Copyright 1997 Council on Foreign Relations, Inc.
Foreign Affairs
March, 1997 /April, 1997

SECTION: ESSAYS; Nagorno-Karabakh; Pg. 118

HEADLINE: Case Study in Ethnic Strife

BYLINE: David Rieff; DAVID RIEFF, a Senior Fellow at the World Policy Institute at the New School for Social Research, is the author of Slaughterhouse: Bosnia and the Failure of the West.

BODY:

WITHOUT RULES OR PITY

THE AUSTERE beauty of the mountains surrounding Stepanakert does little to relieve the morose atmosphere. Long a provincial town with an ethnic Armenian majority deep in western Azerbaijan, Stepanakert now styles itself the capital of the independent Armenian Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh. But not even Armenia, which urged Nagorno-Karabakh's secession and supported it in the subsequent war with Azerbaijan, recognizes the enclave as a state. After almost seven years of violence and another two under a shaky cease-fire, the enclave's economy is deteriorating and the population is declining. This has done little to mitigate the sense of ethnic grievance and nationalism that prevails in the mountain fastness of High Karabakh.

Nagorno-Karabakh's Armenians had agitated for autonomy for decades before declaring independence in July 1988 as the Kremlin's hold over the Soviet Union slipped. (The 1989 Soviet census in the enclave showed a population about three-quarters Armenian and one-quarter Azeri.) That February, some 30 ethnic Armenians had been killed in a pogrom in Sumgait, and more would die later that year in Baku, the capital, and other towns in Azerbaijan outside Nagorno-Karabakh; the government of Azerbaijan probably encouraged the massacres, and certainly did little to prevent them. When the enclave seceded, Baku sent police commandos to suppress the Armenian militants. By 1991 Nagorno-Karabakh was at war. Three years later, Karabakhi fighters, supported by Armenian regular troops and Russian advisers, had routed Azerbaijani forces far superior in number. Not only had the Karabakhis gained control of the enclave's 1,700 square miles, but they had seized territory beyond its borders amounting to approximately ten percent of the rest of Azerbaijan. Some 25,000 people died in the fighting, according to Human Rights Watch/Helsinki, and indiscriminate shelling of civilians, hostage-taking, and torture of prisoners were reported on both sides. A December 1994 cease-fire has brought no peace agreement. The initial massacres led about 400,000 ethnic Armenians to flee Azerbaijan proper. The war also uprooted some 700,000 ethnic Azeris, Kurds, and others from Armenia, captured areas of Azerbaijan, and Nagorno-Karabakh; all 40,000 Azeris in the enclave, a quarter of the population, fled or were expelled. Those refugees have since been living in camps in Azerbaijan.

Even though 20,000 Karabakhi Armenians are under arms, there is little trace of fighting today in Stepanakert. Its apartment blocks and low houses are dusty and rundown and water and electricity are scarce, but such is the case in many other remote, impoverished corners of the former Soviet Union, including most of Armenia and Azerbaijan. The facades bearing shrapnel marks and the occasional building gutted by rocket fire look as if they were damaged long ago. Neighboring Susa, overwhelmingly Azeri before the war, is now a ghost town, the Armenian church steeple rising over the ruined mosque. But in the nearby capital, as throughout Nagorno-Karabakh, the overall impression is of dilapidation, not war.

ENEMIES EVERYWHERE

REBUILDING AND refurbishing is going on in the would-be capital of Stepanakert, at least among the grim official buildings around the main square. In the Soviet era, these formed the backdrop for the annual May Day rallies and the commemorations of World War II. Karabakhis, people in Stepanakert like to boast, served in that conflict in numbers far exceeding their share of the population. "Armenians are natural fighters," a Karabakhi government official told me. "When the call came, we joined frontline units. Azeris don't like to fight. In the Great Patriotic War [World War II], in the Red Army, in Afghanistan, it was always the same -- you found them in construction battalions."

In Stepanakert today, the big annual celebration marks Nagorno-Karabakh's independence and military victories over the Azeris. To judge by the video of a recent parade, which Karabakhi officials appear to enjoy playing for their infrequent visitors, the ceremony is a miniature version of the reviews vaunting Soviet military might that used to be staged in Moscow's Red Square. Generals are driven by, saluting, and the troops goose-step past, followed by tanks, armored personnel carriers, and vehicles laden with rockets, while planes and attack helicopters streak overhead.

As he watched the tape with me during my visit last summer, the deputy foreign minister of the "republic," Valery Atajanian, could barely contain his excitement. By his own admission he had seen the video countless times, but from the medal-laden veterans of 1945 to the children waving along the parade route, every detail seemed to thrill him. Finally, as one particularly fierce-looking group of fighters marched past, Atajanian could keep silent no longer. "Those are the special forces," he blurted out. "They're the best -- real beasts."

As in other small, embattled societies, conversations in Nagorno-Karabakh are punctuated by assertions of military invincibility. Like the Turkish Cypriots, whose political discourse resembles that of these Armenian Christians, Karabakhis start from the premise that whatever they do will be misunderstood. They have no doubt that right is on their side -- the atrocities that accompanied their victory and their negotiators' intransigence at the peace talks are the Azeris' fault -- but the world is against them. Foreigners they regard with suspicion. Only the Armenian government, their friends in Moscow, and their brothers in the Armenian diaspora can be trusted -- and them not always. From their mountain statelet, the Karabakhis glower down. At times they seem as unmoved by the suffering they themselves have caused and as immovable in their insistence on their right to the land as Nasi Gori ("Our Mountains"), a statue on the outskirts of Stepanakert that has become the enclave's emblem.

Nasi Gori is a squat concoction in reddish tuff fashioned for Soviet officials in the 1960s by a local sculptor, Sergei Bagdissirian. In a style reminiscent of nothing so much as a set for a 1950s Italian movie about the labors of Hercules, the monument portrays the massive heads of a pair of archetypal Karabakh grandparents. He is bearded, and she is either wearing a babushka or is simply too tightly framed by the improbable peaks of the mountains that form the top of the sculpture, representing Karabakh's terrain. "It would make a nice bunker," said an Armenian sculptor in Karabakh working on a piece celebrating Karabakhi independence. When I went for a look at the sculpture, sheep were grazing around it while their shepherd had a smoke. The base was deeply scarred by the initials of lovers, and on it rested an empty bottle of Armenian champagne and the remains of a chicken dinner being consumed by a horde of ants.

"That sculpture is strong, like Karabakh," a local politician told me. "It shows us as we are in our essence. It is the perfect representation of why the Armenian people here must be free on their own land." Asked if he went to the monument often, he hesitated, then replied in confident tones, "It's not necessary. Nasi Gori is in my soul. Of course, I would not expect a foreigner to understand."

THE ROAD TO ARMENIA

IT IS difficult just to get to Nagorno-Karabakh, let alone understand it. One must either come by helicopter or drive through the Lachin corridor, a formerly Azeri area southwest of Karabakh proper that was the heart of Red Kurdistan, a 1920s Soviet experiment in providing a national homeland for the region's Kurdish people. The Lachin corridor sits astride what the Karabakhis call the "road of life." This 50-mile-long route from the border of Armenia proper to Stepanakert, which an army of workers is now turning into a modern highway, is in many ways at the center of Karabakhi identity: for the Armenian separatists of Nagorno-Karabakh, life means, above all, the connection to Armenia.

And beyond Armenia are the three million members of the Armenian diaspora. The substantial communities in the United States, France, Argentina, and Lebanon are haunted by memories of the 1915-16 Ottoman Turkish genocide that left one million Armenians dead. The prospect of a Nagorno-Karabakh independent from Azeri rule (the Azeris are a Turkic people) led some diaspora Armenians to drop everything to fight for Nagorno-Karabakh. Such volunteers' efforts, though significant, were less important than the diaspora's well-funded international lobbying on Nagorno-Karabakh's behalf or its large financial contributions to the statelet. A telethon in Los Angeles last year raised $ 11 million for construction work on the "road of life"; diaspora Armenians were assured that $ 250 would underwrite a meter of roadway.

Whether one arrives in Nagorno-Karabakh by road or by air, one does so from Armenia. And, when asked, the people along the way seem deliberately vague about whether they live in Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh, or what they call the "occupied territories." A "border post" just past the town of Lachin, like so much of the official rhetoric of Karabakhi independence, is largely a fiction. One can drive from the Armenian capital of Yerevan to Stepanakert and never show an identity document until the Karabakhi interior ministry checkpoint on the fringes of the enclave's capital. The Armenian currency, the dram, is universally accepted.

Lachin, like other places in the occupied territories, has been resettled largely by people from Armenia, particularly from areas devastated by the 1988 earthquake. For these settlers, the partially destroyed houses vacated by Azeris and Kurds are an improvement over the camps and makeshift shelters they had lived in back home since the disaster. "I had 40 square meters for myself and my family," a schoolteacher in Lachin told me matter-of-factly. "Here I have 100 meters. Of course, it needs some work."

Most Karabakhis are eager to see more Armenian settlement of the occupied areas so as to render the distinction between the enclave and Armenia even more meaningless, and the Armenian government seems eager to facilitate this movement of people. In any case, nothing happens in Nagorno-Karabakh without at least Armenia's tacit assent. The war was as much an Armenian victory as a Karabakhi one. Although the Karabakhis proved themselves fierce fighters during the three years of combat against vastly superior Azeri forces, they could never have prevailed without the troops, money, and advice from Armenia. (The Russians also provided some military aid, but, true to form, they helped the Azeris as well.) Nor would the Karabakhis have survived without Armenia, either economically or militarily, in this period of uneasy peace. Karabakh's flag is the Armenian tricolor with the crude addition of a jagged white line two-thirds of the way across symbolizing the division of the two Armenian states. Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossian handpicked Nagorno-Karabakh's president, Robert Kocharian, who went on to win election. That the Ter-Petrossian government is running the show in Nagorno-Karabakh is a fact that officials in Stepanakert, who privately yearn for eventual union with Armenia, scarcely bother to deny.

The oppressed Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh are in turn a potent symbol in the politics of Armenia proper. In the last years of the Soviet Union, Ter-Petrossian headed the Karabakh Committee, an Armenian organization that lobbied for autonomy for Karabakh, and he rode the issue to the presidency of independent Armenia. Polls in Armenia show that almost as overwhelming a majority favors absorption of the enclave as in Nagorno-Karabakh itself. But for the time being, the Armenian government hews to the fiction of Karabakhi independence, and, indeed, technically does not have diplomatic relations with the enclave.

THE LONG CEASE-FIRE

FOR YEREVAN at this point to openly declare its ties with Nagorno-Karabakh would be economic suicide, as Azerbaijan would tighten its trade and energy embargo against Armenia. It would also doubtless put an end to the public negotiations on the future of the enclave, which include not only the three contending parties but the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and separate representatives from the United States and Russia as well (although the consensus is that these talks have been getting nowhere). And it would almost certainly sabotage promising back-channel negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

The Azeris, for their part, are biding their time. They believe that when, in 1998 or 1999, they begin receiving substantial revenues from the oil pipelines now being built through their country, they will be able to negotiate the return of lost territory from a position of strength. There is also much talk in Baku of rebuilding the army. The Karabakhis fought brilliantly, but Baku's forces were less an army than a collection of militias that cooperated only intermittently and were not always paid by commanders whose venality was astonishing even by the standards of the Caucasus. Today Azeris point to the example of Croatia and its painstaking construction of a modern military in the years 1991-95. The more hard-line Azeris go further, promising that before the end of the century they will launch their own version of Operation Storm, the Croatian reconquest of the Krajina region. There is certainly no desire for battle today among ordinary Azeris. Whether there will be any taste for war a few years from now in Azerbaijan, a country with neither a martial tradition nor an effective government, remains to be seen. So does the question of whether Moscow would permit such an offensive to get off the ground.

From the Armenian perspective, however unsatisfactory the status quo, any change is politically risky. It will be difficult enough for Ter-Petrossian to agree to force the Karabakhis to hand back the occupied territories. For him to acquiesce to even the most generous autonomy arrangement that leaves Karabakh formally part of Azerbaijan is unthinkable. The Armenian diaspora, more radical on the Karabakh question than Armenians in the region -- as diasporas usually are on such matters -- would be incensed, and even a partial withdrawal of its support would be disastrous for Ter-Petrossian. Since independence, the Armenian economy has depended heavily on diaspora contributions. More crucially, diaspora Armenians' lobbying has won for Armenia levels of foreign aid and of political backing for its position in an interstate conflict greater than those enjoyed by any other country of so little economic or strategic importance.

CREATION OF A MONSTER

THE RELATIONSHIP between Yerevan and Stepanakert is more complicated than it is sometimes made out to be. As President Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia discovered with the Bosnian Serbs in 1995, Frankensteins have a habit of losing control of their monsters. Like the Bosnian Serbs' Republika Srpska, Karabakh has become a haven for the most extreme variants of nationalism, in this case including the Armenian nationalism of the Dashnak Party, which is banned in Armenia but important in the diaspora. Both Armenian and Karabakhi officials privately acknowledge that Ter-Petrossian may not be able to impose a settlement unacceptable to Stepanakert. That makes the status quo even more attractive, since any change runs the risk of unleashing the hard-liners.

And there are plenty of them in Nagorno-Karabakh. Indeed, at times one wonders about the sanity of some of the enclave's officials. Perhaps egged on by a couple of glasses of mulberry vodka with dinner, deputy foreign minister Atajanian sketched for me scenarios for Azerbaijan's and even Turkey's dismemberment by a peculiar alliance including forces from Cyprus, Greece, Russia, and the United States. He cited the predictions of Nostradamus.

Incredibly, many of the enclave's citizens think the government is far too moderate. "President" Kocharian and his aides would at least contemplate returning most of the captured territory outside Nagorno-Karabakh for a peace treaty that recognized the enclave's independence and its sovereignty over the Lachin corridor. But opposition to a land-for-peace deal is shared by many beyond Dashnak Party members and their supporters in the Armenian diaspora. More moderate figures in Karabakh take an equally truculent line.

Garen Ogandjanian is a member of parliament and the representative in Stepanakert of the Helsinki Citizens Assembly, a human rights group. He outlined for me ambitious plans for the creation of an "open society." "We have had enough of militarized ways of thinking here in Nagorno-Karabakh," said Ogandjanian, a slight man with a gentle manner. But from Karl Popper, the conversation passed rapidly to the security situation. Asked if land should be given back to the Azeris as part of a peace deal, Ogandjanian replied, "In theory, yes, if the security guarantees for us were absolute, if we could trust them -- which . . . I doubt we could. Personally, I don't see why we should give any land back. Historically, Nagorno-Karabakh was even larger than all the territory our troops now control. The Azeris have too much as it is." That the claims of the enclave's principal human rights advocate and those of the hardest of hard-line Dashnaks are all but indistinguishable suggests how much the extreme nationalist position has become the consensus in Nagorno-Karabakh, as it has in Armenia proper and Azerbaijan.

The Dashnaks, of course, are the ones who did the heavy lifting on the ground. Their men, including a substantial number of volunteers from the diaspora, did a great deal of the fighting and dying before the cease-fire. The hero of the early period of combat, when the Karabakhis seemed on the verge of losing, was an Armenian-American from California, Monte Melkonian. He was killed just before victory was secured, and busts of him are now displayed in many government offices in Stepanakert.

Dashnak loyalists and members of other extreme nationalist groups have come from Armenia -- although not, it appears, from the diaspora -- to settle in some of the occupied areas. In such places, talk of territorial compromise is unacceptable. "The Azeris are lucky we didn't take more," an Armenian settler in Lachin told me. "Let the Turks come back!" a settler in Lachin town, once 80 percent Kurdish and Azeri, declared. "We'll kill them all, whatever Kocharian says. This is our land. Maybe there were Turks here in 1990, but [70 years ago] this was Armenian land. And that is what it must be forever.

"We are a hospitable, courageous people," he continued. "Our only misfortune was to live among the Turks. And no Christian people can live successfully in a sea of Muslims." A friend interrupted. "There's an old saying: 'There's no family without a monster.' Well, the Turks are the monsters of the whole world." GRIEVANCES AS A WAY OF LIFE THE INSISTENCE in Nagorno-Karabakh on referring to Azeris as Turks reminds one that the Bosnian Serbs refer to Bosnian Muslims the same way. In fact, the similarities between the Karabakhi Armenians and Bosnian Serbs loyal to political demagogue Radovan Karadzic and military commander Ratko Mladic strike anyone who has traveled in both the Caucasus and the Balkans. As in Pale, the Bosnian Serb capital, two years ago, the talk among Karabakhi Armenians in Stepanakert today is exclusively about their side's unique suffering. Only their losses and their refugees matter. For the harm they themselves have done, the Karabakhis, like the Bosnian Serbs, are unashamed. If Azeris suffered, they insist in Stepanakert, the filthy Turks brought it on themselves. "You may be sure," deputy minister Atajanian told me, "that anything bad we did, we were forced to do."

It was the Azeris, after all, Karabakhis say, who thwarted the Armenian people's legitimate aspirations to self-determination. Azerbaijan's violent 1988 crackdown on the separatists, they say, started the war. If ethnic cleansing took place in Nagorno-Karabakh -- and it is difficult to deny that it did -- it was the inevitable consequence of Azeri massacres of Armenians. Atajanian waxed particularly indignant over criticism of Karabakhi human rights violations during the war: "Why do the Red Cross and certain foreign governments always demand that we behave better than the Azeris? Why do they continue to remind us so aggressively about international law? Let the Azeris obey international law. Baku! That's where they should direct their complaints."

As among the inhabitants of the Balkans and other places around the world, inflamed ethnic chauvinism combined with the memory of real communal suffering breeds among the peoples of the Caucasus fantasies of their original virtue and their enemies' original wickedness. Moral judgments become simple in such circumstances -- we are good, they are bad; we tell the truth, they lie -- and actions follow from there.

From the Armenian perspective, given the Azeri crimes against Armenians the Karabakhi leadership is generous in being willing to resolve its differences with Azerbaijan peacefully, especially after its triumph in the war. Atajanian insisted that unless the Azeris agree to Stepanakert's minimal demands of independence for Karabakh and recognition of Karabakhi sovereignty in the Lachin corridor, there would be another war. "And next time," he said, "we won't stop where we did. We'll go on to Yevlakh, and if they still won't agree to a settlement we'll march to Baku." He paused. "That's what the army wants to do right now."

Even admitting, as seems probable, that the Azeris are to blame for the outbreak of the war, neither the Karabakhi leaders nor the Armenian authorities in Yerevan can claim the moral high ground. What began as a struggle for self-determination soon degenerated into ethnic cleansing, massacre, and war fought without rules or pity, and Nagorno-Karabakh was cleansed of its non-Armenian population. As a result, 700,000 Azeri, Kurdish, and other refugees are living today in camps in Azerbaijan in conditions of unimaginable squalor. Neglected by the government, they are largely forgotten by the outside world.

Exacerbating the situation is a U.S. law passed in 1992 at the instigation of the Armenian lobby in America that prohibits international relief agencies from using U.S. government funds to aid the government of Azerbaijan. In a post-communist society like Azerbaijan, in which the medical and educational sectors are state-run, the legislation effectively rules out projects to supply hospitals, treat the tuberculosis endemic in the refugee camps, rehabilitate schools, or even use local doctors to do medical assessments. In private, Armenia's officials are unenthusiastic about the law, but diaspora leaders have been adamant. In the end the legislation plays into the hands of the Heydar Aliyev government in Baku, which uses the lack of American aid to justify its own abject failure to ameliorate conditions in the camps. And the more pathetic the refugees' situation, the easier it is for Baku to divert attention from its responsibility for provoking the crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh and paint Azerbaijan the victim.

It is enough to make one yearn, against all better judgment, for the Soviet Union and its rhetoric of interethnic solidarity. In the destroyed Azeri town of Susa, I passed a Soviet-era sign exhorting friendship among peoples. It was cant when erected, no doubt, but Suren, my elderly Armenian driver from Yerevan, did not think the harmony between ethnic groups had been a complete charade. "In the old days," he said, as we drove into Nagorno-Karabakh through the ruins of Lachin, "it didn't matter whether you were an Azeri, an Armenian, or a Karabakhi. We all got along." He did not, however, wish for a return to the past. "It will get better," he insisted, adding, "though not, of course, in my lifetime."

THE HARD WORK OF STATE-BUILDING

A FOREIGN aid worker who has spent more than a year in Karabakh observed, "When people here tell you of their wish to lead a normal life -- and I have people saying this to me all the time -- they mean the life they led in Soviet times, when the ruble was worth $ 1.40 [the current value is about 5,000 rubles to the dollar] and most of them had cars and could afford vacations by the Caspian." But, he concluded gloomily, "those days are never coming back."

On both sides of the divide between Armenians and Azeris, when the talk moves away from the Karabakh question it often focuses on the need to replace the old Soviet state-controlled economic system with the free market. While the Azeris look to Western companies to help them tap the country's purportedly enormous oil and gas reserves, bringing in dreamed-of hard currency, the Armenian and Karabakhi authorities channel diaspora contributions into construction on the "road of life." When completed, the highway will be the most modern in the Caucasus, up to Western standards -- a monument to the diaspora's power and wealth, if not strictly necessary from a practical point of view.

The hope in the diaspora and in Stepanakert is that the road-building and resettlement of the occupied territories will ensure that the battlefield victories of the Karabakh Armenians are not lost at the negotiating table. But two years after the war's end, for all the bluster of Karabakh's officials and the influence of its friends in Washington, the question is still whether it can survive as a statelet. Armenia cannot do for it, economically or militarily, what Belgrade did for the Serbs, let alone what Ankara did for the Turkish Cypriots.

Armenia's leaders may not be prepared to mortgage their country's economic future indefinitely for the sake of Nagorno-Karabakh. The Azerbaijani embargo continues to do harm, although Azerbaijan has eased its sanctions and Armenia has developed other trade ties. Unemployment in Armenia is above 50 percent, and it is clear that the price of improvement in the economic situation is flexibility on Karabakh. The diaspora, rich as it is, cannot subsidize the enclave, population 150,000, let alone Armenia, population three million.

Over the long run, neither extreme nationalists nor any other brand of ideologue can keep economic realities at bay. In spite of the sums coming in from the diaspora, conditions in Nagorno-Karabakh are deteriorating. Agriculture is the only viable sector, and most young men remain in the military. As a high official in the enclave ruefully admitted, "Many people are leaving, either for Armenia or for other countries."

Even more to the point, it is not clear that in Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenia, or many of the other post-Soviet states -- or in many African countries, for that matter -- the conception of the state reaches much beyond ethnic identity. The founders of Israel, with whom present-day Armenian nationalists often compare themselves, did not think that creating a Jewish state was all they had to do. They aspired to create a modern state, a new economics (among the Labor Zionists, a version of socialism), and an idea of democracy as well. They would have scoffed at the notion that the mystical virtues of ethnic solidarity would see them through.

But the Armenians of Karabakh, like many other peoples, have only that mystical idea to hold on to. It served them well while the fighting raged, but now it stands in the way of a solution. It mires Armenians and Azeris alike in their grievances, their self-love, and their mutual loathing. In such circumstances, talk of the past will always be more potent than talk of the future. But the past is steeped in blood, and if the future is to be different, compromises will have to be made.

The signs, both on the ground among the belligerents and in the wider region, are not encouraging. But without a compromise, sooner or later war will break out again. And unlike in the early 1990s, it may disturb great powers like the United States and Russia, whose interests in the area have grown substantially, or regional powers like Turkey and Iran, which would bear the brunt of refugee flows that would be the first consequence of renewed fighting. This time the conflict might not be so contained.

Copyright 1997 The New York Times Company
The New York Times
March 1, 1997, Saturday, Late Edition - Final

SECTION: Section 1; Page 23; Column 1; Editorial Desk

HEADLINE: In Afghanistan, a Dangerous Peace

BYLINE: By David Rieff; David Rieff is the author of "Slaughterhouse: Bosnia and the Failure of the West."

DATELINE: TASHKENT, Uzbekistan

BODY:

After five years of fighting, the Afghan civil war finally seems on the verge of ending. Nothing is ever sure in Central Asia, where alliances are fluid and the balance of power precarious. But foreign diplomats, Government officials in Uzbekistan and aid agency workers seem persuaded that the victory of the Pakistani-backed fundamentalist Taliban militia may be only a few months away. From a post-cold-war American perspective, this conflict and others in Central Asia seem very far off. Yet a Taliban victory could further destabilize the Central Asian regions north of Afghanistan, in the territory of the former Soviet Union. That is a danger that American and European policy makers ignore at their own peril.

The Taliban has two principal opponents in Afghanistan: the largely ethnic Tajik forces of the military commander Ahmad Shah Massoud and the ethnic Uzbek army of Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum.

The Massoud troops, driven out of Kabul by the Taliban, still control much of northeastern Afghanistan. General Dostum's troops are grouped around the city of Mazar-i-Sharif in the north-central part of the country.

These two groups cannot mount an effective resistance on their own, nor are they willing to pool their forces. And ordinary Afghan citizens are so sick of war that even a peace on the brutal terms offered by the Taliban has come to seem preferable to continued anarchy.

Meanwhile, the prospect of a Taliban victory has terrified Central Asian governments. Such a victory would end the Tajik and Uzbek mini-states in northern Afghanistan, causing a refugee exodus of up to a half-million people, including tens of thousands of seasoned fighters. The arrival of these refugees in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan would exacerbate the conflicts already enveloping these two Central Asian republics.

Tajikistan, for example, has its own civil war, and the presence of Mr. Massoud would bring a new and far more militarily accomplished combatant to the conflict. In Uzbekistan, Islamic fundamentalism already poses a grave threat to the Government, one that would be greatly bolstered by the presence of a Taliban state just across Uzbekistan's border.

Other Central Asian hostilities, too, are likely to be revived with a Taliban victory. The most dangerous of these are the Uzbekistan-Tajikistan tensions that date back to pre-Soviet times. Mr. Massoud has spoken of his dream of a "Greater Tajikistan," which would include a good part of what is now Uzbekistan. If he cannot rule in Afghanistan, Uzbek officials say privately, he may begin pursuing this goal. Uzbekistan invaded and briefly occupied Tajikistan in 1992; if it felt threatened, it could do so again.

If the Afghan war is effectively transposed north in this way, the effects would be stark and wide-ranging. Almost certainly, the small steps this Central Asian region has taken toward stability would be undone, virtually guaranteeing a major Russian involvement in an area where Russia already has military forces.

A Taliban victory would also greatly facilitate the penetration of this group's particularly barbarous variant of militant Islamic fundamentalism into countries that, whatever their faults, have so far resisted its advance.

Yet American policy has been curiously ambivalent with regard to the Taliban, whose battlefield successes could never have taken place without considerable support from Pakistan, an American ally.

The United States seems to have done little to oppose Pakistan's sponsorship of the Taliban. Indeed, a common view in Central Asia is that the United States is backing the Taliban. Paradoxically, in the last several years, Iran has supported the more moderate Mr. Massoud.

The Afghan crisis has the possibility of destabilizing the entire region from Xinjiang in China's extreme northwest to the Black Sea. The need for engaged United States diplomacy is urgent. At this late date, however, the only effective action America can take will have to be in concert with other regional powers, including -- whether Washington likes it or not -- Iran.

To be sure, it would be difficult to organize an international peace conference on Afghanistan with such an unlikely combination of participants -- the United States, the front-line Central Asian states, Iran, India (which has actively backed Mr. Massoud), Pakistan, Russia and the three main Afghan militias.

A successful outcome would be anything but assured. But standing by while the disaster unfolds is the height of irresponsibility.

Copyright 1997 Bergen Record Corp.
The Record
January 26, 1997; SUNDAY ; ALL EDITIONS

SECTION: YOUR TIME; Pg. Y06

HEADLINE: POLEMICAL JOURNEY OF A FRIEND OF SERBIA

SOURCE: Wire services

BYLINE: DAVID RIEFF, Special from the Los Angeles Times

BODY:

A JOURNEY TO THE RIVERS: Justice for Serbia, by Peter Handke; Viking, 83 pp., $ 17.95.

In the early Nineties, the list of actively pro-Serb intellectuals was short in every major country except Russia. In the West, probably the best known of these was the Austrian novelist and playwright Peter Handke.

For him, the Serbs had been provoked into committing what crimes they had committed. Germany, he argued, was the real villain of the crisis, with its premature recognition of Slovenian and Croatian independence.

In the end, indignation turned to action, and Handke traveled to Serbia in the fall of 1995. The result is"A Journey to the Rivers," a travelogue-cum-essay of 83 pages, whose subtitle,"Justice for Serbia," makes its author's ideological intentions plain enough.

When the book appeared in Germany last year, it caused a sensation.

And it has since acquired a renown that few travel books, particularly ones sparse in their reportage, ever receive.

For as the English translation, capably rendered by Scott Abbott, reveals, there is little in the book that is of much interest except that Handke wrote it and that it takes the Serb side.

There is virtually no reporting and only the crudest sort of historical analysis.

He never talked to a Croatian Serb leader, let alone attempted to visit the Krajina or Eastern Slavonia regions of Croatia on which the Serbs established their ministate in 1991.

More astonishing, Handke, so full of opinions about the real nature of the Bosnian conflict, declined to set foot in Bosnia itself.

Toward the end of"A Journey to the Rivers," Handke does, indeed, go to the Serb-Bosnian border, but he chooses to stay on the east bank of the Drina River.

When he gets there, for a moment his confidence in his view falters.

"Isn't it,"he asks himself,"finally irresponsible... to offer the small sufferings in Serbia, the bit of freezing there, the bit of loneliness, the trivialities such as snowflakes, caps, cream cheese, while over the border a great suffering prevails, that of Sarajevo, of Tuzla, of Srebrenica, of Bihac, compared to which the Serbian boo-boos are nothing?" The truth is that he doesn't know what he's talking about.

He came to Serbia knowing nothing about its complicated politics and, to judge by the book, left knowing no more.

But since Handke chose not to inquire too deeply and to leave Serbia as he had come, a prisoner of the folkloric cliches about the place he had formed in irritation before he set out, he must have been astonished by the sight of young people demonstrating in the streets of Belgrade, Novi Sad, and Nis against the Milosevic regime and the dark prison that Serbia has become.

