Passive Violence and False Humanitarianism

Western policy makers also manipulated the language of pacifism to justify maintaining an arms embargo against the Bosnians while refusing to use force to help them. The same leaders

have authorized arms sales throughout the world. British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd stated that to lift the arms embargo would be to create a "level killing field."[35] When the existence of the concentration camp at Omarska was revealed in August 1992, President Bush, proud author of Operation Desert Storm against Iraq, consistently refused to advocate lifting the arms embargo on the grounds that more arms in the area would increase the violence.

NATO policy makers had a moral and legal duty to uphold Article 51 of the UN Charter guaranteeing the right of a nation to defend itself, as well as the 1948 Geneva Convention requiring all signatory nations not only to prevent genocide but to punish it. By refusing either to allow the Bosnians to defend themselves or to use NATO power to defend them, these leaders engaged in a form of passive violence, setting the parameters within which the killing could be and was carried out with impunity.[36]

Despite the extraordinary efforts of many individuals and small congregations, influential Christian church leaders and organizations also opposed both lifting the embargo and the use of NATO force to save the Bosnians and have offered little in the way of an alternative.^3^ The position of many church groups that the best way to stop the violence was by "tightening" the arms embargo neglected the fact that the Serb army had enough weapons and weapons factories to last years. One of the few influential Christian leaders to speak out against the acquiescence of major church leaders and organizations in the assault on Bosnia has been Adrian Hastings, emeritus professor of theology at Leeds University. Hastings remarks that "If those in need are mostly Muslims who have lived peaceably for generations with their Christian neighbors but are now being destroyed

by nominal Christians, that is all the more reason for Christians to come to the rescue." He remarks on the silence of the archbishops of Canterbury, York, and Westminster and the British Council of Churches in view of the greatest moral outrage in Europe since World War II. He then draws a historical parallel: "Bishop George Bell of Chichester was a lonely voice 50 years ago when he spoke up for the Jews. Where is a Bishop of Chichester today?"[38] Sarajevo Archbishop Vinko Puljic, who has so courageously struggled for a multireligious Bosnia, approaches the topic with devastating understatement: "I think we had expected much more energetic voices against injustice from Western churches."[39] While it is true that differing churches have widely different views on the issue of just war and justified use of force, what was indisputable was the reluctance of major Christian church leaders to call the crimes in Bosnia what they were, genocide, and to demand a stop to them. To the extent that church statements showed only a generalized concern over suffering in Bosnia without an urgent demand to stop genocide, they can be justly accused of refusing to speak truth to power, or in Hastings's term, of speaking platitudes.

To the passive violence of the Western policy makers was added a false humanitarianism. By focusing the UN mission on the supply of humanitarian aid while refusing to stop the campaign of genocide, the UN Security Council created a system that put UN peacekeepers as suppliers of humanitarian aid to Bosnia—as hostages. Whether or not they were actually detained by radical Serb militias was not important. They could be detained at will and thus served as hostages whether or not they were confined. The Serb army was able to violate with impunity dozens of UN resolutions demanding free flow of humanitarian

aid, liberation of concentration camps, access to camps by war crimes investigators, and protection of civilians.[40] By requiring a dual key for any action by NATO (approval by both the UN military and civilian commanders and the NATO commander), the Security Council prevented any effective deterrence to hostage-taking. Some people were fed who would otherwise have starved but, as Bosnians commented, they were being fed for the slaughter.

For three years the UN struggled to get a basic minimum of food to the enclaves of Srebrenica and Zepa. After some peacekeepers were taken hostage and others threatened with being taken hostage, the people in the safe areas who had been forbidden adequate weapons to defend themselves and had been kept alive by UN humanitarianism were turned over to the Serb army for mass killings.[41] In September 1995, when NATO did use air strikes to break the siege of Sarajevo, total casualties to NATO forces were two French pilots missing. Had those strikes, or a credible threat of strikes, been used to prohibit any genocidal act by any party in 1992, not only would untold numbers of Bosnians (of all religions) have been saved, but the lives of more than two hundred UN peacekeepers as well.

It is impossible to know the personal motivations of those who for three years manipulated a language of pseudopacifism and false humanitarianism to justify a policy that rewarded aggression and punished its victims; who recognized Bosnia's sovereignty and pledged to defend it, then broke their own pledges; who declared a "no-fly zone" in October 1992, refused to authorize any enforcement for months, then refused to enforce it anyway; who declared six cities safe areas but refused to protect them; and who authorized "all necessary means" to get humani-

British UN General Michael Rose (right ) shares a laugh with Serbian General Ratko Mladic (left ) as Mladic's forces close in on UN designated safe areas. Reuters/Stjepanovic, 1995.

British UN General Michael Rose (right ) shares a laugh with Serbian General Ratko Mladic (left ) as Mladic's forces close in on UN designated safe areas. Reuters/Stjepanovic, 1995.

tarian convoys through to starving civilians but refused to use the means available.[42] For some, the degradation.of the notion of peacekeeping is encapsulated in a particular incident. In the summer of 1992, UN peacekeepers under the command of Canadian General Lewis MacKenzie frequented the rape camp known as Sonja's Kon-Tiki, in the town of Vogosca near Sarajevo. Even after they learned that the women at the Kon-Tiki were Muslim captives held against their will, abused, and sometimes killed, UN peacekeepers continued to take advantage of the women there and to fraternize with their Serb nationalist captors. Only 150 yards

away from Sonja's, scores of Muslim men were being held in inhuman conditions, but the peacekeepers took no notice.[43]

For others, the degradation of the peacekeeping role culminated on January 8, 1993. A French contingent of UN peacekeepers was escorting the Bosnian Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Hakija Turajlic into Sarajevo. They were stopped at a Serb army checkpoint. When the Serb soldiers asked the French peacekeepers to open up the armored car—against their orders and with the certain knowledge of what would follow—they complied, then stood aside and watched as a Serb soldier shot the unarmed Dr. Turajlic dead. When the same French peacekeepers came home to France, they were decorated for heroism.[44]

A Serbian religious nationalist put into one formula the manipulations of the language of nonviolence and humanitarianism that have been so often used by Western policy makers in regard to Bosnia and by doing so demonstrated the moral equalizing to which such language leads. The nationalist claimed that Christianity was superior to Islam because Christianity forbids all violence, even in self-protection. When asked why he justified as self-defense the violence of Serb nationalists, he responded: "We are all sinners."[45]

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