Thomas Plate, Editor
December 23, 1992
Dear Mr. Plate:
Kempster's "U.S. Hopes Serb Voters Will Rescue its Yugoslav Policy" (December 20, 1992) thesis that the Bush administration peace hopes hinge upon whom the Serbs elect as president is ludicrous. But the article's main thrust is to whitewash the administration's responsibility for carnage in the former Yugoslavia.
President Bush's "waffling," his favorite term to describe President elect Clinton, is applicable to his stance in Bosnia. For example, he ignored CIA warnings that Yugoslavia would break apart with violence. One month after U.N. Commission for Refugees said the conflict had resulted in 2.2 million refugees, Bush dismissed the Bosnian horror as a "hiccup".
Last week, Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger finally made noises like a statesman and attempted to reassert America's lost leadership role in world. More positive rumbles have come out of his office this past week then in the previous two years. But the grandstand gesturing is too little, too late for the countless dead and the millions of refugees.
Eagleburger's diplomatic frenzy to create a "No-fly" zone knew it would not fly (pardon the pun) because of France's and England's valid opposition and Russians threat to veto the plan. Now that Russia expressed sending troops to help their Serbian Orthodox brethren further crimps the idea.
Kempster cited reasons the administration held back were they hoped the European Community would take the lead and the world wasted time to prevent the breakup, does not hold water. When Germany, Austria, and Italy favored the Croatian and Slovenian exit, the Bush administration vigorously threw its diplomatic weight against the idea of independence of any Yugoslav republic in the mistaken concern that succession and nationalism will become contagious and destabilize the Soviet Union.
It was the United States that wasted time and not the world. Bush referred to Kissinger's idea of stability, which is in sharp contrast to Reagan's approach of giving a clear priority to human rights and self-determination. The U.S. actively campaigned for the Yugoslav federation. Secretary of State James A. Baker warned Croatia and Slovenia they could not expect recognition.
The State Department put an inordinate amount the pressure to block Germany's proposed diplomatic recognition of Croatia. Cyrus Vance and Lord Carrington argued that recognition would only escalate the war. However, by January 1991, after Germany recognized Croatia it brought about the first lasting cease-fire.
The responsibility of the war lies ultimately with the Bush administration. In June 1991 Secretary of State Baker made a speech in Belgrade that Yugoslavia should use all means possible to preserve the stability of the country. His statements gave tacit approval to the Serbian military that a Serb controlled Yugoslavia was the key to stability.
Ever since the conflict erupted American diplomacy tried to appease the radical Serbian chauvinism. Eagleburger persistently warned detractors and legislators that unity was the only way for peace. White House Spokesman Fitzwater berated and condemned Croatia's and Slovenia's actions and blamed them for the war.
Nationalism in Croatia, which was stoked by Milosevic, was a blended with a democratic tinge. However, it was tied to Leninism in Serbia. The ethnic cleansing and concentration camps in Bosnia created consternation and teeth gnashing in United States government circles--but only after their existence became known through the media. In Croatia, when the Serbs for carrying out similar activities, not one voice was raised in condemnation. To the contrary, news stories implied that it was what the Croatians deserved. The common threads that permeate from the media placing blame on all sides and ancient ethnic hatreds are prime examples of Serbian disinformation and were consistent in the public statements of the administration before Bush lost the election.
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