The Silent Genocide

WITH a Mississippi flood, the Toyko summit, and a White House focus on domestic issues, the Bosnian crisis has fallen out of the news. But in Bosnia, no news is not good news. In the past 10 days, conditions there have grown worse. Three developments make the point:

First, UN officials in Sarajevo now admit that the recent Serb-Croat proposal to partition Bosnia was not serious - but a means of buying time while continuing military aggression. Serb and Croat leaders believe the West is tired and bored with Bosnia. When mediator Lord Owen agreed to back the Serb-Croat partition plan and declared the UN Vance-Owen plan dead, it said as much. Now the West has no plan and is in the odd position of backing the plan of Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, charged with wa r crimes.

Second, genocidal "ethnic cleansing" has intensified. When the West opted not to intervene, nothing was left to stop an all-out land grab. Serbs and Croats have joined forces. New towns in central Bosnia are under siege, as are the six UN "safe havens." Bosnians, mainly Muslims, are squeezed into ever smaller spaces and face the prospect of becoming the "Palestinians of Europe." This week the head cleric of Bosnian Muslims called for the Islamic world to save his people from "total extermination."

Third, this week UN officials said food relief for 1.5 million Bosnians will be cut in half. The stockpiles are nearly depleted. With only $170 million of $460 million in UN relief pledges received, the Bosnians must wonder whether they are being asked to surrender. The Serbs and Croats show contempt for the UN by demanding high tolls on food-relief convoys to feed starving people.

The West may think it has "contained" the Balkan crisis. But that is still an open question. None of the main issues has gone away. Instead, all the principles, rights, and laws the civilized world stands for have been broken. When the Security Council resolved to aid Bosnia by "all necessary means" it did not. At the London Conference the UN said it would halt the shelling of Sarajevo, but did not. The most potent document of the cold war, the Helsinki Final Act on inviolable borders, is ignored. The ar ms embargo on Bosnia may even make the West an accomplice to crime since Bosnia is denied a right to self-defense.

There is still a face-saving answer: Call it the Somalia strategy. With mass starvation ahead, President Clinton and Western leaders can resolve to deliver food by all necessary means. If UN convoys are stopped, force should be used to deliver the aid. Can the West do the minimum it promised?

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