Somalia vs. Bosnia

I've been disturbed by differences in media coverage of Somalia and Bosnia. The terminology seems to reflect a larger attitude about wars involving black Africans and wars involving white Europeans.

"Anarchy," or a tribal culture of violence, is blamed for African conflicts, while European conflicts are tied to a more solvable "political turmoil" or "ethnic civil war" with deep historical roots. Africans are shown as passive victims who need outside help to organize their own societies; but Europeans are shown as people who, after a war, can govern their own affairs with new leaders.

If helping starving civilians is really a doctrine of United States foreign policy, why has Washington not stopped war-related famines in Mozambique and Sudan? Whoever controls Somalia controls access between the Suez Canal and the Persian Gulf.

When the US backed the dictator Mohammad Siad Barre, he gave back basing rights at Mogadishu and Berbera - a key military springboard to the Middle East and the rest of Africa. Such a huge role in the United Nations intervention may ensure that a similar deal will be made with a future Somali leader. One country should not play such an inordinate role in an international military effort. Zoltan Grossman, Madison, Wis.

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published, subject to condensation, and none acknowledged. Please address them to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115.

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