Justice for Serbia? Myopia about Serbia is more like it.

Copyright 1997 Council on Foreign Relations, Inc.
Foreign Affairs
January, 1997 /February, 1997

SECTION: REVIEWS; Review Essay; Pg. 132

HEADLINE: Charity on the Rampage; The Business of Foreign Aid

BYLINE: David Rieff; DAVID RIEFF is a Senior Fellow of the World Policy Institute at the New School for Social Research. He is currently writing a book on humanitarian aid.

BODY:

The Road to Hell: The Ravaging Effects of Foreign Aid and International Charity. BY MICHAEL MAREN. New York: Free Press, 1997, 287 pp. $ 25.00.

Thirty years ago, few people could have identified a humanitarian aid organization other than the International Committee of the Red Cross. Today, humanitarian organizations like the International Rescue Committee, Save the Children, and the Paris-based Doctors Without Borders have become household names to millions of people in Western Europe and a growing number in the United States.

In Europe, humanitarianism, as Francois Jean, a leading official at Doctors Without Borders, has remarked, "occupies a central place." The contemporary form of humanitarianism, although the brainchild of left-wing French intellectuals of the May 1968 generation, has become so mainstream that France has a junior minister for humanitarian affairs. Things have proceeded more slowly in the United States, where humanitarian organizations have tended to rely on their ties to the State Department and the Agency for International Development (AID) more than their ability to mobilize the general public.

Nonetheless, even if most Americans are not ready to accept that there is a "right" to humanitarian intervention in extreme cases, as Doctors Without Borders claims, aid organizations have captured the public imagination. Here are people engaged in an activity that is wholly admirable, and that one need not view skeptically. Even in the last Congress, where the pressure to cut the foreign aid budget and the State Department's allocations for consular offices was fanatical, appropriations for the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance sailed through with bipartisan support. As a bitter State Department official in Rwanda recently told me, "There is money for weapons, and money for starving refugees, and that's about it."

Small wonder, then, that over the past two decades the established aid agencies have grown enormously, and new agencies, some no bigger than a half-dozen people -- there are no licensing requirements -- have proliferated. In 1982, 144 humanitarian aid agencies were registered with AID; 12 years later, the number had grown to 419. As the British journalist and observer of disaster relief operations Lindsey Hilsum wrote in 1995, "the emergency aid business" grew from "a small element in the larger package of development into a giant, global, unregulated industry worth 2,500 million pounds sterling a year. Most of that money is provided by governments, the European Union, and the United Nations."

Hilsum's comments are quoted by Michael Maren in his new book. Maren is a former Peace Corps volunteer in Kenya and AID official in Somalia. His book, although rhetorically over-the-top at times, is an invaluable corrective to the hagiographical accounts of humanitarian aid operations that have been the norm for the past decade. There are sound practical reasons why this has been so. The sites of disaster are difficult to get to, more difficult still to work in, and hardest of all to understand. The press' admiration for aid workers has been genuine and warranted. But there is no use denying that for the press corps, with the exception of the richest newspapers and television networks who can hire their own vehicles and translators, the international aid organizations have shaped coverage of their own stories. Whether it was in Mogadishu, Sarajevo, or Goma, more often than not print and television journalists turned to a member of a humanitarian nongovernmental organization (NGO) for the story on the ground -- not to mention transportation, lodging, and companionship. The situation is not all that different from the American media and the U.S. military in the early days in Vietnam before the reporters turned against the war.

As a result, the aid agencies' version of a story has often been the one transmitted from the field. Some agencies, Doctors Without Borders being the most accomplished, have become masters of spinning the story of an event to influence public opinion at home. "NGOS need nothing more than publicity," Maren writes, adding unfairly that "their prime interest is in reaching their customers, the donating public." Humanitarianism is a business, as Maren correctly points out, but for most humanitarian aid workers, their "customers," if they even see them as such, are the people they are trying to help.

BUYER BEWARE

Maren writes with the fury and disillusionment of intimacy. He knows from the inside how corrupt and self-serving humanitarian organizations can be. But like all jeremiads, The Road to Hell, devastating and enlightening though it is, oversimplifies the problem. For example, Maren calls what happened in Rwanda in 1994 a "relief circus." No doubt he is right. Anyone who says, as I did, the grotesque display of humanitarian agencies' flags flapping alongside each other in eastern Zaire like so many corporate flags in some business park in Purchase, New York, or San Jose, California, realized there was more going on than the simple desire to help. The struggle to stamp out cholera, get the shelters built, and dig the pit latrines was simultaneously a struggle for market share.

In Rwanda in the summer of 1994, as Maren notes, the humanitarians descended en masse, whether or not there was something useful for them to do. Aid workers in Rwanda asserted that the headquarters of several of the most established aid organizations overruled their recommendations not to intervene, insisting that if they were not involved, fundraising would be hopelessly compromised. Most aid organizations now admit that there was far too much duplication of effort and that many agencies performed poorly. The Rwandan government expelled a number of agencies in December 1995, although the fact that those agencies were French, and viewed by the new authorities in Kigali as politically hostile, played as important a role as questions of competence.

Maren is on solid ground when he insists that such dereliction was common. From country-level directors in the field to senior staff in Atlanta, New York, Oxford, or Paris, the pressure to find funding is enormous. Without a donor, whether that donor is a national government, a U.N. agency, AID, or the European Commission Humanitarian Office, virtually all relief agencies would close down. Of the major agencies, only a few retain some real independence. The French branch of Doctors Without Borders continues to receive more than 50 percent of its donations from individual private contributors. And Catholic Relief Services, though it receives considerable U.S. government funding, is able to operate with exceptional latitude because it is substantially underwritten by the American Catholic Church.

But for most agencies, in both the United States and Europe, institutional grants pay for almost everything: salaries, vehicles, housing, and project costs. Agencies boast that they allocate very little to overhead, but what they mean by overhead is usually the cost of running their headquarters. Some groups have small discretionary funds for launching pilot projects, but they are rarely large enough to obviate the need for aid groups to solicit funds through advertising. And sometimes their haste to do so is, to put it kindly, unseemly.

A telling example was the recent decision by the British branch of Save the Children to launch an appeal for Rwandan refugees in Zaire at a time when their fate, and, by extension, what role the aid agencies would play, was unclear. Nonetheless, Save the Children ran an advertisement with a photograph of a pathetic-looking African child that read in part: "Zaire: Desperate children need your help." That was doubtlessly true. But the ad continued, "Save the Children is able to help these children. We are providing high protein biscuits, medical supplies, and blankets to help save lives." That may have been the agency's intention, but when the ad ran in the British press the children in question had been cut off from aid for weeks, and it was by no means clear when or if that would change.

It is this sort of pious hyperbole, what Maren calls "exploitation of children for fundraising," that provokes his indignation. Right or wrong, the agencies usually get away with it, although recently the Rwandan government expelled a European agency for using a pathetic photograph of a Rwandan child in one of its campaigns without first consulting the Kigali authorities. The agency's officials were flabbergasted. No "beneficiary" country had ever dared demand that kind of respect. But then, the experience of Rwanda has been chastening for many agencies, not only because the government has kept the NGOS on a short leash, but because it became apparent that humanitarian intervention in the absence of a political solution solves nothing.

In eastern Zaire, the aid agencies found themselves in the position of feeding not only innocent refugee women and children, but their sons, fathers, brothers, and husbands, many of whom had participated in the 1994 genocide. The aid allowed those loyal to the old regime to survive, regroup, and launch guerrilla attacks from the refugee camps into Rwanda. This realization caused a number of agencies, notably the French branch of Doctors Without Borders and the International Rescue Committee, to withdraw in early 1995. But while courageous, this withdrawal was little more than a symbolic gesture; other agencies, including other national branches of Doctors Without Borders, were more than willing to fill the "vacancy" left by the departing NGOS. No better proof exists of how delivering humanitarian aid has become a business.

That lesson was driven home last October, when the Rwandan government first orchestrated a guerrilla uprising in the Zairean provinces where refugee camps were located. The aid agencies had been providing the camps between 8,000-9,000 tons of food per month since 1994. As the refugees were driven out, a spokeswoman for the World Food Program warned that more than 150,000 refugees, including 80,000 children, could die within the month. The head of one refugee advocacy group assured a Washington audience in early November that at least 1,200 people were dying every day.

That same week, Alex de Waal, co-director of Africa Rights, a London-based advocacy group, wrote presciently that in Africa people "never, never die in the numbers predicted by the aid agencies." As it happened, when the refugees finally did begin to move by the hundreds of thousands, U.N. and NGO officials conceded that they were in remarkably good shape. It is extremely difficult to estimate how many people will die during an emergency or even establish how many died after it has ended. But few NGO representatives are willing to admit as much publicly. An exception is H. Roy Williams of the International Rescue Committee, a man who has probably thought more deeply about humanitarian relief than any other senior American aid official. During the run-up to the intervention in Somalia, Williams told a Washington Post reporter, "I don't think anyone has a clue how many people have died."

STAGE FRIGHT

Maren's book went to press before the events in eastern Zaire played themselves out, but they only buttress his argument. In The Road to Hell, he writes eloquently of our "sensory confusion," engendered partly by television's sentimental depictions and partly by the fact that since the end of the Cold War most people do not really know how to think about international affairs. In this context, humanitarianism's appeal is obvious. The humanitarians act in our stead, and we have the satisfaction of feeling that humanitarian aid remains an effective response in a world where every gesture seems compromised.

This is the world viewed as a morality play. There are people in need, people from abroad who want to help (and need funding to do so), and the thugs and militia bosses who have caused the suffering in the first place. As President Clinton said when he finally announced that the United States would join the multinational humanitarian military mission in Zaire, "The world's most powerful nation must not turn its back on so many desperate people and innocent children who are now at risk."

In reality, the United States seems to have acted in response to pressure from governments, advocacy groups, and an intensifying media focus. Maren argues that the same pressure drove the humanitarian efforts in Ethiopia and Somalia. In Somalia, too, apocalyptic death tolls were predicted by the U.N. and aid agencies, and American television nightly showed scenes of despair and lawlessness in the streets of Mogadishu. Senator Nancy Kassebaum (R-Kan.) visited the region, as did Bernard Kouchner, then French minister of humanitarian affairs. The media attention eventually forced President Bush's hand.

Maren is not alone in suggesting that the death toll in Somalia was exaggerated, and that, by the time the intervention was under way, the mortality rate from famine and disease was already declining. He is an expert debunker. Yet while The Road To Hell is a useful antidote to the hyperboles of humanitarian aid, the flaws he discerns are not as damning as he imagines. In his obsession with examples of waste, graft, and misrepresentation, there is something of the Pentagon whistleblower's inability to see that although an arms procurement program is corrupt, it does not make weapons systems any less necessary.

LESSER OF TWO EVILS?

The presence of humanitarian aid workers has meant the difference between life and death for tens of thousands of people. Would it have been better if the International Rescue Committee, say, had not restored the electrical system of Sarajevo? I saw the project, which took two years and was accomplished in circumstances of great danger, transform the lives of the people there. Would it have been better if the U.S. military had not been involved in the Goma refugee camps in Zaire in 1994, when the cholera epidemic was at its height? It hardly seems likely, although, as Rony Brauman, one of the founders of Doctors Without Borders, has argued, it might then have been preferable for the aid agencies to withdraw en masse, rather than stay on in part for the entrepreneurial reasons Maren excoriates.

What excites Maren's ire is the gap between what the humanitarians claim they accomplish and what they actually do. There certainly are scoundrels in the NGO world, though surely no more than in medicine, law, or other professions. Indeed, it could be argued that in a culture as besotted with money as ours, people who are willing to shelve their careers or perhaps even briefly defer them by serving a short stint doing sanitation work somewhere in Africa are nothing less than remarkable. Most Americans or Western Europeans cannot imagine visiting Burundi or Tajikistan, let alone living there in circumstances that may be privileged by local standards, but are hardly comparable to the lifestyle they could enjoy at home.

My own experience is that while relief workers are too often woefully ignorant of the history and culture of the places in which they work, their dedication and wish to contribute something of value is genuine. That does not mean humanitarianism is the panacea that some of its advocates claim, nor that humanitarian interventions in what are essentially political crises are always wise. The tendency, which Maren identifies, of humanitarian aid agencies to campaign for military intervention is one of the most worrying developments on the international political scene. The idea that troops should be sent to protect relief workers wherever people are dying can lead only to more Somalias or to a kind of Group of Seven military takeover of failed states. Neither is practical or desirable unless one wants to reproduce the entire experience of nineteenth-century colonialism, which, it should be recalled, was also often justified on humanitarian grounds.

A MEASURE OF HUMANITY

This is not to question the basic value of the humanitarian exercise. If there is a profound critique of humanitarianism to be made, it revolves less around the points that absorb Maren and more around H. Roy Williams' compelling insight that the dilemma for humanitarian relief organizations is that they "have no idea how to match our material means to our moral and emotional aspirations." Maren is right to remind us how far the humanitarian organizations have overreached, but in fairness to them, this fact already pervades their own internal debates. Indeed, in France these debates are public, and there is much talk within Doctors Without Borders and other NGOS of the "humanitarian alibi" -- the misuse of the humanitarian idea and humanitarian workers by governments eager to do as little as possible in economically unpromising regions like sub-Saharan Africa.

There are those who believe, and there are moments in The Road To Hell when it seems like Maren may be among them, that the world would be better off without the fig leaf that modern humanitarianism increasingly provides, with the humanitarians serving as our designated consciences. Perhaps. But it is at least as likely that nothing positive would replace the humanitarian system, however flawed and, in some cases, destructive it can be. The dilemma is real, and there is no clear answer. Perhaps the real problem with modern humanitarianism is that it has exceeded its limits, and that, with all its talk of the right of intervention, its campaigning for military deployments, and its indulgence in the worst kind of disaster pornography in advertising campaigns, it needs to become more modest in its ambitions and expectations. A remark by a delegate of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Bosnia in 1993 is worth recalling here. The mission of the Red Cross, he said, is "to bring a measure of humanity, always insufficient, into situations that should not exist."

If West European and North American humanitarians could reliably provide that measure of humanity, they would already have accomplished a great deal. The engaged humanitarianism of the past 25 years is an attempt to go beyond the Red Cross' mission. The French tradition, exemplified by Doctors Without Borders, is an example. The Red Cross is hardly without its faults. During World War II, its tradition of discretion and its refusal to imperil its other activities prevented the organization from going public with information about German death camps. Nonetheless, its ideals and commitment remain coherent. It is doubtful that NGOS that depend on governments for their funding can aspire to the Red Cross' strict neutrality. Perhaps, after a long period of untrammeled growth, aid agencies now need to take a more cautious approach and realistically reassess what they can and cannot accomplish.

Copyright 1996 Times Mirror Company
Los Angeles Times
December 8, 1996, Sunday, Home Edition

SECTION: Opinion; Part M; Page 1; Opinion Desk

HEADLINE: THE U.N. SHADOW PLAY; THE U.S. CAMPAIGN TO DENY BOUTROS-GHALI A SECOND TERM MASKS THE URGENT NEED TO REINVENT THE INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR A POST-COLD WAR ERA

BYLINE: David Rieff, David Rieff, author of "Slaughterhouse: The Failure of Bosnia and, the West" (S&S Trade), is now working on a book about humanitarian aid

DATELINE: NEW YORK

BODY:

The U.S. effort to deny Boutros Boutros-Ghali a second term as U.N. secretary-general has now succeeded, as it was bound to. Though the secretary-general has technically not withdrawn his candidacy, his decision to "suspend" it amounts to the formal recognition by this intelligent, vain and imperious Egyptian diplomat that the United States will not be dissuaded from its determination to unseat him.

Apart from the French, for whom Boutros-Ghali was virtually a native son, few at the United Nations will mourn his departure, whatever they are now saying publicly. Morale within the institution is at an all-time low, and while much of this can be attributed to the failures of peacekeeping in Somalia, Bosnia and Rwanda, and to the U.N.'s parlous financial condition (itself largely the result of the U.S.' failure to pay its assessments), Boutros-Ghali personally bears much of the blame.

The diplomat who once boasted that, in the Egyptian foreign service, he had learned to deal with subordinates through "stealth and sudden terror" relied too often on these methods during his U.N. tenure. Too often capricious (he told a Turkish Cypriot delegation in the midst of a rare moment when a resolution of the crisis seemed possible that he had little time to deal with their concerns) and morally tone-deaf (in December, 1992, Boutros-Ghali visited Sarajevo and admonished the besieged citizenry that he knew of at least 10 places where conditions were far worse), Boutros-Ghali may, with the possible exception of Kurt Waldheim, be the worst secretary-general in U.N. history. But, while there is every reason to welcome his departure, neither the way Washington handled the matter nor the reasons behind the American decision stand up to scrutiny.

It is true that the argument over Boutros-Ghali's qualifications to serve a second term might have provided a context in which the long-overdue debate over the U.N.'s mission in the post-Cold War world and the role of the secretary-general could both have taken place. The United Nations is at a turning point, with its relevance, if not its survival, in the balance. In this moment of crisis, much would be clarified if the United States were to express what role it wishes the organization and its leadership to play. But rather than articulating such a serious policy, Washington has simply denounced the United Nations for its failure to reform and suggested that this failure can be attributed to Boutros-Ghali's defects as a secretary-general. In reality, whatever his faults, to personalize the U.N.'s crisis by laying it at Boutros-Ghali's door is not only hypocritical but, like most exercises in sound-bite diplomacy, doomed to failure. What confronts the United Nations is nothing less than a crisis of legitimacy--not the failures and limitations of one individual.

In any case, the American critique of the secretary-general involves a considerable distortion of the record. To hear U.S. officials tell it, they always had reservations about Boutros-Ghali. In fact, though he assumed his office as a compromise candidate put forward by the French, the Americans, who have a veto over any nominee for the post, did not oppose him. Moreover, some steps he took early in his tenure--notably in crafting "An Agenda for Peace," the 1992 position paper calling for a vastly expanded U.N. role in the past-Cold War world--were undertaken, at least in part, because the United States had encouraged U.N. officials to do so. Both the Bush administration, with its theory of a new world order, and the Clinton administration, with its insistent talk of a revived multilateralism, seemed to be calling for a more activist United Nations.

Then came the trauma of Somalia and, after that, the Bosnian disgrace. The U.N. role in the Balkan tragedy, despite what its apologists have claimed, was far more than simply serving as a fig leaf for the world's reluctance to act. In fact, Boutros-Ghali's U.N. played a crucial role, successfully impeding, at key moments, moves that might have led to the outside intervention that might have stopped the slaughter, and covering up Serb atrocities. The point, however, is that whatever the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Madeleine K. Albright, and other members of the Clinton administration, have claimed, the U.S. could have forced a different policy on the U.N. secretariat--had it been determined to do so.

Instead, however, in Bosnia and in many other contexts, the U.S. government preferred to act as if it were not in a position to impose its will on Boutros-Ghali and, indeed, as if somehow the world's most powerful country was at the mercy of a man who, like every U.N. secretary-general before him, will do what he is told by the great powers, if told firmly enough. If Boutros-Ghali overstepped his mandate, this was due to the failure of the administration to develop a coherent foreign policy until it was too late in the Horn of Africa, in the Great Lakes region and in the Balkans.

The American complaint against the secretary-general goes farther, of course. Boutros-Ghali is taxed with being a poor administrator and with his lack of commitment to U.N. "reform." These accusations are probably true, but, again, improvement in both these areas requires, above all, an American commitment to them. For the country that is the U.N.'s principal debtor to talk about U.N. reform is unseemly, not to say preposterous, as European diplomats have been pointing out, with mounting anger.

You do not need to be an admirer of Boutros-Ghali's to insist that the reality of what has been going on at the U.N. for the past few months has not been, as the U.S. claimed, an effort toward installing a new leader who could effect serious U.N. reform, but, rather, a shadow play in which the current incumbent is being blamed for the U.N.'s disarray--a circumstance that is the product of the institutional faults ingrained in the U.N. itself and of the reluctance of the great powers, particularly the U.S., to make up their minds about what role they want the secretary-general to play.

Should the secretary-general be a great world figure, someone who can eloquently and effectively represent the grand ideals embodied in the U.N. charter? Or should he or she be, above all, a good administrator? Judging by their critique of Boutros-Ghali, U.S. government officials expect both. That hardly seems realistic. Indeed, despite all the fine rhetoric, it is hard not to suspect that the U.S. and, for that matter, the other great powers, do not want a really first-rate official at the helm of the U.N.--for the simple reason that such a person would likely defy their wishes far more regularly than the rhetorically insubordinate but practically deferential Boutros-Ghali ever did.

Recently, there has been some nostalgic talk in Washington about Dag Hammarskjold, the independent-minded secretary-general in the early 1960s who was killed in the Congo. But, in fact, Hammarskjold had given little sign of independence before he was elected and infuriated the permanent five members of the U.N. Security Council precisely because he took such an independent line. And to judge by the undistinguished names now being put forward as possible successors to Boutros-Ghali, it seems more likely that what the U.S. and the other major countries are looking for is not a second Hammarskjold, but a second Boutros-Ghali, with a less arrogant manner and management style.

Like so many of the Clinton administration's foreign-policy efforts, the campaign to deny Boutros-Ghali reelection has been the triumph of sound-bite over substance. Undertaken in large measure for domestic political reasons (Bob Dole made Boutros-Ghali into an issue during the presidential campaign), and conducted with astonishing ineptitude (if this is any sign of how Albright will run the State Department, the Clinton administration's second term may hold even more foreign-policy blunders than the first), the attack on Boutros-Ghali has obscured the serious questions about the U.N. that the administration should be addressing.

Those are the same ones that the great powers, particularly the United States, have been avoiding. Should the U.N. have any real power or should it simply serve the interests of countries like the United States? Is the secretary-general to play an important role or is he or she best restricted to serving as a senior but subservient international civil servant? There is also the whole question of the selection process. Whatever Boutros-Ghali's failings, no one of any stature is likely to be made secretary-general under the current highly politicized system, except, like Hammarskjold, by accident.

Those are the realities that the spat over Boutros-Ghali, which is little more than a quarrel over personalities, has obscured. And unless there is real reform--which means countries like the United States need to think through seriously what role they want the U.N. to play--his ouster, while earning the United States the surreptitious gratitude of a great many U.N. employees, will have accomplished little beyond stirring up, at least temporarily, the resentment of many countries that understand just how insubstantial American objections to Boutros-Ghali really are.

Copyright 1996 Newsday, Inc.
Newsday
November 18, 1996, Monday, NASSAU AND SUFFOLK EDITION

SECTION: VIEWPOINTS; Page A31

HEADLINE: NEW FORCES NEED NEW APPROACH IN BOSNIA

BYLINE: By David Rieff. David Rieff is the author of "Slaughterhouse: Bosnia and the Failure of the West."

BODY:

THE WORST-KEPT secret in Washington is finally out in the open. Having fudged the question during the campaign, President Bill Clinton has confirmed what everyone had long assumed.

Although IFOR, the NATO-led implementation force that was sent to Bosnia in the wake of the Dayton peace accords, is being withdrawn, the United States will commit about 8,500 troops to a new NATO-led force in Bosnia. These soldiers will remain until the summer of 1998, perhaps not coincidentally almost the same moment when the U.S. midterm election campaign will begin in earnest.

This deployment may well be necessary. It has been clear for some time that without a continued NATO military presence, the war in Bosnia may well begin again next spring. Clinton insisted at his press conference Friday that the new mission would not "face the fundamental challenge of separating two hostile armies," but even administration officials now concede that the peace process in Bosnia is nowhere near as far along as its architects had hoped at the time of the Dayton agreement.

But while it is a relief to hear Secretary of Defense William Perrry admit, at last, that Bosnia remains "a fertile breeding ground for violence," he is actually understating the severity of the problem. Not just localized fighting, but full-scale war is very likely to erupt if the prostrate Bosnian economy does not get substantially more aid than it has so far received.

A country in which the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and United Nations agencies are the principal employers (IFOR alone at present accounts for 50 percent of employment) is fertile ground for those who want a return to war. Last week's clashes between Muslims and Serbs, in which Russian IFOR troops came under fire, offers only a small taste of what may be coming. Such an unraveling was not difficult to predict. The administration has consistently asserted, until now, that things were going according to plan. But from the beginning, critics of the U.S.-brokered peace plan had warned that it was not the military component of Dayton that was crucial, but the return of refugees, a far-reaching economic reconstruction program and the prosecution of war criminals indicted by the international tribunal in The Hague. But not only is the Bosnian economy in shambles; the refugees also have been prevented from returning home and war criminals such as Radovan Karadzic still retain most of the power and move about Bosnia with impunity.

The new deployment really represents an admission of defeat by the United States. Dayton may well have ushered in not peace but a period in which the combatants regrouped and prepared for the next period of war. Assuming that the United States and its allies are really committed to heading off a return to the battlefield, the real question is not whether the new troops - called Stabilization Forces, or SFOR - will remain in Bosnia until 1998, but whether during this deployment the mistakes of the period when IFOR was on the scene will be confronted and rectified.

The initial signs are not encouraging. The views of the United States continue to be very different from those of the British and French about what should be done. Over the past year, there has been a lot of wishful thinking, little courage and a determination to pretend that things were going well when they were not.

An absence of war is not the same as peace. And unless a more constructive approach can be cobbled together (or NATO troops are prepared to stay on in Bosnia indefinitely), SFOR is not likely to accomplish all that much more than its predecessor.

Copyright 1996 International Herald Tribune
International Herald Tribune
November 15, 1996

SECTION: OPINION

HEADLINE: Military Intervention in Central Africa: Humane or Foolish?

BYLINE: David Rieff

DATELINE: NEW YORK

BODY:

From the civil wars in Somalia and Bosnia to the current crisis in Zaire, it has been the international aid agencies that have most strongly and consistently called for military intervention.

Only by a combination of military muscle and logistical support, they say, can the world rescue starving people like the more than million Rwandan Hutu refugees in eastern Zaire.

In the short term this argument usually makes practical sense. Lives are saved when soldiers protect relief workers. But to intervene out of humanitarian concern without any idea of what comes next often does as much to worsen the situation in the long run as it does to alleviate things in the present.

In Somalia, where the United States became involved to a large extent because of pressure from humanitarian groups, it learned how quickly humanitarian intervention can go awry. In Bosnia, the relief effort became a fig leaf behind which the international community rationalized its refusal to take any concrete action that might have defused the crisis early on.

Sending troops to Zaire without considering comprehensive answers for the tensions that exist in the region will likely prove to be no solution at all, said Thabo Mbeki, the deputy president of South Africa.

It was partly because of advocacy groups like Refugees International that America committed itself in eastern Zaire in 1994 after the Rwandan civil war. That humanitarian effort, undertaken with such moral certainty, was never part of a larger commitment to helping Rwanda rebuild its political structure after the airlifts stopped. This made the current refugee crisis in Zaire inevitable.

Today, humanitarian activists, along with America's allies, seem on the brink of persuading a hesitant United States to join a new multinational military force in eastern Zaire. The Clinton administration has yet to fully back the Canadian-led plan, but White House spokesman Michael McCurry said on Wednesday that several thousand U.S. troops would soon be deployed, approximately 1,000 of whom would be inside Zaire for up to four months.

The oratory of post-Cold War humanitarianism is eerily reminiscent of that of the Cold Warriors who believed that there was no part of the world in which communism did not have to be confronted.

Any intervention in the Great Lakes region of Africa will be ad hoc, organized far too quickly to take into account what will happen if the mission goes wrong and if the force has to fight, as in Somalia.

More dangerous is the potential political effect on the rest of the region. Humanitarian agencies say the force will just save lives, but what if it destabilizes other areas? Little consideration has been given to how the insertion of this foreign army will affect the ongoing civil war in Burundi and Zaire's survival as a unified state.

It is this understanding, not hard-heartedness, that is behind the reservations of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General John Shalikashvili, and senior members of the Clinton administration about intervening in Zaire. Yet every time the image of a starving African appears on CNN, U.S. involvement becomes more likely.

Outsiders should not let the moral fervor of interventionism blind them to the implications of military action. If the decision is made to go in, it should be with the understanding that such humanitarian moves are rarely quick, clean or easy.

Copyright 1996 The New York Times Company
The New York Times
November 14, 1996, Thursday, Late Edition - Final

SECTION: Section A; Page 23; Column 2; Editorial Desk

HEADLINE: Intervention Has a Price

BYLINE: By David Rieff; David Rieff, the author of "Slaughterhouse: Bosnia and the Failure of the West," returned from Central Africa last week.

BODY:

From the civil wars in Somalia and Bosnia to the current crisis in Zaire, it has been the international aid agencies who have most strongly and consistently called for military intervention in humanitarian disasters. Only through a combination of military muscle and logistical support, they insist, can we hope to rescue starving people like the more than one million Rwandan Hutu refugees now cut off from aid in eastern Zaire.

In the short term, this argument usually makes practical sense. Lives are saved when soldiers protect relief workers. The problem is that in their increasing zeal to advocate a military response, the humanitarian advocates have in effect become the last interventionists of the post-cold war world, a position fraught with political and moral risks that Westerners ignore at our own peril.

To intervene out of humanitarian concern without any idea of what comes next often does as much to worsen the situation in the long run as it does to alleviate things in the short term.

In Somalia, where the United States became involved to a large extent because of pressure from groups like CARE, we learned how quickly humanitarian interventions can go awry. In Bosnia, the relief effort became a fig leaf behind which the international community could rationalize its refusal to take any concrete action that might have defused the crisis early on.

Sending international troops to Zaire without considering "comprehensive answers for the tensions that exist in the region" will likely prove to be no solution at all, said Thabo Mbeki, the Deputy President of South Africa. One does not need to look far to see that Mr. Mbeki's reservations are well founded.

It was partly because of the efforts of advocacy groups like Refugees International that the United States committed itself in eastern Zaire in 1994 after the Rwandan civil war. Yet that humanitarian effort, undertaken with such moral certainty, was never part of a larger commitment to helping Rwanda rebuild its political structure after the airlifts stopped. This made the current refugee crisis in Zaire inevitable.

