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The Bosnian Catastrophe

To the Editors:

As a result of the Washington Agreement, among the foreign ministers of the United States, Britain, France, Spain and Russia, the survival of Bosnia-Herzegovina and its people today hangs by a thread. The catastrophe now impending must be averted, for the sake not only of the victims but of us all. Fascism must not be allowed to triumph again in Europe.

Milosevic’s Serbia started the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina with the deliberate aim of destroying it as a sovereign state. But the destruction of Bosnia involves transforming the vast majority of its population—probably as many as three million people—into refugees. Already, 40 percent of Bosnia’s Croats have left the country and many more will follow. Tens of thousands of Serbs have also been forced out. As for the Muslims of Bosnia, their future is even bleaker: they are faced with genocide. For the first time since World War II, a European nation is being destroyed before the eyes and with the acquiescence of Europe and the world. Territorial expansionism in the name of blood and soil, the forced deportation of whole peoples and the destruction of their cultural inheritance, systematic atrocities—such acts bear all the hallmarks of twentieth-century fascism. Defeated at great cost half a century ago, this is being allowed a comeback in Europe today by the very states that once formed the victorious anti-fascist alliance.

Nobody has the right to deprive a people of its national home and cultural inheritance, its human and civil rights, its life and property—and get away with it. As Croats, we feel that this is no altruistic declaration on our part, for in defending the state and people of Bosnia-Herzegovina we defend also our own rights and the future of Croatia. Historical experience has taught us what incalculable dangers fascism carries for peace and stability in our continent.

There is little doubt that the Western states and Russia share the main blame for the Bosnian catastrophe, because their “peacekeeping” has amounted to little more than appeasement of Milosevic and his criminal policies. They are responsible for the Bosnian tragedy not only by default—by failing to protect a member of the United Nations, in accordance with the Charter they themselves drafted at the end of World War II—but also actively, by imposing and maintaining an arms embargo that prevents the victim from defending itself. In this way they have become directly complicit in the crimes committed daily against the Bosnian population. The world cannot stand by and pretend this has nothing to do with us. We call upon political parties, trade unions, churches, civic organizations, opinion-makers and individual citizens in these countries to do their utmost to force their governments to alter their policies and come to the aid of the state and people of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

We feel a particular duty to demand of the Republic of Croatia that it support fully and unconditionally the independence, sovereignty and integrity of Bosnia-Herzegovina, in accordance with the democratically expressed will of its people and Croatia’s own past declarations. This means withdrawing support from the para-state of “Herzeg-Bosna” as an instrument of territorial aggression upon Bosnia-Herzegovina, recognizing the government in Sarajevo as the only legitimate source of authority in the country, sincerely cooperating with all its efforts to defend the country, and promoting its cause in all international forums. All Croats guilty of crimes against the Muslim and Serb peoples must be brought to trial and punished in accordance with law. There must be no partition of Bosnia-Herzegovina between Serbia and Croatia. Only by defending the integrity of Bosnia-Herzegovina can Croatia hope to regain its own lost territories. The cause of the expelled and displaced population of Bosnia-Herzegovina is also the cause of Croatia’s own dispossessed. Only by uniting their efforts can Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina hope to defeat the common aggressor. We stress that Croatia’s liberation cannot be won, nor its security achieved, at the expense of Bosnia-Herzegovina—or indeed any other state or people in the area of former Yugoslavia.

Ivo Banac
Professor of History
Yale University
New Haven, Connecticut

Bojan Bujic
Department of Music
Magdalen College, Oxford University
Oxford, England Vesna Domany Hardy
London, England
Branka Magas
Historian and author of The Destruction of Yugoslavia
London, England
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