Saving Sarajevo / Letter: 'What price united Europe with civilisation in ruins?'

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The Independent Online
In 1991, I fought in a war in a foreign land. At the time we all knew the only reason we were there was oil. The US wanted Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait and our governemnt had no hesitation in committing British troops.

In 1993, on our own continent, less that 50 years after the Holocaust, we are again appeasing aggression and letting a people die. Because America will not commit ground forces the UN cannot, and Western leaders will not, act decisively: they all now have blood on their hands. How quickly would they have acted if Bosnia was rich in oil?

DAVID C WALKER

Stafford

If any one of us stood by and watched murder or rape taking place, without extending a hand to assist the victim, we would be giving tacit support and approval to the perpetrator(s) and be a silent partner in their crime. Equally, this applies to nations who stand by and mouth condemnations without taking counter-action.

EILEEN SUTTON

Colintraire, Argyll

As a Roman Catholic priest I am reluctant to speak in favour of possible armed intervention. However, Bosnia is a part of Europe. In the present geo- political reality whatever happens in Europe is of direct interest to the EC and therefore to the United Kingdom. The present debates about the European Community are meaningless nonsense if we are not prepared to counter European aggression.

ULICK LORING

University of London

As you point out, a relatively small but rapidly deployed military intervention might save not only the people of Sarajevo but also the last remaining vestiges of the European ideal. Sarajevo represents the last chance for Bosnia and, as a multi-ethnic city, it symbolises the only kind of Europe which is worth fighting for.

LINDA GLENN, WILLIAM HANCOX, CHARLES & MARY HANCOX, SARAH HAGGETT, TOM FURNISS, HELEN DAVENPORT, DZANA SELOVIC (Bosnian Muslim from Sarajevo), JEFFREY WEST, HARRIET RUSSELL, OICHI LAU, STEVEN LOMAS

London, N4

I am lucky not to have lived through the Second World War and I have often wondered why it was allowed to happen and how ordinary people could stand by while millions were murdered in the Holocaust.

To my horror and frustration I have found myself doing exactly that during this crisis in Bosnia and have felt helpless and ashamed as our governments discuss, procrastinate and do nothing.

CATHERINE F M WILLIAMS

Oxford

I read your front-page article about Sarajevo after an excellent dinner in my comfortable home after a peaceful day at work. How easy it would be to turn the page and read, no doubt, some inconsequential report of who said what about Maastricht. How easy to pretend that Sarajevo and its people are so far away, the business so complex and who is to say who is right and who is wrong. But if we turn the page of history we will not be forgiven.

ADRIAN STUNGO

London, NW3

The Independent is a newspaper which prides itself on its objective portrayal of events. I was therefore surprised to see a large part of the front page taken up by proposals concerning Bosnia and an appeal for expressions of support from among its readers. This seems to be crossing the line from reporting to policy-making - a radical change of direction.

You used to be. Are you any more?

A N KEEP

Repton, Derby

I do not see how any government that has any humanity can allow the continuing slaughter of innocent men, women and children by sniper, shell or starvation without active armed intervention. Diplomacy has been tried and for whatever reasons has failed. Those who purport to be the leaders or the representatives of the warring factions have, for the most part, proved devious, untrustworthy and to have scant regard for human life. One thing I would like to know - which countries are supplying arms and ammunition to these people - I think we should be told.

P M CLAPTON

London, SW9

I agree that it is morally indefensible to allow the Bosnian Muslim population to be starved into further submission. However, I feel there are dangers in the use of military force which should be confined to the attack of supply routes - especially bridges - into the region from Serbia. In addition, the blockade of Serbia should be intensified and extended to Croatia.

GEORGE CARE

Penzance, Cornwall

Yes, yes, yes. If there was a candidate standing in the by-election on this mandate he would certainly get my vote. When the f--- is someone going to do something??

COLIN PLUMB

Christchurch, Dorset

Last week Paddy Ashdown asked the Prime Minister if the Government was prepared to allow Sarajevo to fall; the question was brushed aside with contempt. Thank you for taking hold of the question, and for producing not only an answer, but also a proposal for implementing it.

Two aspects of the tragedy have amazed me: one, that the British government has found it possible politically to stand by - or fly by - while human suffering intensifies relentlessly; and two, that the United Nations HQ can churn out resolutions which have no accompanying instructions as to implementation. Why?