Humanitarian activists, along with America's allies, apparently persuaded a hesitant United States to take a leading role in a new multinational military force in eastern Zaire. The White House spokesman, Michael McCurry, said yesterday that several thousand United States troops would soon be deployed, approximately 1,000 of which would be inside Zaire for up to four months, and American objections to the Canadian-led intervention had faded.

To hear many of the humanitarians tell it, there are either no risks to such an action, or the moral imperative for it is so great that to refuse is unthinkable. In this respect, the oratory of post-cold war humanitarianism is eerily reminiscent of that of the cold warriors who believed that there was no part of the world in which Communism did not have to be confronted.

Any intervention in the Great Lakes region of Africa will be ad hoc, organized far too quickly to take into account what will happen if the mission goes wrong and if the force has to fight, as in Somalia. More dangerous is the potential political effect of intervention on the rest of the region.

Humanitarian agencies insist that the force will just save lives, but what if it destabilizes other parts of the area? For example, little consideration has been given to how the insertion of this foreign army will affect the ongoing civil war in Burundi and Zaire's survival as a unified state.

It is this understanding, not hard-heartedness, that lay behind the reservations of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. John Shalikashvili, and senior members of the Clinton Administration about intervening in Zaire. Yet as images of starving Africans were broadcast on CNN, international pressure made American involvement virtually inevitable.

Americans should not let the moral fervor of interventionism blind them to the implications of military action. If the United States goes in, it should be with the understanding that such humanitarian moves are rarely if ever quick, clean or easy.

Copyright 1996 The Washington Post
The Washington Post
November 10, 1996, Sunday, Final Edition

SECTION: OUTLOOK; Pg. C01

HEADLINE: The Illusion of Zaire; While the West Dithers, Reality Is Fracturing Central Africa

BYLINE: David Rieff

BODY:

IN A SPEECH delivered more than 20 years ago, Zaire's president, Mobutu Sese Seko, made an astonishing admission. "There was no Zaire before me," the dictator proclaimed, "and there will be no Zaire after me."

Mobutu is still alive, though he has been diagnosed with a metastasizing cancer of the prostate, and has gone first to Switzerland (where he is said to have several billion dollars in numbered accounts) for treatment, and then to his villa in the south of France. It is open to question whether the Zaire over which he has ruled since he seized power in 1965, with American and Western European backing, even now can be called a state. The crisis in eastern Zaire, combining a refugee catastrophe in which more than a million Rwandan Hutus who have been living there since they fled across the border in the wake of the genocide of 1994, and what amounts to an insurrection backed by the new, Tutsi-dominated Rwandan regime, suggests that, even ill, it is Mobutu who may outlive Zaire.

In real terms, even before the uprising of the ethnic Tutsi Banyamulenge in Zaire's North and South Kivu provinces, the country was as much a fiction, politely acceded to in diplomatic circles, as a reality. Zaire had a flag, a seat at the United Nations, an army (albeit one whose soldiers are rarely paid), and huge cities that once bore names given by the Belgian colonizers -- Leopoldville, Stanleyville and the like -- but now have African ones. But as anyone who has visited the country knows, Mobutu and his cronies have turned Zaire into little more than a bankrupt kleptocracy. They have given every indication that they bear more allegiance to their own bank balances than to their country's future.

And what makes the tragedy of Mobutu's Zaire so much worse is that it is so unnecessary. The country should be prosperous. It has fertile lands, enormous mineral resources and a talented population. Instead, it is poor, even by African standards. Health care is nonexistent, as the complete inability of the Zairean authorities to deal with the outbreak of Ebola last year demonstrated. The country's infrastructure has been allowed to collapse. It is easier to travel in Zaire by river boat than by road, and impossible to get by road from the capital city of Kinshasha to the eastern provinces of North and South Kivu and to mineral-rich Shaba, which accounts for more than 80 percent of the country's wealth. Air travel is iffy, at best.

Even before Mobutu went off for medical treatment in Europe, foreign diplomats in Kinshasha often complained that they rarely saw him. In the past decade he has visited the capital more and more rarely, preferring to live far away in a luxurious compound in the mountains. The current American ambassador, Daniel Simpson, has admitted wryly that his job would be much easier if he had a private plane to ferry him to Mobutu's rural hideaway. Such difficulties, though, pale before the question of whether or not the international community should view Zaire as a state with a government with which agreements can be safely concluded or as a lawless land in which, whatever their titles, the political authorities speak only for themselves.

This question is not a new one, but with the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe in eastern Zaire in the Rwandan Hutu refugee camps, it is taking on a desperate urgency. Despite speculation that he is biding his time, Mobutu really is apparently too ill to return home. His prime minister, Leon Kengo Wa Dongo, once the politician who Western governments thought might shepherd Zaire toward democracy, is part Tutsi and has come under increasing attack. He is unlikely to remain in office long, particularly now that the Zairean army has been routed by Banyamulenge militia (who are either led or supported by regular Rwandan forces.)

As a result, that oldest of post-colonial African nightmares, the breakup of a major state, seems not only conceivable but likely. Even from a strictly humanitarian point of view, Western governments and aid agencies require at least some level of security before beginning new operations. They are trying desperately to regain contact with more than a million refugees who are on the march and quite literally have disappeared from the regions where they can be helped. And yet it is not clear that there is a Zairean government to guarantee their safety.

The West is, it seems, sincere in its wish to alleviate the humanitarian crisis, but the political elite in Washington and Paris is hardly without responsibility for Zaire's seeming collapse. The question of what kind of state Zaire was being turned into under Mobutu's stewardship -- something that was clear to anyone who visited the country -- was sedulously ignored in the West throughout the Cold War. Mobutu was viewed, particularly by the U.S. and French governments, as an invaluable ally in the conflict with the Soviet Union in Africa. Zaire became a conduit for arms shipments to governments and insurgent forces whom the Americans and the French wished to support but not be seen as underwriting. What he did at home, it seemed, was of little concern to anyone. In other words, in pursuit of the zero sum game that the Cold War was understood as being, Mobutu's value as "strategic asset" far outweighed the ruin he was bringing to his own country.

When the Cold War ended, however, so did Mobutu's usefulness. The U.S. government, freed from what it perceived as the need to retain Mobutu as a useful surrogate, cut off development funds to Zaire in 1992 and pressed Mobutu to move toward democracy. The dictator tried to resist, stalling, provoking army mutinies and instigating political crises. But in the end, he was forced to take some initial steps. Before the crisis in eastern Zaire began to spiral out of control, a process of democratic elections had in fact begun, although it is certainly possible that Mobutu still would have found another way to sabotage them.

Mobutu has always understood how to play one Western nation off against another. Even today, ill and possibly dying, he is still trying to pit the French against the Americans. And he has done so successfully enough that France's president, Jacques Chirac, not only has permitted Mobutu to convalesce in France, but has sent senior French officials to negotiate with him over the international response to the crisis in eastern Zaire. Mobutu, Chirac insisted recently, remains the one figure who might be able to resolve the crisis.

France has its reasons for taking this position, just as doubtless the United States has its reasons for tilting more toward the new Rwandan regime. The problem is that this kind of old-fashioned statecraft does not really take account of the fact that for all practical purposes there is no Zairean state -- at least not in the provinces along the Rwandan and Burundian borders. The crisis is no longer one in which the principal problem is the return of Rwandan refugees or even the ongoing Hutu-Tutsi conflict throughout the Great Lakes region of Africa. That crisis, expressed in different forms in the civil war with Burundi and in the Rwandan genocide, terrible though they were, pales when compared with what may well happen if Zaire finally falls apart entirely.

For the dogma that has informed African politics since decolonization -- that the old colonial boundaries, no matter how unjust, must not be tinkered with lest a genuine apocalypse of state breakdowns and the war of all against all ensue -- is undergoing its severest test to date. (The independence of Eritrea was a special case because its union with Ethiopia was a post-World War II event.) If Zaire were to break up, the very outcome the first leaders of independent Africa feared so greatly may actually come to pass. At that point, all borders on the continent will, for all intents and purposes, be up for grabs. The stability of the principal states of the continent, all of which, from Kenya to Nigeria, have their secessionist and irredentist movements, cannot be assured.

The irony is that this entire crisis was provoked by the West's inability to muster the will and energy to do anything decisive about the Rwandan refugee crisis. That was allowed to fester for more than two years, even though the Hutus in the camps were mounting more and more determined guerrilla attacks from across the border in Zaire, and the Rwandan government had warned time and time again that it would not indefinitely accept this destabilizing force without striking back. That the Rwandan action has provoked a humanitarian disaster does not make it any less understandable in political terms. What is less understandable is how the international community could have persisted in seeing the Rwandan crisis in a vacuum, and not have understood the implications for Zaire.

Now, of course, as diplomats discuss a military intervention to deliver humanitarian aid to the Rwandan Hutu refugees fleeing west, further into Zaire, there is finally an understanding of just how grave a crisis the whole region is facing. One can only hope that this realization has not come too late. Whether or not the refugee emergency can be weathered, and whether or not the political fall-out in Zaire can be controlled (the possibility of slaughter of ethnic Tutsis living in other parts of Zaire is all too real; people are being killed in Kinshasha already), it is too hard to see just how Zaire can be restored to some kind of national coherence.

Mobutu is dying, and no successor is apparent. The international community is deeply divided over what to do about Zaire. Where failing states are concerned, there is no international system; there is only chaos and conflicting interests. And yet, as a Zairean boy scout helping with the Rwandan refugees in Goma in the crisis of two years ago (and it is bitter to realize that we are back where we started) remarked to me, "This is terrible. But if Zaire blows up, this will seem like a tea party." He was not optimistic back then. If he is still alive, I imagine he is even more pessimistic and fearful today.

David Rieff recently returned from a three-week trip to central Africa. He is the author of the book "Slaughterhouse: Bosnia and the Failure of the West."

Copyright 1996 The Telegraph Group Limited
Sunday Telegraph
October 13, 1996, Sunday

SECTION: Pg. 07

HEADLINE: The Arts: Running on vapour In his new television series, Robert Hughes, the doyen of art critics, argues that American art has lost its way. David Rieff interviewed him in New York

BYLINE: Interview by DAVID RIEFF

BODY:

IT HAS taken the Australian writer and art critic Robert Hughes more than four years to put together American Visions, but as the television series gets ready for airing next month he seems most worried about the material he has had to leave out. Hughes both wrote and narrated American Visions, and by television standards it is encyclopaedic, attempting to do nothing less than sweep the viewer through the story of American art - from the Puritans to the present in eight one-hour episodes. In private, Hughes continues to fret about the frantic pace of each episode. When I visited him in his rambling house on New York's Long Island, he was quick to point out the limitations under which he had had to operate. "No matter how well you do a series like this," he grumbled, "basically it's an impossible assignment. You only have 60 minutes per episode to do what the publicists are billing as an encyclopaedic treatment. That means about 3,000 words. It's been like trying to stick an elephant into an ordinary-sized coffin." In fact, Hughes has no reason to worry. Elegant, concise and combative, American Visions more than holds its own against such formidable precursors as Kenneth Clark's Civilization and his own The Shock of the New. As the series unfolds, it becomes clear that what he's produced is not just a history of American art, but a history of the United States refracted through its art. At the beginning of the opening programme, Hughes faces the camera and declares, "I want to write a sort of love-letter to America, the country where I've lived and worked for more than 25 years. America taught me half of what I know. I want this series to repay that debt." Love-letter the series may be - but more in the despairing sense of an epistle to a lover who has left you for some worthless rival, rather than any expression of faith and passion. Part of the reason for this, as he says, is that the America of today is not only different from the America of 100 years ago - it's all but transformed from the place it was when he first arrived. He still insists that "the series is a love-letter", but concedes that "like many love-letters, it has despair in it. It's probably very pessimistic in the final episode. I am pessimistic about what is going on here." Like so many foreigners working in the arts who have settled in the United States, Hughes has become something of an American patriot. But also, like so many native Americans these days, he is a rueful and an increasingly disappointed one. "That's very American, of course," he points out. "Exalted expectations are very American, and if you start with them, you're bound to disappointment. "When I came to America in 1970, even though it was only two years after the Kennedy and King assassinations, I found the country less crazy. And I think if it's crazier now, it's because of these disappointed expectations. The American view of its own uniqueness has been so deep-seated that to discover that these expectations may not come off is a tremendous shock. Look at Clinton and Dole - 'I still believe in a place called Hope' and all that. The rhetoric has become defensive, even in its assertiveness, or rather in its reiteration of American newness, of American optimism. "Deep down, people feel things haven't turned out the way they were supposed to. And that's true in the visual arts as well. The great mistake was to suppose that your current history was going to go on for ever. But though no one believes this any more, of course - the art world is running on vapour - they don't know what else to believe. This is not only a problem for American artists. What is America without its millenarian optimism?" Hughes has always launched himself into the American cultural debate with enormous gusto, lambasting the politically correct multiculturalism that's been so influential in the American art world. This produced his wonderfully polemical book, The Culture of Complaint. "What this culture likes," he wrote, "is the twin fetishes of victimhood and redemption." And he went on to demolish the squalid pieties of an art - and a politics - that had become the handmaiden to the therapeutic culture. He was duly excoriated in university circles - as well as winning some unlikely friends among American neo-conservatives who must have imagined they had gained a new ally. If they did, they were mistaken. Hughes is what he has always been, an old-fashioned liberal. Though he lives mainly in the country now (he still keeps an apartment in New York's SoHo district), his opinions haven't moved very far from when he first arrived in the States to take over as Time magazine's art critic. Even then, Hughes was openly scornful of the work that most people who went to SoHo galleries were supporting. In The Shock of the New, he would refer to the 1970s as "a not very vivid decade" - an era of "mild, herbivorous pluralism". AS THE dominant tendencies of American art in the 1980s became apparent to him, Hughes's lack of enthusiasm hardened. His opposition to the kind of work that collectors were betting their wallets on earned him a reputation as the great nay-sayer in American art criticism. Gallery owners complained about this loose-lipped Australian who had the audacity to look askance at work that the market was rewarding so handsomely. There were, it was rumoured, pressures on the management of Time magazine to get rid of Hughes. He was bad for business. Hughes, though, was unsparing. His demolitions of Andy Warhol, of Warhol's protege Jean-Michel Basquiat, as well as of Jean Baudrillard, the French literary guru of post-modernism - Hughes called his work "a prophylactic against thought" - were classics of clearly argued demolition. Perhaps in a less conformist time they might have had more influence. But by the time Hughes began to lay about him, the matter of reputations - and valuations - in the art world was more and more of a rigged affair. Prices kept rising, and the reputations of negligible artists along with them. Hughes went on excoriating what he saw as the shameless lowering of standards in American art schools - and the general subjugation of American art by the world of fashion and the dictates of the art market. "Traditions," he wrote, "are not self-sustaining; they can be wrecked in a generation or two if their essential skills are not taught." The 1980s, he insisted, had produced "the worst generation of draughtsmen in American history". In The Culture of Complaint, he was frankly apocalyptic. He compared the US to late Rome. American Visions is quieter - and yet the loss of the insights and energies that once informed American art is clearly at the core of Hughes's presentation. In the end, the viewer is confronted by his vision of an America beset by a loss of faith. It has happened before, he points out. "It's a disappointed Puritanism. Every few years America is held to be losing its innocence; that's the American cultural parlour-trick, just as the Australian cultural parlour-trick is that every few years it 'comes of age'." Hughes pauses. "Americans don't like to think about this," he says, "but cultures decay. The Italian Renaissance didn't last all that long. And American modernism is an old bird by now. So is the American Republic." This kind of long view is vintage Hughes. It is also precisely the frame of reference the American art world least wants to hear. Viewers will probably love the message of American Visions. The art world will hate it. It could hardly be otherwise. As Hughes puts it, "No one dares say something that is perfectly obvious - at any given moment, the number of good artists is bound to be constant. And you mustn't rock the boat; you mustn't say the boat - that is, the art world - is going in the wrong direction. It's bad for business, but there is also an element of messianic faith in it. It's the boat, after all, and the artists and the dealers and the critics all say, 'It can't be going in the wrong direction because I can't be going in the wrong direction.' I wish it were more complicated than that but, in many ways, it really isn't." A longer version of this piece appears in the current edition of Modern Painters. American Visions starts on Sunday, November 3 on BBC2

Copyright 1996 Newsweek
Newsweek
September 16, 1996 , UNITED STATES EDITION

SECTION: INTERNATIONAL; Opinion; Pg. 63

HEADLINE: Abandoning Bosnia -- Again

BYLINE: BY DAVID RIEFF; RIEFF is the author of "Slaughterhouse: Bosnia and the Failure of the West" (Simon & Schuster).

HIGHLIGHT: A fierce critic of the West's response to Balkan genocide argues that elections may bring on more bloodshed.

BODY:

WHEN THE DAYTON ACCORDS THAT ENDED THE FIGHTing in Bosnia were signed, the national and municipal elections scheduled for this weekend were presented the capstone of the peace process. The American architects of Dayton insisted that if clean elections could be held, Bosnia had a real chance of surviving as a unitary state. There was always a good bit of wishful thinking in this claim, as there was in so many of the other provisions of Dayton. The idea that the parties to the Bosnian conflict who had fought a war precisely to avoid sharing power with one another had, simply because their representatives signed a piece of paper in Ohio, suddenly become born-again democrats seemed particularly fanciful. The run-up to the elections now has demonstrated that.

The Bosnian Serbs were the principal aggressors during the war and, predictably, they have committed the most egregious violations. Vote rigging was so blatant that the elections team this month canceled the municipal component of the elections -- even though its instructions from Washington and the European Community clearly have been to see that the polling takes place no matter what. Officials express dismay at this outcome, but that can't be taken at face value; their anti-fraud measures were weak and inconsistent. And national elections, where the voting will be just as flawed, are to go on as scheduled. Ready or not, here they come.

In fact, the conditions for a free election, let alone for a democratic government, exist nowhere in Bosnia. The profiteers and the hard men are in control now, and they have subverted the process. The government in Sarajevo no longer is the coalition of Muslim nationalist and democratic forces that fought to protect ethnic pluralism. The Muslim nationalist government of President Alija Izetbegovic has tried to muzzle the press and silence its opponents. Opposition candidate Haris Silajdzic has been physically attacked and his campaign workers intimidated. The Izetbegovic slate will win in a landslide. But at least there is an ideological choice. In Croat areas, the nationalist consensus is all but absolute. The political leadership is the same one that destroyed the city of Mostar in 1993 -- and that recently refused to accept the result of municipal elections there, supposedly a dry run for the national vote. The nationalists in Sarajevo, the genocidal Serb leadership in Pale and the Croat mafiosi of Herzegovina have won, as anyone who actually spends time in Bosnia knows perfectly well. It is quite cynical to pretend otherwise.

Far from heralding a new era of peace," the elections actually increase the chances of renewed war in Bosnia next spring. If the Croats in western Herzegovina declare independence or demand union with Croatia, it is virtually certain that the Bosnian government forces will attack. And Radovan Karadzic still dominates political life on the Serb side, guaranteeing that the party of war and ethnic cleansing will continue to set the agenda on that side of the IFOR separation zone. The people who will win these supposedly free elections have not changed. And in the ruin that Bosnia has become, people are more vulnerable than ever to appeals based on lowest-common-denominator politics: the politics of hatred and revenge.

But the international community in general, and the Clinton administration in particular, is adamant that the elections take place. It is important that everyone outside Bosnia understand what people on the ground there have known for a long time- that this rush to the polls has little to do with concern for the future of Bosnia. Were that the motivation, the elections would have been canceled long ago. Even Robert Frowick, charged with overseeing the process as the representative of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, concedes as much. The international community, he said recently, "has been trying to do too much in too short a time."

From the White House perspective, the cost of delay in terms of domestic American politics is just too high. A bitter joke making the rounds in Sarajevo sums up many residents' feelings of helplessness and dread for the future. The Bosnian elections will be postponed only if the American elections are, they say. If the Bosnian elections were canceled, President Clinton couldn't start withdrawing American GIs before Nov. 5. And whatever the effects on Bosnia of such a pullout and of this unseemly push toward formal democracy in a place where real democracy has been shattered, that is too great a risk for the administration to contemplate. The real goal is not helping Bosnia, but doing nothing to hurt the president's re-election chances.

To say that this is a shortsighted policy is to state the obvious. It may well be a wicked one. But if war breaks out again in the Balkans next spring, the U.S. elections will be over, and most American troops will be gone. The international community will have declared victory for democracy and gone home. The aid workers and those of us who covered the war will be back. Others will conclude that the world did what it could for Bosnia and wash their hands of the place, saying that those savage Balkan people were beyond help. That, however, will be a lie. The truth is, elections or no elections, we never really tried.

Copyright 1996 The Washington Post
The Washington Post
September 08, 1996, Sunday, Final Edition

SECTION: OUTLOOK; Pg. C01

HEADLINE: ARREST THEM; The Case Against the Serb War Criminals

BYLINE: David Rieff

BODY:

THAT THE Bosnian elections will take place this Saturday is now a foregone conclusion. That they will almost surely occur in an atmosphere that is the opposite of one that might, just might, have led to a measure of democracy in Bosnia is almost as certain. So is the prospect of overwhelming victories for the nationalist parties. This is not surprising. Almost none of the conditions that, under the Dayton agreements, were supposed to have been met before the elections have been achieved -- from freedom of expression and freedom of association to securing the right of political parties in areas under the control of one ethnic community to campaign in parts of Bosnia controlled by another ethnic community. From any point of view (except that, for now, the guns are silent), the international community has failed as dismally in post-war Bosnia as it did when the fighting was going on.

But the refusal of the Clinton administration and its Western European allies to order troops of the NATO-led implementation force, known as IFOR, to arrest those indicted by the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague is the gravest failure of all. In particular, allowing Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serbs' political leader, and Gen. Ratko Mladic, the commander of the Bosnian Serb army, to go free has not only has doomed the chances of free and fair elections in Bosnia now but will be seen by historians of the first Bosnian war (1992-95) as the event that made the second Bosnian war (1997-?) a virtual certainty.

Once it became clear that the international community was going to do everything that it could to avoid arresting Karadzic, the ethnic nationalists (Serb, Muslim and Croat alike) who had engineered the destruction of Bosnia in the first place could be sure that they had the world's imprimatur for their plans to partition Bosnia-Herzegovina -- plans for which the upcoming elections, carried out in the current atmosphere of intimidation, are actually not an impediment but a necessary first step.

In all likelihood, long before IFOR soldiers in Serb-controlled areas of Bosnia were sheepishly telling journalists -- who had themselves encountered Karadzic -- that, as one soldier put it, "we don't want to run into anyone important," the decision had already been made to leave Karadzic and Mladic alone. I've been to Bosnia a number of times since the Dayton agreements and it has been more and more obvious that there is no will to go after either man. Even while the accords were being thrashed out last winter, the chief American negotiator, Richard Holbrooke, believed that there could be no peace without the cooperation of the Serbian president, Slobodan Milosevic, and that Milosevic could not afford to have either Mladic or Karadzic appear in the dock in The Hague, since they alone could directly link him to the war crimes and crimes against humanity that they stood accused of in the indictments against them.

In July Holbrooke and Milosevic reached an understanding about the the indicted men that allowed the elections to go forward and spared the Clinton administration the need to undertake a risky military operation to seize Karadzic during the U.S. election campaign. Karadzic agreed to step down from his nominal position but retain behind-the-scenes power; there wasn't even a face-saving gesture with regard to Mladic. The elections process, Secretary of State Warren Christopher insisted during a recent visit to Sarajevo, was a necessary "first step." To which, the Bosnian opposition leader and former Bosnian prime minister, Haris Silajdzic, replied, "a step toward what?"

The answer, of course, is that holding the elections while Karadzic and Mladic remain free and effectively in control is not only a step toward repeating the mistakes of the past, it is a step toward forgetting. For the crimes with which these men stand accused were not incidental to what took place in Bosnia between 1992 and 1995, they are central to it: war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. And that is why so much more is at stake in bringing Mladic and Karadzic to account than punishing two individuals.

The indictments brought against Karadzic and Mladic by the then-chief prosecutor of the International War Crimes Tribunal, Justice Richard Goldstone, on July 25, 1995, are long and intricate and include a broad array of offenses under international law. The two men stand accused of violations of the laws and customs of war and grave breaches of the Geneva conventions, of crimes against humanity and, finally, of genocide. Others may have carried out the offenses enumerated in Goldstone's indictment, but Mladic and Karadzic were, respectively, in charge of the military and civilian administrations of the secessionist Serbs in Bosnia throughout the war. Final responsibility for these acts rests with them.

Goldstone's indictment is carefully crafted. Indeed, it leaves out some of the acts perpetrated by Gen. Mladic's forces that those of us who experienced the war in Bosnia felt and continue to feel were criminal, notably the siege of Sarajevo itself. But while sieges are not necessarily violations of the laws of war, systematic sniping campaigns are. Karadzic and Mladic are accused of having "individually or in concert with others, planned, instigated, ordered or otherwise aided and abetted in the planning, preparation [and] execution" of what Goldstone calls "a systematic campaign of deliberate targetting of civilians by snipers of the Bosnian Serb military."

Anyone who was in Sarajevo during the siege -- particularly those, like myself, who traveled to the Serb side of the line -- knows this to be the case. Sarajevo during the siege was like a fishbowl, with the Serbs firing from above on the population of the city below. The snipers did not choose their targets at random, or in the haze and confusion of battle. The snipers' semi-automatic Dragunov rifles usually had telescopic sights mounted on them. Once, in a Serb position above the Jewish cemetery in Sarajevo, I squinted through such a scope. You could see the gold chains on the women's necks, the color of people's eyes, the mottled hands of old people, the pimples on an adolescent's chin.

When Goldstone states in the indictment that "the killing and wounding by sniper fire on these civilians [was] a crime against humanity," his words, though accurate, don't begin to convey what it was like in Sarajevo during the siege. There were streets along which the snipers in the hills had a clear line of sight. When you crossed them, you took a deep breath, and ran like hell.

Sometimes they fired; sometimes, they didn't. The girl in the blue anorak might cross safely, but the unseen Serb riflemen, playing God, might not spare the man in the threadbare Chesterfield coat. The indictment names 19 people killed this way, and there were many more. These acts were meant to sow terror. And they did.

What is clear, and what the prosecutors at the International War Crimes Tribunal would prove, if Karadzic or Mladic are ever been brought to trial, is that this sniping was deliberate. The Bosnian Serb army that Mladic controlled was in fact highly disciplined. In periods when the Serbs wanted to comply with a cease-fire, not a single round was fired.

There is so much loose talk in the U.S. and in Western Europe about "ancient ethnic hatreds," and about the innate savagery of the Balkans, that people sometimes forget that the Bosnian Serb army was composed almost entirely of soldiers and officers who had been in the Yugoslav Federal Army, known as the JNA, when hostilities commenced. The JNA was a highly disciplined force, and Mladic and his staff were very competent officers. When Bosnian Serb troops killed 8,000 men and boys near Srebrenica in July 1995, the greatest single slaughter of civilians on the European continent since the reign of Nazi Germany, it was not because they had run amok. Rather, it was because they were carrying out the orders that came from the height of the military chain of command -- that is, from Mladic himself.

Mladic was charged with responsibility for the Srebrenica massacre in a supplemental indictment brought by the Tribunal's prosecutors on Nov. 16, 1995. And, recently, in a hearing on the charges brought against Karadzic and Mladic, the Trial Chamber at The Hague found that Mladic "had full control of his generals and . . . was often personally involved in the operational decisions of the various corps." It was not only, the judges concluded, that Karadzic and Mladic were "informed of the crimes allegedly committed under their authority but also, and in particular, that they exercised their power in order to plan, instigate, order and otherwise aid and abet" the preparation and execution of these crimes.

About Mladic's direct involvement in the Srebrenica slaughter there is little doubt. Bosnian Serb television actually featured him presiding over the capture of the eastern Bosnian enclave. As the women and small children (boys over 14 were separated and sent off along with their fathers and elder brothers to be murdered) are being herded onto buses, the video shows Mladic, pink and excited, announcing to them, "I am General Mladic. No one can save you. Not God. Not the U.N. Only I can save you." He was probably right, but by the same token, as the statement of the war crimes judges implies, the massacre could also only have taken place with his authorization. And the prosecutors in The Hague have witnesses -- Bosnian men who somehow unaccountably survived the mass execution -- who have given sworn statements that Mladic was present as Serb soldiers gunned down their Muslim captives.

The heart of the indictment against Karadzic and Mladic, however, is neither the sniping campaign in Sarajevo nor the massacre in Srebrenica, but genocide. This accusation has elicited some skepticism in America and Western Europe because the Bosnian Serbs did not wage a war of extermination against the Bosnian Muslims, as, say, the Germans did against the Jews and Gypsies (Roma) during World War II. This "Auschwitz standard" has even caused some people to insist that what took place in Bosnia was not a genocide at all.

However, neither Goldstone nor reporters like Newsday correspondent Roy Gutman (who, in 1992, first revealed the existence of death camps in northern Bosnia) claims that what was visited upon the Bosnian was the same as what was done to the Jews and the Roma. Their point is that, in legal terms, there can be a genocide even when the complete extermination of a people does not take place. The author of the 1940 Genocide Convention, a Polish-Jewish jurist named Raphael Letkin, defined genocide as the attempt to destroy a national, ethnic, racial or religious group "in whole or in part." Under international law, not all Bosnian Muslims had to be massacred, raped, interned or displaced for the Bosnian Muslim people to have been the victims of genocide. The rape of Bosnian women, the slaughter of Bosnian men and what Goldstone's indictment describes as "the targeting of Bosnian Muslim and Bosnian Croat communities, and in particular their political leaders, intellectuals and professionals" is well documented. Were Karadzic and Mladic ever to be tried, their own defense might be to claim that they had never ordered these acts. But as the indictment points out, the military and police personnel who operated the camps, the soldiers who committed the rapes and mass executions and who carried out the systematic campaign of what came to be known as ethnic cleansing were under their direct control.

None of us who have spent time among the Bosnian Serbs are in any doubt about this. In fact, what was remarkable about Karadzic's mini-state known as Republika Srpska throughout the war was the degree to which central authority was maintained. People shot when they were told to shoot; when they were told not to, they held their fire. In the same way, Serb soldiers and policemen raped or didn't rape, killed prisoners or took prisoners, forced people to flee their homes or let them stay where they were according to the orders they received from their superiors. This meant Karadzic in his "capital" of Pale and Mladic in the field.

