Genocide from On High

March 18, 1995|By DANIEL BERGER

The CIA finding that 90 percent of ethnic cleansing in Bosnia was perpetrated by Serbs is not news.

Nor is the conclusion that ''the systematic nature of the Serbian actions strongly suggests that Pale [Bosnian Serb capital] and Belgrade exercised a carefully veiled role in the purposeful destruction and dispersal of non-Serb populations.''

The news was that the United States government had this report based on aerial photography and precise technical analysis.

Since the Clinton administration was not planning to act on any such understanding, three government sources leaked the report to the New York Times.

David Rieff details the workings of genocide in his new book, ''Slaughterhouse: Bosnia and the Failure of the West:''

''Before the beginning of the fighting, there had been approximately a thousand mosques in the Bosanska Krajina. By the winter of 1994, there were certainly no more than a hundred and probably far fewer.''

Such systematic eradication of evidence of a people's existence cannot be explained away as spontaneous ethnic hatred. It has to be policy.

Atrocities do beget more. The plunder and iconoclasm of churches and museums reported in great detail by The Sun's Dan Fesperman is three-way, wiping out Orthodox, Catholic and Muslim culture.

Since all represent different facets of a single Serbo-Croat people, the net result is a mad demographic and cultural suicide. (Bosnian Muslims are Islamic Serbo-Croats whom the dictator Tito decreed in 1974 to be a nationality.)

The fact of genocide has been accepted since 1992. It informs the actions of all parties, which cannot be understood in any other light.

The role of U.N. troops in Bosnia is to protect relief supplies sent by non-government organizations to populations the Bosnian Serb army starves, and incidentally to make Serb territorial gains permanent.

The U.N. just cut off emergency food to rebel Serbs in Croatia as pressure on Bosnian Serbs to open the road to the Bihac pocket in Bosnia, where they are starving 200,000 Muslims. It worked. The first convoy to Bihac since February 28 started through yesterday.

The U.S. was never going to bomb Serb emplacements, lest the Serbs retaliate against French and British soldiers, who would leave, abandoning the Muslims to the Serbs. The Muslims are hostages against anyone coming seriously to their aid. U.S. policy is to encourage a federation of Croatia and Bosnia, which pretend to go along to please Washington.

Serbia's dictator, Slobodan Milosevic, wants desperately to end U.N. sanctions against Serbia. He even decreed an embargo on the Bosnian Serbs, who are led by the poet-psychiatrist, Radovan Karadzic. (As though the death camps of 1992 had nothing to do with Serbia. Mr. Milosevic appointed General Ratko Mladic of the Yugoslav National Army to command the Croatian Serb forces in 1991 and the Bosnian Serb militia in 1992.) Then he made sure supplies got through.

Mr. Milosevic has deposed every leading Serb whose usefulness ended, and would do the same to Mr. Karadzic, who knows it. Aside from the traditional provincialism of Serbs, Mr. Milosevic is a Leninist in economics and politics while Mr. Karadzic is a rightist championing church and capitalism. The West including the U.S. wants to end the trauma by declaring Mr. Milosevic, whom it has failed to intimidate, to be the solution rather than the problem. But he isn't helping.

Meanwhile, Croatia's strong-man, the general-historian President Franjo Tudjman, has two contradictory goals.

One is to relieve economic disaster by having Croatia embraced in Western European institutions to the exclusion of Serbia. The other is to refight the 1991 war in which Croatian Serbs drove his authority out of the Krajina district. He had no army at that time, but does now.

The contradiction of these goals explains his telling the U.N. to remove its 12,000 peace-keepers from Croatia by the end of the month, so he can have his war; and then that half can stay, so he can be rewarded as a man of peace.

Mr. Tudjman's visit to New York and Washington highlights the leverage on him, just as Mr. Milosevic's desperation to lift sanctions is leverage on Serbia.

Both would require a West that was unified and a U.S. administration that knew its mind. These are unrealistic expectations.

Daniel Berger writes editorials for The Baltimore Sun.

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