On Bosnia, Clinton Aggressive, Bush Wary
By Paul F. Horvitz, New York Times, August 6, 1992
WASHINGTON— Sharp differences between Governor Bill Clinton and President George Bush continued to emerge Wednesday over how the United States should react to reports of atrocities in the civil war in Bosnia.
Mr. Bush, in a newspaper interview, expressed deep reluctance about sending U.S. forces into battle in the former republics of Yugoslavia unless a quick victory could be assured. He used Vietnam as an analogy. And he said he had not yet “thought out” military options.
At a meeting with high school students in Illinois, Mr. Clinton repeated his call for an immediate United Nations investigation of detention camps in Bosnia. He added that “we may have to use military force,” starting with air strikes.
His vice presidential running mate, Senator Al Gore, said European leaders had been “a little timid” in the Balkans.
Mr. Clinton declared: “I think that we cannot afford to ignore what appears to be a deliberate systematic extermination of human beings based on their ethnic origin. The United Nations was set up to stop things like that and we ought to stop it.”
The issue of atrocities arose over the weekend with reports from refugees that Serbian gunmen were beating and killing Muslim and Croatian civilians held in scores of detention centers in Bosnia. The U.S. State Department later said it had independent confirmation of atrocities but a day later announced that it had no substantiation.
On the surface, Mr. Clinton’s position calling for UN consideration of multilateral action is not substantially different from the current White House policy of supporting a new UN resolution authorizing the use of “all necessary means” to ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid to Bosnia.
The difference lies in the willingness to implement such a policy vigorously. Mr. Clinton is pressing for quick action and gaining substantial backing in Congress from both Democratic and Republican members. Mr. Bush stresses negotiation, caution and gradualism.
Mr. Bush, in an interview published Wednesday in USA Today, said he was “desperately worried about the suffering” in Bosnia. But he said the lesson from Vietnam was: “Don’t get bogged down in a guerrilla war where you don’t know what the hell you’re doing and you tie the hands of the military.”
He added, “If I send a kid into battle, the force is going to be there to be sure he, or her, are on the winning side and fast.”
Military force in the Balkans “is an option that I haven’t thought out yet,” he said.
The president added, “I don’t see the answers to my questions in terms of the use of substantial American force in Yugoslavia.”
On Tuesday, Mr. Clinton called for an immediate session of the UN Security Council to demand that the International Committee of the Red Cross be given access to all detention camps. The demand should be backed up, he said, by “collective action, including the use of force, if necessary,” with the United State providing “appropriate” military support.
The United Nations, Mr. Clinton said, should “consider doing whatever it takes to stop the slaughter of civilians, to investigate, under international law, whether there have been any human rights violations, and we may have to use military force.”
He added, “I would begin with air power against the Serbs to try to restore the basic conditions of humanity.”
Bill Clinton, October 1, 1992:
“Mr. Bush sent his Secretary of State to Belgrade, where in the name of stability, he urged the members of the dying Yugoslav Federation to resist dissolution. This would have required the peoples of Bosnia, Croatia and Slovenia to knuckle under to Europe’s last Communist strongman. When instead these new republics asserted their independence, the emboldened Milosevic regime launched the bloodiest war in Europe in over 40 years.”
(Presidential campaign speech, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 1 October 1992)
President Clinton’s Secretary of State Warren Christopher:
“We cannot ignore the human toll. Serbian ethnic cleansing has been pursued through mass murders, systematic beatings, and…rapes…prolonged shelling of innocents in Sarajevo and elsewhere, forced displacement of entire villages, inhumane treatment of prisoners in detention camps, the blockading of relief to sick and starving citizens… Our conscience revolts at the idea of accepting such brutality.”
(Warren Christopher, “Remarks of the Secretary of State,” Foreign Policy Bulletin, January-April 1993, p. 76.)
Kike Christopher Hitchens, August 15, 1993:
“Scorched-earth tactics have been a signature of the Serbian forces since the start of the Bosnian war, usually in areas that they have no intention of leaving. As part of the policy known as “ethnic cleansing,” Serbian units have been ordered to destroy all buildings belonging to Muslims, so as to discourage their return.”
