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Pointing fingers

The Dutch government resigned recently after a report blamed it for the Serbian massacres of Bosnians in U.N. designated "safe areas" in the mid-1990s. The Dutch sin wasn't action, but inaction. But Samantha Power says that the Clinton Administration was guilty of the same sin.

Once Mladic seized Srebrenica on July 11, 1995, American policymakers were keenly aware that the men and boys were being separated from the women and children, that Dutch soldiers were barred from supervising the "evacuation," and that the Muslims' fate lay in the hands of Mladic, the local embodiment of "evil."

U.S. officials received hysterical phone calls from leading members of the Bosnian government who pleaded with Washington to use NATO air power to save those in Mladic's custody. One July 13 classified cable related the "alarming news" that Serb forces were committing "all sorts" of atrocities. On July 17 the CIA's Bosnia Task Force wrote in its classified daily report that refugee reports of mass murder "provide details that appear credible." In a July 19 confidential memorandum, Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights John Shattuck described "credible reports of summary executions and the kidnapping and rape of Bosnian women."

Yet, despite this knowledge, neither President Clinton nor his top advisers made the fate of the men and boys an American priority. The president issued no public threats and ordered no contingency military planning. Spokesman Nick Burns told the Washington press corps that the United States was "not a decisive actor" in the debate over how to respond. The most powerful superpower in the history of mankind had influence only "on the margins," in Burns's words.

Admittedly, that was on the watch of Bill Clinton, whose foreign policy involved lurching from crisis to crisis trying to win Nobel Prizes. But Clinton was only one of many world leaders that stood by and did nothing as the massacres were going on. That's why Israeli governments continually reject the superficially reasonable suggestion that they should leave the West Bank and let the U.N. keep the peace. It's a joke, and everyone who doesn't work for certain newspaper editorial boards knows it.


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 21, 2002 5:00 PM.

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