THE REV MARGARET MASCALL

Herne Bay, Kent

The Independent's suggestions should be pushed with the sort of passion that General Morillon was so respected for. I for one don't want to be degraded any further by watching the continued impotence of the West. I suspect the older generation who lived through the East European war will not feel it is their place to point out that sometimes it is necessary to fight for principle as well as for national self-defence.

DR DS GREENHOW

Otterton, Devon

I have driven aid trucks to Bosnia and have witnessed children running alongside my truck, with one hand pointing at their little stomachs and the other at their mouths. Children in Mostar have offered me live ammunition to swap for a loaf of bread.

For God's sake, John Major, I will forgive the past if you do something about this horrific mess.

SIMON SCOTT

Kelso

I am one of those who believed that we should never have intervened in this war in the first place. I still feel that if we had done absolutely nothing the fighting would have been over months ago, and the victors would now be facing the age-old problems of administering conquered territories and coming terms with the vanquished. This is the stuff of history.

However, we did intervene, and I take your point that this has given us a measure of responsibility. I support the sober and well-thought-out measures you are advocating.

CELIA FREMLIN

London, NW3

Bosnia was an excellent example of moderate Muslims fully integrated with other modern, progressive cultures. The destruction of this will result in the creation of fanatics from moderates, and will encourage militants on all sides; the world will have itself to blame. While Sarajevo stands, the ideal still exists; if Sarajevo should fall, another blow will have been struck against the integration of Islam with other cultures. The omens from world peace in the long term are already bad enough.

CHRIS ARNOLD, GILES BATES, GILL BLAKE, PETER BROWN, CHRIS CARNEY, FLORENCE CESPEDES, LOUISE CHILCOTT, PHIL COWDY, RON CULLEN, FRANCES DRUMMOND, JOSE FERNANDES, CAROLINE HARDINGE, JANE HARGRAVE, SONIA JONES, ARIF KARIMJEE, PAM KINGSTON, DOROTHY LEONARD, DEBBIE LUMSDEN, CLARE MAXWELL, CORRIE McKAY, VEE McINTOSH, DUNCAN MILLS, ANNIKA MURPHY, FIONA NICHOLLS, LESLEY PRATT, DAVID RAE, HELEN SCHUDDEBOOM, JO SWABEY, PAT TURNER, JOANNE TURNER, RUPERT WILKES.

London, EC1

If only the parliamentary uproar and rebellion last week had been about something that really mattered. You report that 25 members were present to debate Bosnia. Quite apart from the dreadful consequences of Western inaction, it is sad to reflect that this country's conscience no longer has guardians in Parliament.

RM WHITTAKER

Worcester Park, Surrey

We must support the UN fully in whatever action is necessary to keep the supply lines open to Sarajevo.

MARIE EDITH PELHAM, CHARLOTTE CHATELIER, ELIZABETH BARDIN, J & J CHALOT, HELEN RHINELANDER

St Lunaire, Dinard, France

As I work for the UN I cannot write under my own name but I feel that I must at least add my few words on your admirable initiative on Sarajevo. The ordinary person , without fortune, power or influence can only view the spineless reactions of the US and its European allies with utter dismay. A sovereign country we just recognised is not allowed to defend itself and we have to stand by and watch while it is plundered and destroyed by brigands.

I work for, and believe in, human rights. I feel betrayed. How much more betrayed most those brave inhabitants of Sarajevo feel.

Name supplied

Geneva, Switzerland

We are in unequivocal favour of your proposals and hope that you continue to give prominence to the urgency of the political and military situation in the former Yugoslavia.

C. BERLINSKI, R. KUMAR, I. KEMPF, T. DICKIE, C. WILES, P. LYNCH, B. LYONS, S. SILLER, H. COLLINS, S. SMITH, J. EVANS, R. BRECKINRIDGE, A. RICHARDSON, B. EBERT, B. PRITCHARD, P. ABELA, H. SMITH, K. TURNER, N. BRYANT, A. WOOLFSON, C. BROWN, M. CRAWFORD, R. KUKANESEN, H. RAYNHAM, J. BRADLEY, R. SYKES and others.

