bosnia report
No. 18 February - May 1997
Moment of Truth

The open letter from Alija Izetbegovic and Haris Silajdzic which we print in this issue, by virtue of its diplomatic character and chosen form, represents a very restrained comment on the extent to which the Dayton Accords have not been, and are not being, implemented. It has nevertheless provoked an angry reaction from the State Department in Washington and Carl Bildt's office in Sarajevo. The anger is all the more surprising since they know that what the letter says is essentially true: the present trend in B-H is disintegrative rather than integrative. The governments whose troops control the country and whose bankers hold the purse strings of international credit seem to find it easier to appease than to confront the regimes in Belgrade and Zagreb, unremittingly hostile to an integral, independent, pluralist B-H. And the plain fact is that a year and a half after Dayton, none of its basic civilian provisions - for the return of refugees to their homes, the arrest of indicted war criminals, freedom of movement, democratic elections, undivided sovereignty - have been implemented. On the contrary, there is increasing talk reported in both Western and local media of allowing the country to be partitioned by stealth, with the Bosniak population as the weakest party being expected to make most sacrifices. Washington's angry reaction to the open letter only feeds such concern. If, as it claims, it still supports Bosnia's unity and sovereignty, a far more natural response would have been to welcome the initiative as a sign of the Bosniak leadership's continued commitment to those same objectives.

It was obvious from the outset that the Dayton Accords had more to do with the Clinton Administration's domestic needs than with those of the people and state of B-H. The settlement's internal contradictions are such that it could never have provided any durable, let alone just, resolution of the Bosnian conflict. In the end Bosnia-HerzegovÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÀina will either survive as an integral, independent and multi-national state - entailing the defeat of its neighbours' depredations, the dismantling of their proxy armies, and the erasure of Dayton's odious ethnic provisions - or the forcible partition embarked on by Milosevic's and Karadzic's genocidal forces will be completed and given final legitimization by the United States and its allies. The deployment of NATO troops has in fact served to make the inter-entity border into a de facto state border, while the actual state borders between B-H and Croatia or B-H and SerbiaMontenegro have in practice been abolished. The effective trusteeship over Bosnia that Western governments have given themselves has not been accompanied by any corresponding degree of commitment to the country's continued existence. This situation clearly cannot last. Sooner or later the issue will have to be decided one way or the other, probably by renewed war. Rather than denouncing the messenger, Washington would do better to listen to the message, however unpalatable.


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