Saving Sarajevo: What are we going to say to our children tomorrow? We cannot say we did not know (CORRECTED)

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The Independent Online

As Bosnia's leaders appeared to be close to accepting the carve-up of their republic, the shells continued to fall on Sarajevo yesterday. Military leaders of Bosnia's factions met at Sarajevo airport to discuss another truce, which came into effect at noon and was broken within minutes.

Sarajevo's plight continues to draw an unprecedented response from readers following the Independent's call for an extra 1,800 UN troops to be deployed to reopen the coastal relief road to Sarajevo, with a mandate to use force if necessary. Some of the latest letters are published here.

Our view is that public opinion can drive foreign policy. Your messages should be 60 to 100 words. You may use two fax lines (071-415 1371 and 071-956 1739) or address letters to 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB, marking the envelope 'SARAJEVO'.

Congratulations on your proposals for Bosnia; good reporting need not always be done from on the fence. I am proud that some of my ex-students have made their contribution to raising public awareness with their programme Urbicide: A Sarajevo Diary, part of Channel 4's welcome but belated series on Bosnia next week. If more academics and media professionals were less willing to retreat into neutrality (often tacit support for the status quo) and impotence, public opinion (which was overwhelmingly for intervention months ago) might indeed drive foreign policy on such grounds as compassion and indignation, rather than the more usual ones of commercial gain and hyprocisy.


Wembley, Middlesex

I am expecting to give birth any day now, in the comfort and security of a fully equipped Western hospital. I would prefer to think that my child was entering a world where the definition of the 'national interest' is extended beyond the mere economic and strategic interest of a country. All the citizens of Europe will be losers if Sarajevo is allowed to fall.


London, NW2

So let's be positive about Sarajevo and the Bosnian people - and I don't care whether they are Baptists, Muslims, or born-again Christians. They're people and we share the planet.

An an ex-serviceman who saw something of the folly and horrors of the last war, I am now a senior citizen. Not long to live perhaps but fit, healthy and angry. The slaughter must stop. Let's do it together. I suggest 10,000 ex-servicemen and women travel to Bosnia in the first month and walk into Sarajevo. We could be the Godot they're waiting for. The following month 100,000 pensioners of both sexes, please join us. The next month we expect 1,000,000.


Plymouth, Devon

I sit and watch the atrocities in Sarajevo and Bosnia with my children, satellite broadcasting bringing new horror and helplessness every day.

If the people of this country are not going to help, please withdraw all cameras and journalist and let this country die at least with the knowledge and dignity that we did not know what was happening.


Camberley, Surey

Correlli Barnett asks how many of us (readers) would expect to ride shotgun - no, must of us would not, because we are not trained but we have paid for other people to be (volunteers, I may add).

He maintains it would be too costly for us to lend support. Leaving aside the morals of that, is it not more costly to maintain an army which is not going to be used, even in a situation where everything else has failed?

It seems that we only care when we are being affected.

We support your campaign wholeheartedly but wish we could envisage how you will harness this support.


Bridgewater, Somerset

This is the first time I have written to a newspaper about foreign policy and my teenage children say it won't make any difference anyway.

However, in the same spirit that you have filled your front page with your proposals - I feel strongly that more is at stake than the immediate fate of the inabitants of Sarajevo, shocking though that is. It has not been pleasant living in a country that for 14 years has been governed by principles of expediency, greed and self-interest. Making a stand at Sarajevo through force of public opinion would restore my faith in human nature and put up a marker for our collective responsibility for each other, irrespective of self-interest.


Havant, Hampshire

I have thought long and hard on this matter and have sent letters expressing my concern to my MP and Douglas Hurd. I am aware of the complexities of the Bosnian 'situation' but I do not think they should be used by politicians as an excuse for inaction. I fully support the stance you are taking, as limited commitment now may ensure a wider peace in the Balkans.



Why don't you tell your readers that all the Serbs are trying to do is recover their 'West Bank' of Sarajevo that had been overrun by Muslims? To campaign to send in other people's children to risk their lives forcing people to live together with groups they consider to be ethnically abhorrent is, in my opinion, morally disgusting.


Kew, Surrey

I applaud your initiative in stirring up some moral and mental activity from your readership over the Bosnia problem but have become alarmed to witness the general emotive reaction along the lines of 'something must be done', rather as if any activity is better than nothing. In short - it isn't.

The Balkan Question has been a problem area for centuries and shows no sign of resolution at all. There are strains of ethnic, cultural, political, religious and opportunistic greed involved, plus the usual personal ego- mania of leaders and warped memories by populaces to contend with. there can be no winners by third party intervention, we can only make it worse. Sending in troops and arms just adds to the conflict and leads to more deaths.


Worksop, Notts

This war has made me feel for the first time in my adult life (36) what it is to be part of collective guilt.

