--can stand by and allow their co-
religionists to be destroyed," howled Koch. "It is unconscionable that
they have failed to rush to their side with men and arms."

Koch's anger has blinded him to the fact that, as CNN, CBS, and
others reported last week, Muslim nations have been covertly
supplying the Bosnian government with arms and material for nearly a
year. (Indeed, a Washington Post front-pager on Friday noted that
British and French officials have accused the Clinton administration of
sponsoring such airlifts, a charge the president curtly denied.) More
importantly, could Koch have given a minute's thought to what it
means to encourage Muslim nations like Iraq, nuclear-equipped
Pakistan, or the butchers of Indonesia to begin an activist foreign
policy in places where they perceive Muslims to be wronged? This
sounds like a formula for a full-scale Middle East war, in which
Koch's beloved Israel would be a prime target.

If Ed Koch were a lone chowderhead on this issue, his hysteria would
hardly be worth attacking. Alas, virtually the entire U.S. press corps
last week underplayed the probable effects of ending the embargo,
acting as if a Senate vote would somehow prevent the flood of horrible
photos. I cannot recall the last time I agreed with something Charles
Krauthammer had written, but he was surely correct when he
predicted in Friday's Washington Post that "those who smugly think
that after Srebenica and Zepa hell had already broken loose will be
surprised at the yet untapped reserves of Balkan ferocity as the French
and British go home and the Serbs press their military advantage
before it disappears."

The American media have uncritically accepted the Republican-
inspired idea that unilaterally lifting the arms embargo will force the
weapons to go where we want them to go. Since the White House is
opposed to the Senate bill as passed, it is impossible that any
sanctioned arms shipments are going to happen before October at the
earliest. With UN troops scrambling to get out, and with the fierce
Bosnian winter underway, how will Bob Dole insure that the already
disadvantaged Bosnian army doesn't end up losing arms to the Serbs?
This scenario has been boldly predicted by General Ratko Mladic, the
Bosnian Serb army commander, who was quoted in the July 28
Financial Times saying that "the lifting of the arms embargo would
suit me because all the supply routes could easily come under my
control." This complicating perspective has eluded the U.S. press.

(From Press Clips, a column by James Ledbetter that appears in the
current issue (8/8/95) of the Village Voice, a liberal NYC weekly)



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