To imagine otherwise is to misunderstand what the Bosnian war was about. The issues were who would exercise power and who would control the land. The Bosnian Serbs were not only a minority in Bosnia-Herzegovina, they were obsessed with the fecundity of the Muslims. "If we had allowed things to take their course," one of Karadzic's aides once told me in Pale, "the Muslims would have outbred us." From the start, Karadzic's plan was clear. Either the Muslims would surrender and agree to live as a politically impotent minority in a Serb-nationalist Yugoslavia, or a Serb state would be carved out of the carcass of Bosnia-Herzegovina. It was no good defeating the Bosnians militarily if the areas you captured remained majority Muslim. The people themselves had to be forced to leave. Otherwise, as the old Serb nationalist adage had it, Serbs would lose in peace what they had gained in war.

This was why, from the start, ethnic cleansing of people and the destruction of mosques and the Catholic churches attended by Croats was the principal Serb war aim. And Karadzic was the architect of this policy, just as Mladic was its executor. As the Trial Chamber judges wrote, "the systematic rape of women . . . is in some cases intended to transmit a new ethnic identity to the child . . . . The destruction of mosques and Catholic churches is designed to annihilate the centuries' long presence of the group or groups [in Bosnia]."

That is why Karadzic and Mladic are not just accused of war crimes, but of genocide, the gravest crime that exists in international law. Once upon a time, last winter, there was a lot of tough talk from Holbrooke and Assistant Secretary of State John Kornblum about how sooner or later Karadzic would be bound over for trial. (As for Mladic, American officials stopped talking about getting him in the dock soon after the Dayton accords; it was clear the Yugoslav army would never put up with such a step.) But the actions of the United States, its allies and IFOR exposed these statements for what they were -- empty rhetoric.

It was really only because Karadzic overplayed his hand, publicly thumbing his nose at the international community, ostentatiously showing himself at official events and campaign rallies of his Serbian Democratic Party, rather than running things in Serb-controlled areas from behind the scenes, that the possibility existed until July that he was either going to be seized or even that he might give himself up. In Sarajevo, there were persistent rumors of back-channel negotiations over the terms by which Karadzic might turn himself in. Karadzic had reportedly grown afraid that Milosevic would assassinate him. Suddenly even a cell in Holland seemed safer. Whatever the truth of this, Holbrooke's mission to Belgrade in mid-July eliminated once and for all any chance that Karadzic would give himself up.

The deal Holbrooke cut with Karadzic was good for everyone, save Bosnian democrats. Holbrooke had originally demanded that Karadzic not only step down as "president" of the Republika Srpska but leave Bosnia, presumably for Montenegro. He settled for allowing Karadzic to resign his functions but remain in Bosnia. Karadzic not only maintained a measure of power but this made any attempt to assassinate him less likely. There was no longer any reason for him to fear what awaited him if he stayed in Bosnia more than what awaited him in The Hague.

In effect, the United States capitulated to the aggressors, declared victory and shelved the whole matter.

The reality is that Bosnia did not self-destruct, or fall victim to ancient ethnic hatreds. It was murdered in a campaign whose every detail was first imagined and then implemented by the Bosnian Serb civilian and military leadership; that is, by Karadzic and Mladic. That is why focusing on their guilt, as the prosecutors at the War Crimes Tribunal have done, is not a sideshow nor some hare-brained, idealistic effort to hold politicians and military leaders to an impractically lofty moral standard. For if the charges are sustained then, in law, these two men bear the individual responsibility for the Bosnian slaughter. For the international community not to have made seizing them a priority, a condition of the elections, has sent forth the message that genocidal wars and crimes against humanity can be undertaken with impunity, and that, far from being brought to account, their architects will be allowed, quite literally, to get away with murder.

And it is under the sign of this impunity for those charged with individual criminal responsibility for genocide that the Sept. 14 elections will go forward. Under circumstances in which the results of ethnic cleansing are going to be institutionalized by internationally-supervised balloting, it almost seems hypocritical that Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic are not allowed to stand for office. After all, the Bosnia that will go to the polls is very largely their bloody creation.

David Rieff is the author of the book "Slaughterhouse: Bosnia and the Failure of the West."

XPERTS FROM THE INDICTMENT

"RADOVAN KARADZIC and RATKO MLADIC individually and in concert with others planned, ordered, instigated or otherwise aided and abetted in the planning, preparation or execution of unlawful attacks against the civilian population and individual civilians with area fire weapons such as mortars, rockets and artillery or knew or had reason to know that the Bosnian Serb military forces were about to unlawfully attack the civilian population and individual civilians, or had already done so, and failed to take the necessary and reasonable steps to prevent such shelling or to punish the perpetrators thereof."

"RADOVAN KARADZIC and RATKO MLADIC individually and in concert with others planned, ordered, instigated or otherwise aided and abetted in the planning, preparation or execution of the sniping civilians or knew or had reason to know that subordinates were sniping civilians and failed to take necessary and reasonable measures to prevent such acts or to punish the perpetrators thereof . . ."

"RADOVAN KARADZIC and RATKO MLADIC knew or had reason to know that subordinates in detention facilities were about to kill or cause serious physical or mental harm to Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats with the intent to destroy them, in whole or in part, as national, ethnic or religious groups or had done so and failed to take the necessary and reasonable measures to prevent such acts or to punish the perpetrators thereof."

Copyright 1996 The New Republic, Inc.
The New Republic
AUGUST 19, 1996 / AUGUST 26, 1996

SECTION: TRB From Washington; Pg. 2

HEADLINE: Liars' club

BYLINE: DAVID RIEFF

BODY:

At first the international response to the July 25 coup in which a Tutsi military leader, Major Pierre Buyoya, ousted the Hutu president of Burundi, Sylvestre Ntibantunganya, was tough talk. From the most compromised quarters came the most uncompromising responses. U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali's spokeswoman declared that "the international community will on no account accept a change of government by force or other illegitimate means in Burundi." Kofi Annan, the U.N. Undersecretary General for Peacekeeping Operations, not only spoke of the need for a humanitarian intervention in Burundi but reportedly called for one that could "beat up on people if necessary" to try to stop the killing.

Those familiar with the way the U.N. actually works could legitimately infer that this time the great powers had given the U.N. Secretariat the go- ahead to act. In earlier weeks, as it had become clear that the Tutsi- dominated Burundian army was not going to agree to power sharing with the Hutu majority, admonitions and threats from Washington, as well as missions to Burundi on behalf of the U.S. government and the European Union, began to multiply. Madeleine Albright, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., had warned that "under no circumstances would we tolerate a government installed by force or intimidation."

Such categorical assertions of what the international community would and would not tolerate should have set off alarm bells among anyone who has followed the way it has dealt with Somalia, Bosnia and Liberia. But in the context of the Great Lakes region of Africa in particular, all these fine sentiments and stern declarations are framed by one overriding fact: in April and May of 1994, those countries and institutions today issuing the declarations sat on their collective hands while nearly a million Rwandan Tutsis were murdered.

If this were not reason enough to treat this new hardline stand on Burundi with skepticism, there was also little cause beyond the wishful thinking that is endemic to so many initiatives undertaken for "humanitarian" reasons to believe these threats were backed up by more than the hope that the Tutsi leaders would be awed by them. In the same speech in which she asserted a coup in Burundi would not be tolerated, Albright admitted the U.S. had ruled out sending American troops there as part of a peacekeeping force. And Kofi Annan conceded--even as he warned the leadership in Bujumbura, the capital, that the U.N. might send a peacekeeping force over its objections--that few countries had yet agreed to commit troops.

In reality, it is unclear, given the U.N.'s current desperate financial circumstances, which are due in large measure to the continued U.S. refusal to pay it assessments, whether it has the money for such an operation. The Secretariat is solvent only because it is borrowing from the (separate) peacekeeping budget to fund its own operating expenses. And the predictable consequence of the resulting shortfall at the Department of Peacekeeping Operations is that troopcontributing nations will not be reimbursed, and are, therefore, less willing to send troops on expensive and open-ended peacekeeping missions like the one being planned for Burundi.

The fundamental question is one that U.N. officials seem unwilling to contemplate: What will such a force do if its deployment fails to produce the desired result in a fairly short period of time? A year after they acquiesced, without putting up even a token fight, to the fall of the U.N. safe area Srebrenica in Bosnia, and the massacre of its male inhabitants, U.N. officials are actually talking about establishing "safe areas" in Burundi.

U.N. officials have little to say about what they will do if things go wrong. "It's the same old story," a Pentagon official told me recently. " There is absolutely no plan about what to do if things go wrong except run away."

In any case, now that the international community's warnings have been ignored and the coup has taken place, the predictable rhetorical climb-down has begun. A senior Belgian diplomat, Eric Derycke, spoke for many when, three days after the coup, he opined that "Buyoya is the least of all evils" in Burundi. Buyoya, Western diplomats now suggest, may be a democratic figure in the Burundian context. The evidence for this is that although this is his second coup, he followed his first by handing over power after six years to Burundi's first democratically elected (and first Hutu) president, Melchior Ndadaye. But these facts can be parsed in several ways. Ndadaye was murdered by Tutsi militants 100 days later; that is, by Buyoya's brother officers, the same men who have again selected him as president.

It is possible, of course, that Burundi will turn out to be one rare example of the world acting decisively not out of interest but out of moral concern. Were, for example, Nelson Mandela's government to agree to a major force commitment, other nations in Africa might well follow, and the U.S. and the Western Europeans might then agree to underwrite the operation's costs.

And a massive, long-term intervention, followed by a prolonged international presence, both civilian and military, accompanied by serious diplomatic initiatives and sweetened with development aid, might well transform the situation in Burundi. But such an intervention would effectively turn Burundi into a U.N. protectorate or trusteeship. And there is simply no reason to believe, all the bellicose rhetoric of recent weeks notwithstanding, that the will exists, either in Africa or in the rest of the world, to do anything even remotely similar.

Instead, the world is responding, and will continue to respond, with half measures, pious sentiments: words, not deeds. In the name of sympathy with the Burundian people, U.N. officials and representatives of the great powers have chosen to lie to them. There is no question of a force being deployed that will really make a difference, because, for the foreseeable future, the political will does not exist in America or in Western Europe to act in accordance with our most generous moral and emotional aspirations.

But if the West, or, for that matter, the African countries or the U.N., are not going to act, or are incapable of doing so effectively, then surely it would be kinder not to pretend that help is on the way. Not only kinder, but more moral. Because to delude people about what help they can expect, as the citizens of Sarajevo learned to their cost--and from many of the same diplomats and politicians now pontificating about Burundi--can sometimes prove as great a danger to their survival as any threat they face from those they know to be their enemies. People who expect the cavalry to come rescue them tend to wait for its arrival. But in Burundi, as in so many other places where the fantasy of rescue persists, the cavalry is probably not coming, and certainly not staying. It is high time the U.S. and the other foreign actors in this story admitted as much.

Copyright 1996 Plain Dealer Publishing Co.
The Plain Dealer
August 16, 1996 Friday, FINAL / ALL

SECTION: EDITORIALS & FORUM; Pg. 11B

HEADLINE: ELECTIONS WON'T ENSURE DEMOCRACY IN BOSNIA

BYLINE: by DAVID RIEFF

BODY: A month before the Sept. 14 elections in Bosnia, the conventional wisdom among international officials and diplomats charged with overseeing the postwar settlement is that if the voting goes smoothly, a corner will have been turned and the chances of a durable peace vastly increased.

If anything, the reverse is likelier to be the case.

Having returned from Bosnia last week, I am more convinced than ever that the elections will be followed by a speeding up of the partition already taking place on the ground - and possibly, after the NATO Implementation Force leaves, by renewed war, probably between the Croats and Bosnian government forces in central Bosnia and western Herzegovina.

The great accomplishment of the Dayton accord is that there is no longer a war. Its great flaw was the assumption that the warring sides had signed onto the terms voluntarily and were sincere about carrying them out.

When the NATO Implementation Force's first commander, Adm. Leighton Smith, left Sarajevo a few weeks ago, he insisted that the military provisions of the Dayton accords had been carried out successfully, but added that he was disappointed by the Bosnians' failure to take steps to further political reconciliation.

But the point, as Smith and his political masters in Washington surely know, is that none of the belligerents take seriously the weak unitary Bosnian state envisaged by the Dayton agreement.

It is the nationalist Serb, Muslim and Croat parties that are likely to win overwhelmingly in their respective areas when the elections take place. And their lack of commitment to pluralism and comity is revealed by the absence on their lists of any candidates who are not members of the dominant group the party in question claims to represent.

We saw this triumph of ethnic politics in the last elections before the war started. During the fighting, the Bosnian government side was made up of a coalition that included not only Muslim nationalists but democrats as well, Muslim and non-Muslim.

The postwar period is witnessing once more the same self-destructive politics that ushered in the war in the first place.

Only this time it is being played out in a ruined Bosnia that is economically wholly dependent on aid from foreign donors and has been drained of a great proportion of its ablest citizens, by emigration, death, injury or mental disorder, a huge and underreported problem.

Doctors in Sarajevo are panic-stricken by rising levels of alcoholism and psychotic disorders among veterans and others.

The superficial signs of recovery in Sarajevo - the newly vibrant street life, the proliferation of cafes and the many new shops - represent a false dawn, however much they may seduce visitors who remain in the capital for only a short time.

What has actually occurred since the Dayton pact is that the Muslim-led Bosnian government has shown itself incapable of or uninterested in taking responsibility for its own citizens. Only sectors that are immediately profitable are flourishing. The results are catastrophic.

Boutiques are full, but pharmacies are bare. Hotels are being refurbished, but the University of Sarajevo is still in ruins. You can watch CNN in cafes, but most people's windows are still covered by the plastic provided during the war by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

Both critics and supporters of the government say that Sarajevo's authorities are counting on international donors to take up the slack. That's what happened during the war.

But such largess is unlikely to continue indefinitely. There will be more aid, and already there is some road reconstruction and other large projects.

But the Bosnians are counting on much more. When they describe the help they need, it is clear they have in mind a kind of Marshall Plan that would subsidize the rebuilding of Bosnia's industrial base and provide money and technical assistance for rebuilding the shattered educational and social welfare systems.

At least some aid is flowing into Bosnian government-controlled areas. On the Serb side, things are infinitely worse. So long as Radovan Karadzic's party is in control, most donors are reluctant to commit to projects outside the Croat-Muslim Federation territory.

The situation in western Herzegovina is even more dire. Croat-controlled areas take their orders from Zagreb, not Sarajevo, and are largely run by mafias that made fortunes in the war.

In Mostar, the 11th-hour settlement between Croats and Muslims that allowed the European Union officials administering the city to save face is a fraud. Though the Muslim-dominated Party for Democratic Action won the municipal elections, a Croat extremist will likely occupy the mayor's office.

And the European Union negotiators also accepted the Croat side's entirely specious challenge to the election results. As a result, it is doubtful whether the town council will ever be convened.

Instead, most observers on the ground believe that, after the September general elections, the Croats will demand union with Croatia proper. The Serb nationalists in the so-called Republika Srpska would likewise want to join Yugoslavia. That would either seal the partition of Bosnia or provoke another war.

In the face of all this, Western officials continue to speak in the most sanguine terms, as if the only task were to ensure that the vote goes forward without too many irregularities. In reality, there is no reason why the nationalist parties should sabotage this voting. It suits their interests.

For once the elections are over, they believe, the world's interest will wane and the partition of Bosnia they have been working for all along can resume away from the view of meddling outsiders.

The only hope for preserving a Bosnia in which pluralism can thrive is precisely that kind of outside interference, particularly on the part of the United States, which imposed the Dayton agreements. Bosnia will not become democratic unless the international community makes it clear that any other outcome will invite the most severe sanctions.

But election years - ours, not Bosnia's - are times when unpleasant problems tend to be swept under the rug, not moments when the political elite, in America or anywhere else, volunteers to take on new responsibilities.

Copyright 1996 The New York Times Company
The New York Times
August 14, 1996, Wednesday, Late Edition - Final

SECTION: Section A; Page 21; Column 2; Editorial Desk

HEADLINE: In Bosnia, a Prelude to Partition

BYLINE: By David Rieff; David Rieff is the author of "Slaughterhouse: Bosnia and the Failure of the West."

BODY:

Amonth before the Sept. 14 elections in Bosnia, the conventional wisdom among international officials and diplomats charged with overseeing the postwar settlement is that if the voting goes smoothly, a corner will have been turned and the chances of a durable peace vastly increased. If anything, the reverse is likelier to be the case.

Having returned from Bosnia last week, I am more convinced than ever that the elections will be followed by a speeding up of the partition already taking place on the ground -- and possibly, after the NATO Implementation Force leaves, by renewed war, probably between the Croats and Bosnian Government forces in central Bosnia and western Herzegovina.

The great accomplishment of the Dayton accord is that there is no longer a war. Its great flaw was the assumption that the warring sides had signed onto the terms voluntarily and were sincere about carrying them out.

When the NATO Implementation Force's first commander, Adm. Leighton Smith, left Sarajevo a few weeks ago, he insisted that the military provisions of the Dayton accords had been carried out successfully, but added that he was disappointed by the Bosnians' failure to take steps to further political reconciliation.

But the point, as Admiral Smith and his political masters in Washington surely know, is that none of the belligerents take seriously the weak unitary Bosnian state envisaged by the Dayton agreement. It is the nationalist Serb, Muslim and Croat parties that are likely to win overwhelmingly in their respective areas when the elections take place. And their lack of commitment to pluralism and comity is revealed by the absence on their lists of any candidates who are not members of the dominant group the party in question claims to represent.

We saw this triumph of ethnic politics in the last elections before the war started. During the fighting, the Bosnian Government side was made up of a coalition that included not only Muslim nationalists but democrats as well, Muslim and non-Muslim. The postwar period is witnessing once more the same self-destructive politics that ushered in the war in the first place.

Only this time it is being played out in a ruined Bosnia that is economically wholly dependent on aid from foreign donors and has been drained of a great proportion of its ablest citizens, by emigration, death, injury or mental disorder, a huge and underreported problem. Doctors in Sarajevo are panic-stricken by rising levels of alcoholism and psychotic disorders among veterans and others.

The superficial signs of recovery in Sarajevo -- the newly vibrant street life, the proliferation of cafes and the many new shops -- represent a false dawn, however much they may seduce visitors who remain in the capital for only a short time.

What has actually occurred since the Dayton pact is that the Muslim-led Bosnian Government has shown itself incapable of or uninterested in taking responsibility for its own citizens. Only sectors that are immediately profitable are flourishing. The results are catastrophic. Boutiques are full, but pharmacies are bare; hotels are being refurbished, but the University of Sarajevo is still in ruins. You can watch CNN in cafes, but most people's windows are still covered by the plastic provided during the war by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Both critics and supporters of the Government say that Sarajevo's authorities are counting on international donors to take up the slack. That's what happened during the war. But such largess is unlikely to continue indefinitely. There will be more aid, and already there is some road reconstruction and other large projects.

But the Bosnians are counting on much more. When they describe the help they need, it is clear they have in mind a kind of Marshall Plan that would subsidize the rebuilding of Bosnia's industrial base and provide money and technical assistance for rebuilding the shattered educational and social welfare systems.

At least some aid is flowing into Bosnian Government-controlled areas. On the Serb side, things are worse. So long as Radovan Karadzic's party is in control, most donors are reluctant to commit to projects outside the Croat-Muslim Federation territory.

The situation in western Herzegovina is even more dire. Croat-controlled areas take their orders from Zagreb, not Sarajevo, and are largely run by mafias that made fortunes in the war.

In Mostar, the 11th-hour settlement between Croats and Muslims that allowed the European Union officials administering the city to save face is a fraud. Though the Muslim-dominated Party for Democratic Action won the municipal elections, a Croat extremist will likely occupy the Mayor's office. And the European Union negotiators also accepted the Croat side's entirely specious challenge to the election results. As a result, it is doubtful whether the town council will ever be convened.

Instead, most observers on the ground believe that, after the September general elections, the Croats will demand union with Croatia proper. The Serb nationalists in the so-called Republika Srpska would likewise want to join Yugoslavia. That would either seal the partition of Bosnia or provoke another war.

In the face of all this, Western officials continue to speak in the most sanguine terms, as if the only task were to insure that the vote goes forward without too many irregularities. In reality, there is no reason why the nationalist parties should sabotage this voting. It suits their interests. For once the elections are over, they believe, the world's interest will wane and the partition of Bosnia they have been working for all along can resume away from the view of meddling outsiders.

The only hope for preserving a Bosnia in which pluralism can thrive is precisely that kind of outside interference, particularly on the part of the United States, which imposed the Dayton agreements. Bosnia will not become democratic unless the international community makes it clear that any other outcome will invite the most severe sanctions. But election years -- ours, not Bosnia's -- are times when unpleasant problems tend to be swept under the rug, not moments when the political elite, in America or anywhere else, volunteers to take on new responsibilities.

Copyright 1996 The New Republic, Inc.
The New Republic
AUGUST 5, 1996

SECTION: Pg. 16

HEADLINE: THE BILL CLINTON OF THE U.N.

BYLINE: David Rieff

HIGHLIGHT: The eager-to-please Boutros Boutros-Ghali.

BODY:

For at least six months before the United States announced it would veto his nomination for a second term as Secretary-General of the United Nations, Boutros Boutros-Ghali had been running hard for re-election. Not only had he been courting his traditional patrons, the French and the Chinese, but in his travels in the Third World, particularly in Africa, he had repeatedly characterized his tenure at the U.N. as a work in progress. He needed, he insisted, another term to finish the job. "Every U.N. secretary-general has received two terms," Boutros-Ghali has said publicly. "Should I--the first African--not get a second?"

Boutros-Ghali once said, in a since oft-quoted remark, that he imposed discipline on his subordinates through "stealth and sudden violence," and tales of his high-handedness--and of that of his top aide, Haitian diplomat Jean-Claude Aime--abound. Recently, even the most senior U.N. officials have had to clear speaking engagements with Aime's office. Those viewed as potential rivals for the Secretary-Generalship have often found their requests denied, sometimes at the last possible moment. According to a number of U.N. officials, even Kofi Annan, the Ghanaian UnderSecretary-General who currently heads the U.N.'s Department of Peacekeeping Operations and whom the U.S. favors to replace Boutros-Ghali, is not exempt from these restrictions. Ostensibly, Aime's installation as gatekeeper stems from the need to have the U.N. "speak with a common voice." In reality, it's to help re-elect the Secretary General.

At Boutros-Ghali's United Nations, as at the old Soviet Politburo, even officials who disagree privately with the Secretary's decisions have publicly hewed with craven uniformity to the party line. Long ago, Boutros-Ghali forced out the most independent spirits at the U.N., such as former Assistant Secretary-General for General Political Affairs Giandomenico Picco. Others, including some who have been publicly loyal but are still seen as too autonomous, such as Alvaro de Soto of Peru, who negotiated the Salvador peace accords, are, by many accounts, increasingly marginalized. Still others hold their tongues. "This was never a place where people spoke frankly," said a senior U.N. official, "but under Boutros-Ghali the fear is palpable." And for good reason: stealth and sudden violence work.

In his singleminded pursuit of re-election, Boutros-Ghali resembles no one more than President Clinton. Each administration has distinguished itself by its consistent privileging of the search for political advantage over the commitment to any firm set of principles. It's not that the U.N. Secretary- General has no principles. Rather, like Clinton, he seems too willing to shift them according to the prevailing winds. "Politics is policy," the in- house slogan of the 1996 Clinton campaign, has been, for Boutros-Ghali, the operating principle of his tenure.

At the beginning of his term, for example, Boutros-Ghali thought the great powers wanted an expansive new definition of U.N. peacekeeping, one that threw out the old notion that blue helmets could be deployed only after cease- fires had been arranged. He produced An Agenda for Peace, a document that made such sweeping claims for the U.N.'s role that it fueled the paranoia of the American right. Then, after the Bosnia and Somalia debacles, An Agenda for Peace suddenly acquired a postscript that effectively retracted all the grandiose claims the Secretary-General had put forward less than four years before. Remarkably, the postscript was added without even acknowledging that the U.N. had failed in either place. (For Boutros-Ghali, the U.N. never fails. If anything, the world fails it.)

Such maneuvers are vintage Boutros-Ghali. On the one hand, he occasionally offers up florid Bandung-style rhetoric (the West was hard on him, he once claimed, because he is seen as "a wog") and claims to be a man of the disfranchised, even though his grandfather was prime minister of Egypt and his brother is said to be one of that country's richest men. Yet, as the few remaining hard-left officials within the Secretariat point out privately, his tenure has been marked largely by his unwillingness to antagonize any of the permanent five members of the Security Council. Again like Clinton, he has been too eager to please.

As Bosnia and Rwanda demonstrated, the U.N. Secretariat does not know what it stands for. In Bosnia, it chose peace at all costs, even at the price of justice. In Rwanda, its representatives collaborated with a regime many of whose leaders were publicly planning a genocide. The problem was that what the Americans wanted in Bosnia was different from what the French and the British wanted. And in Rwanda, the French government actually sided with those perpetrating the genocide, while the Americans wanted no part of an intervention. So the U.N. Secretariat in both cases felt it had to do as little as possible, in a vain effort to offend neither the Americans nor the French. In other instances, too, when major rifts have opened between the Americans and the British and French, or between the Americans and the Chinese, Boutros-Ghali tried to satisfy all parties. He has gotten into trouble because he hasn't quite known which great power to be servile to without offending some other power whose interests he also wanted to serve.

Of course, the job of Secretary-General is not well defined in the U.N. Charter. The Secretary-General is expected to be, simultaneously, a world leader, the premier international civil servant, a voice of moral authority standing for ideals of the U.N. Charter and a politician responsive to both the great powers and the numerous poor nations that make up the bulk of the membership. One almost feels sorry for Boutros-Ghali--were it possible, that is, to forget his assertion to the Sarajevans at the height of their city's siege in December, 1992, that he could easily list ten places in the world where people were far worse off.

Although it is not surprising that the U.S. should want to replace Boutros- Ghali, it is unclear what kind of a successor can be found. The process of choosing a Secretary-General is, after all, idiotic. The Security Council's struggle to agree upon a candidate combines the secrecy of Vatican succession with the backroom dealmaking of 1920s American political conventions, and the subsequent presentation of the candidate to the General Assembly for ratification exhibits all the democracy of the old Soviet Union. The process, in other words, is geared to producing disastrous choices like Boutros-Ghali or, before him, Kurt Waldheim, who, it should be remembered, was only narrowly prevented from winning a third term.

The Clinton administration did not make up its mind about a course of action until June. The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Madeleine Albright, had long been opposed to renomination, but others, at the State Department and the National Security Council, were uncertain. Some considered tabling altogether the discussion of Boutros-Ghali's re-election, which formally takes place in December, until after the United States' own November elections. Some within the administration clung to the hope that the Secretary-General would take himself out of the running.

When it became clear that Boutros-Ghali wouldn't step down voluntarily, it was, by most accounts, domestic policy considerations that prodded the Clinton administration to act quickly. Bob Dole had already used Boutros- Ghali's unpopularity with the American public to useful effect during the Bosnia debate, and he was poised to do so again. For the Clinton re-election team, the Secretary-General's renomination needed a "proactive" response.

Initially, the U.S. had sought a deal. In a private meeting with Secretary of State Warren Christopher, Boutros-Ghali, who five years ago agreed to serve only one term, was offered another year in office if he would not seek a full second term. The extra year would allow a longer and less contentious search for a consensus candidate. To the surprise of Christopher and his aides, Boutros-Ghali rejected the offer out of hand. And he apparently did so with such haughtiness that even the usually phlegmatic Christopher lost his temper. It was Christopher who insisted the U.S. announce its intention to veto Boutros-Ghali's candidacy. The decision was leaked in a background briefing by a senior State Department official that some have alleged was Christopher himself.

The Clinton administration had defused a Dole campaign issue, and both Christopher and Albright were satisfied. Yet the Americans managed to botch the diplomatic end of the process by failing to alert the French of their decision. French officials are furious. Boutros-Ghali, who once studied at the Sorbonne, has always enjoyed firm French backing. And yet the Chirac government learned of the U.S. decision only shortly before it was leaked to the American press. This needless offense to the most pro-American French government since the days of the Fourth Republic, a government with which the U.S. is involved in a great many important negotiations, was so hapless as to be incomprehensible.

Nor is it certain that the candidate American officials favor, Kofi Annan, will win French and Chinese backing. Washington is assuming that the Third World will not back an aristocratic Copt over a sub-Saharan African. But Annan is widely seen, in the words of one European diplomat skeptical about his chances, as "Washington's African." Whether China and France will support him remains to be seen. And even though the Clinton administration has opposed Boutros-Ghali, the inept way it handled the announcement does not inspire confidence in its ability to push Annan's nomination through.

There are compromise candidates who might step in, as dark-horse candidate Javier Perez de Cuellar did in 1981 when Kurt Waldheim, backed by the Chinese for a third term, and the U.S.-supported Tanzanian diplomat Salim Salim were deadlocked. The most likely such candidate is Sadako Ogata, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. Ogata has disavowed interest in the post, although it is unclear how she would respond were she subject to intense pressure to run. But, while Ogata's personality and character would be crucial assets for the job, it is not clear that anyone, even someone far more morally and temperamentally suited to it than Boutros-Ghali, can do the job of Secretary- General as it is presently understood.

This is why it is more than a little disingenuous for American officials now to complain about Boutros-Ghali, all his faults notwithstanding. For Boutros-Ghali is the product of a U.N. system the U.S. government doesn't want changed. The U.S. and the other great powers want an official whom the public will admire, who will seem to stand for something morally and who will be a good administrator. They also want someone who will cover up for them, do what they tell him or her to do and put the best face on decisions of the international community--such as allowing the genocide of the Rwandan Tutsi to continue unimpeded or allowing a prolonged siege of Sarajevo--that are utterly indefensible morally.

These are irreconcilable requirements. Perhaps the world will be lucky and Ogata will accept the job. Even Annan, for all his limitations, is certainly preferable to Boutros-Ghali, if only because he would arrest the demoralization of the Secretariat staff that Boutros-Ghali's tyrannical and capricious management has engendered.