When I was a teenager I spent a term in a German school, meeting the parents and grandparents of some of my classmates. I have often since wondered about the silent majority who 'didn't know' what was happening at their railway station or village.

It may not be on our soil, but we won't be able to get away with the same excuse now.

I feel ashamed that we have elected such hand-wringing hypocrites and that the nation, myself included, has not taken to the streets.


London N1

It is deeply painful to read and watch the relentless toll of inhumanity day after day after day.

It is obviously extremely complex, but it seems to me that more could done by the UN, and it is so shameful that politically we appear unmoved by the war. I hope your plan will be acted on, and I feel I have been allowed to act also - even if practically insignificant - it is a positive step emotionally.

I pray for success - and, eventually, peace.


Rotherham, Yorks

A multi-ethnic Bosnia is essential as a bridge between Western Europe and a resurgent Islam. First and foremost, however, is the moral question. Genocide is again taking place in the heart of Europe. To retrieve a minimum of honour and self-respect we Europeans must act now.

I feel deeply distraught and powerless about what is going on in Bosnia - the Independent intervention is greatly prized.


Galway, Ireland

One month ago I was in Split, Croatia, where I visited two refugee camps of Bosnian Muslims. I was welcomed with gentle hospitality into their cramped rooms. In a room where I was sitting to drink thick, sweet, Arabic coffee there was a picture of a house on the wall. It was a child's drawing and the windows were in the corners but there were curtains and a garden path.

It was a picture of the family home in Bosnia. I asked if, after a year's absence, they knew whether it was still there? 'Yes it is,' replied the daughter, a girl my own age. 'But the family of my best friend lives there now.' Inga's best friend used to be a Bosnian Serb. On the opposite wall, on a poster of a nice seaside town, is written in biro, 'Hocu Kucu' (I want to go home) and everywhere in the camp people are saying the same thing.

We cannot let these people down; leaving the camp I swapped addresses with my translator. Elma, 16, gave her address as a mile outside Sarajevo. Gently, I had to ask for the address of the refugee camp where letters could find her. Sarajevo is the first honourable thing we can save. Bosnia is the next. Please begin soon.


Swinton, Manchester

In 1947 I worked in the Children's Hospital in Sarajevo. There were great shortages - food, men, stock, and medical equipment - but there was hope for the future. I have returned frequently since, most recently in 1987, when there was a lively and creative spirit - no consciousness of cultural differences. The young, especially, were happy.

Apart from the appalling tragedy of killing, maiming and refugees, the hypocrisy of prolonging peace negociations with pretences of 'safe- areas' shows up our small-minded selfishness, making a mockery of the much-vaunted high ideals of the UN.

Maybe the Independent's initiative can stimulate governments to show moral courage and consider future implications of non-activity.


Oban, Argyll

I am writing to express my disgust at the situation in Bosnia and the way it has been allowed to deteriorate into complete anarchy and genocide of the Muslim population. I am relatively young and I will live to see the effects of the West's decisions on former Yugoslavia for years to come. I do not want to see a world where genocide is the norm, and a world infected with virulent outdated nationalism, humanity deserves better.


Devis, Wilts

As an ex-diplomat, I have always believed in asserting robustly that we pay British servicemen to defend British security interests, and when necessary to kill and die for them. I have never met a soldier who demurred.

The main threats to these interests now lie in resurgent tribalism in Europe, and in hostility to Europe in the Islamic world. Milosevic is not Hitler. Yet most believe that, had France and Britain killed a dozen or so German soldiers as soon as the Rhineland was reoccupied, the Second World War might well have been averted.

Similarly, a dozen or so Serb gunners killed by allied navies in the first week of the siege of Dubrovnik would have persuaded the Bosnian factions to take Western Europe seriously - its power, and its values.


Wells, Somerset

I totally agree with Mr Moody (the Independent 29 July) on the striking parallels between the attitudes of Western governments towards events in Bosnia and the hypocritical policy of neutrality pursued by prominent European governments during the Spanish Civil war of 1936, at a time when Hitler was throwing all his military weight behind Franco. We all know what happened next in Europe.



More power to you] And please do not be distracted by the so-called negotiations in Geneva. If they fail, the need for protected aid convoys will become only more evident. But all the more so, if some 'agreement' is made to carve up the country, since it will surely be the signal for yet more ethnic cleansing.

Your well-launched campaign needs now to focus on other formers of opinion, and on people with power. How is it that tonight on BBC Newsnight, none of the participants who lamented the West's failure even to maintain its flow of aid, seemed aware that UN resolutions allow the threat and use of a force in such a cause?



Two million refugees, 200,000 dead; 150,000 wounded; more than 40,000 raped.

What are we going to say our children tomorrow? We did not know that.

We urge Western governments to stop genocide now.