Balliol College Middle Common Room, Oxford

If force should be applied it must be adequate. The Serbs are fighters and would resist with national unity, with Croatian support. A balanced force is required of infantry in armoured carriers, artillery, signals, logistical, medical and above all - single command. It would be invidious for the UN to select this from one nation. Nato should have a contingency plan to meet this, but this is subject to the agreement of contributory nations.

R E GREEN

Dedham, Essex

I am 22-years-old and I do not relish the prospect of a future in which aggressors are left untrammelled to rape, maim and kill. I condemn the cynical apathy of my government and I believe the Independent's motion to open the Mostar road to Sarajevo is the least we can do.

HELEN LATHABY

Barnstaple, Devon

It is a relief to find an outlet, however small, to express rage at Serbian atrocities in former Yugoslavia: in particular the rape of Sarajevo. I would personally back any move to increase the clout of UN forces in this area by adding to their numbers.

Serbian leaders must be amazed at the gullibility of the West, as they continue to break every negotiated ceasefire and peace agreement within minutes. What price a united Europe when civilisation lies in ruins at its door? The bell is already tolling for the rest of us.

F MARGARET BINNIE

London, NW11

We would support your 'call to save Sarajevo' if we thought that 'public opinion' and the views of your readers were one and the same thing; if we had not noticed that the war has already started in Kosovo and that the Serbian dictatorship is winning it; and if we shared your astonishingly naive optimistic belief that the ruling class of any capitalist country has ever been, or will ever be, capable of changing its convenient definition of 'the national interest' - the single biggest factor in forming 'public opinion' - just to accommodate your tender feelings, or ours.

PATRICK HEENAN &

MONIQUE LAMONTAGNE

London, W9

We need for Europe's sake to save some part of Bosnia dedicated to a multi-ethnic non-sectarian society.

Our 'pragmatic' leaders have let fascist thugs in Belgrade and Zagreb set the agenda. They must accept a lot of blame for the second Holocaust of the century. I wish art from Sarajevo could be toured through Europe's capitals and I would like to contribute in some way to putting this in motion. An exhibition of this kind would bring home the spiritual suffering of a people .

TOM RYAN

Limerick, Ireland

Your proposals to save Sarajevo are realistic and achievable. They have rekindled in my flagging prayers for the beleaguered Bosnian peoples a spark of hope. I only wonder why the Western allies still seem so impotent, hesitant and weak-kneed. If they can find the will and the capability to put thousands of troops into the Gulf to rescue Kuwait, why is it so difficult to deploy a mere 1,800 more UN troops to secure that vital supply road from Mostar.

Rev HUGH SEARLE

Barton, Cambridge

It would have been better if we had never intervened. Let this be admitted and let us - shamefacedly - leave.

ERIC HOLDER

Lewes, East Sussex

If the UN is to retain any credibility - particularly in the Muslim world and, indeed, wherever there are desperate people in need of protection and humanitarian aid - it must show itself capable now of maintaining safe areas in Bosnia and securing the main supply route. Since our peace-keeping forces on the spot believe it can be done, and with comparatively few extra troops, then at the very least it should be tried.

M S PRITCHARD

Newport, Gwent

Sarajevo/Munich. In future years I fear these names will become synonymous if we continue to wring our hands. Will we ever learn to pay a little now or end up paying very much more later.

DAVID PEARSON

Arundel, West Sussex

Multi-ethnic Bosnia is dead, but millions of her citizens are still alive. To save them from starvation, terror and death the West in general, and the supine British government in particular, must abandon its naive policy of attempting to have influence in the Balkans without accepting the concomitant risks and responsibilities.

DAVID KEEBLE

Edinburgh

Attempts to give humanitarian aid have been constantly harassed by the warring factions in Bosnia, and those seeking to provide it have made many sacrifices. They deserve better support. This means fighting, because I see it as a humane duty to protect our fellow Europeans, especially defenceless women and children.

BRIAN STOKES

Keele, Staffordshire

Yes, the fate of Sarajevo touches us all, yes we agree with your proposals unreservedly and admire your trust and hope in your readers' and indeed the British Government and that of EC member states.

Alas, I have grave doubts of the power of public opinion, let alone that of a vociferous minority comprising your readership; but the least we can do is support your effort.

GABRIELE WIGHT

Tunbridge Wells, Kent

(Photographs omitted)

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