To throw up one's hands about such an appointment, even if the U.N. isn't the central institution its apologists claim it to be, hardly seems sensible. And yet there is little reason to imagine that BoutrosGhali's ouster will bring about real reform anytime soon.

Copyright 1996 McClatchy Newspapers, Inc.
The Fresno Bee
July 28, 1996 Sunday, HOME EDITION

SECTION: METRO, Pg. B5, VISION PAGE

HEADLINE: Cuba's obsession with dollars

BYLINE: David Rieff

BODY:

Since February, when a Cuban air force MiG-29 shot down two civilian planes sponsored by the Miami-based exile group Brothers to the Rescue near Cuba, the Castro regime has turned to nationalist, anti-American rhetoric.

The goal is to rally a population beset by everyday scarcity and with little prospect of economic improvement.

To listen to Fidel Castro, his regime's success in withstanding American domination counts for far more than its failure to run the economy.

Maximum confidence?

"We have resisted for 35 years," the Maximum Leader declared in a recent speech, "and if necessary we will resist for 35 more."

Yet in fact today the Revolution is a sour hope for most and the best means of survival is through links to the United States.

Paradoxically, in the wake of Castro's anti-American rhetoric, the dollar has taken hold as Cuba's second currency. Many on the island depend on remittances from abroad, particularly from relatives in Miami.

At a conservative estimate, exiles send at least $ 800 million a year to their relatives on the island.

Having once scorned Cubans who left, their brethren at home increasingly rely on their benevolence.

"You spat at the person leaving for Miami," a friend in Havana remarked recently. "You jeered at those who joined the Mariel boatlift. Nowadays, though, you greet a returning person like a king and wait anxiously for his arrival because the money he brings can change everything for you."

The largest single foreign investment in Cuba, the nickel mines under development by the Canadian corporation Sherritt International, had revenues of about $ 250 million last year, while the gross receipts of the tourist sector were between $ 700 million and $ 1 billion.

Signs tell different story

Signs on the streets of Havana may read "Aqui somos libres y sin amo" -- that is, "Here, we are free and have no bosses" -- but ordinary Cubans are now all but completely dependent on the dollar economy. The average monthly wage of 200 Cuban pesos, or approximately $ 10, is not enough to live on.

With wages so low and one's rations not providing even the basics, the government's policy has driven virtually everyone into the dollar economy.

This means dependence on relatives abroad, a cash-only business on the side -- whether a "paladar," one of the small private restaurants that have proliferated in the past two years, a tire repair shop, or the cultivation of a garden plot -- theft or prostitution.

Pilferage is an enormous and growing problem, and burglaries, once virtually unheard of, are endemic. So is prostitution, the eradication of which was one of the proudest boasts of the revolutionary government.

Ordinary women are now selling themselves for a few items from a dollar shop. A European tourist accompanied by one and sometimes two young Cuban women, usually black or mulatto, clutching a shopping bag full of small purchases is a common sight in Havana and near the hotel complexes at Varadero Beach.

Most of the women's families are said to be resigned to what is going on, so long as they are not directly confronted with it. Dependence on dollar remittances from Miami and into a double morality -- whether involving theft, the black-market purchase of stolen goods unobtainable through the libreta, or prostitution.

Legalizing the dollar and foreign investment has brought some relief over the past three years -- fewer power outages, more food on people's tables and a widespread sense that life is getting better, or soon will. But it is not clear the regime has any real solutions for the island's economic problems.

What it seems to have opted for, in the name of preserving Cuban sovereignty, is a series of failed solutions: tourism, refurbishment of the sugar industry, mining.

For 37 years of peace, apart from the Bay of Pigs invasion, Cubans have lived on a quasi-wartime footing, with the regime dispensing militarized rhetoric and rationing essential goods.

From the slogans on walls in Havana, one would think a second Bay of Pigs was imminent. "Resist or die in the attempt!" the signs advise the populace -- incongruous exhortations when the government's principal foreign-policy effort seems to be its bid to lure foreign capitalists and German, Canadian and British tourists to the island.

No doubt most ordinary Cubans pay little more attention to the slogans than American commuters do to highway billboards. But while a gap between rhetoric and reality is a feature of just about every society, in Cuba it has grown more and more extreme. Revolutionary tourism

It was one thing in the 1960s to compare the literacy campaign that drew thousands of urban youths to the countryside with the struggle of Castro and Che Guevara's guerrillas in the Sierra Maestra. It is quite another for the building of luxury hotels for foreigners on Varadero Beach to be described as revolutionary struggle.

The slogans of the Vladimir Ilich Lenin construction brigade posted at the site of the future Sirens hotel -- "Che, your ideas endure in each of us," one read, while another boasted, "As at Baragua and the Bay of Pigs" -- make one wonder how much longer such contradictions can persist.

The buildings in Havana, Matanzas and Santiago are gently rotting away, much like revolutionary ardor, even among those who were most ardent.

A few people remain faithful to the old values.

"This is a revolutionary," warned a sign I saw in a suburban Havana neighborhood. "There are no dollars here."

But to remain faithful is to condemn oneself and one's children to impoverishment even within the general poverty of Cuba.

I asked a Cuban acquaintance whether a senior army officer would want his children to follow in his footsteps. My friend laughed dismissively.

"Of course not," he said. "In the old days, in the '70s or early '80s, becoming an army officer would have been the best possible career."

And today?

"Today, he would want his son or daughter to work in the hotel business or in one of the joint ventures, where your salary in pesos is supplemented by dollars under the table. That's the only way to survive here -- unless, of course, you have a rich uncle in Miami."

David Rieff is the author of "The Exile: Cuba in the Heart of Miami." This article was adapted from a longer version in Foreign Affairs magazine, and distributed by the New York Times.

Copyright 1996 Council on Foreign Relations, Inc.
Foreign Affairs
July, 1996 /August, 1996

SECTION: ESSAYS; Pg. 62

HEADLINE: Cuba Refrozen

BYLINE: David Rieff; DAVID RIEFF is the author of The Exile: Cuba in the Heart of Miami.

BODY:

DEFIANCE AND DOLLARIZATION

UNTIL THE moment in February when a Cuban air force MiG-29 shot down two civilian planes sponsored by the Miami-based exile group Brothers to the Rescue near Cuba, people on both sides of the Florida Strait assumed U.S.-Cuban relations were headed for a thaw, if a slow one. But the prospect of normalization had hardly been welcomed in Havana. The Castro regime's only claim that resonates with ordinary Cubans nowadays, particularly those old enough to remember life before Fulgencio Batista's overthrow in 1959, is that it has saved Cuba from American domination.

The ubiquitous slogan "Socialismo o Muerte," "Socialism or Death," has evoked pained smiles on the island since the collapse of the Soviet empire, the loss of Cuba's leading trade partners, and the cutoff of subsidies from Moscow in 1989-91. Socialism has lost, and even those in the upper echelons of the Castro regime know it. But "Patria o Muerte," "Motherland or Death," still carries considerable weight in a country whose political culture is steeped in the legends of resistance and self-immolation of the nineteenth-century struggle for independence. The Second Cuban War of Independence -- known in the United States, to Cubans' chagrin, as the Spanish-American War -- left one-fifth of the population dead and a good part of the island in ruins. Yet for Cubans of almost every political persuasion, including the exile community in the United States, the sacrifice was worth it.

In their own minds, whether rebelling against the Spanish or confronting the Americans, Cubans are continually doing mythic battle. "It is my duty," Jose Marti, the apostle of Cuban independence, wrote shortly before his death, "to prevent, by the independence of Cuba, the United States from spreading over the West Indies, and falling, with that added weight, upon other lands of our America. . . . My weapon is only the slingshot of David." As the possibility of exporting revolution in the Americas or even building socialism at home has dwindled, the Castro regime has turned to nationalist, anti-American rhetoric to rally a population beset by everyday scarcity and with little prospect of economic improvement.

In early 1991, when the loss of Soviet subsidies that had reached $ 8 billion a year really began to take its toll, signs sprouted in Havana boasting that the capital would remain "an eternal Baragua." The reference was to an episode in 1878 at the end of the First Cuban War of Independence, in which the revolutionary leader General Antonio Maceo, faced with a superior Spanish force, rejected a settlement that would have called for his army to lay down its weapons. That Maceo soon afterward abandoned the field at Baragua, boarding a British ship for Jamaica, did not seem to matter; the symbolism of the act, Maceo's glorious gesture of defiance, called for emulation. To listen to Fidel Castro, his regime's success in withstanding American domination counts for far more than its failure to run the economy. "We have resisted for 35 years," the Maximum Leader declared in a recent speech, "and if necessary we will resist for 35 more."

That moralized -- not to say romantic -- vision of the goals of the state is not Marxist. Some question whether Castro was ever a Marxist-Leninist, while others suggest that the experiment he has carried out on the Cuban people has -- as befits the graduate of a Jesuit academy who at times still refers to himself as a Christian -- less in common with Lenin than with the communistic experiments of Jesuits in Paraguay in the eighteenth century. But Castro's growing tendency to identify his revolution's success or failure with the degree of influence the United States has over Cuban affairs helps explain the equanimity with which he has accepted investment from capitalist countries. For him, compromise with investors is not difficult; it is compromise with Washington that is unacceptable. Castro's worldview, especially after the Brothers to the Rescue incident and the regime's recent crackdown on dissidents, should not make one sanguine about the possibilities for genuine change in the system he has created.

THE ALMIGHTY DOLLAR PARADOXICALLY, CASTRO'S insistence on the sacred ideal of Cuban sovereignty has thrown Cubans into economic dependence on the hated United States. After Soviet subsidies stopped, Cuba was on the brink of economic collapse in 1992 and 1993. During what was officially dubbed "the special period in time of peace," there were power outages in Havana because the regime could not come up with even $ 10 million in hard currency to buy emergency fuel supplies, and the authorities seriously contemplated a system in which citizens would eat all their meals in collective feeding centers. To ease the crisis, Castro allowed foreign investment into the country, and in 1993 the regime reluctantly legalized the possession of dollars by ordinary Cubans, previously a criminal, if routine, offense.

Once people could use dollars openly and hold dollar-denominated bank accounts, the dollar took hold as Cuba's second currency. Many on the island came to depend on remittances from abroad, particularly from relatives in Miami. Having once scorned those who left, Cubans increasingly relied on their benevolence. "You spat at the person leaving for Miami," a friend in Havana remarked recently. "You jeered at those who joined the Mariel boatlift. Nowadays, though, you greet a returning person like a king and wait anxiously for his arrival because the money he brings can change everything for you."

Relative to the rest of the economy, remittances from abroad are enormous. At a conservative estimate, exiles send at least $ 800 million a year to their relatives on the island. The sugar industry, which has been virtually in ruins since the Soviet Union abrogated sugar-for-oil barter agreements, accounts for approximately $ 300 million in earnings. The largest single foreign investment in Cuba, the nickel mines under development by the Canadian corporation Sherritt International, had revenues of about $ 25 million last year, while the gross receipts of the tourist sector were between $ 700 million and $ 1 billion.

Given that under its joint venture agreement with the Cuban government Sherritt is allowed to repatriate its very considerable portion of the profits, as are the Mexican, Spanish, and German hotel chains that have invested in Havana and the resort area of Varadero, remittances assume even greater significance. Tourism in Cuba has been rising steadily but, for all their recent boasts, Cuban officials have been reticent about how much of each tourist dollar remains in the country. Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham said recently that while he was pleased with tourism's gross revenues, the truth was that 81 cents on the dollar went overseas with the partner corporations, most of which are based in Canada or South Florida. It seems likely that the proportion leaving Cuba is at least as high.

While joint ventures are welcome in Cuba, the Castro government has steadfastly refused to allow Cubans to set up small or mediumsized businesses, even to supply the tourist sector. The shampoo in hotel bathrooms, the pillow on the bed, even the packets of sugar in the hotel restaurant all are imported. The last is particularly astonishing: the sugar, packaged mainly in Canada, was produced on the island. Countless other examples show that the Cuban economic opening, no doubt profitable for foreign investors, is far less lucrative for Cuba than most assume.

Signs on the streets of Havana may read "Aqui somos libres y sin amo," "Here, we are free and have no bosses," but ordinary Cubans are now all but completely dependent on the dollar economy. The average monthly wage of 200 Cuban pesos, or approximately $ 10, is not much help when the regime lacks the reserves to provide the basics supposedly guaranteed to holders of the libreta, the ration book, at a nominal price. Although Havana does far better than the rest of the country, most people I spoke with during visits to the city in February and March said they could count on no more than half their monthly allotment of staple foodstuffs and reported that clothing and other "nonessential" allotments were unavailable more often than not. The reward in many factories and offices for exceptional performance is bags of toothpaste, razor blades, and deodorant. These items are of course readily available for hard currency in the shops and markets that have sprung up all over the island since dollarization.

It is not simply, as the old joke in the Soviet Union had it, that under socialism the workers pretend to work and the government pretends to pay them. Adult Cubans must be employed or retired to maintain their right to their libretas, to health care, to their apartments, and to certain subsidized services like electricity. But with wages so low and one's rations not providing even the basics, the government's policy has driven virtually everyone into the dollar economy. This means dependence on relatives abroad, a cash-only business on the side -- whether a paladar, one of the small private restaurants that have proliferated in the past two years, a tire repair shop, or the cultivation of a garden plot -- theft, or prostitution.

Pilferage is an enormous and growing problem, and burglaries, once virtually unheard of, are endemic. So is prostitution, the eradication of which was one of the proudest boasts of the revolutionary government. Ordinary women are now selling themselves for a few items from a dollar shop. A European tourist accompanied by one and sometimes two young Cuban women, usually black or mulatto, clutching a shopping bag full of small purchases is a common sight in Havana and near the hotel complexes at Varadero Beach. Most of the women's families are said to be resigned to what is going on, so long as they are not directly confronted with it. Thus the government's decision to fetishize political independence from the United States has forced Cubans into dependence on dollar remittances from Miami and into a double morality -- whether involving theft, the black market purchase of stolen goods unobtainable through the libreta, or prostitution.

Legalizing the dollar and foreign investment has brought some relief over the past three years -- fewer power outages, more food on people's tables, and a widespread sense that life is getting better, or soon will. But it is not clear the regime has any real solutions for the island's economic problems. What it seems to have opted for, in the name of preserving Cuban sovereignty, is a series of failed solutions: tourism, refurbishment of the sugar industry, mining. If these can be said to offer hope, it is only in the sense that they have offered hope to Jamaica or the Dominican Republic, still chronically impoverished after decades of trying these remedies.

THE SLOGANS ON THE WALL

DEFENDERS OF the regime insist that things would be different if not for the U.S. embargo against Cuba in place since 1961 -- or as Cubans refer to it, the blockade. In reality, the question of allocation of resources is at least as important; the army continues to be funded, as do some of Castro's pet projects. But the government-controlled press darkly hints that Cuban innovations in AIDS research and the treatment of skin and eye ailments would have brought prosperity but for the embargo and the machinations of international drug companies. This paranoid worldview, with its insistence that every setback is someone else's fault and its constant hunts for culprits -- and when external enemies will not serve, Castro scapegoats his own generals or ministers -- may be the regime's enduring bequest to the people.

The regime can still claim some successes. Literacy is virtually universal, and the average citizen enjoys remarkable access to medical care and what is still relatively good health. But education and health are related, and the system in both areas is at or near the breaking point. While Cuban students are admirably literate and numerate, they are not now nor will they soon be computer literate. A place like Havana, where an estimated 15 to 30 percent of the buildings in the old city are structurally unsound, has no money for classroom computer terminals. The effect on economic development is not yet apparent only because there has been so little development. When Cuba begins to vie for the word processing jobs that are already leaving Western Europe and North America for Asia and the Caribbean, it is unlikely to compete effectively.

The crisis in the health care system is more pressing. In spite of the competence and kindness of hospital staff, a lack of equipment and, especially, prescription drugs makes effective treatment difficult. Most cardiac and cancer specialists say that for the past several years they have been able to diagnose their patients but not treat them. Like many visitors to Cuba, I brought drugs for exiles' loved ones. When I delivered the chemotherapy agent to the doctor of my friends' relative, she stared at the package and murmured, "I haven't been able to prescribe any of this in a very long time."

Instead of developing a proper system of production and distribution, the Cuban government has offered the rhetoric of struggle and sovereignty. For 37 years of peace, apart from the Bay of Pigs invasion, Cubans have lived on a quasi-wartime footing, with the regime dispensing militarized rhetoric and rationing essential goods. From the slogans on walls in Havana, one would think a second Bay of Pigs was imminent. Resist or die in the attempt, the signs advise the populace -- incongruous exhortations when the government's principal foreign policy effort seems to be its bid to lure foreign capitalists and German, Canadian, and British tourists to the island.

No doubt most ordinary Cubans pay little more attention to the slogans than American commuters do to highway billboards. But while a gap between rhetoric and reality is a feature of just about every society, in Cuba it has grown more and more extreme. It was one thing in the 1960s to compare the literacy campaign that drew thousands of urban youths to the countryside with the struggle of Castro and Che Guevara's guerrillas in the Sierra Maestra Mountains. It is quite another for the building of luxury hotels for foreigners on Varadero Beach to be described as revolutionary struggle. The slogans of the Vladimir Ilich Lenin construction brigade posted at the site of the future Sirens hotel "Che, your ideas endure in each of us," one read, while another boasted, "As at Baragua and the Bay of Pigs" -- make one wonder how much longer such contradictions can persist.

FAILING THE ECONOMY

CASTRO LIKES to say, "Only those who resist are respected," but the Cuban state is resisting only the United States. It is not resisting capitalism (except the smaller-scale, more entrepreneurial type that could benefit ordinary Cubans) or the corruption of its citizenry through prostitution and a huge black market in stolen goods. It is engaged not in a program of Marxist action but in anti-Americanism taken for a species of idealism and become an obsession. In the meantime, Cubans assume that senior officials are enriching themselves so that they will fare reasonably well whether Castro survives or falls.

The regime's commitment to an economic policy that privileges macroeconomic development has left the people largely to fend for themselves. Although the regime has succeeded to a remarkable degree in stabilizing the Cuban peso, its distribution of even staple goods has not improved. A government that cannot stock its own teaching hospitals with minimal supplies of Adriamycin and Methotrexate is still spending millions on biotechnology research. Most important, while the regime demonstrated considerable imagination in redividing the economic pie, it has never been able to make the pie bigger. One has only to imagine what the Singaporean leader Lee Kuan Yew or the military bosses of South Korea, Taiwan, or Thailand would have done with 25 years of subsidies on the order of those the Soviet Union funneled to Castro to appreciate how badly the regime has bungled the economy.

Apparently at Castro's insistence, the government squandered hundreds of millions of dollars on research into interferon after the Maximum Leader became convinced that the drug would prove to be "the cure" for cancer. It was not the first such folly. In the late 1960s Castro decided to undertake a massive program of cross-breeding Holstein and Brahma cattle aimed at a cow that could stand up to tropical heat but still produce milk as copiously as northern European breeds. "We will have more milk than Holland," Castro boasted. The result was disastrous.

The economic record of Castro's Cuba is one of unbroken failure, and many of the mistakes of previous economic campaigns are being repeated. In the past year, in an eerie echo of the catastrophic sugar harvest of 1970, which was expected to produce a record crop and give the country the working capital to refloat the economy, Cuba has taken out some $ 300 million in short-term loans to buy equipment and fuel to run the tractors and the sugar refineries. Without the loans, the harvest could not have taken place, but to obtain them, the government was forced to pay interest rates variously estimated at 14 to 20 percent. Even if the harvest reaches the government's goal of 4.5 million tons, the interest payments will negate any real benefit from the sale of the sugar.

In spite of official claims that all is going smoothly, rumors among European commodities brokers have it that Cuba is selling some of the harvest on the spot market to raise cash to import oil to keep the refineries running. As anyone driving through the countryside around Matanzas during the harvest could observe, many refineries are making do by burning bagasse chaff from the sugar plant. This is one of the "inventive" solutions to the economic crisis that Cuban officials point to as exemplary of their ability to cope. But one of the reasons the machinery in the sugar industry and many other industries is in desperate need of repair is that the use of bagasse has damaged it. Trapped in a vicious cycle, the regime must borrow money at exorbitant rates or grant economic concessions to foreign companies -- many of which are just waiting for the embargo to end to flip their holdings to U.S. companies for a handsome profit -- all the while knowing no country ever became rich on a monoculture or tourism.

Most Cuban officials insist that the economy has turned the corner and that a successful sugar harvest, increased tourism, and more petroleum and nickel production will soon bring Cubans their highest standard of living since at least the late 1980s. These industries, the authorities claim, led the way in five to seven percent economic growth last year for Cuba. Such figures, however, obscure the continued deterioration of all the sectors not targeted for development. With the exception of the telephone system, which the Mexican conglomerate Domos is committed to refurbishing, Cuba's infrastructure-its factories, housing stock, roads, and bridges -- are slowly, and in some cases not so slowly, falling apart. The buildings in Havana, Matanzas, and Santiago are gently rotting away, much like revolutionary ardor, even among those who were most ardent.

A few people remain faithful to the old values. "This is a revolutionary," warned a sign I saw in a suburban Havana neighborhood. "There are no dollars here." But to remain faithful is to condemn oneself and one's children to impoverishment even within the general poverty of Cuba. I asked a Cuban acquaintance whether a senior army officer would want his children to follow in his footsteps. My friend laughed dismissively. "Of course not," he said. "In the old days, in the '70s or early '80s, becoming an army officer would have been the best possible career. But today? Today, he would want his son or daughter to work in the hotel business or in one of the joint ventures, where your salary in pesos is supplemented by dollars under the table. That's the only way to survive here -- unless, of course, you have a rich uncle in Miami."

If evidence were needed that the revolution is definitively over, the obsession with dollars provides it. Cuba, while still free of American political control, grows more dependent every day on the U.S. currency and the world economic system in which the United States is dominant. Without American backing for loans from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, Cuba's economic destiny is likely at best to resemble that of its Caribbean neighbors. But the Castro regime is locked in the world that existed when Fidel and Che were in the Sierra Maestra, a world in which the economy was not yet global and geopolitics, rather than geoeconomics, was the essence of international relations.

ONLY SURVIVE

IN SPITE of his enthusiastic comments about what he saw on his November visit to China, Castro's heart is not in economic liberalization, let alone political reform. The regime has done what it must to survive, and, increasingly, survival is its only discernible goal. Lately Castro has suggested in interviews that he does not care all that much whether the society he built outlives him. Some say he is more interested in securing a place in history as a hero who resisted the Americans to the end than in organizing a transition of any kind. The public discourse of the revolution these days is intensely retrospective and militarized. Newspaper articles commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the Cuban victory in Angola, the thirty-fifth anniversary of the Bay of Pigs, the centenary of Maceo's death in battle. Cuban officials even tell visitors with a straight face that the Brothers to the Rescue planes had to be shot down because it was the hundred and first anniversary of the start of the Second Cuban War of Independence.

Such insistence could be seen as bespeaking a weak national identity rather than the strong one Cubans often boast of. In a country like France or Spain, such allusions would make no sense. The emphasis on sovereignty and combat can be understood to express the fear that the United States will overwhelm Cuba's identity. The nationalists view it as tragic that Fidel Castro has been reduced to what he is -- the leader of a small, poor country of 11 million people, 90 miles from the United States -- rather than standing out, as his friend the novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez once wrote, as the creator of "a foreign policy fit for a great power."

What Castro is is probably the luckiest world leader alive. He was lucky to not have been shot by Batista, defeated in the Sierra Maestra, or overthrown by the United States, and he was lucky the Soviet Union was willing to subsidize Cuba's economy for more than two decades. Communism may be dead, but he hangs on and on. About to turn 69 -- four years younger than presidential candidate Bob Dole -- Castro has outlasted eight American heads of state. Although many confidently awaited the end of his reign in 1992, four years later the regime appears to be in no imminent danger of collapse. Whatever his failings, Castro is a redoubtable tactician.

His worries of the past few years, however, have been urgent. In 1992, during the deep economic crisis of the "special period," the U.S. Congress approved the Cuban Democracy Act. Doubtless some of the many optimists on Cuba have been bemused by the vulgar version of the concept ofcM1 society in which economic reforms by a totalitarian state lead ineluctably to political reforms and, eventually, a market democracy. That was certainly the logic behind the 1992 act. Known as the Torricelli bill after its principal sponsor, Representative Robert Torricelli (D-N.J.), the measure declared that "the fall of Communism in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, the now universal recognition in Latin America and the Caribbean that Cuba provides a failed model of government and development . . . provide the United States and the international democratic community with an unprecedented opportunity to promote a peaceful transition to democracy in Cuba."

Passage of the Torricelli bill coincided with the recognition in Havana that even successful macroeconomic development would not deliver soon enough to provide for people's basic material needs. Hence the decision to legalize the dollar, but by last year the regime sensed that that trend was getting out of hand. Dissidence, while still relatively minor, was on the rise. In addition, Castro, forced to grant the Roman Catholic Church in Cuba some freedom of action after 1993, by all accounts has been deeply anxious about its reinvigoration (the church sided with Spain against Marti and with the exiles against Castro).

Most of the Torricelli bill's critics on the left and many of its supporters on the right viewed the law as simply tightening the embargo against Cuba. But some of the bill's provisions liberalized telecommunications links and called for "assistance, through appropriate non-governmental organizations, for the support of individuals and organizations to promote nonviolent democratic change in Cuba." This line, which became known as Track II, was taken up by Richard A. Nuccio, a former Torricelli aide who after Clinton's election was given the startlingly broad brief of special adviser on Cuban matters to both the White House and the State Department. Administration officials saw an opportunity, as economic liberalization seemed to make the creation of counterweights to the Castro regime's authority a more promising strategy. Nuccio crafted a careful but major change in government policy based on Track II that led to a conference in Washington last December aimed at encouraging humanitarian relief organizations and human rights groups to step up their activities in Cuba.

The Clinton administration's emphasis on a Track II approach alarmed the Castro regime more than the original passage of the Torricelli bill. If the U.S. government turned its attention from supporting the heroic but largely impotent dissident movement to overtly or covertly sponsoring or even just actively encouraging the activities of nongovernmental humanitarian organizations, the regime might find itself faced with powerful opposing forces. Something must be done, Cuban leaders decided, before the country was deluged by international aid and human rights organizations more likely even than the church to share Washington's desire for Castro's departure.

Brothers to the Rescue planes had buzzed Havana in July 1995 and dropped leaflets over the capital this January. Cuba's attack on the two planes the next month, in or just outside Cuban airspace, could have been the means the regime chose to freeze the situation with the United States for a while and give itself some breathing room. Or, in National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcon's phrase, the exile group might merely have delivered a rationale for a new government campaign of ideological mobilization "on a silver platter." Whatever the case, using what it termed the aggression against Cuba as a pretext, the regime intensified a crackdown against not only dissidents like Elizardo Sanchez but advocates of political and economic liberalization. These advocates were grouped around two government-sponsored think tanks, one dedicated to the study of the United States, the other to the study of Europe. Cuba says 45 people were arrested or detained; dissidents say 150. "Our conception of civil society," General Rafil Castro, first vice president of the Council of Ministers, declared in announcing the crackdown, "is different from that of the Americans."

Two weeks after the planes were shot down, Congress approved the Helms-Burton bill, which further tightened the embargo against Cuba. Whatever its merits, the measure had the possibly unintended effect of halting all Track II initiatives under way or in the planning stages. For sponsors of the bill, this was unimportant. Passage of the measure, Senator Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) intoned, meant "farewell Fidel." Most observers, however, believe that while the revolution is over, the Castro regime is not on the verge of collapse. Unlike Helms-Burton, the Torricelli bill, for all its triumphalist rhetoric, took Castro's durability into account: Track II was about building pressure for reform. The new law will severely restrict the freedom of maneuver for groups or institutions that want to undermine the Castro regime without challenging it head on. And Helms-Burton gives the power to lift the sanctions against Cuba to a Congress with nothing to gain and much to lose from changing a single provision, taking it away from a president who, at least in a second term, might have dared to modify the embargo.

This being an election year in which Democrats see CubanAmericans in New Jersey as an important swing vote, the administration reversed itself on relaxing relations with Cuba after the Brothers to the Rescue incident, and Clinton signed Helms-Burton. The hardened American line suits the Castro regime perfectly at present. Some even believe Cuba downed the planes in a deliberate effort to secure the passage of Helms-Burton and create a pretext for the crackdown at home. The regime was well aware of the lack of threatening intent on the part of Brothers to the Rescue, since it had at least one infiltrator in the group. But whether or not the conspiracy theorists are right, the hard line of Helms-Burton clearly is far easier for Castro to deal with than the hard-soft policy Nuccio developed for the Clinton administration, which is now in mothballs.

During the years Cuba saw itself as the patron of revolutionary movements in the Americas -- reaching an apogee in 1979 with the Sandinistas in power in Nicaragua and Maurice Bishop in power in Grenada -- American military action was always a distant possibility. Indeed, the more Cuban officials reveal about the scope of these involvements worldwide, the more the Reagan administration's analysis of Cuba seems to be vindicated. But today Cuba is relatively unimportant in Washington, except when it comes to the domestic policy issues of immigrants or Cuban-American lobbying. And the regime, having lost its eagerness to foment revolution, is simply trying to hang on, and perhaps waiting for more favorable conditions to launch new policy initiatives. There are those in Havana who hope that Gennadi Zyuganov, the Communist Party candidate, will win the Russian presidential election in June and restore the old relationship with Cuba, but the more realistic believe that for the moment the regime has no good options. Better to freeze things and hope for more auspicious times.

Within the regime deep anti-Americanism remains, continuing to have the potential to mobilize Cubans in large numbers. As one Cuban dissident, who certainly has no love either for Fidel Castro or for the shambles communism has made of his country's economy, remarked to me, "You may criticize the policies we have embarked upon, but were we to choose another way, we would have to compromise our sovereignty. I mean we would have to give you Americans too much of a say in our affairs. Beyond that, even assuming you are right in everything you say -- and these days, sometimes I am of the opinion that you are you Americans, with your history of meddling in our affairs and trying to dominate us, simply do not have the moral standing to be the ones to deliver the judgment."

