Letter: Life-savers for Bosnia - both in and out of uniform

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Sir: General Rose, taking over UN command in Bosnia-Herzegovina, will find himself in a no-win situation. The UN is being blamed by all sides; much of the aid is not getting through; UN withdrawal would lead to a bloodbath; air strikes would not defeat the Serbs; arming the Muslims would prolong the fighting; and large-scale military intervention would amount to all-out war. All this may be true, but there is another alternative.

In December 1992, 500 pacifists in 10 coaches arrived in Sarajevo, having miraculously got through all the checkpoints on the way. They distributed gifts, supported the local peace group, preached peace and went home again. No one was killed.

Suppose now the UN were to call for 50,000 international peace volunteers, supported by voluntary donations, to 'invade' Bosnia-Herzegovina - under the auspices of the UN but distinguished from armed forces by some strikingly different 'uniform'. They would be totally unarmed, totally unprotected and willing to die if need be. They would carry aid and try to distribute it where most needed. But above all they would support all the many existing local anti-war groups with the single message 'lay down your arms'.

The operation would be difficult to organise and fairly expensive, and might achieve nothing. But it would do no harm and it might just inspire a new spirit and start things moving in a new direction. After all, conventional wisdom would have said of those 500 pacifists - 'They'll never get there]' But they did.

Yours faithfully,




25 January