The Independent has proposed that at least 1,800 extra United Nations troops should be deployed to secure the route from the Croatian coast to the Bosnian heartland and that force, if necessary, should be used. The lives of more than 2 million people in central Bosnia, including several hundred thousand in Sarajevo, depend to a large extent on humanitarian aid efforts.
Among the hundreds of readers who have responded to our invitation to express their opinion on the plan, a large majority have lent their support to it.
A selection of their letters is printed below, along with the views of others who urge caution over the commitment of more international troops to the conflict in former Yugoslavia. The latter include the historian, Correlli Barnett, who argues that: 'Emotional moralising is simply not enough.'
On the facing page, our Defence and United Nations correspondents look at the practical aspects of implementing the plan, while the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee chairman, David Howell, comments on how politics has hindered the aid effort.
The Independent has received more replies to its invitation to readers to express their views on Sarajevo than on any previous issue. We continue to welcome contributions to the debate.
Our view is that public opinion can drive foreign policy. Such messages should be 60 to 100 words long, explaining your view. You may use two special fax lines (071-415 1371 and 071- 956 1739) or address letters to 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB, marking the envelope 'SARAJEVO'.
Letters of support testify to your sense of outrage
Muslims of Britain believe that carnage perpetrated by the Serbs must be stopped. It is in the wider interest of Europe as a whole that there is no appeasement with Hitlerism be it against Jews, Muslims or against people of any race or religion.
British Muslim Council, London N16
As a charity which has sent 15 convoys into Central Bosnia, we believe that your advocacy of a UN-guaranteed 'safe corridor' linking the Adriatic coast with Sarajevo and other towns is fully justified. If such a corridor were opened, more charities would venture to work in Bosnia, reducing the pressure on the UNHCR.
Bosnia Aid Committee of Oxford
Almost exactly one year ago I and other British historians published a letter in your pages calling upon the Government to stand by Bosnia. It is difficult to think of a more inept, immoral and short-sighted policy than that pursued by the West since then. I hope that public opinion can still at this late stage shock our Government out of its passivity.
Dr MARK MAZOWER
University of Sussex
We are against the genocide taking place in Bosnia-Herzegovina following its recognition by the West. We wish this war to be stopped before it becomes unstoppable and the Muslim population is destroyed.
S. SHARMAN, GR RIDOUT, J. HILSON, SD SUTTON, P. FLINT. SJ PEEK, MC MITTICKS, F. MICHIE, R. DUNN, LC WILLIAMS, E. McGREGOR
Words are not enough. Limited force must be employed to stop the siege and secure a future for the remaining Bosnians. Imagine a hospital without medicines and your child with a leg blown off] I am outraged that our Government has failed to act.
Dr ROSALIND SLATTER
You probably will not publish another letter from a notorious cynic (ie realist) like me, but I would wish to say that you in your stance over Bosnia and all your correspondents raving away about our 'moral duty' to intervene are guilty of self-indulgent emotional escapism, because none of you will confront the practical implications of what you urge - in terms of numbers of troops, length of stay, likely casualties to our own forces (I imagine few of your correspondents expect personally to ride shot-gun on the rescue mission) and the cost to a British exchequer running a pounds 50bn budget deficit. Emotional moralising is simply not enough.
As a Christian I feel that we have looked the other way, and passed by on the other side. Where are the good Samaritans who will, if necessary, use force to see that the wounds are bandaged and that the destitute and helpless are fed in their own country?
The tragedy in Bosnia is not, and should not have been, treated as a humanitarian problem alone; it should also be regarded as a political matter. The humanitarian pretext has been used, by Western compliance to avoid addressing the political reality.
Dr AHMAD GHIE
Why, you ask in your shaming and moving article, should we save Sarajevo if we aren't prepared 'to win for its people a viable territory we would be prepared to defend.' But we shall never win any territory to defend if we aren't prepared to use force to secure it. You weren't sufficiently forthright on this point. It must be made clear to those who shed tears at the sufferings of Sarajevo, that muttering 'a plague on all your houses' is a cop- out and they should open their history books.
I hope that you are going to give an opportunity for readers supporting a contrary point of view to have their views published. Otherwise, I think that you have a confounded cheek in publishing a one-sided view.
Until now I have been against unwarranted force in Bosnia. However, the situation there has deteriorated to such an extent that UN military intervention appears to be vital.
Mrs AJ IRVING
The people of former Yugoslavia do not have the democratic right to decide on their future, but by saving Sarajevo it may not be too late to give them that right.