“A highly evolved civilization has existed in Bosnia for many centuries. Not even now, in spite of hellish pressure, is there any serious intercommunal violence in the streets of multicultural Sarajevo. The Bosnians asked for the right to defend themselves, and were denied even that. So the pragmatic arguments should be tempered with humility, as we come to the realization that the Bosnians would have been better off with no American pledges at all. They too are learning that Bill Clinton’s indecision is final.”
(Christopher Hitchens, “Betrayal Becomes Farce”, The Washington Post, August 15, 1993.)
Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.), Chair of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on European Affairs:
“Even before the lifting of the embargo, the U.S. should support the Bosnian government with all possible supplies and military intelligence relevant to the defense of the republic . . … The international community can no longer hide behind the excuse that this is a Balkan civil war . . … The U.S. must lead the west in a decisive response to Serbian aggression . . . with air attacks on Serbian artillery everywhere in Bosnia.”
(US Congress, To Stand Against Aggression: Milosevic, the Bosnian Republic and the Conscience of the West: A Report of the Subcommittee on European Affairs of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1993), pp. 2-8.)
Kike Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.):
“[We] feel that the United States has an interest in this conflict: first, in standing up against aggression by one nation against another; second, in not standing idly by while genocidal acts occur; and third, in acknowledging that what happens in Europe has twice drawn us into world wars in this century and we have a strategic interest in preserving order there.”
(US Congress, Congressional Record, 103rd Congress, Second Session (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1994), p. 8124.)
Kike Christopher Hitchens, C-Span, 1994:
“It will sound absurd coming from a pudgy person in his mid-forties such as myself, but I very much admire those who have gone to volunteer their services in Bosnia, of whom there are some thousands now, and I wish there were more of them, and I wish I had the nerve to do it myself.”
Kike Christopher Hitchens, March 6, 1994:
House Majority Whip, David Bonior (D-Mich.):
“Unless we act right now to lift the arms embargo and to use the full force of the United States and NATO to increase air strikes, then the blood of Bosnia is not just on the hands of the Serbs, it is on the hands of all of us.”
(US Congress, Congressional Record, 103rd Congress, Second Session (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1994), p. 2497.)
Rep. Henry Hyde (R.-Ill.):
“We see unspeakable inhumanity, and we’re reduced to shrugging our shoulders, furrowing our brows and folding our arms. … We can’t let timid and paralyzed nations and self-important U.N. bureaucrats prevent us from doing what is right and in our own self-interest.”
(US Congress, Congressional Record, 103rd Congress, Second Session (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1994), pp. 4240-41.)
1994: The Clinton administration supported Islamic Republic of Iran violatations of the arms embargo in Bosnia, to supply weapons to Bosnian Muslims, in order to prevent a Bosnian Serb victory.
Spring, 1995: After a Serb artillery attack allegedly killed dozens of civilians in a Tuzla cafe, the USA pushed its NATO allies to launch air-strikes against Bosnian Serbs.
August, 1995: US Congress voted to lift the embargo. President Clinton vetoed the bill, stating:
“If the United States unilaterally lifts the arms embargo, the United States, as the leader of the NATO alliance, would be obliged to send thousands of American troops to assist in that difficult operation. Second, unilaterally lifting the embargo could cause the fighting in Bosnia to escalate. Third, unilaterally lifting the embargo will lead to unilateral American responsibility. If the Bosnian government suffered reverses on the battlefield, we, and not the Europeans, would be expected to fill the void with military and humanitarian aid.”
“Unilaterally lifting the arms embargo will have the opposite effects of what its supporters intend. It would intensify the fighting, jeopardize diplomacy, and make the outcome of the war in Bosnia an American responsibility. Instead, we must work with our allies to protect innocent civilians, to strengthen the United Nations mission, to bring NATO’s military power to bear if our warnings are defied, and to aggressively pursue the only path that will end the conflict, one that leads to a negotiated peace.”
(Bill Clinton, “Statement on Vetoing Legislation To Lift the Arms Embargo Against Bosnia”, August 11, 1995.)
