Minority Report

By Hitchens, Christopher | The Nation, June 7, 1993 | Go to article overview
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Minority Report

Hitchens, Christopher, The Nation

The term "Foreign Minister" usually conjures the image of some lying smoothie from King Charles Street or the Quai d'Orsay pattering around the world with a fixed grin and a fishy handshake on some errand of euphemism. (Claud Cockburn, when asked in the 1930s why his predictions of British policy were so often vindicated, would reply that there was no trick to it. You simply asked yourself what was the lowest and meanest thing the British Foreign Office could do, and then forecast that that's what it would do. Prescience, like every other science, requires a sense of history.)

Dr. Haris Silajdzic, Foreign Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina, doesn't conform to this pattern of "diplomacy," and would make a jagged fit at some Council on Foreign Relations roundtable. He likes to smoke--actually I think he needs to smoke--and to argue and to call things by their right name. You should just hear him on the British Foreign Office. On the night we met, he had been without sleep or rest for some days and the latest headlines from his desecrated country concerned, first, the roundup of unarmed Muslims in Mostar by the Croat fundamentalist Catholics and, second, the dynamiting of two historic sixteenth-century mosques in Banja Luka by the Serbian fundamentalist Orthodox. On May 9, Dr. Silajdzic issued the following statement and appeal:

The presidency and government of Bosnia-Herzegovina hereby

officially requests that the United Nations withdraw, as expeditiously

as possible, all U.N. personnel deployed on our territory

for purposes of delivering humanitarian relief.... Despite

our best efforts, it remains insufficiently understood by international

public opinion that the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina is

not a civil war, but a war of fascist aggression against a multiethnic

democratic republic. Our government and our army remain

multiethnic, and we remain committed to the goal of preserving

the Bosnian republic as a multiethnic democracy...

I think that this request is unprecedented. A nation that is fighting for survival actually demands to be left alone to fight its own battles. Though certainly prompted by the hypocrisy of the NATO powers, which in another historic "first" have announced that defense of Bosnia is unthinkable because there are foreign troops already there, it sharply distinguishes the Bosnians from, say, the Kuwaiti monarchy or the South Vietnamese junta, and many other clients who were not too proud to clamor for dependent status.

The Bosnian call for troop withdrawal and an end to the biased embargo went unheeded, partly at least because in practice the NATO powers do not recognize that there is any such thing as a Bosnian Republic. The privilege of de facto recognition is instead accorded to the Bosnian Serb "parliament" and its self-proclaimed authority over the territory it has "cleansed" with the help of an outside army. Lord Owen and senior NATO politicians went to wait on this "parliament" and its deliberations, and were sad when it turned them down.

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