VLADIMIR & CATHERINE HARDI
Action is overdue to spare Sarajevo's citizens from further suffering. The EC governments share responsibility for the appalling situation in Bosnia today because of the premature recognition of the Bosnian state. Your reporting on Sarajevo reminds me of the West Beirut which I knew during the Lebanese civil war, with people desperately trying to hang on to an inter-ethnic and cosmopolitan existence. It will be a tragedy for Christian-Muslim relations if the hope for co-existence which Sarajevo represents is crushed.
The Rev ALAN AMOS, OBE
Although we share the reluctance to use military force, we can see no alternative. We urge the government to do everything in its power, including the sanctioning of specifically targeted military intervention, to prevent the final destruction of Sarajevo.
Dr TESS ADKINS, IAN BARTER, Prof PATRICK BATESON, Dr NICHOLAS BULLOCK, Dr NAOMI EVANS, Prof WYNNE GODLEY, Dr DAVID GOOD, Dr ADRIAN GREGORY, KEITH HOOK, Dr STEPHEN HUGH-JONES, Dr CAROLINE HUMPHREY, JULIE JACK, Dr MICHAEL KOORTBOJIAN, Dr JAMES LAIDLAW, Dr RICHARD LAMBERT, Prof NICHOLAS MACKINTOSH, Dr BASSIM MUSALLAM, Dr PATRICK O'DONOVAN, Rev Dr GEORGE PATTISON, Prof MARTIN REES, EMMA ROTHSCHILD, Dr PAUL RYAN, Dr HAMID SABOURIAN, Dr COLIN SPARROW, Dr GARETH STEDMAN-JONES, Dr JOHN STEWART, Dr ERICA SWALES, Prof TONY TANNER.
Kings College, Cambridge
I am writing as one who is vehemently opposed to your views. This is a civil war, brought about by the premature recognition of Croatia and Bosnia, under German pressure. In my opinion not one British serviceman should be in this area; those that are there should be withdrawn.
Today is my 68th birthday which means I have memories of the end of the last war when I served as a very young man. British troops should protect essential British interests and nothing else] After Bosnia what next? Armenia or Georgia I suppose.
Surely there is no more graphic proof than the situation in Bosnia of the need for closer union in Europe and more democracy, not in Westminster, but in Europe. In the end the lesson in simple: less Europe, more war.
Although we are pacifists, the situation in Bosnia must not be allowed to continue. The lack of political will by Western governments has encouraged the Serbs and now the Croats to dismember an independent state. Worse looks likely to follow. If risks are run and lives are lost on our side then so be it.
Drs JOHN AND JEAN COOPE
As an Austrian historian I would argue that Britain has a far greater responsibility for the Bosnian tragedy than is generally understood: it was the victorious Allies, who, in 1919, arranged a loveless shot-gun marriage between Catholic Croatia and Orthodox Serbia, who called the resulting union Yugoslavia; and they allotted her custody of Slovenia, Slavonia, the Vojvodina, Kosovo, Macedonia and Bosnia. The Foreign Office has since pursued an entirely consistent and successful course in favouring Serbia, the old ally. The dispatch of British troops as hostages in all but name was a masterstroke, forestalling any possible military intervention by the Americans. Germany, whose popularity as a scapegoat never wanes, was then, by her recognition of Bosnia, deftly held responsible for the whole ungodly mess.
I wish your campaign luck.
It is totally spineless of our leaders to stand back and do nothing. If we lose a few of our soldiers that will be terrible, but to stand back and watch thousands die because our leaders fail to know the difference between right and wrong would be appalling.
ROBIN AND JUDY VICARY
You moved us from complacency to support your suggestions which must be implemented without delay. It is too late to save many Bosnians from the scars of war; the least Europe should do is to ensure a truly secure area to prevent further abominations. Every newspaper should keep Bosnia on the front page until this war is over.
We welcome your initiative to use the power of public opinion to obtain some positive action. You have our fullest support.
ROY & NORA MILNES
This family believes that the war in the former Yugoslavia is a disgrace to the politics of a United Europe and an embarrassment to those of us who consider ourselves as civilised Europeans. The political failure to halt this barbaric war smacks of expediency and supine neglect.
JR ELLIOTT, J. ELLIOTT, KJ ELLIOTT, SW ELLIOTT
I am a radio amateur, and can talk to people trapped in Sarajevo, when they have electricity. But what can I say? Every day their message is the same - no food, little water, no medicine. A good day is when the shelling stops. They don't ask, but must wonder, why we sit at home watching their misery on television like a peep-show. We have to stop the war - now.