The problem for Castro is that with the disintegration of the Soviet empire, the Americans have never been stronger. During the rafters crisis in the summer of 1994, when tens of thousands of Cubans set sail for Florida, the dissident leader Eloy Gutierrez Menoyo quipped that if he were President Clinton he would call Castro and tell him that if he allowed one more rafter to leave, the United States would lift the embargo immediately. "That would have put an end to it, I guarantee you," Gutierrez Menoyo said, laughing. As it turned out, the migratory accords that ended the crisis -- providing for 20,000 immigrant visas annually while doing away with automatic political asylum for Cubans which Cuba has scrupulously abided by although another crisis is not unthinkable, were to Cuba's benefit, serving as a safety valve for disgruntled citizens. But it is not clear what Castro's reaction to a lifting of the embargo would be even in the unlikely event the U.S. government asked for no quid pro quo, no moves toward democratization or multiparty elections or any of its other minimum demands. Doubtless the Maximum Leader would celebrate his victory, but he would look for ways to limit the effect of the end of the heroic struggle with the United States.

But all this is academic after the shooting down of the planes and the deaths of the four Brothers to the Rescue inside. That has changed everything. Even remittances from Miami have slumped, although Cuban officials speak confidently of a rebound within a few months. On the island, things are fractionally worse, with declines in new foreign investment. But that is not a reason for anyone to expect the Castro regime to fall. As one Cuban remarked to me, "There is one institution in this country that really does function properly. It's called State Security. And as long as it is loyal to the regime, people will prefer to keep their heads down, dream of moving to Miami, or just go on trying to get by."

Copyright 1996 MacNeil/Lehrer Productions
The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer
July 1, 1996, Monday Transcript #5561

HEADLINE: The Fugitive;

BYLINE: ANCHOR: JIM LEHRER; GUESTS: THEODORE SHAW, NAACP Legal Defense Fund; CLINT BOLICK, Institute of Justice; DAVID RIEFF, Author; GEORGE KENNEY, Former State Department Official; CORRESPONDENTS: BETTY ANN BOWSER; MARGARET WARNER; LINDSAY HILSON; TOM BEARDEN; ROGER ROSENBLATT;

BODY:

FOCUS - THE FUGITIVE

MR. LEHRER: Now bringing to international justice a Bosnian Serb leader accused of war crimes. Margaret Warner has the story.

MARGARET WARNER: The Dayton Peace Accords called for Bosnian Serb Leader Radovan Karadzic to be removed from power and arrested for war crimes, but neither has happened, and Karadzic has continued to run the Bosnian Serb government from its headquarters in Pale, just outside Sarajevo. Today there is considerable confusion over exactly how much power Karadzic may have given up in a weekend of maneuvering with western diplomats. We start with this report from Lindsay Hilson of Independent Television News.

LINDSAY HILSON: Mr. Karadzic seems to be playing games with the international community again. Last week, he appeared in public, which he'd previously agreed he wouldn't do. He put conditions on standing down and was reelected as leader of his Serbian Democratic Party which is likely to win elections in September. This weekend, international officials trumpeted a signed letter suggesting he might be replaced. Today's Belgrade newspapers' headlined "Karadzic Without Power" and "Karadzic Has Withdrawn." But today Vice President Biljana Plavsic said Mr. Karadzic was still president.

MICHAEL STEINER, European Union: I think it is now up to the international community to follow up its solemn words with actions because this will be the only thing, the only language which is understood in these circles in Pale.

LINDSAY HILSON: But in Pale, the Bosnian Serb stronghold, it seems that things are moving, and Mr. Karadzic is gradually ceding power.

MICHAEL STENTON, Cambridge University: I take his resignation of his powers completely seriously. He's been under so much pressure, he's offered so many hints that this is the direction in which he's going, that I believe it; however, he will remain the leader of his political party. That has just been reaffirmed, and he will retain at least for the next couple of months the title of president.

LINDSAY HILSON: That doesn't satisfy the Americans.

WILLIAM PERRY, Secretary of Defense: It is a first step. It should not be and it must not be a last step. We will see what it amounts to in practice. It is my view that more must be done. It has to be clear that Karadzic is out of power and unable to influence events in the country.

LINDSAY HILSON: Mr. Karadzic has plans to develop the Bosnian Serb Republic and his colleagues have similar hard-line nationalist views. They know that as long as the international community remains divided over how to defeat him, he still has a good chance of influencing the future.

MARGARET WARNER: We get two views now. George Kenney was the State Department desk officer for Yugoslavia until he resigned in protest over the Bush administration's policies in 1992. He is now a consultant. David Rieff is a journalist who has written frequently about Bosnia and was there most recently in April. His latest book is called Slaughterhouse: Bosnia and the Failure of the West. Welcome, both of you. David Rieff, the Bosnian Serbs say Karadzic has given up at least some power. Is that sufficient, in your view?

DAVID RIEFF, Author: [New York] Well, I think it's ludicrous, in fact, for Radovan Karadzic to relinquish power in favor of Mrs. Plavsic, who is really--is like saying a ventriloquist has relinquished power to his dummy. It's a preposterous assertion and one utterly without meaning. I think what you actually see is the Bosnian Serbs and Dr. Karadzic, in particular, reverting to form. They know, they understand, and they're right--they understand rightly that there are deep divisions between European attitudes and U.S. attitudes toward what to do about the Bosnian Serbs and what, indeed, to do about the Dayton agreements, and he's counting on the fact, as he did throughout the war, that by making some minimal concession that he will be able to hold on to power. You'll note in the statement that he temporarily relinquishes power to Mrs. Plavsic. He does not give it up. But you also note that you have the Americans on one side saying they find it completely unacceptable, how sincere the Clinton administration, which is I think known for its flip-flops on this is, I--I can't really say, and you have people like Carl Bildt, the high representative of the European Union, on the ground in Bosnia saying that he accepts it absolutely. It seems to me we've been here before.

MS. WARNER: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. George Kenney, what is your assessment of what we just saw and what has really happened, how much power, if any, has Karadzic given up?

GEORGE KENNEY, Former State Department Official: I think he's given up a substantial amount of power. To be realistic, we're not going to be able to remove his influence entirely for a long time unless we go after him, physically snatch him, and then cart him off to the Hague. I doubt very much we'll do that because we don't really know where to draw the line. Are we going to go after Karadzic and Mladic, or--

MS. WARNER: Mladic being the Bosnian Serb commander who's also been indicted--

MR. KENNEY: Yes.

MS. WARNER: --on war crimes.

MR. KENNEY: It, it probably could be done, getting Karadzic, but Mladic is a different matter. He's well guarded, with lots of troops. If we go after Bosnian Serb leaders who are indicted, are we going to go after Bosnian Croat leaders--Kordzic, for example, who would be Karadzic's counterpart?

MS. WARNER: But let me just ask you just in terms of this issue of how much power he is exercising, do you agree with David Rieff that what we just saw this weekend is really a sham and that he's not given up any substantial power?

MR. KENNEY: I think that he is ceding power, but I think the question to ask ourselves is: Even if we were able to get Karadzic to cede power completely, what would replace him? And there, as I see it at a distance, there really aren't any moderate alternatives to Karadzic. Indeed, very recently, when Carl Bildt, the international high representative in Bosnia, tried to boost the standing of one of Karadzic's so-called moderate rivals, Karadzic was able to get rid of him, and I see this effect not only on the Bosnian Serb side but on all sides in Bosnia. When the West tries to promote moderates, inadvertently we wind up making the radicals stronger. Probably if we want to get rid of Karadzic, the best thing to do is be patient, wait, apply steady pressure, and eventually we'll get it.

MS. WARNER: David Rieff, what about that point that the alternatives aren't any more palatable?

MR. RIEFF: Well, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic stand accused by the international war crimes tribunal, genocide and crimes against humanity. That, it seems to me, in law, and I think also in morality, distinguishes them from others. I quite agree with George Kennedy that the alternatives are not good, but I would still insist that there are real distinctions to be made, for example, between the Bosnian Serbs around Banja Luka, people who are largely loyal to President Milosevic in Belgrade, and to the people in Pale, who remain loyal to Karadzic. The notion that somehow Karadzic is relinquishing significant rather than symbolic power seems to me contradicted by his own engineering of his reelection, his flouting of the international community's insistence that he not appear publicly, et cetera, et cetera, all the things in your report. But the more important issue is this. We--there are a number of different options after Dayton. If you allow the man, who on the Bosnian side of this war committed these terrible crimes to remain in charge, then you have decided that Dayton is simply an instrument of humane partition. George Kenney and I might agree that they should come out and say that.

MS. WARNER: But then you could partition Bosnia.

MR. RIEFF: Yes, a partitioning in Bosnia. If the--if the Europeans and ourselves want to say that's what Dayton was, then by all means, leave Karadzic in control, and, indeed, leave Gen. Mladic alone in, in his bunker. But at least the administration continues to insist, however disingenuously perhaps, that that's not what they mean by Dayton. And if we're to take him at face value, something after four years I'm rather reluctant to do, but if we are to take them at face value, then Dr. Karadzic must be brought to account, as well as the people that George Kenney mentions like Mr. Karadzic. I don't see any problem with that as well.

MS. WARNER: Well, George Kenney, we just saw Karadzic at the soccer game, and how hard would it be to arrest him, and why hasn't it happened?

MR. KENNEY: Well, we could close off his ability to leave Pale, put NATO patrols around Pale, and probably we could drive in and grab him one day and drive back to Sarajevo. That's not too difficult. But if we do grab Karadzic, are we then going to go after Mladic, who's very well guarded, or are we going to go after Kordzic. If you open the door to this, it becomes very messy very quickly, and I can understand why western governments are reluctant to do that, but I would raise another question in relation to what David Rieff was saying, and that is, is it really so important for Dayton, as far as the Bosnian people go, to arrest all of these war criminals? In April, a USIA survey among Bosnians of all three sides, what their most important concerns were now that the war is over, the majority on all three sides cite economic concerns. At the bottom of the list, they talk about arresting war criminals with 1, 2, 3 percent on each side saying that that's the most important or the second most important concern they have. But I think that we assign a much higher priority to this than the Bosnians, themselves.

MS. WARNER: David Rieff, what is--explain to people who don't follow this Bosnia conflict very closely. What is the danger about leaving Karadzic in power?

MR. RIEFF: Well, the commitment of the United States and of the other signatories of the Dayton Accords was to bring indicted war criminals to justice and to prevent their holding and exercising significant political power in a post war Bosnia. That was the solemn engagement of the international community, notably of the Clinton administration, which is the architect of the Dayton Accords. It may very well be true, incidentally. I don't disagree with George Kenney, that it may well be more important to the international community than to the average Bosnian. I have no way of knowing that that's true. It may well be, but I think you probably could have made the same a rgument after the Second World War, that most people found the economic reconstr uction of Europe and bringing the boys home and demobilization and all the rest of it more important than the Nuremberg trials. But I don't think that, in itself, is a significant argument against the importance of the international tribunal and the bringing to account the breaking of the culture of immunity and impunity, not just in Bosnia but in Rwanda as well, where there war crimes tribunal is active. That's the importance, and if it's more important to us than to them, that seems to me an argument for bringing Dr. Karadzic to justice, not against it.

MS. WARNER: And very briefly, because I want to get back to George Kenney on this, but you said earlier, if the West is essentially saying Dayton was all about partitioning Bosnia, then, fine, leave it as it is, are you saying that if Karadzic retains any kind of significant power, that you believe he will use that to frustrate the Dayton plan, which was to make Bosnia a multi- ethnic, unified state?

MR. RIEFF: I believe we're a long way from a multi-ethnic unified state, but I believe that the people in Pale on the Bosnian Serb side just like the people in West Mostar in the Bosnian Croat side, to whom George Kenney alluded to earlier, are absolutely committed to thwarting any possibility of the unitary Bosnia, that they kill it by their presence. It's not a sure thing, but at least it's a possibility without them. With them, it's a sure thing it will not and will never take place.

MS. WARNER: George Kenney, what do you think the practical impact, if Karadzic remains not only at large but enjoying considerable power?

MR. KENNEY: I honestly don't think it will be much different than if he were gone. David Rieff is raising the right kinds of questions. What do we expect to see as a result of Dayton? What do we expect next year? Is Bosnia going to be divided or unified? In a sense, by focusing so much on Karadzic, the U.S. is able to avoid asking or answering those questions, but those are really the key questions. I would differ with David in what he suggests should be the answers to those questions, but he's right that those are the important questions.

MS. WARNER: David, do you want to have the last word here?

MR. RIEFF: Well, I--

MS. WARNER: Do you think, in other words, the West has basically already decided that the partition is the ultimate--

MR. RIEFF: I think the West is saying one thing, i.e., saying it remains committed to a multi-ethnic Bosnia, and in fact, doing everything in practical terms, and I thought the Clinton administration most of all to make partition a certainty.

MS. WARNER: All right. Well, thank you both very much.

MR. KENNEY: Thank you.

Copyright 1996 Plain Dealer Publishing Co.
The Plain Dealer
June 19, 1996 Wednesday, FINAL / ALL

SECTION: EDITORIALS & FORUM; Pg. 11C

HEADLINE: WHY 3 HUMANITARIAN WORKERS WERE KILLED

BYLINE: By David Rieff

BODY:

On June 4, three delegates of the International Committee of the Red Cross were murdered in northern Burundi.

Reto Neuenschwander, Cedric Martin and Juan Ruffino, all in their 30s, understood the risks they were taking by working in Burundi, where an average of 100 people have been massacred every week for the past year.

Casualties and risk are nothing new for the Geneva-based committee. Over and over again, its delegates have paid for their valor and commitment with their lives.

The organization routinely operates in places that most private relief groups and U.N. agencies find too dangerous. But two weeks ago, it suspended its work in Burundi and has no plans to return.

There were 60,000 people living in the area where the three Red Cross delegates were, and for 10 days they had not been able to find safe drinking water. In the past few years, water and sanitation operations have been an increasing part of the work of the International Committee of the Red Cross in combat zones.

Martin was the water expert in Burundi. His mission on the day he was killed was to restore the water in the village of Mugina. The team's larger goal was to stave off the death and disease that will now strike the people there.

Of course, those who killed the three men in Burundi, whether they were Hutu guerrillas - as is probable - or soldiers from the Tutsi-dominated army, do not care about water for civilians. The efforts of the Red Cross were a threat to them because neither side wants witnesses to the genocide there.

For those who want the killing to go on and the hatred and the fear to grow, the presence of humanitarian workers, particularly if they are effective, is dangerous.

For now, the militants in Burundi seem to have succeeded, just as militants did in Liberia a few months ago. When the Red Cross suspended its operations in Burundi, the logic of hate won a victory over the logic of human solidarity.

The defeat need not be total. The sacrifice of the three workers should convince Western governments that underwriting humanitarian organizations is no substitute for political engagement. The hope has been that these emergency efforts in countries such as Burundi will stave off genocidal wars.

No humanitarian effort, no matter how brave or inspired, can prevent the sack of Monrovia, the siege of Sarajevo, the Rwandan genocide or the slow-motion genocide now under way in Burundi. The hard reality is that one stops genocide with diplomatic pressure and, as a last resort, military force.

The question is whether enough people in Western Europe or the United States really care enough to want their governments to get involved. WR

Copyright 1996 McClatchy Newspapers, Inc.
Sacramento Bee
June 18, 1996, METRO FINAL

SECTION: EDITORIALS; Pg. B7

HEADLINE: WORLD IGNORES MURDERED RELIEF WORKERS

BYLINE: David Rieff

BODY:

On June 4, three delegates of the International Committee of the Red Cross were murdered in northern Burundi. Reto Neuenschwander, Cedric Martin and Juan Ruffino, all in their 30s, understood the risks they were taking by working in Burundi, where an average of a hundred people have been massacred every week for the past year.

Casualties and risk are nothing new for the Geneva-based committee. Over and over again, its delegates have paid for their valor and commitment with their lives.

The organization routinely operates in places that most private relief groups and United Nations agencies find too dangerous. But June 5, it suspended its work in Burundi and has no plans to return.

There were 60,000 people living in the area where the three Red Cross delegates were, and for 10 days they had not been able to find safe drinking water. Over the past few years, water and sanitation operations have been an increasing part of the work of the International Committee of the Red Cross in combat zones.

Martin was the water expert in Burundi. His mission on the day he was killed was to restore the water in the village of Mugina. The team's larger goal was to stave off the death and disease that will now strike the people there.

Of course, those who killed the three men in Burundi, whether they were Hutu guerrillas -- as is probable -- or soldiers from the Tutsi-dominated army, do not care about water for civilians. The efforts of the Red Cross were a threat to them because neither side wants witnesses to the genocide there.

For those who want the killing to go on and the hatred and the fear to grow, the presence of humanitarian workers, particularly if they are effective, is dangerous.

For now, the militants in Burundi seem to have succeeded, just as militants did in Liberia a few months ago. When the Red Cross suspended its operations in Burundi (if they are not active, it is hard to imagine other humanitarian agencies taking up the slack), in a broader sense the logic of hate won a victory over the logic of human solidarity.

The defeat need not be total. The sacrifice of the three workers should convince Western governments that underwriting humanitarian organizations is no substitute for political engagement. The hope has been that these emergency efforts in countries such as Burundi will stave off genocidal wars.

No humanitarian effort, no matter how brave or inspired, can prevent the sack of Monrovia, the siege of Sarajevo, the Rwandan genocide or the slow-motion genocide now under way in Burundi. The hard reality is that one stops genocide with diplomatic pressure and, as a last resort, military force.

The question is whether enough people in Western Europe or the United States really care enough to want their governments to get involved. The signs are not promising.

There was no intervention to prevent the genocide of the Rwandan Tutsis, and the present American strategy in Bosnia seems to be "vote and run" -- hold elections, then pull out.

Outside of Switzerland (two of the men were Swiss and the third was an Italian about to take Swiss citizenship) and the world of humanitarian aid workers, the deaths of Neuenschwander, Martin and Ruffino passed almost unnoticed. That is a measure of how little the world seems to care about what is going on in Rwanda and Burundi.

Copyright 1996 The New York Times Company
The New York Times
June 12, 1996, Wednesday, Late Edition - Final

SECTION: Section A; Page 23; Column 2; Editorial Desk

HEADLINE: Death in Burundi

BYLINE: By David Rieff; David Rieff, who returned from Rwanda earlier this month, is writing a book on humanitarian aid.

BODY:

On June 4, three delegates of the International Committee of the Red Cross were murdered in northern Burundi. Reto Neuenschwander, Cedric Martin and Juan Ruffino, all in their 30's, understood the risks they were taking by working in Burundi, where an average of a hundred people have been massacred every week for the past year. Casualties and risk are nothing new for the Geneva-based committee. Over and over again, its delegates have paid for their valor and commitment with their lives. The organization routinely operates in places that most private relief groups and United Nations agencies find too dangerous. But last Wednesday, it suspended its work in Burundi and has no plans to return.

There were 60,000 people living in the area where the three Red Cross delegates were, and for 10 days they had not been able to find safe drinking water. Over the last few years, water and sanitation operations have been an increasing part of the work of the International Committee of the Red Cross in combat zones. Mr. Martin was the water expert in Burundi. His mission on the day he was killed was to restore the water in the village of Mugina. The team's larger goal was to stave off the death and disease that will now strike the people there. Of course, those who killed the three men in Burundi, whether they were Hutu guerrillas (as is probable) or soldiers from the Tutsi-dominated army, do not care about water for civilians. The efforts of the Red Cross were a threat to them, since neither side wants witnesses to the genocide there. For those who want the killing to go on and the hatred and the fear to grow, the presence of humanitarian workers, particularly if they are effective, is dangerous. For now, the militants in Burundi seem to have succeeded, just as militants did in Liberia a few months ago. When the Red Cross suspended its operations in Burundi (if they are not active, it is hard to imagine other humanitarian agencies taking up the slack), in a broader sense the logic of hate won a victory over the logic of human solidarity. The defeat need not be total. The sacrifice of the three workers should convince Western governments that underwriting humanitarian organizations is no substitute for political engagement. The hope has been that these emergency efforts in countries like Burundi will stave off genocidal wars. No humanitarian effort, no matter how brave or inspired, can prevent the sack of Monrovia, the siege of Sarajevo, the Rwandan genocide or the slow-motion genocide now under way in Burundi. The hard reality is that one stops genocide with diplomatic pressure and, as a last resort, military force. The question is whether enough people in Western Europe or the United States really care enough to want their governments to get involved. The signs are not promising. There was no intervention to prevent the genocide of the Rwandan Tutsis, and the present American strategy in Bosnia seems to be "vote and run" -- hold elections, then pull out. Outside of Switzerland (two of the men were Swiss and the third was an Italian about to take Swiss citizenship) and the world of humanitarian aid workers, the deaths of Mr. Neuenschwander, Mr. Martin and Mr. Ruffino passed almost unnoticed. This a measure of how little the world seems to care about what is going on in Rwanda and Burundi.

Copyright 1996 The New Republic, Inc.
The New Republic
FEBRUARY 12, 1996

SECTION: Pg. 19

HEADLINE: THE INSTITUTION THAT SAW NO EVIL

BYLINE: David Rieff

HIGHLIGHT: THE U.N. AND BOSNIA.

BODY:

Only two months after the replacement of unprofor, the U.N. peacekeeping force in Bosnia, by ifor, the 60,000-strong nato-led army deployed in the wake of the Dayton peace agreement, traces of the U.N. military presence are already hard to find. A few white-painted trucks and armored personal carriers not yet restored to their original martial green and a few tattered blue flags and logos are almost all that remain of an operation whose passing virtually no one in Bosnia and few even inside the U.N. itself speak of with anything except relief. Peace may have come to Bosnia, however belatedly and provisionally, but that's no thanks to the U.N. or its peacekeeping operation. On the contrary, the lesson of Bosnia seems to be that peacekeeping, touted by the U.N. secretariat as recently as five years ago as one of the principal means of ensuring international order, is probably morally bankrupt and certainly an idea whose time has passed.

And yet U.N. officials both on the ground in the former Yugoslavia and within the secretariat and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations in New York continue to console themselves with the belief that in Bosnia the U.N. sacrificed itself as the whipping boy of the international community. After the siege of Sarajevo, the longest in modern European history, and the mass murders of Srebrenica, it may seem astonishing that they continue to hew to this line. That they do so nonetheless is eloquent testimony to the fact that Bosnia was the place where the world organization definitively lost its moral compass. For to have behaved as the U.N. did in Bosnia, as if the moral principles on which its legitimacy rests were luxuries that, operationally, it could not afford, is a disgrace from which the U.N. may not recover, or deserve to recover. And yet it is important to understand the reasoning behind the disgrace, if only to forewarn the citizens of some city yet to be condemned to martyrdom of the destiny that befell Sarajevo, Srebrenica and countless other Bosnian towns when United Nations peacekeepers were deployed there.

There were so many motivations for why the United Nations acted as it did. The institution was the great powers' fig leaf, and those who served the U.N. in the former Yugoslavia were right to resent that fact. But their humiliation over the use to which peacekeeping was put clouded their judgment. Apart from Tadeusz Mazowiecki, the U.N.'s Special Rapporteur for Human Rights and former Polish Prime Minister, none, from Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali on down, dared to speak frankly, to state that the mission was impossible and that it was time to get out. And because they did not say this openly for a host of reasons--a Secretary-General who wanted to be re-elected and could not risk the ire of any of the permanent five members of the Security Council; his subordinates for whom public dissent was unheard of in the United Nations, a bureaucracy that historically has had as little tolerance for dissent as the Roman Catholic Church; the prospect of losing a good, tax-free job--they instead twisted the truth so that they could justify what they had done and what they had refused to do and even to say.

There was one moment, in the late fall of 1994, when peacekeeping officials did engage in a debate about what they should do next. This was just after the U.N. had responded to a combined Bosnian Serb and Croatian Serb attack on the Bihac pocket by calling in nato air strikes. The Serbs had responded by taking hundreds of peacekeepers hostage. At that point, Shashi Tharoor, the peacekeeping official with day-to-day responsibilities in New York for the former Yugoslavia, wrote a confidential memo to Yasushi Akashi and to Kofi Annan, the head of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, questioning unprofor's viability. "The arguments we have always used in favor of the continuation of unprofor," he wrote, are, "on the strategic level, that it alleviates the consequences of the conflict, limits the war from spilling beyond the borders of the former Yugoslavia, and helps create conditions that facilitate the work of the negotiators; and, on the tactical level, that its deployment and method of work (through daily co-operation with the parties) gets humanitarian aid through, saves lives, prevents worse excesses, and is preferable to any alternative." The problem, Tharoor added, was that "recent Serb actions have served to undermine that case." Tharoor insisted that he was offering his memo on the future of unprofor "in a spirit of devil's advocacy," but for once a peacekeeping official was facing the actual situation squarely. If, Tharoor argued, the pattern of the Serbs blocking humanitarian aid and detaining, harassing and sometimes targeting United Nations personnel continued, it would render unprofor's mission "unviable, and remove the arguments in favor of working with the co-operation of the Serbs."

In his memo, Tharoor reluctantly recommends that unprofor take a harder line with the Serbs. Supplying blue helmets and needy civilians with or without the Serbs' consent, he argues, even if such actions entail calling in nato air strikes, is "the only option available compatible with unprofor's self-respect." The conclusion is all the more remarkable because, until this memo was written, Tharoor, who was widely regarded as one of the U.N.'s most brilliant younger officials, had firmly rejected any calls to end the U.N.'s policy of cooperation with the Serbs. But he now argued that unless the U.N. took strong action, "we may be doomed to watch helplessly as the United Nations suffers further obstruction and harassment and our hand is forced by events beyond our control, involving either an unavoidable nato air strike or U.S. action on the arms embargo."

What Tharoor predicted in fact took place. But his memorandum was rejected, and he himself took the matter no further. Indeed, when his memo was leaked and he was unexpectedly confronted with his arguments by ABC's Peter Jennings, Tharoor insisted that he had written them in a period when things had looked very bleak but that, in the interim, they had improved. They had, at the time that Tharoor taped his conversation, but a few months later they would deteriorate again. By the time the ceasefire Jimmy Carter brokered collapsed in the spring of 1995, the Serbs had closed the Sarajevo airport, and, even before the mass murder in Srebrenica, the U.N. was again being humiliated and The New Republic FEBRUARY 12, 1996 prevented from fulfilling its mission along the Serb-Bosnian government confrontation lines. unprofor and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations were again refusing to face the reality that Tharoor's memo had briefly explored.

Institutionally, this was probably inevitable. To have acted differently, independently, would have flown in the face of the United Nations' bureaucratic tradition, which is one of abject subservience to the wishes of the permanent five members of the Security Council. But if the U.N. rejected the insights it could have drawn at any time about the real nature of its mission in Bosnia, it did so in equal measure because of an ingrained sense of its own special virtue. One of the more curious features of the United Nations is that its officials often talk about it as if it were a Church. More than a few U.N. officials, like officials of the major humanitarian relief organizations, would, by temperament, likely have been missionaries a century ago. Mark Cutts, the Anglo-Argentine chief of the unhcr in Sarajevo in 1995, told me once that "I went to Durham University intending to be a missionary like my father. I left an agnostic. What I do believe in is the United Nations."

Cutts was anything but an anomaly. In Bosnia, as in most U.N. operations, it was common in private to hear U.N. officials utter matter-of-factly that curious phrase, "I believe in the United Nations," as if that clinched the matter. Certainly, it helps explain why from the beginning it was so difficult for United Nations officials to accept the idea that the Bosnian disaster could be even in part their fault. For them, such a charge was not only wrong in fact, but was what in philosophy is known as a category mistake. A government can be wrong, as a country can be wrong. But a Church cannot be wrong.

It is a self-conception the United Nations shares only with Roman Catholicism. But where the Catholic Church cannot be wrong, in its own eyes, because on doctrinal matters Church teaching is infallible, the United Nations, according to its officials, is never wrong because for all intents and purposes it does not exist. When the U.N.'s supporters argued, on Bosnia and on many other questions as well, that it was inappropriate to blame the U. N. because the institution could be no better than its members wanted it to be, the claim sounded reasonable. And yet to accept it is to accept the view that the United Nations is quite simply the only body devised by human beings in the history of the world that can never be held accountable for its actions.

That claim seems preposterous, and, in this bald form, every United Nations official in the Balkans would have rejected it. And yet, these same officials expected the world to take seriously the claim that U.N. peacekeepers had acted with perfect impartiality, that they had no views of their own that they allowed to get in the way of the administration of the mandate they had received from the Security Council. And yet everyone in unprofor and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations had views; it was the suggestion that the policy recommendations they made derived not from these views but from the mandate imposed on the U.N. that made no human sense. The first unprofor commander, the Indian general Satish Nambiar, was regularly accused by unhcr officials in 1993 of holding pro-Serb views. One senior official told me at the time, "When Nambiar looks at Izetbegovic, he sees Jinnah. For him, Izetbegovic is a man who ruined a perfectly good multi-confessional country, just as Jinnah ruined India in 1947 by insisting on a separate Pakistan." Susan Woodward, the American academic who did political analysis for Yasushi Akashi, was widely viewed even among her colleagues at unprofor as being pro- Serb. And the U.N.'s chief negotiator, Thorvald Stoltenberg, proved, when he claimed that all Bosnian Muslims were really Serbs, that far from being impartial he subscribed to the Serb nationalist view of Bosnian history.

Other individuals may not have acted out of the allegiances imputed to them, but it is always more realistic to believe that people act out of what they think and feel rather than some Platonic ideal of disinterestedness. In the real world, when people describe themselves as disinterested, it usually means they either don't care or wish they could deal with something else. Certainly, Boutros-Ghali's impatience with the question of Bosnia only deepened during the years of unprofor's deployment. Asked by an interviewer a few weeks before Srebrenica fell what the United Nations had learned from Bosnia, the Secretary-General replied, " Bosnia has created a distortion in the work of the U.N. We are applying less attention to what is going on in Burundi, in Georgia." His ambition, Boutros-Ghali said, was "to pay attention to the marginalized." That did not include Bosnia. Despite the suffering there, he insisted, "people outside are paying attention."

