Letter: 'Humanitarian' aid leaves Bosnia without hope

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The Independent Online
ROBERT FISK is right to stress that the easiest lie that can be propagated is that the Bosnian tragedy is a humanitarian problem ('Lie that leaves Bosnia in the lurch', 6 December). Europe's foremost political concern, mainly to hide its political inaction behind humanitarian action in the field, now amounts to no more than a shameful farce as civilian recipients of aid are left unprotected against attacks.

Brigadier-General Adnan Abdelrazek, the commander of the United Nations troops in Sarajevo, stated that the UN humanitarian operation was a total failure. The question is whether he will be kicked out of his job for pointing out the dead end to which the present approach is leading - just like Mohamed Sahnoun, the former special envoy of the UN Secretary-General in Somalia. The situation has reached a point of such absurdity that it is no longer the UN which dissuades the aggressor, but rather the aggressor who intimidates governments that have detached troops to the war-torn country.

France and the UK are opposed to the American proposal to enforce a 'no-fly' zone - because they are afraid of Serbian reprisals. This is dissuasion turned upside down. Under such conditions, there is no obvious reason why the fighting should stop. Meanwhile, those who are putting their lives at risk on the spot, both UN troops and humanitarian organisations, appear to be sitting ducks. Moreover, they are being made the alibi for the lack of political action by European governments, and to be the salve for Europe's conscience.

While we wait it out, the media treatment of Bosnia appears more and more like a weather forecast: in between periods of shelling, the UN global doctor offers a kind word and an aspirin to dying patients. Do we expect the Bosnians to be grateful?

We had the excuse that we did not know what was happening to the Jews in Nazi Germany. But in Bosnia we see extermination take place live on our television screens. Perhaps our governments feel they will be spared charges of 'non-assistance to people in danger'. It is not at all sure that our individual consciences can rest easy.

Dr Alain Destexhe


Medicins Sans Frontieres