Djindjic's democratic deficit

In response to your March 13 article "Assassination stuns Serbia": Serbia's assassinated Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic may have been a "reformer," but he was no democrat. To fiddle with the ballot box is one thing, but even Slobodan Milosevic refrained from replacing elected legislators with compliant cronies. This is precisely what Mr. Djindjic did early last summer to half of those Serbian parliament deputies belonging to Vojislav Kostunica's party. When the Supreme Court ruled this act illegal, Djindjic proceeded to replace the remaining deputies loyal to Mr. Kostunica. Djindjic eventually relented. The West treated this sordid episode as a mere peccadillo. Djindjic was given the benefit of the doubt because he was a pro-Western reformer.
Yugo Kovach
Twickenham, England

Regarding your March 14 editorial "Don't balk in the Balkans": The tragic assassination of Serbia's prime minister, Zoran Djindjic, should serve a warning to the West about externally interfering with domestic politics by financially supporting candidates.

Mr. Djindjic was widely viewed by Serbs as a Western quisling who betrayed the Yugoslav constitution by sending Slobodan Milosevic to The Hague. Promises of some $1.2 billion dollars in aid from the West for this illegal handover never materialized, severely damaging Djindjic's credibility. Near the end of his rule, Djindjic became more authoritarian as public support for his regime dwindled. The sad history of the Balkans has deep roots in the interference of many empires over the centuries (including today).
Michael Pravica
Las Vegas, N.M.

Oxymoron: US humanitarian land mines

Your March 14 article, "War aim: quest to reduce accidental casualties," explores the Pentagon's official plans to minimize civilian casualties. The article quotes a senior Department of Defense official as saying: The goal is to make sure "no matter what we do militarily, that we not create a situation where, after the war, you lose the peace." The article goes on to point out the importance of "avoiding the 'CNN effect' - broadcasts of civilian casualties and collateral damage."

What is not reported, however, is that during the same briefing a senior Defense official suggested that one way for the US to reduce civilian casualties is to "deny access to chemical weapons facilities by using small, self-destructing, air-delivered mines." In other words, one of the Pentagon's new strategies to reduce collateral damage is to employ antipersonnel land mines.

If our commanders are truly concerned with the "CNN effect" they might want to reconsider using indiscriminate antipersonnel land mines, which cannot distinguish between soldiers and innocents.

The Pentagon's political justification for use of land mines is a policy oxymoron that obfuscates the real dangers of antipersonnel mines - a weapon of mass destruction that has killed more people than nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons combined.

If the same official had spoken to me, a civilian land mine survivor who stepped on a mine while camping with friends in Northern Israel, I would have asked him to explain the humanitarian, "collateral advantage" of my injury.

At this difficult time, our nation needs courageous leadership that is driven by "compassionate patriotism." Land mines are indiscriminate killers. They are marginally useful in battle and are not humane. Land mines should not and must not be used in a war in Iraq.
Jerry White
Director and cofounder of Landmine Survivors Network

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