This was in 1995, three weeks before the greatest massacre to occur on the European continent since the Second World War. But Boutros-Ghali remained faithful to his initial view of the conflict, expressed in Sarajevo in December 1992: it was a rich man's war, not worthy of the attention it had received. Three years later, he did not seem to have realized that, among other things, Bosnia had become for the United Nations what the Vietnam war was to the United States. He resented having had to deal with Bosnia, and he refused to confront its implications for the future of the U.N. It was hardly surprising, in an old-fashioned vertical hierarchy like the United Nations, that the Secretary-General's views would permeate all the way through to the most junior unprofor clerk.

And yet how the United Nations believed it could confront one of the great political crises of the twentieth century with, in the main, no views about its rights and wrongs other than a generalized condemnation of all sides, and the sense that its mandate represented a deformation of the work the organization should have been doing, is a mystery. A greater mystery is why it never attempted to extricate itself once its initial efforts had proven such a failure. U.N. officials interpreted the fact that their initial objections to a peacekeeping deployment had been overridden by the Security Council as condemning them to silence thereafter. But this was only the case because they did not speak up.

When asked why, even granting that it could do nothing more in Bosnia, the Secretary-General did not at least state publicly that the operation was a failure, senior U.N. officials tended to smile politely and shake their heads. In public, Boutros-Ghali, that least humble of Secretary-Generals, said over and over, "I am only a humble servant of the Security Council." In private, United Nations officials insisted that the most powerful member states simply would never permit a Secretary-General to speak his mind in this way.

But even if this is true--and since Boutros-Ghali never tried it we shall never know--that is only because from a very early point in his tenure, the Secretary-General was running hard for re-election. The point was not so much that defying the member states made no institutional sense--if the Secretary- General cannot use his office as a bully pulpit then it really is little more than a servicing bureaucracy on the model of the Organization of African Unity--but that it made no political sense. If Boutros-Ghali wanted the votes of the French, the British, the Russians and the Americans, who disagreed so fiercely on Bosnia, there was nothing for him to do but adopt a minimalist approach to the problem and say as little as possible, since anything he could say was bound to offend one or another of the permanent five members of the Security Council.

And since U.N. officials were perfectly aware that so many of the fifty-odd resolutions and eighty-odd presidential statements passed by the Security Council were in fact designed by individual member states not to effect a better outcome in Bosnia but to assuage outraged public opinion back home--in other words, were ends in themselves rather than new initiatives designed to do something effective for Bosnia--it was hardly surprising that they felt they were bearing the brunt of criticism that should have been directed at the national governments concerned. U.N. officials could have referred most of the blame to the member states, while acknowledging their own shame and, indeed, their just portion of guilt over the fact that, however many lives had been saved, the U.N. had, willingly or unwillingly, presided over the destruction of Bosnia and the Bosnian Muslims. Instead they insisted that they bore no responsibility for these disasters whatsoever.

To say, as Yasushi Akashi did at the time of Srebrenica (but as U.N. officials charged with dealing with Bosnia did as a matter of course), that he "could understand" the reasons for the actions of both sides, was to say in effect, "a plague on all of them," to make it known that, when all was said and done, one did not care that much what happened.

To be sure, Akashi was an extreme example, a man notable, according to a number of people I spoke to who served under him, for being quite unmoved by the Bosnian conflict. For him, I was told, it was task that he had been assigned to deal with, and, as a career United Nations civil servant--Akashi, too, regularly spoke of his service to the U.N. in quasi-religious terms, alluding to his "belief" in the organization and speaking of himself as "a man of the U.N."--one he felt duty-bound to discharge. Bosnia was never a cause for him, as it was for his opposite numbers in the unhcr, Jose Maria Mendiluce and Nicholas Morris, never something that seemed to engage him except in the most narrowly constrained professional sense. Many of us assumed at the time that this meant Akashi was pro-Serb. But I now think we were wrong. Akashi wasn't even pro-Serb.

The Secretary-General seems to have shared his Special Representative's indifference. "I am like a doctor," Boutros-Ghali placidly told one interviewer. "I diagnose the patient and make certain recommendations for his cure. But if he does not follow my advice, it is hardly my fault." The Secretary-General's remarks, in all their obtuseness and complacency, sum up perfectly the U.N.'s stance throughout the Bosnian tragedy. There is no moral passion, not a breath of indignation and certainly no acceptance of even the most tangential responsibility. The United Nations, for Boutros-Ghali, did what it could, given the mandate it received from the Security Council. If things did not go as well as they might have, this is not the fault of the parties. The Secretary-General did not quite go so far as to say, as France's President Jacques Chirac is reported to have done, that all the belligerents were "brutes and barbarians" or, as one British Foreign Office official put it to Michael Williams, unprofor's Director of Public Information in 1993 and 1994, "they're all cannibals, dear boy," but the implication is clear. The United Nations has not failed the Bosnians; the Bosnians have failed the United Nations.

It is only possible to maintain such a stance if one leaches the conflict of its political and moral sense. "Sad to say," wrote one unprofor staff member in an open letter defending the U.N.'s role in the former Yugoslavia, " but heroes may be an illusion created by CNN and by public intellectuals in search of simple truths, noble victims, and terrible villains." The only ones he was willing to concede were heroic "are the people who tell us they just want the war to end." For this official, the leaders were all the same. He is not interested in exploring the justice of their conflicting claims, only in pointing out they are in conflict. Indeed, the one thing he does not want to do is judge their ideas. Instead, he offers an entirely formalistic, contentless analysis of the tragedy. For him, it seems, impartiality means doling out blame to all sides ... impartially. All the belligerents, he writes, "bargain hard and all appear loathe to make concessions for peace. All retain their maximal goals regardless of the price paid by their people." In Bosnia, he insists, everyone's hands are dirty.

The goals in question are not stated, let alone judged. "I will not conclude," the unprofor official writes, by "naming the aggressor." He implies that he declines to do this because he rejects such simplistic ascriptions of blame. What the U.N. never wanted to understand was that without such an analysis, all its actions in the former Yugoslavia led it not to impartiality or good works, but to collusion with aggression. That may not have been the intention, but it was the result. And it has become so pervasive that even Elisabeth Rehn, the Finnish politician who succeeded Tadeusz Mazowiecki as the U.N.'s Special Rapporteur for Human Rights, and might have been expected to know better, told an interviewer as she took up her post that if she did her job properly, she "would be condemned by all sides."

In fact, one side, the Bosnian government, had consistently welcomed human rights investigations and declared that any of their own personnel indicted for war crimes would be turned over to the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. They were able to do this not because they were better at publicity than the Serbs or the Croats, but because, unlike the other belligerents, they were actually committed to the rule of law. The equivalence that the U.N. was at such pains to insist upon simply did not exist. This is not to say that the extradition of a leading Bosnian commander- -a Nasir Oric, say, who already in the fall of 1995 was one of the most- discussed prospects for the first senior Bosnian government figure liable to be indicted--would have been easy to accomplish. He had his protectors in Sarajevo, just as General Mladic and General Mrksic, the officer who had ordered the destruction of Vukovar in 1991, and who had both already been indicted by the Tribunal, had theirs in Belgrade. But unlike the Serbs and the Croats--the day after a senior Croat officer was indicted, President Tudjman ostentatiously promoted him--the Bosnian government was serious about human rights, just as they were serious, for all the talk of one-party rule and Islamic fundamentalism, about a state based on citizenship rather than ethnic identity.

But for the U.N. to have acknowledged any of this would have meant that the entire rationale for its behavior in Bosnia would have had to be re-examined. As long as all sides were equally guilty, as long as the U.N. could hew to its fundamentally apolitical understanding of the Bosnian conflict as pitting a suffering civilian population that just wanted peace against various military and political formations intent on continuing the war, it did not have to examine its own role. Furthermore, it could insist that it, practically alone among the parties both external and internal, had behaved honorably in what one unprofor official described as the "firm and long- standing United Nations tradition of peacekeeping rooted in international law, impartiality and procedural objectivity."

The sentence is remarkable. It only holds together if all sides are equally guilty. Otherwise, how can impartiality, which means making no distinction in one's practical dealings between someone who commits genocide--as the International War Crimes Tribunal has accused Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic of doing--and its victims, be consistent with international law in which genocide is a crime? But since the United Nations did not believe, or at least had managed to convince itself, that there was no fundamental issue of justice at stake, it could without scruple sacrifice everything else in its mandate on the altar of ending the fighting. The Secretary-General became clearer and clearer on this point as the fighting wore on. "The result of the negotiations," he told an interviewer, "may not be equity, but it may be peace. Then you have a problem: What is more important, peace or peace at the expense of certain principles of equity? My theory is that what happens in a war is so terrible that peace is better, even if it is not a just peace."

But of course the Secretary-General's words begged the question. In his office at DePaul University in Chicago, Professor Cherif Bassiouni, who served as the U.N.'s principal war crimes investigator for the former Yugoslavia between 1992 and the time his old friend Boutros Boutros-Ghali dismissed him in 1994, has a coffee mug engraved with the words, "If you want peace, work for justice." That saying encapsulates what the U.N. never understood, or never wanted to understand, about Bosnia. The point is not to weigh the relative merits of a war against an unjust peace--anyone who will not have to kill or die in such a war should think a great deal before daring to venture an opinion--but rather, as Judge Richard Goldstone, the chief prosecutor of the Hague Tribunal, has pointed out, that without a measure of justice there can be no durable peace. In other words, the choice the U.N. has offered, between justice and peace, between the mandate and morality, has been a false one all along. What people like Goldstone and Bassiouni have been saying is that without Nuremberg, its jurisprudential problems notwithstanding, Germany could never have reintegrated into Europe; and without a bringing of the Karadzics and the Mladics to account, there will be no peace in the Balkans, only lulls in the slaughter.

The guns of Bosnia, and of all the future Bosnias that will surely loom up before us over the course of the next quarter century, will not fall silent until that Chinese wall between peace and justice is torn down.

David Rieff, who began reporting on the Bosnian war in the summer of 1992, is a frequent tnr contributor.

Copyright 1996 MacNeil/Lehrer Productions
The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer
February 12, 1996, Monday Transcript #5461

HEADLINE: The Afterwar

BYLINE: ANCHOR: JIM LEHRER; GUESTS: HAYNES JOHNSON, Author/Journalist; MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, Presidential Historian; DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN, Presidential Historian; DAVID MASON, Heritage Foundation; MICHAEL ELLIOTT, Newsweek Magazine; RAY O'HANLON, Irish Times; LAURA SILBER, Author; DAVID RIEFF, Author; CORRESPONDENTS: ALEX THOMPSON; GABY RADO; ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: MARGARET WARNER; ROGER ROSENBLATT

BODY:

UPDATE - THE AFTERWAR

MR. LEHRER: Now to Bosnia, our second foreign affairs story. We first get an update on the latest threat to the Dayton peace plan: The Bosnian government's detention of two Serb army officers, the two were accused of war crimes. The reporter is Gaby Rado of Independent Television News.

GABY RADO, ITN: The continued detention after nearly two weeks of Gen. Jordo Dukic and of Col. Alexof Krozmanovic has created the most serious threat so far to the Dayton peace plan. These pictures received in the past hour show the two Bosnian Serb officers being escorted roughly out of a building in Sarajevo by members of the French peace implementation force. After some confusion, it was confirmed by the Bosnian government that the men were being sent to the UN's War Crimes Tribunal at the Hague. The tribunal has said it wants to investigate the two men's cases but hasn't formally charged them. What's uncertain is whether all this was known by U.S. mediator Richard Holbrooke when he today announced an agreement with the Bosnian government to de-fuse the crisis. The deal was that the Sarajevo leadership would only arrest those on an official Hague Tribunal list which did not apply to the Bosnian Serb officers when they were detained. Four soldiers of lower rank were released by the main Muslim Bosnian government over the weekend. It's reported tonight that another four will shortly be set free. It's far from certain that such a move would temper the Bosnian Serbs' anger after their officers have been so suddenly extradited.

MR. LEHRER: Now, how Bosnia has changed for the Bosnians since the troops arrived. Margaret Warner has that.

MARGARET WARNER: Now we get an assessment of life on the ground in Bosnia since NATO troops were deployed there. It comes from two writers who have spent considerable time in the region. Laura Silber is the Balkans correspondent for the "Financial Times of London." She is the co-author of Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation. David Rieff is the author of Slaughterhouse: Bosnia and the Failure of the West. He is also working on a book about humanitarian efforts in the Balkans and other parts of the world. Welcome both of you. Laura Silber, let me start with you. How has life on the ground changed for the average person in Bosnia since NATO troops arrived?

LAURA SILBER, Author: Well, it's changed dramatically. For the first time, Muslims and Croats can now drive through Serb-held territory which is secured by the U.S. forces in the North of Bosnia. And they can drive through. They can pass through land they haven't been able to cross in three and a half years.

MS. WARNER: David, what strikes you most vividly about the change there?

DAVID RIEFF, Author: Well, what strikes me particularly in Sarajevo, I think, is the absence of death, that for all the problems with this peace agreement and above all with its implementation and all the recent difficulties we've been seeing, I think the amazing experience for those of us who lived through the siege of walking, of driving through, as Laura Silber says, areas that were hot front lines, of people living some kind of life, rather than simply trying to survive.

MS. WARNER: Now, is the experience though different for different ethnic groups, Laura?

MS. SILBER: Well, of course. I mean, for the Muslims and Croats, I think they have a sense of NATO finally came, there are finally troops on the ground, troops that are there in some way to see that they are, if not protected, certainly that the lines of the peace agreement are implemented. For the Serbs I think this is what they wanted the least. They didn't want NATO there; they didn't want an international presence that really had military might. So obviously we have a very different perception of the international force.

MS. WARNER: And is that true for average Serbs, average Bosnian Serbs, as well as the leadership, or is it just the leadership?

MS. SILBER: Well, it's very difficult to distinguish the leadership from the Bosnian Serbs in the sense of it's still too early, I think. I asked a policeman on the ground, someone who about a week ago was now a friendly traffic cop, whereas, a month ago, he would have been beating you up and saying you couldn't cross the line, and I asked him, "Well, why did you fight the war, aren't you angry at your leaders?". Well, they're not angry yet. It's still early, I think, for the people to realize just what disaster was wrought on them by their leadership.

MS. WARNER: David Rieff, how do you think the different groups there regard the international forces now?

MR. RIEFF: Well, I think that certainly the Bosnian government side, the side that's so often and by all of us misidentified in a kind of shorthand way as the Muslim side, is the most comfortable because, as you know, in June of 1995, the Bosnian government made a kind of last-ditch attempt to break the siege of Sarajevo and failed catastrophically. So the NATO bombing, however much it may have ratified the partition of Bosnia in effective terms still saved them. For Croats in Western Herzegovina eager to unify with Croatia proper or for Serbs, it's a much less happy experience. Serbs, in particular, I think Laura's absolutely right, haven't yet really experienced the full extent of this waste that the war has been, but I do see, or at least the beginnings as I travel around on their side of the line, some realization that this, this war was, was a lie from beginning to end, the things their leaders told them were lies, and that their leaders betrayed them.

MS. WARNER: Tell us too, as you drive around, we read a lot here about the zone of separation between these various areas that the NATO forces have enforced, what is the zone of separation like? I mean, do people live there? Is it a no-man's-land? Laura?

MS. SILBER: Well, it's incredibly desolate. I mean, I just was in one, in particularly in Northern Bosnia, and it is totally desolate. You can see the lines of where there's nothing, nothing alive, not even trees that have been just killed by fighting. There's no one on the front line, and then as you get a little bit away, you can see the beginnings of life again, and then depending if it's the Serb side, all of a sudden all the signs will be in the Cyrillic alphabet. If it's on the Bosnian side, all the signs will be in the Roman alphabet, and then you can see, well, the signs of life again, but the front line still, there's no one yet in this zone of separation, but in time, we can hope they'll be rebuilding and that's what's the most important thing to concentrate on.

MS. WARNER: So, David Rieff, was this zone of separation, did this used to be inhabited? Are there buildings in that area?

MR. RIEFF: Well, the zone of separation technically is actually a very small area, I think no more than two miles wide, between the forces, and that's been pretty much carved out into a free-fire zone filled with obstacle belts of land mines. I don't actually think that's where the rebuilding will take place, although I entirely agree with Laura, and I think the thing we ought to keep in our minds, is that without reconstruction, this is not the end of the war; this is half-time. That's really the essential point, just as without the Marshall Plan, Europe would not have recovered, I would argue, without the Marshall Plan and the Nuremberg Trials, there never would have been a rebuilt Europe, at least not in the time it took, and there won't be one in Bosnia unless the money's made available. And what I see from my point of view despairingly is that while IFOR has done a terrific job separating the forces- -

MS. WARNER: That's the NATO force. That's the NATO force.

MR. RIEFF: Yes. It's the NATO force that succeeded the UN peacekeeping force--the international force did a great job of separating the armies, but the real trick is this reconstruction and above all, getting the refugees back. And I have a terrible fantasy that at this year Adm. Smith, the commander of the international force, will say, well, I separated the forces, and Mr. Bildt, the UN's high representative, will say, well, I facilitated the civilian dialogue and the ambassador for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe will say, well, I supervised the elections, and then they'll turn to poor Mr. Justin Peterson of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and say, hey, what about those 2 million refugees? The danger is that we lose the peace. We've stopped the war, but can we succeed in really building out of this end of the war a durable peace?

MS. WARNER: Well, let's look at some of those elements. Let's take economic reconstruction. I mean, Laura Silber, do you see any- -are there any signs yet that that is starting at all?

MS. SILBER: No, it hasn't started yet.

MS. WARNER: Nothing's happening yet on the economic front.

MS. SILBER: Very, very little. There's been some pledging, but as we know, everyone's reluctant to give money.

MS. WARNER: Are you also saying there's been no progress on the refugee front, letting refugees return to their homes?

MS. SILBER: Well, not yet. Now, we all agree it's early days and we can't expect everything to happen overnight, but it's something we have to stick to.

MS. WARNER: David Rieff, do you see any progress on these elements that you just outlined, economic reconstruction, return of the refugees? I don't want to be unfair here because it has only been two months, but would you have expected to have seen more?

MR. RIEFF: Well, what I would have expected would be a commitment to creating a durable peace, rather than what I discern increasingly among the foreign actors in--on the ground in the former Yugoslavia, which is an insistence that their mandate for action, whether they're military or civilian, is very narrow. The criticism of the UN peacekeeping effort in Bosnia was that it had a huge mandate and very small means. And sometimes it seems as if the international force wants to behave as if it can give itself the narrowest of mandates with overwhelming means. That's no better than what happened with the UN. We're going to have the same failure, i.e., the same failure to confront the real political and economic issues that were at the root of the conflict and still could rekindle. And I mean one very central event in Bosnia right now is the demobilization of forces. I was in Zenitze in Central Bosnian not that long ago, and I was sitting in a cafe, and suddenly two buses pulled up, and these boys got out, and they were simply soldiers who were being demobilized from the confrontation lines. These kids have no work, no future. At best, they can be runners for the black market. Without jobs for them and in other words, without the kind of international credits because Bosnia is a devastated moonscape, these kids will be the cannon fodder of the next war.

MS. WARNER: Let me ask you about something else. It was often said by those who advocated some sort of Western intervention that most people in Bosnia or Greater Yugoslavia didn't really want to be at war; that they'd been stirred up by the political leaders, that if only a sort of stable environment could be created, the fighting would stop, you would see moves toward reconciliation. Do we--do you see that yet? Do you see yet that these people really do want to live together, or is it way too soon for that?

MS. SILBER: I think it's way too soon. It's way too soon because there is such an element of fear, and that's the importance of the international force, that they, when the refugees are brought back to their homes, that they feel secure, and that's only with an international presence there to make them feel secure. I witnessed this conversation between this Serbian policeman and a Muslim; they both turned out, they were from the same town. Of course, the Muslim had been expelled from it three and a half years earlier, yet, they exchanged information like what school did you go to, and it turned out they were neighbors, and I asked the Serb afterwards, I said, "Well, why did you fight the war?". He said, "We needed our own territory." So it's still early, I think, from the sense of, yes, they want to live together, but I don't believe that they're ancient hatreds. I don't believe that these people are historically antagonistic and can't live together.

MS. WARNER: David, what do you see on that front about whether people want to live together or can't live together?

MR. RIEFF: Well, I think the ancient ethnic hatreds argument was a refuge for people who didn't want to do anything and found this scurrilous and completely inaccurate account of Balkan history to justify their own inaction, not to say cowardice. But I think the element, again, of justice is essential. I think you have to remember that you're talking about places where the traditions of authoritarianism and anti-democratic outcomes are the norm. Unless you make justice a part of political life, you're just in a sort of break between now and the next war. But I don't think there's any reason to be fatalistic about this. These people haven't been at each other's throats for hundreds of years, or rather, they've been at each other's throats and by each other's sides at different points in their history. History is inevitable, but if we get out too soon, or worse, if we just think we're there as some NATO officials and some international officials, to my distress, seem to think at the moment that we're there to help them work out an agreement "they" undertook at Dayton, rather than to shoulder our own responsibility, which fundamentally is that we imposed the peace on the parties at Dayton, then we'll fail.

MS. WARNER: Well, we'll have to leave it there. Thank you both very much.

MR. RIEFF: Thank you.

MS. SILBER: Thank you.

Copyright 1996 The New Republic, Inc.
The New Republic
JANUARY 29, 1996

SECTION: Pg. 27

HEADLINE: An Age of Genocide

BYLINE: David Rieff

HIGHLIGHT: THE FAR-REACHING LESSONS OF RWANDA.

BODY: The Rwanda Crisis: History of a Genocide
by Gerard Prunier
(Columbia University Press, 389 pp., $29.95)
Rwanda and Genocide in the Twentieth Century
by Alain Destexhe
(New York University Press, 92 pp., $19.95)

I.

On April 5, 1994, the president of Rwanda, Juvenal Habyarimana, flew to Dar- Es-Salaam in Tanzania to attend a gathering of regional heads of state called to discuss the deteriorating situation in neighboring Burundi. The attention of the meeting soon turned to Habyarimana's failure to implement in his own country the peace accords that were signed, after more than two years of negotiations, in Arusha, another Tanzanian city, in August, 1993, and witnessed by most of the leaders who had come to Dar to remonstrate with the Rwandan president. Those agreements were to put an end to the fighting that had raged, with varying degrees of intensity and atrocity, between the members of Habyarimana's Hutu tribe--the overwhelming majority in Rwanda--and a guerrilla army, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), made up of the minority Tutsi, who were now either living in exile in neighboring Uganda and Tanzania, having fled a series of government-inspired pogroms, or had remained at home, where they were deprived of a political voice.

This was not a new problem. Antipathy between the Hutus and the Tutsi dated back to the eras of German and then Belgian colonization. Until independence in 1959, the Tutsi had controlled Rwanda (as they continued to control Burundi). For most of the colonial period, the Tutsi had been favored. This preferment was owed to the common practice of European colonizers to rule in part through a privileged tribe--the British through the Ibo in Nigeria, the French through the Rabyle in Algeria--and also to the curious place that the Tutsi had come to occupy, by the early twentieth century, in European "race thinking" about Africa.

In reality, the distinction between Tutsi and Hutu is controversial, and not at all as clear as European explorers and imperial officials chose to imagine. According to the stereotypes, the Tutsi are tall, relatively light- skinned and have aquiline noses, whereas Hutus are short, dark and have broad noses. This perceived rule of appearance pleased European racial theorists keen to construct a theory about the barbarity of all Bantu or "Hamitic" peoples, such as the Hutu, and to contrast them unfavorably with "Nilotic" peoples, such as the Tutsi, who were imagined to be non-African in origin and hence more civilized. The fact that only the Twa, or Pygmy, people, numerically insignificant by 1900, were actually indigenous to the Lake Countries, and that the categories "Tutsi" and "Hutu" were as much social distinctions of caste as they were tribal or racial distinctions, was not taken into account by the Belgian authorities. And yet Hutus and Tutsis spoke the same language (Kinyarwanda), shared the same religious conceptions and lived side by side. What separated them was the fact that the Hutu were largely peasants, whereas Tutsi identity was defined by the ownership of ten or more cattle.

Thus the feudal fantasies of Europe, in which the peasant was the lowest order of humanity, collided with the realities of Central African social organization. For although there were observable physical differences between the Tutsi "type" and the Hutu "type," it was possible, through the accumulation of wealth, for a Hutu to become a Tutsi, just as it was possible for a Tutsi to be ruined, lose his cattle and become a Hutu. Intermarriage between the two groups, moreover, was commonplace. And since Rwandan society is patrilineal, it was possible for a person to be considered a Tutsi, even if his or her last "pure" male Tutsi ancestor was many generations back, and his or her physical appearance was like that of the Hutu women who had married into the family over the generations.

The views of the colonizers did not lose their authority when the colonizers departed. Quite the contrary. Modern Rwandan nationalism owes a great deal to the Tutsi-Hutu distinction. The Tutsis continued to rule for a brief period after independence, but within months the Hutus seized power. Many Tutsi were slaughtered and many left Rwanda; and the children of those refugees formed the leadership of the RPF, even as the specter of an RPF return provided the organizing principle of the Habyarimana regime and, despite the heroic activities of the small Rwandan human rights movement and some moderate Hutu political leaders, of too much of Rwandan political life. Rwanda, it seemed, would never escape the antinomy between Hutu and Tutsi. And in 1994 this classificatory myth plunged the country into the abyss.

The Arusha agreement was Rwanda's last hope, but from the start it was frail. The deal included the full panoply of arms agreements, separation-of- forces agreements and election monitoring agreements that international negotiations usually serve up. It also envisaged the uniting of the Forces Armees Rwandaises (FAR) with the RPF. To police all this, the United Nations Security Council created unamir, the United Nations Assistance Mission to Rwanda, a peacekeeping force that eventually numbered some 2,500 troops commanded by a Canadian general named Romeo Dallaire. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali also continued the mandate of his Special Envoy, a Cameroonian diplomat with the improbable name of Jacques-Roger Booh-Booh, and a colleague of Boutros-Ghali's from their days together at the Organization of African Unity. What the United Nations was supposed to do in Rwanda, in the event that the Arusha accords were not respected by the belligerents, seems never to have been considered by the Secretariat or the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. As with its Bosnian deployment, which by the autumn of 1993, when unamir was established, was well into its second year, the U.N. seems to have entered the fray unwillingly, but, having received a Security Council mandate, segued straight into its ours-not-to-reason-why attitude of sullen compliance with the wishes of the great powers.

As in Bosnia, where the U.N.'s Department of Peacekeeping Operations obtained a great deal of information about Serb concentration camps and other crimes against humanity that it endeavored to suppress (not to have done so, peacekeeping officials claimed, would have imperiled the U.N.'s mandate to act "impartially" and retain the confidence of all sides), the alarming information that unamir collected was also suppressed by the U.N. Secretariat. The Observer in London recently acquired a copy of a cable sent by General Dallaire in January, 1994, less than three months before the massacres began, in which he cites a Hutu informant, a senior Rwandan military official training Hutu supremacist militias, who had been ordered (in the words of the cable) "to register all Tutsis in Kigali. He suspects that it is for their extermination. Example he gave was that in 20 minutes his personnel could kill up to 10,000 Tutsis."

According to General Dallaire, the informant had expected unamir to break up the secret training camps and to confiscate the weapons. But the Department of Peacekeeping Operations refused to authorize such a mission. It would exceed their mandate, they insisted. New York even refused Dallaire's request to protect the U.N.'s Rwandan informer. As a result, Dallaire wrote, " he lost faith in us. He was taking all the risks, and we were not reacting." (The Belgian government, which had an agent on unamir's staff, also refused to protect the informer and also failed to take his information seriously.) Later the U.N. would absolve itself of blame for the Rwandan tragedy by insisting that, in the aftermath of the American debacle in Somalia, there had been no will in the Security Council to do anything about Rwanda. The truth is that the U.N. was at least as culpable. Whatever blame may be attached to the permanent members of the Council, it was the U.N. hierarchy that decided not to bring Dallaire's cable to the Security Council's attention at a time when the genocide was still a plan and not yet a practice.

A part of the explanation lies in the U.N.'s habits of servility, its wish not to raise problems which the Permanent Five prefer to ignore. In the Rwandan case, the U.N.'s failure was also a consequence of the fact that Booh- Booh seems to have been a singularly incompetent official. But there were ideological considerations, too. In contrast to its position on Bosnia, which was hostile to the government in Sarajevo, the U.N. found in the Habyarimana dictatorship a member state with which it could sympathize. It was this fellow-feeling that informed the astonishingly sanguine reports that Special Envoy Booh-Booh, who had known and been friendly with Habyarimana at the OAU, was sending back to Secretary-General Boo-Boo (as Boutros-Ghali was known among the Secretariat's dissenters). In any case, Boo-Boo was predisposed toward a leader who, like himself, enjoyed French sponsorship, and whose survival in office continued to depend on the goodwill of France.

It is clear that most interested parties outside the U.N. did not share the Secretariat's optimism. As Gerard Prunier points out in his important book, The Rwanda Crisis: History of a Genocide, the Arusha deal was more the product of exhaustion than conviction. It was never implemented with enthusiasm by its signatories, nor was there the degree of international attention that was needed to overcome the lack of commitment of the belligerents themselves. Rwanda had either been at war, or at the edge of war, for most of its thirty-five years of independence; so peace was the least likely of outcomes. As Prunier puts it, the country was "a time bomb waiting to be detonated." And the outlines of the catastrophe were clear to the few who cared to see what was going on. That was why Habyarimana received such a dressing down from his fellow presidents before he boarded his plane for the flight home to Kigali on April 6, 1994. Habyarimana's plane was a Falcon 50 executive jet that he had received as a gift from Fran ois Mitterrand. As long as France continued to support Habyarimana, his hold on power seemed strong. The French involvement in Rwanda, long significant, had been growing deeper as the involvement of Belgium, the former colonial power, waned. France had intervened in Rwanda in 1990 to blunt an offensive from Uganda launched by the RPF, the Rwandan Patriotic Front; and again in 1992, when the talks in Arusha had broken down and it appeared both to the RPF and Habyarimana's governing party, the National Revolutionary Movement for Development, known by its French acronym mrnd (later a second "D" was added, in parentheses, which stood for " democracy"), that the political settlement in Rwanda would be achieved by massacre. The RPF was a formidable guerrilla force. Many of its cadres, including its commander, Paul Kagame, had fought with the Ugandan guerrillas in the war against Idi Amin. But the FAR was amply supplied and extensively trained by the French. By force or by negotiation, Paris was determined to prop up the Kigali government.