On 8 June 1995, the House voted 318-99 in favor of a resolution that would unilaterally lift the arms embargo upon the request of the Bosnian government, or if the UN withdrew its forces. When the Senate passed this resolution 69-29 on 26 July, Senate Majority Leader Dole denounced Clinton’s inaction:
“It is high time the Clinton administration abandon its flimsy excuses for the United Nations’ pitiful performance, shed the false mantle of humanitarianism, and face the reality of the U.N. failure in Bosnia . . … We have an obligation to the Bosnian people and to our principles, to allow a U.N. member state, the victim of aggression, to defend itself.”
(US Congress, Congressional Record, 104th Congress, First Session (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1995), p. 9722.)
Operation Deliberate Force, NATO’s first combat operation
USA, Canada, Belgium, Denmark, UK, France, Turkey, Germany, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway. and United Nations Protection Force (in support of Bosnian Muslims and Croats)
Bosnian Serbs (Republika Srpska)
“Operation Deliberate Force was a sustained air campaign conducted by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), in concert with the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) ground operations, to undermine the military capability of the Bosnian Serb Army (VRS). The operation was carried out between 30 August and 20 September 1995, involving 400 aircraft and 5,000 personnel from 15 nations. The campaign struck 338 Bosnian Serb targets, many of which were destroyed. Overall, 1,026 bombs were dropped during the operation, 708 of which were precision-guided. The bombing campaign was also roughly conterminous in time with Operation Mistral 2, two linked military offensives of the Croatian Army (HV), Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina (ARBiH), and the Croatian Defence Council (HVO) launched in western Bosnia.”
Bill Clinton, December 3, 1995:
“America cannot and must not be the world’s policeman. We cannot stop all war for all time, but we can stop some wars. We cannot save all women and all children but we can save many of them. We can’t do everything, but we must do what we can. There are times and places where our leadership can mean the difference between peace and war and where we can defend our fundamental values as a people and serve our most basic strategic interests. My fellow Americans in this new era, there are still times when America and America alone can and should make the difference for peace. The terrible war in Bosnia is such a case.
“If we’re not there, NATO will not be there. The peace will collapse, the war will re-ignite, the slaughter of innocents will begin again, a conflict that has already claimed so many victims could spread like poison throughout the region, eating away at Europe’s stability and eroding our partnership with our European allies and America’s commitment to leadership will be questioned if we refuse to participate in implementing a peace agreement we brokered right here in the United States, especially since the presidents of Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia all asked us to participate and all pledge their best efforts to the security of our troops.
“America’s role will not be about fighting a war. It will be about helping the people of Bosnia to secure their own peace agreement. Our mission will be limited, focused and under the command of an American general.
“I assume full responsibility for any harm that may come to them. But anyone contemplating any action that would endanger our troops should know this, America protects its own. Anyone, anyone who takes on our troops will suffer the consequences. We will fight fire with fire and then some.”
Associated Press, December 3, 1995:
“President Clinton, flanked by three refugee families, declared Human Rights day in America.He admitted the Bosnia mission was risky, but was worth it to prevent further suffering. With U.S. public support low and scepticism high in Congress, President Clinton began a week of speeches aimed at winning hearts and minds over Bosnia. He spoke of his conviction about sending U.S. troops to Bosnia.”
Bill Clinton, December 3, 1995:
“I am absolutely convinced that our goals are clear, they’re limited and they’re achievable in about a year’s time. I am also satisfied that we have taken every precaution to minimize the risk to our troops.”
“For peace to endure the people of Bosnia must receive the tangible benefits of peace. They must have the food, the medicine, the shelter, the clothing so many have been denied for so long. Roads must be repaired, the schools and hospitals rebuilt, the factories and shops refurbished and reopened. Families must be reunited and refugees returned home. Elections must be held so those who voted for reconciliation can lead their people to a future together.”
Clinton sends first troops to Bosnia
John Carlin, The Independent, Page 14, 4 December 1995
President Bill Clinton yesterday approved the dispatch of hundreds of American troops into Bosnia to prepare the ground for implementing the Dayton peace accord.
Speaking in Madrid at the close of a summit between the United States and European Union, Mr Clinton said: “I have authorised the Secretary of Defense to order the deployment of the preliminary troops to do preparatory work in Bosnia … They will be going into the area over the next couple of days.”
The troops, thought to number about 700, are part of 2,000-strong American “enabling force” due to fly to Bosnia before 14 December, when the Dayton accord is expected to be signed in Paris.
