COMMENTATORS explaining the hatreds that drive the...

Salmagundi

April 02, 1993

COMMENTATORS explaining the hatreds that drive the fighting in the former Yugoslavia sometimes remark that all sides are guilty, that, in the words of one analyst, "There are no innocent parties there."

That's not true, of course. There are innocents in Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia and everywhere else on Earth where wars and hatred tear society apart -- the children. But innocence is no protection. As we have seen in Somalia, it is usually the children who suffer first and most from cold, hunger and other harsh conditions.

So it was worth a few moments of the world's attention this week when photographers recorded a rare piece of good news for a child caught in war.

During the chaos of Wednesday's evacuation of panicky Muslims from the besieged eastern Bosnian town of Srebrenica, a seven-year-old Muslim boy fell from a crowded truck as the convoy made its way over rough roads to the Muslim stronghold of Tuzla. Desperate to rejoin his mother, he ran crying alongside the vehicle, while his mother watched helplessly.

This particular tragedy was probably only one of many heartbreaks this young child has experienced in this horrific war. But this time, at least, there was a happy ending, when a Serb officer, Maj. Vlada Dakic, picked up the boy and handed him up to his mother.

The officer's gesture was a simple act of human kindness. But in this war in which each barbarity seems to breed even worse offenses against humanity, the moment was a welcome reminder that behind any label -- Serb, Muslim, whatever -- are human beings, as capable of good as of evil.

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