No Excuses

The eastern Bosnian killing field confirmed in detail on Page 1 by Monitor correspondent David Rohde prompts several reactions.

Outrage is obviously the first. But outrage best honors the victims of this latest atrocity if it demands - that leaders outside and inside this terrible triangular war redouble efforts for a settlement that will prevent further killing fields.

The tendency in wars is for leaders to say they must press on. Press on because they have already invested so much national blood and treasure. Press on because one more campaign will surely break the enemy's resolve or add a bit more territory. Press on for their place in history. Press on so they won't dishonor some presumed national pride.

John Steinbeck best described the results: "The flies have conquered the flypaper."

But the outsiders, the leaders of Europe and the United States, have no such excuses to nurse. And they hold increasing leverage as each side in the old Yugoslav lands encounters reverses and can calculate that bigger risks lie ahead.

In a century where as many as 167 million people died in two world wars, over a hundred lesser wars, and the final solutions and cultural revolutions of Hitler, Stalin, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein - not to mention all the lesser Shining Paths and Papa Docs - one more atrocity may seem like just an angry echo as the century ends.

The number of Muslims tortured, killed, and crudely buried near a once cheer-filled Bosnian soccer stadium doesn't compare in scale to the Holocaust, or Stalin's ethnic brutality. But the crime is the same. The mass graves at Nova Kosaba speak to us demandingly, perhaps because no cold-war balance of terror obscures the view. We had entered the New World Order, the era of freer trade, of toppling one-man rule, of Asian growth states, of changing Russia, of evolving free-enterprise China.

Turkey knocked at the door of Europe, bringing a secular Muslim state closer to the Catholic-Protestant conglomerate of the European Community. Surely the Balkans, in the middle, could be similarly ecumenical. Surely years of Tito's homogenizing had changed the fratricidal Balkan history.

All those influences, those trends, those liberations are fact. And yet the Serbs, Croats, and Muslims of dying Yugoslavia have been allowed to escape the trends. To revert to atrocities like that at Nova Kosaba.

If the Clinton, Chirac, Major, Yeltsin, and Kohl governments accomplish nothing else during their time in power, let them now push, pull, argue, and demand an end to this war. No excuses.

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