Market Harborough, Leicestershire
The Refugee Council is launching an appeal to help victims in the former Yugoslavia as well as refugees who have fled to Britain. Donations, which can be sent to Bosnian Refugees, PO Box 4000, London W3 6XJ, will not stop this tragedy, but will at least demonstrate the concern of the British public.
Refugee Council, London, SW6
During the 1938 Czech crisis, the Daily Mail urged the government to abandon Czechoslovakia on the grounds it was of 'no concern to Englishmen'. One can only hope that the suspicion that similar thoughts about Bosnia may have occupied the minds of Western leaders is an unduly cynical one?
'This shame cannot continue'
Having suffered bombing during 1939-1945 and having served our country on active service, we have never been so ashamed to call ourselves British. This shame cannot go on and force must be used to save Bosnia.
As a child my father explained to me how the Russian army had sat on its hands within firing range of the city as the Warsaw uprising was crushed. This seemed monstrous and unthinkable. Europe's reaction to the siege of Sarajevo is worse.
None of us wants to see our own people coming home in body bags, but if we are too scared to use the military option in this desperate situation, why do we maintain such a force?
By putting thousands of our soldiers in harm's way with no real plan of action, the power brokers of the West are dithering us all towards the threshold of a major war. And the sad thing is we could still, using imaginative, coherently led and ruthless force, stop Serbian and Croatian excesses. Supporters of your campaign could sport black ribbons on our lapels or on our cars.
Hurstbourne Priors, Hampshire
I abhor war but pacifism appears like cowardice in the face of such greed and aggression as that visited by the Christians upon the Muslims in the Balkans. Non-intervention by our governments seems not merely like cowardice but almost like collaboration. Sometimes even quasi-pacifists can be proud of their government going to war. 1940 in France was a time. 1993 in Bosnia would seem another.
I am largely in agreement with your proposals for Sarejevo and I applaud your excellent coverage of the war in former Yugoslavia. However, your notice 'to our readers' is somewhat optimistic in its belief that we (your readers) can drive foreign policy. Hurd and Major have continually obstructed other governments whenever there has been a suggestion of the use of force.
Dr JA WHITTAKER
Your cartoon of 27 July highlights the overriding concern at Westminster for political survival whilst the tragedy of Bosnia continues. Our politicians need to reassess Britain's priorities and question whether sufficient moral and social concern exists to cope with the national and international problems facing Britain.
I have never voted Conservative, but if John Major will now demonstrate the statesmanship to lead Europe and guarantee the safety of the Bosnian Muslims within internationally recognised and defended borders, then I shall vote Conservative at the next election. If, as I fear, he will not, he deserves to be relegated to political obscurity.
The United Kingdom as member of the EC is indirectly responsible for the tragedy of Bosnia. Weak leadership allowed the German recommendation to recognise Croatia as an independent state to prevail. That recognition lit the fire for the horrors that followed. I fear the destruction of Bosnia will be for ever on our national conscience.
If the EC, the UN and the US let Sarajevo fall, the rest of the world will say, 'No oil? No interest, no action, no hearts'. And they will be right.
In the case of Sarajevo, Europe and the world is refusing to rescue the most precious example of that spirit it needs most today - a belief in ethnic tolerance and respect for human rights.
I have found my personal inability to do anything about the Bosnian tragedy so painful that I have been refusing to think about it. I fully support your proposals, though I do wonder if they are on a large enough scale to achieve their objectives.
How do we explain Sarajevo to our children? Do we tell them the Government is doing everything it can? Today you reveal that our entire humanitarian aid budget amounts to little more than the cost of refitting MI6 headquarters. The distortion of priorities beggars belief. You have tapped a groundswell of public anguish and shame at the West's inaction in the face of atrocity.
I strongly support your call to use force, if necessary, to save Sarajevo. At stake is not just human life, not just a 500-year-old civilisation, but the principle of ethnic and religious tolerance and the credibility of Europe's commitment to this principle. If we fail, EC members, including Britain, will be broken reeds. It is not yet too late.
Had the Serbs been Muslims, and their victims Christians, Western outrage would have forced a military intervention long ago. Sadly, a Muslim life is often of no more account to the European mind than it was when Spain was 'ethnically cleansed' of its Muslims in the Middle Ages.
Your call to arms is commendable. If Christendom really believes in human equality, it must act to prevent the Bosnian holocaust. If it does not, its retention of medieval prejudice will be announced to the world.
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