Arming the Aggressor

For almost two years, since the summer of 1992, the continuing atrocities in Bosnia had been denounced by officials with the UN High Commission for Refugees. Louis Gentile, the UNHCR head of operations in Banja Luka, was prompted to make the following statement: "It should be known, and recorded for all time, that the so-called leaders of the Western world have known for the past year and a half what is happening here. They receive play-by-play reports. They talk of prosecuting war criminals but do nothing to stop the continuing war crimes. May God forgive them, may God forgive us all."[1]

For months Gentile had been reporting on systematic atrocities against non-Serb civilians in Banja Luka. For months his appeals to stop the killings had been ignored by Western leaders. It is common to ask whether the West, the United Nations, or the Christian world failed in Bosnia, or worse, whether the Chris-

tian West was complicit in the evil that occurred there. Terms like "the West," however, are abstractions. The work of the UNHCR workers like Louis Gentile, Western news reporters, UN war crimes investigators, and some Western public officials may have prevented genocide from attaining even greater proportions. Despite these efforts, the conditions reported by Gentile were not only allowed to occur but were made possible by particular Western policy makers. Just as the ethnoreligious militants donned masks and face-paint to allow themselves to transform their former colleagues into disposable aliens and themselves into epic champions of their race and religion, so have many in the Western Alliance created their own masks to justify a policy that has allowed what Gentile called "beyond evil" to flourish. At the heart of the complicity was a policy that denied the Bosnians the right to defend themselves, while at the same time refusing to enforce UN resolutions authorizing NATO power to protect them.

A weapon is not a particular tool or device, but a disparity between one tool and another. Against a Goliath with a club, a slingshot is a weapon. Next to a tank, a slingshot is a toy. In 1991, the NATO nations armed the Serb militants, not with arms sales as in the Iran-Iraq war or the Rwanda genocide, but with a UN declaration.

During the cold war, the Yugoslav army, supported and financed by the Western powers, had stockpiled immense stores of weapons in hardened bunkers and had constructed weapons factories throughout Yugoslavia, especially in Bosnia-Herzegovina, in anticipation of a Soviet invasion that never came. In 1991, Serb nationalists seized control of most of those weapons. The

advantage of the Serb army in heavy weapons over the Bosnians was estimated at anywhere from 20-1 to 100-1. When the Serb army attacked Sarajevo in the spring of 1992, the Bosnian government was so poorly armed that it was gangs of criminals and black marketeers—the only groups with the weapons and organization needed to set up barricades and capture Serb armaments—that saved parts of the city from the genocidal assault.[2]

On September: 25, 1991, British Foreign Minister Douglas Hurd orchestrated passage of UN Security Council Resolution 713, an arms embargo on the former Yugoslavia by the UN Security Council, a resolution that the Milosevic regime was seeking. The five permanent members of the Security Council—U.S., Britain, France, Russia, and China—all voted for the resolution. The embargo locked into place a radical arms disparity between the Serb army and Bosnian army; in effect, it armed the Serb militants.[3]

What occurred from April 1992 through October 1995 has been labeled a war and even a civil war. A war, however, is a conflict between armed adversaries. The Serb army took towns and villages that lacked significant military defenses. Where there was any Bosnian defense at all, Serb militants used heavy artillery to shell the defenders into submission. Once the town or village was taken, the killings of civilians would begin.

This was not war but organized destruction of a largely unarmed population. With weapons and weapons factories under their control and with the arms embargo in place and stubbornly maintained for years, Serb militants were able to carry out their program with impunity.

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