Mr Clinton said he did not think the treaty was in trouble or should be renegotiated, despite objections on Saturday from the Bosnian Serb commander, Ratko Mladic. “President Milosevic [of Serbia, who represented the Bosnian Serbs at Dayton] made strong commitments which he will have to fulfil to secure the support of Bosnian Serb leaders for this agreement,” Mr Clinton said.
Gen Mladic was apparently close to tears on Saturday as he said: “Serbs cannot agree with the Dayton maps … We cannot allow our people to come under the rule of butchers.” But despite the battle-cry of Gen Mladic, himself indicted for war crimes, few in Ilidza or the other Serb-held suburbs of Sarajevo seem WILLING TO FIGHT THE WORLD: most are preparing to move out when the Muslim-led government takes control.
There is concern that the Serb leadership might try to stage an incident to frighten Washington out of sending troops. But the American sector – north-eastern Bosnia – is likely to be the safest place for peace-keepers.
Bob Dole and other Republican leaders in the Senate said the Republican-controlled Congress would not support the President unless the deployment was accompanied by agreement to arm and train the Bosnian army. Mr Dole, Senate majority leader, said plans to withdraw troops within a year would not be realistic “unless the Bosnians have parity as far as military capability is concerned with the Serbs and the Croats and whatever.”
Mr Dole was backed by John McCain, a Republican, who noted that his party lacked numbers in the Congress to block the President.
Bill Clinton, Sarajevo, Bosnia, December 22, 1997:
“For us this is the season of celebration and we give thanks that the will for peace has triumphed over the weapons of war. At the edge of the 21st century we come here to resolve to build a new era free of the 20th century’s worst moments and full of it’s most brilliant possibilities.
“We just came from a coffee shop and spoke to students who come from different ethnic backgrounds who work and study here. People determined to build a common future to let go of the destructive past and I went around the table and let everyone say what they wanted to say and than I said now what is the most important thing the US can do to help you on your way. And in unison they said, ‘Stay for a while longer.’
“The world which continues to invest in your peace rightfully expects that you will do your part. The people of this country deserve it. You have accomplished much but there is much more to do. You have established to join institutions of democracy now you must work within them sharing power and responsibility. You have vowed to welcome back those displaced from their homes by war. Now you must bolster the return programme so that they actually can come back with stronger protections for minorities and job creation. You are working to restore Bosnia’s economy now you must build the laws to attract assistence and investments and root out the corruption that undermines confidence in economists.
“The real differences between the world today are not between Jews and Arabs; Protestants and Catholics; Muslims Croats and Serbs. The real differences are in between those who embrace peace and those who destroy it. Between those who look to the future and those who cling to the past. Between those who open their arms and those who are determined to clench their fists. Between those who believed that God made all of us equal, and those foolish enough to believe they are superior to others just because of the color of their skin, their religion of their families or their ethnic background. This is a very small nation on an increasingly small planet. None of us has the moral standing to look down on another and we should stop it.
“Let us recall that the century we are leaving began with the sound of gunfire in Sarajevo. And let us vow to start a new century with the music of peace in Sarajevo. To the people of Sarajevo I say you have seen what war has brought, now you know what peace can bring. Seize the chance before you. The world is watching. The world is with you but the choice is yours, may you make the right one. ”
Post-Script: Kike Christopher Hitchens:
“During the Bosnian war in the late 1990s, I spent several days traveling around the country with Susan Sontag and her son, my dear friend David Rieff. On one occasion, we made a special detour to the town of Zenica, where there was reported to be a serious infiltration of outside Muslim extremists: a charge that was often used to slander the Bosnian government of the time. We found very little evidence of that, but the community itself was much riven as between Muslim, Croat, and Serb. No faction was strong enough to predominate, each was strong enough to veto the other’s candidate for the chairmanship of the city council. Eventually, and in a way that was characteristically Bosnian, all three parties called on one of the town’s few Jews and asked him to assume the job. We called on him, and found that he was also the resident intellectual, with a natural gift for synthesizing matters. After we left him, Susan began to chortle in the car. ‘What do you think?’ she asked. ‘Do you think that the only dentist and the only shrink in Zenica are Jewish also?’ It would be dense to have pretended not to see her joke.”
(Christopher Hitchens, Hitch-22: A Memoir)