Moscow-Pullman Daily News 18 January 1994

The New Acceptability of Genocide
By Prof. Mary Land When does strangulation of a country occur? Apparently 200,000 deaths and two million people driven from their homes isn’t enough. Now President Clinton, after securing Ukraine’s “historic” agreement to dismantle its nuclear arsenal and the successful conclusion of the “partnership for Peace “between NATO and former Warsaw Pact members, has secured from the 12-nation European Union promise of the implementation of the five months overdue air strikes on the Serbs. “If the situation does not improve, the alliance must be prepared to act,” the president said in Brussels. “We have to mean it. If we are going to reassert this warning, it must not be seen as mere rhetoric. Those who attack Sarajevo must understand that we are serious.” Are we serious? Marshall McLuhan once declared that Hitler would not have come to power if television had been widespread during the 1930s. The world would have seen what Nazism was like – and acted. But night after night the world has seen what can only be characterized as “strangulation” in Sarajevo. Scenes of heartbreaking horror appear endlessly; we have to be warned against some of them. Maybe a more reliable scenario than McLuhan’s is to be found in two trials – the trial of the LAPD officers charged with beating Rodney King and the Reginald Denny beating trial. In both cases the beating had been captured on video. But defense lawyers in both cases found that repeated showing of the beatings apparently immunized the jurors against the horror of repeated assaults. After repeated viewing the horror apparently wore off. Is that what is happening at Sarajevo – repeated images of violence anesthetizing us? Is that why the strikes promised five months ago did not materialize? Meanwhile CNN is occupied with television the Lorena Bobbitt trial. On the Tuesday evening news it pre-empted the president’s stay in Brussels and Prague and the decision finally to promise bombing raids. The false notion that American troops have to be sent to Bosnia has been repeatedly used as a smokescreen. The truth is that for over two years there have been repeated instances when the Serbs could have been persuaded to call of their aggression. Gen. John Galvin, the former NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, told the House Armed Services Committee last May that one such instance was when Dubrovnik was bombarded in 1991. If the bombardment

had continued “we could have shown the determination of the western nations and indeed the United Nations, that this did not get out of hand.” Last week Madeleine K. Albright, the U.S. delegate to the United Nations, went to a garbage dump outside Vukovar in Serbian-occupied Croatia where Serbian forces are believed to have buried the bodies of 20 Croatian hospital patients they killed after capturing Vukovar. Albright sees Vukovar as “a symbol of the Yugoslavian war’s inhumanity.” But Gen. Galvin sees it as a symbol of American and European weakness. Intervention by a small NATO force could have stopped the aggression two years ago that led to the genocidal enormities. That was in 1991 – not on Bill Clinton’s watch. But for a long time very little has changed since the days of Bush, Baker and Brent Scowcroft, who only last week dismissed Bosnia as a place where U.S. interests are “less than vital.” Following the Scowcroft policy has led to the resignation of five high-ranking Foreign Service officers disgusted with U.S. policy. The other half of policy toward toward Serbia – economic sanctions – has only served to crush what opposition to Slobodan Milosevic existed. He has convinced the people as a whole that they are the victims of an international conspiracy. Black marketers and war profiteers dominate the country; the health care system has collapsed; refugees from Bosnia and Croatia have fueled massive xenophobia. Only Milosevic has benefitted. Now finally the NATO members have agreed to order immediate air strikes against Serbian forces. But there’s a catch. The air strikes will not be directed at Serbian gunners in the hills surrounding Sarajevo. Instead they will be used against Serbian forces in the Muslim enclave of Srebrenica and an airfield at Tuzla essential to delivering humanitarian aid. The Serbs have already replied by threatening U.N. peacekeepers in the area. Meanwhile the ceaseless shelling of Sarajevo continues. Apparently Sarajevo has not been strangled enough. _________________________ Mary Land is an emeritus professor of English and American Studies at Washington State University

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