University of Sussex

We must act to save innocent Muslim civilians. But we must act, too, out of self-interest. Failure to do so threatens to poison the European bloodstream with the brutality of the victors and the desperation of the dispossessed.


Professor of Modern European


UEA, Norwich

Several months ago, newspapers reported that European public opinion was in favour of such intervention (as you suggest), yet EC ministers continued their policy of inaction and appeasement. I remain sceptical that the British Government will heed the angry and despairing messages coming from public opinion in this country, but your appeal at least allows these voices to be heard.


School of European Studies

University of Sussex, Brighton

Watching the television news reports of the besieged inhabitants of Sarajevo, I found it hard to believe that only a few years ago I walked those same streets as a tourist. Sarajevo was a beautiful city and its people warm and friendly. Will they ever be again? We must put on an end to the suffering with direct action, I applaud your stance and can only hope it will shame our government into realising there are more important matters than the Christchurch by election.


Lytham St-Annes, Lancs

In spite of our politicians, all Greeks are not admirers of Milosevic and Karadzic. But Greek politicians are a minor problem.

Europe has failed in Yugoslavia because the spirit of Chamberlain is still alive. Please, Mr Major, do not insist on old pro-Serbian prejudices. Bosnia-Herzegovina must live, non-nationalist Serbs and Croats (and Greeks]) must be helped. The only serious intervention of Europe in Yugoslavia was the arms embargo. But this was an unjustice and a help for Milosevic.

The time for decision has come, Mr Major.


Thessaloniki, Greece

Since the Serbs began to bombard Vukovar and Dubrovnik I have felt demeaned by our unwillingness to indicate in a positive way that such action was unacceptable. After the war entered Bosnia it became impossible to defend to Muslim friends, and others, the differing responses of the West to aggression in the Gulf as opposed to aggression in the Balkans.

I can understand the desire of European and other leaders to try to reach a settlement without military intervention in the region, but negotiations with warlike aggressors without a credible threat of force are a waste of time. It is guns that do the talking that matters around Sarajevo.


Royal Holloway

University of London, Surrey

It is time to let the Government know that a large number of British people want something done] Let everyone who feels that this should happen wear a black tie, armband, dress, whatever they would wear to a funeral to their work on Tuesday, 3 August. Perhaps the sight of significant number of people in early mourning for the fate of Sarajevo will concentrate the minds of the Cabinet.

Ask your colleagues at Le Monde and El Pais to ask their readers to do the same; mobilise the support of the tabloid, and indeed the rest of the quality press - show the Cabinet that the British public are ashamed of their record and want British and European policy to change - rapidly. Letters from what could be perceived as the 'chattering classes' will be ignored, a hugely visible silent protest will be much harder to ignore.


Jesmond, Newcastle

The response to your call to raise the siege of Sarajevo highlights the wide gulf separating public opinion - outraged by the long-drawn-out agony of Bosnia, convinced that something both can and should be done to confront the forces of barbarism on our continent - from the hypocrisies of Western politicians whose policies have all failed.

But Sarajevo must be only a first step to the restoration of Bosnian sovereignty and integrity, freeing the legitimate government from a cruel and unjust arms embargo and offering it necessary military aid. This alone will allow the displaced millions to return to their homes in peace: settling for any lesser objective means betraying the people of Bosnia and our own future.

Our newly-formed alliance brings together most groups active on behalf of Bosnia, together with individuals from all parties and faiths, behind a mass campaign to alter government policy. Please write for information, and help us in any way you can.


Alliance to Defend


119 Blenheim Crescent,

London, W11

If the humanitarian imperative to relieve Sarajevo is not sufficient to make all your readers put pen to paper, then I ask them to consider the potential dividends of western Christian countries rallying to defend the human rights of a Muslim people. We have an opportunity to take a lead in Europe for the benefit of the entire world, and at the same time reassert the positive power of (the) press. Sarajevo will never cease to exist. If we allow it to be erased from the map, the city will live in our collective guilt.


Southampton, Hampshire

The International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations, representing 2.3 million members worldwide, welcomes your appeal to save Sarajevo. International acquiescence in the forcible partition of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and efforts by so-called 'mediators' to undermine the government of Alija Izetbegovic, constitute a shabby betrayal of democratic principles which must be decisively rejected.

It is not too late for international action to defend those who reject the principle of ethnic partition. Such action must begin with immediate preparations to lift the siege of Sarajevo and turn back the aggressors.


General Secretary

Petit Lancy, France.

My mother was a refugee from Vienna in 1938. My grandparents remained behind and I have seen the certificates of 'racial purity' they were forced to obain. It is horrifying to me to see similar barbarism returning to Europe and meeting with such a supine reponse.



Your proposals appear to give a better chance of survival to the people of Sarajevo than any others that have been made.



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