In itself, of course, Rwanda would have been relatively unimportant to a great power like France. It was small; it had the highest population density of any country in Africa; it had a history of dictatorship and civil strife dating back to independence; and its only tourist attraction, the forest of great apes made famous by the American naturalist Diane Fossey, happened to lie along the confrontation line between government forces and the RPF. Economically, Rwanda was largely dependent on development aid. Its principal export, tea, was not a commodity likely to bring it prosperity. And whatever progress the country did make was wiped out by its rate of population growth. And yet France was interested.

Its interest was strategic. Preserving a French-speaking zone in Africa, the Elysee believed, would, along with a nuclear arsenal, secure France's status as a major power and also secure its permanent seat on the Security Council. After its legionnaires drove the RPF back into Uganda in 1992, however, the French seemed to have realized that a settlement involving some form of power-sharing between the two major tribal groups in the region was inevitable. This represented a considerable shift. In 1991, a proposal had been floated at the United Nations that would have deployed an international peacekeeping force within Uganda to ensure that the RPF abided by its commitment to cease hostilities, but for French taste the plan was too favorable to the RPF and the "Anglophones." But by 1993 it was clear even to the French that anti-Tutsi pogroms would begin again, while Burundi, which was dominated by the minority Tutsis, would also descend into chaos.

Habyarimana was obliged to negotiate, though he made it clear that his heart was not in reconciliation. The Tutsis of the RPF were not much more accommodating; but the great political shift was taking place within the Hutu community. As Prunier explains in his definitive account of these awful events, the negotiations served to fuel the rise of Hutu extremism within Rwanda. Prunier observes that, by 1992, "everybody was wading in mythology. For the Hutu supremacists of the Habyarimana regime, the RPF was the serpent entering the Garden of Eden where industrious, God-fearing, law-abiding members of the sociological majority' were peacefully attending to their bucolic tasks." On the RPF side, "the battle-hardened yet naive veterans of Uganda's revolutionary wars ... saw themselves as the legions of justice who had come, after years in which their country' had been hijacked by evil usurpers, to claim their birthright with the help of all good and decent citizens who were bound to agree with them and rush to their support. If they did not, it was because the government had brainwashed them."

Anyone wishing to untangle these rival mythologies need only read Prunier's extraordinary book. The truth about tribal identity in Rwanda, and about the rights and wrongs of the struggle between the government and the RPF, was far more complicated than the militants on either side wanted to admit; but, as Prunier notes mournfully, this made little difference. "Myths are so much stronger than the reality they purport to represent," he concludes. And in Rwanda in 1992, "those twin conflictual myths, together, had just started to screw on the fuse of one of the biggest human bombs since the Nazi Holocaust." The warnings were everywhere. "What are we waiting for?" asked Lon Mugesera, the vice president of a local city branch of Habyarimana's own governing mrnd Party. "The fatal mistake we made in 1959 was to let them the Tutsis get out.... They belong in Ethiopia and we are going to find a shortcut to get there by throwing them into the Nyabarongo river. I must insist on this point. We have to act. Wipe them all out!"

As the negotiations progressed, Mugesera and like-minded Hutu militants began to set up death squads and militias, notably the Interhamwe, the Kinyarwanda term for "those who fight together." They also began to compile lists of the names and the addresses of those who were to be killed. All Tutsis had to be eliminated, but the mass murder that the Hutu militants envisaged also singled out for destruction the Hutu clerics, intellectuals and village leaders who supported power-sharing with the Tutsi. Even those who shared some of the militants' fantasies about an unbridgeable gap between the two peoples, but remained opposed to the idea that the solution to Rwanda's problems was genocide, were marked for elimination.

Rwanda is noteworthy among African countries for the efficiency of its government bureaucracy. The nation is divided not only into prefectures, but into subprefectures, and even into smaller administrative groupings. From the Belgians, the Rwandan civil service inherited an obsession with lists and records. And that, as we know from a certain European country, where, in the first half of the twentieth century, bureaucracy had also become something of an art, meant that any plan for a final solution to the problem of a hated minority could be carried out far more efficiently and comprehensively than in countries where lists were incomplete and bureaucracies less well-informed about the political views and even of the whereabouts of those it had targeted for death. The enemy lists that Hutu supremacists began to compile in 1991 in prefectural offices in the countryside and ministry buildings in the capital, and continually updated and revised until the genocide was launched in April, 1994, were no mere rhetorical expressions of racist militancy. They were detailed blue-prints for massacres to come.

The Hutu militants began by trying to scupper the Arusha agreement. In early January, 1993, they launched a campaign of murder and arson against Tutsis in the northwest. The reaction of the RPF, which was observing the ceasefire, was fierce. RPF forces struck back, crossing into Rwanda. Unlike their behavior in previous forays, this time the RPF, too, was guilty of atrocities. By the end of February, more than 600,000 Hutu peasants were fleeing the RPF's advance; and half of them were being made refugees for the second time, abandoning camps in which they had settled at the end of the 1991 war. The Kigali government was unable to halt the RPF fighters and again the French intervened. Marcel Debarge, the French minister charged with overseas development, defended the action, claiming that France supported the Arusha agreement and was in Rwanda "only to protect our citizens." Prunier is spendidly caustic about this assertion, as he is generally about France's contemptible role in the Rwandan catastrophe. "The fact," he writes, "that the renewed fighting had been caused by the regime systematically sabotaging the agreement France had supported' was obviously not to be discussed. France--and this was an article of faith only questioned by ill-intentioned persons-- supported democratization everywhere in Africa.'"

France fueled the flames, and the Hutu militants seized on the RPF's atrocities to win converts to their anti-Tutsi views--and yet the fighters from Uganda played into the hands of their enemies. Before the February fighting, there had been a considerable body of moderate Hutu opinion prepared to stand up for the Arusha settlement and against the supremacists, but after the RPF's atrocities the middle fell out. In retrospect, Arusha was a pause, not a peace. It was only a matter of time before another crisis enveloped the Lake Countries. Meanwhile the French continued with their arms shipments to Habyarimana's army, directly and--as a Human Rights Watch report later demonstrated--through third parties such as Egypt, Zaire and South Africa; and these shipments continued after the mass murder of the Tutsis had begun. For its part, the Museveni government in Uganda was again allowing its former Tutsi fighters to train and to organize, and providing them with weapons and other supplies.

The U.N., predictably, continued to cite its powerlessness as a justification for its moral complacence and its operational indolence. There was probably nothing unamir could have done to prevent the distribution of arms to the Hutu militants, as Special Envoy Booh-Booh told Belgian Foreign Minister Willy Claes at a meeting in Kigali in early 1994. Still, given what we now know about the information in unamir's hands, the U.N. could have used the Secretary-General's bully pulpit to publicize the horrors that had already taken place and to warn of the catastrophe that was about to take place. But that had never been Boutros Boutros-Ghali's idea of his office, and he was already acting with an eye to re-election. The Secretary-General insisted over and over again that he was only "the humble servant of the Security Council," while his advisers hewed to their self-exculpatory conviction that the U.N., as one of them told me, "could be no better than its powerful member states wanted it to be." Later a Secretariat dissident would confide privately that, "you have no idea how much the whims and fancies of Pharaoh another in-house term of scorn for Boutros-Ghali muddled up the Rwanda operation from the beginning."

One has only to contrast Booh-Booh's--and, by extension, the Secretariat's-- passivity about the gathering Rwandan storm with the anguished appeals of the non-governmental organizations such as Medecins Sans Frontieres, Human Rights Watch and the International Rescue Committee. Even within the United Nations system, there were a few outspoken officials. Michel Moussali, the delegate of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, or unhcr, was particularly noteworthy in this regard. He spoke with the forthrightness that has made that organization, in contrast to the U.N. Secretariat, or its Department of Peacekeeping Operations, so admired throughout the world. If the political deadlock in Rwanda were not broken, he insisted, there would be a bloodbath. No one was listening.

II.

The bloodbath was not long in coming. Habyarimana boarded his plane in Dar- Es-Salaam on April 6, 1994. Along with the three-man French crew and Habyarimana's own aides, the passengers included President Cyprien Ntaryamira, who was basically thumbing a ride. It was decided that the plane would go to Kigali first and then proceed on to Bujumbura, the Burundian capital. At 8:30 p.m.--in the spring, in the Lake Countries, it is still not dark at that hour- -the Falcon began its final approach into the Kigali airport, named after Gregoire Kayibanda, the first ruler of post-independence Rwanda, whom President (then General) Habyarimana had overthrown in 1973. As the plane descended, it was hit by two portable surface-to-air missiles fired from a position just outside the airport grounds. The Falcon spun out of control and crashed, by ghoulish coincidence, into the garden of Habyarimana's house, before exploding. Everyone on board was killed.

The genocide began within hours. All over Kigali, and in the days to come all over Rwanda, the Interhamwe began to kill. Over the radio, the call kept going out for the extermination of every Tutsi man, woman and child in Rwanda, and of the Hutus who opposed this final solution. Roadblocks were set up, manned by young Hutu militiamen. Those identified as Tutsis were killed, as were those on the enemies' lists that the Interhamwe had distributed. In the villages, people were hunted down. They died by the tens of thousands in their homes, in their fields and in the churches--Rwanda is the most Catholic country in Africa--in which they had sought refuge. And no matter how many died, the radios kept blaring out the calls for all good Hutus to kill the imyenzi, the "cockroaches," who were polluting the Rwandan nation and preventing it from living in peace.

The killing lasted through April, May and early June and it did not end, in those areas where any Tutsi remained, until RPF forces under Paul Kagame entered Rwanda and, in a military campaign that is now studied at West Point, seized all but the southwestern part of the country. This genocide was artisanal. It was carried out largely with clubs, machetes, small arms and cans of gasoline with which people were burned alive in countless church naves and school rooms. Those who were there in the immediate aftermath of the genocide (I visited the scene in late July and early August, 1994) had the sense of life stopped in a freeze-frame. There was the mission school house, the lesson half written out on the blackboard, the notebooks still on the desks. And there were the rotting bodies, lying where they had fallen, while lurking at the edge of the compound were packs of dogs, well-fed dogs. Long after the killing ended, it was literally unbearable to be in Rwanda.

And yet what took place there, much of which was widely seen on the evening news, was widely misunderstood. The old racial fantasies played a role, the sense (Bosnia notwithstanding) that this sort of savagery was a predictable part of the African story. There was the impression that these killings had been committed at close quarters with primitive weapons because advanced weapons were lacking and the people were primitive. This was false. The FAR was well-equipped. If people murdered with machetes, it was because the Hutu leadership had conceived of a genocide that would involve the entire Hutu people. Only by making everyone complicit, through having killed or having a relative who killed, could the "final solution" of the Tutsi problem be made the work of, in effect, the entire Hutu people. This is not to say that we must speak, legally, of the Hutu's collective guilt. But we must speak of their collective responsibility. There is no other way to account for what happened.

The mass flight of Hutus into Tanzania and eastern Zaire in the wake of the RPF victory was an acknowledgment of this collective responsibility. The genocide of the Tutsis in 1994 claimed more lives more quickly than any campaign of mass murder in recorded history; and the flight of the Hutus was correspondingly larger and swifter than any previous movement of refugees. Two hundred and fifty thousand people entered Tanzania in forty-eight hours. Two million people left Rwanda in less than two weeks. The Hutus fled because they were terrified--and they were terrified because 200,000 of them (that is a conservative estimate) had participated in the genocide.

The population of Rwanda before the genocide was about 7.5 million people. The average family size in Rwanda is about ten. That means, at a conservative estimate, that at least one member of most Hutu families had killed. Given the huge proportion of the population that was under 10 years of age, it is likely that several adult members of every Hutu family had blood on their hands. To insist on this point is not to diminish the sufferings of the refugees; it is to put those sufferings in moral perspective.

Even for those who saw the Tutsi corpses, the numbers are hard to take in. Still, despite the "Holocaust revisionists" of Rwanda, those who deny that an attempt to exterminate the Rwandan Tutsi took place, or who question the credibility of those who chronicled it, the usual figures given are unlikely to be too high. Long before it retook Kigali, the RPF claimed that a million were killed. Three months later, Charles Petrie, the U.N.'s vice-coordinator of emergency aid in Rwanda, conceded that he did not believe that figure to be "an exaggeration." Philippe Gaillard, the Chief Delegate of the International Committee of the Red Cross, advanced a similar figure before he left Kigali. In November 1994, a new U.N. report estimated that 500,000 had been slaughtered. That became the conventional wisdom for a time. But Prunier argues that "the least bad" estimate cannot be lower than 800,000 dead, and increasingly, as new mass grave sites continue to be exhumed, and Tutsi families return to Rwanda from exile, and list the relatives they have lost, the higher estimates seem more and more plausible.

Whatever the actual death toll, it was clear to everyone, at least in its aftermath, that what had taken place in Rwanda had to be regarded as a genocide, even according to the narrowest definition of the term. Hutu radio stations had called upon the militants to kill everyone, even the children, and Hutu supremacist leaders insisted over and over again that the reason there were still troubles in Rwanda was that twenty years earlier the Tutsis had been driven out, and only the men killed, whereas the only solution was to kill all the Tutsis. "The grave is only half full," the most rabid of these stations, Radio Mille Collines (Rwanda is known as the country of a thousand hills), kept repeating, "who will help us fill it?"

This time those who did the killing did nothing to conceal their actions. The Turks killed the Armenians in remote areas of Anatolia; the Germans did not situate a single gas chamber on the territory of the Reich proper. That way, people could avoid knowing, if they chose to. The extermination of the Tutsis, however, took place in full view of the television cameras and under the eyes of the unamir force in every city, town and village in Rwanda. The Hutus claimed, as the Nazis had claimed about the Jews and the Turks had claimed about the Armenians, that the Tutsi were a mortal threat to their survival. There was nothing new in this: the great genocides have always been justified by those who initiate them as somehow pre-emptive. What was new in Rwanda was that everyone in the world saw what was going on.

And yet U.N. and Western officials--and officials of a good many African states as well--tried to avoid using the word "genocide" for as long as possible. The reason was simple. The word has entailments. Its use confers obligations. Had it been used while the killing was going on, those countries that had ratified the Genocide Convention of 1948 would have been required to intervene to bring it to an end. No one had a taste for that, not the United States, reeling pathetically from the deaths of eighteen soldiers in Somalia, nor the Russians, the British, or the Chinese. Ten Belgian paratroopers were butchered horribly by Hutu militants on the evening Habyarimana died, and Brussels wanted to evacuate its nationals, not to intervene. As for the French, it was their clients who were doing the killing. They did intervene, at the end of the summer, but "Operation Turquoise," dressed up as an humanitarian act, was in fact a last-ditch effort to prop up the FAR in the southwest, that last area of Rwanda that the Hutu clients of France still controlled.

As for the U.N.: for all Boutros-Ghali's subsequent hand-wringing, and his reproaches toward an international community that cared about "the rich man's war" in Bosnia but not wars in "orphan nations" like Rwanda, he did not begin to use the term "genocide" until more than a month after the killing began, during a visit to Kigali by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights. As late as April 29, more than three weeks into the murder, Boutros-Ghali was still insisting that Rwanda was a tragedy in which Tutsi were killing Hutu and Hutu were killing Tutsi. Only a week before, he had sanctioned the visit to the General Assembly of Jerime Bicamumpaka, the militant Hutu leader, to present the Kigali government's "case." And officials of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations insisted, publicly and privately, that, as with unprofor in Bosnia, unamir's mandate required its impartiality. If more " peacekeepers" were dispatched under the same peacekeeping mandate--as was being discussed at the U.N. and, in fairness, pushed hard by Boutros-Ghali and the peacekeeping officials themselves--these new forces would have to treat Tutsi and Hutu equally. The U.N. force commander in Bosnia had said that unprofor did not "have enemies, only partners." unamir would act on the same assumptions.

Not that the U.N. would get the chance to act. In one of the most shameful acts of a government whose foreign policy was replete with shameful acts, the Clinton administration did everything it could to prevent the use of the word "genocide" in international fora with regard to Rwanda. Christine Shelly, a State Department spokeswoman, declared on June 10, two months after the genocide had begun, that "although there have been acts of genocide in Rwanda, all the murders cannot be put into that category." As Prunier remarks bitterly, "If one goes by the State Department's surrealistic reasoning, no intervention should have been made against the Nazi death camps since the German authorities were at the time killing large numbers of non-Jews."

By May, Boutros-Ghali began to be really concerned. Despite American opposition, the Secretariat was trying to organize a new deployment of unamir, this time one that would give the U.N. troops the authority to enforce a peace rather than to "keep" a peace that did not exist. On May 6, unamir ii was authorized, with a strength of 5,500 soldiers. But it was not deployed until three months later. The African countries that were approached by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations made a ceasefire a condition of the deployment of unamir ii. This, as the subsequent report of Medecins Sans Frontieres made clear, "amounted to giving the perpetrators of a genocide the right of veto over the protection of their victims by the international community." As for the Americans, they insisted, in response to a U.N. request for armored personnel carriers for unamir, that they would only rent them (at exorbitant rates, according to most reports) and that the APCs would have to come from the inventory of obsolete vehicles that the army maintained in storage. And it took more than three weeks for the State Department's Office of Legal Affairs to complete the paperwork.

The effort to organize a new unamir force did not lead to any greater acknowledgment that a genocide had taken place in Rwanda. On May 17, apparently under American pressure, the Security Council resolution on the crisis spoke only of "an exceptional situation" and about "acts of genocide that may have been committed." Such reticence played into the hands of the French government, which was continuing to back the Hutus. Philippe Jehanne, a French intelligence agent, told Prunier on May 19 that "we are busy delivering ammunition to the FAR through Goma." Of course, Jehanne added, "I will deny it if you quote me to the press." And Prunier is not alone in having received such confidences from French officials. The Arms Project of Human Rights Watch, which had followed French arms transfers to Kigali for years, has issued a report that makes similar accusations based on admissions by senior French officials.

When the French finally did intervene in Rwanda, their rhetoric changed. Suddenly genocide, whose authors they had done so much to prop up, was the central issue. As the Prime Minister Edouard Balladur said at the U.N. on July 13, 1994, "France has sent its soldiers into Rwanda out of a moral duty to act without delay in order to stop the genocide and provide immediate assistance to the threatened populations." At the same time, as Prunier notes grimly, French officials were circulating the notion of a "double genocide," one in which Tutsi and Hutu alike were equally guilty. In this, they were seconded as always by Boutros-Ghali. The distinction between the genocide and the refugee crisis was too much to keep straight. Hutus and Tutsis alike had died in huge numbers: that was all people could take in.

The well-meaning intervention of people such as Tipper Gore only confirmed this confusion. When, to her great credit, she went to the Goma refugee camp in eastern Zaire, she unavoidably gave the impression that the people with whom she was expressing solidarity were part of the same universe of suffering that had begun with the massacres in Kigali in April. In a sense, they were. But in a more important sense, the refugees were suffering and dying in Goma because their husbands, brothers, sons (and sometimes their wives and daughters) had tried to exterminate their Tutsi neighbors. It was a decent and brave gesture of Tipper Gore to help out at an aid station, but it also served inadvertently to distort the reality of what had taken place in Rwanda: the reality of genocide.

III.

The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, originally known as Resolution 260A (III) of the United Nations General Assembly, was passed on December 9, 1948, and came into effect as a binding piece of international law on January 12, 1951. Since 1948, it has been ratified by 120 countries. Its provisions are broad. The definition of genocide obviously includes campaigns to exterminate entire peoples, but the framers of the Convention emphasized that genocide was "the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group." The " in part" is crucial, as is the language in the Convention that states that a genocide need not be accomplished through mass murder to qualify as genocide. Any of the following acts--"killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; forcibly transferring children of the group to another group"--are sufficient to substantiate the claim that a genocide is taking place, and to impose on the Convention's signatories an affirmative obligation to intervene to stop it.

The Convention asserts that genocide is a crime that has existed "in all periods of history." And yet clearly, like so many of the founding documents of the United Nations, its language is haunted by the memory of Nazism. The founders of the U.N., as Dag Hammarsjkold once remarked, created the organization not to bring mankind to heaven, but to save it from hell. And genocide seemed like a paradigmatic instance of the kind of evil that, unlike war itself, the "civilized world" (as the framers of the Convention un-self- consciously called it) could ban, just as piracy and poison gas had been banned (and mostly stamped-out) by previous international edicts. If genocide had always existed, the framers of the Convention also seemed to assert, somewhat contradictorily, that it was something new, something modern.

In the linguistic sense, they were right. Until 1944, the word "genocide" did not exist. Toward the end of the Second World War, as the full realization of what had happened in the concentration camps was becoming clear, Winston Churchill had written that the world was being confronted with "a crime that has no name." He was wrong, but only barely. At roughly the same time, Raphael Lemkin, a jurist, Polish-born and Jewish, who was working as an adviser to the United States War Department, had coined the term " genocide," and used it in his book Axis Rule in Occupied Europe. "New conceptions," Lemkin wrote, "require new terms." For Lemkin, genocide meant the destruction of a nation or ethnic group--though not, as he would emphasize, its total extermination. In this sense, it was "an old practice in its modern development." To describe it, he invented a neologism, cobbled together from the Greek word genos (race or tribe) and the Latin suffix cide (to kill).

Lemkin was aware that there were many historical examples of wars of extermination, and in a footnote he adduced examples from the destruction of Carthage to the massacre of the Albigensians. But for him a war of extermination and a genocide were not exactly synonymous. In 1944, he knew about the extermination of the Jews, even if he did not realize the full extent of what the Germans had done--Lemkin estimated that 1,700,000 Jews had been murdered--but he insisted that genocide need not be a master plan for the physical extermination of a people or a group. A genocide could take place even when it was employed partially, as a method of weakening rather than murdering all the members of a people. This kind of genocide, Lemkin thought, was being widely practiced by the German occupiers. In the east, particularly in Poland and Western Russia, it was a way of ensuring that "the German people would be stronger than the subjugated peoples after the war even if the German army is defeated."

Lemkin already understood that the Germans had been waging war "not merely against states and their armies but against peoples." Until Hitler came to power, the evolution of the history of war had been in the opposite direction, largely limited to activities against armies and states. In World War I, the ratio of military to civilian dead was 90:10. In World War II, sixty-seven civilians died for every ten soldiers. And the ratio worldwide is now the exact opposite of what it was at the beginning of the 1914-1918 war: ninety civilians for every ten soldiers. The "long period of evolution in civilized society," in which Lemkin discerned a steady aversion to wars of extermination, had been reversed by the Germans. Genocide was thus not only a crime against humanity, it was also a threat to future generations, unless the world committed itself to its prevention.

Lemkin was not a naive One-Worlder. "Many hope that there will be no more wars," he wrote, "but we dare not rely on mere hopes for protection against genocidal practices by ruthless conquerors." And far from believing, as so many people in Europe and America did when the genocide of the Bosnian Muslims began in 1992, that after Hitler there would be no more genocides in Europe, Lemkin saw genocide not only as a problem of the Second World War, but, even more crucially, as a problem of the postwar peace. Genocide, he wrote, "is an especially important problem for Europe, where differentiation in nationhood is so marked that despite the principle of political and territorial self-determination, certain national groups may be obliged to live as minorities within the boundaries of other states. If these groups should not be adequately protected, such lack of protection would result in international disturbances, especially in the form of disorganized emigration of the persecuted, who would look for refuge elsewhere."

After the war, it was Lemkin who almost single-handedly succeeded in bringing about the passage of the Genocide Convention. Today, in the wake of the Bosnian slaughter, anyone wanting to think seriously about the problem of genocide needs to return to Lemkin, to his expansive definition of genocide and his clearheaded realization that it represented not only a moral threat but also a strategic threat. For, fifty years later, Lemkin's worst fears have been realized. By his definition, we seem to have entered what might be called an age of genocide--a period in which the goal of wars will be first and foremost the expulsion or the murder of members of a racial, religious or ethnic group, and their replacement by members of the murdering or expelling group, rather than the military victory of one state over another.

Lemkin allowed himself to hope. He put his faith in the nascent United Nations and in the power of international law. Even before the Second World War, he had been campaigning for a unified international criminal law in which crimes of "barbarity," offenses against individuals because of their membership in a national, religious or racial group, and "vandalism," the destruction of works of art embodying "the genius" of the other group, would be added to the penal code. And his hope that a genuine international community could be forged out of the experience of World War II was shared by many in 1944 and 1945. If today the United Nations seems like little more than a waste of hope, this should not be held against Lemkin.

In any case, Lemkin's original definition of genocide, as opposed to the way the Genocide Convention has subsequently been understood, and the way Lemkin's intellectual inheritors and popularizers have interpreted his work, is notable for its modesty. Lemkin never claimed that only a crime on the order of the Nazi Holocaust was a genocide. He made no requirement that the genocide be total; nor was he concerned with establishing a quantitative threshold, a number of victims below which the word "genocide" could not be employed. Lemkin emphasized over and over again that the offense against a group could be total or partial. The fate of the Bosnian Muslims would certainly have qualified as genocide under this definition. When Lemkin writes that "even before the war Hitler envisaged genocide as a means of changing the biological interrelations in Europe in Germany," he could as well have been writing about the designs of Slobodan Milosevic and Radovan Karadzic. They, too, did not insist on killing every Bosnian Muslim. To the contrary, the Bosnian Serb campaign of ethnic cleansing and mass murder was conducted most brutally in those areas where there was either a Muslim majority or where the Serb-Muslim population ratio was at near parity. Where Serbs were in the overwhelming majority, Muslims were usually left alone.

For Lemkin, mass killing was only part of what made a whole range of barbaric acts committed by a belligerent in war a genocide. Genocide, he wrote, was "a composite of different acts of persecution or destruction." There were two phases: "one, destruction of the national pattern of the oppressed group; the other, the imposition of the national pattern of the oppressor." Again, a premonition of Bosnia. The Serb campaign of rape against Bosnian Muslim women was an element in such a campaign of destruction; and so, more broadly, was ethnic cleansing. The Serb effort to eradicate the traces of Islam from all the territories their forces controlled, and to replace the mosques with Orthodox churches, as well as the renaming of towns, was typical of Lemkin's second phase.

In the postwar period, Lemkin's definition of genocide was subtly altered. This occurred in part during the negotiations that culminated in the passage of the Genocide Convention. But the change has also been a cultural one. If 6 million deaths was too exacting a criterion for the ascription of genocide, was any organized campaign of affront against a national, racial or religious group a genocide? Can there be genocide without violence? Some Americans think so, and since the 1960s the term has been used with increasing sloppiness and tendentiousness, and has been made into a metaphor. Talk of " cultural" and "spiritual" genocide has become a part of the rhetorical landscape, particularly in our carnival of identity politics. As Alain Destexhe, one of the founders of Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), observes in his remarkable book, genocide has "progressively lost its initial meaning and is becoming dangerously commonplace."

Destexhe is Lemkin's faithful and eloquent disciple. His book is a polemic that calls unabashedly for a return to the most austere and limited definition of genocide. "In order to shock people into paying attention to contemporary situations that reflect varying degrees of violence or injustice by making comparisons with murder on the greatest scale known in this century, genocide has been used in ways synonymous with massacre, oppression, and repression, overlooking the fact that the image it conjures up was an attempt to annihilate the whole Jewish race." His aim, Destexhe insists, "is to restore the specific meaning to a term which has been so much abused that it has become the victim of its own success."

Like many of his colleagues at MSF, Destexhe is still marked by the intellectual influence of May '68. He worries about the debasement of language and the distortions of a media-saturated culture. And so he insists on strict constructions. In a world in which every crime can be called a genocide--the "hunger holocaust" is one example of verbal inflation that particularly infuriates him--how can there be a serious morality or a serious rationality? Destexhe proposes that the term "genocide" be limited to situations where all counts enumerated in the Genocide Convention apply, and to no others. "Genocide," he writes, "must be reinstated as the most infamous of crimes, the memory of victims preserved and those responsible identified and brought to justice by the international community."

This anger is tonic and necessary, and it comes from a different intellectual and moral universe than that which informs most writing on genocide. The sentimentality and the lack of grounding in real experience, the weakness for thinking metaphorically about the most concrete of human tragedies, the Jimmy Carter-like need to understand everyone's point of view-- all tendencies that are exemplified by the work on genocide of Robert Jay Lifton and others--are wholly absent from Destexhe's discussion. His moralism is based on the need to make distinctions between tragedies. When Auschwitz equals Hiroshima, and Hiroshima equals Dresden, and the crimes of the Waffen SS equal the crimes of the Americans in Vietnam, Destexhe insists, "the real meaning of genocide will continue to be trivialized, and this most antihuman of all crimes will continue to be regarded as one more reason to justify fatalism."

Destexhe's book is the cry of a man in despair, an extraordinary meditation on the nature of human solidarity and individual responsibility in this era of mass murder. Destexhe knows of what he speaks. He is a writer who began as a medical doctor, and he has spent the better part of his life as a humanitarian aid worker. His argument is, above all, an expression of his disenchantment with contemporary humanitarianism (a view that, while less important to mainline American and British aid organizations, has always been central to groups in France like Destexhe's own Medecins Sans Frontieres). In 1995, after his experiences in Rwanda and those of MSF (and other groups) , which stopped providing aid to the Hutu refugees in eastern Zaire when they concluded that to do so was to serve logistically the authors of the genocide, Destexhe resigned his post. Even had the "humanitarian intervention" in which he participated been less morally compromised by its forced collaboration with the mass murderers who controlled the refugee camps, Destexhe's bitterness would be considerable. In Rwanda, he writes, confronted with "the first unquestionable genocide since that the of the Jews, the world first reacted with indifference and left the country to its fate until the compassion aroused by the plight of the refugees led to a purely humanitarian intervention." Taking humanitarian action rather than political action, he adds, "is one of the best ways for a developed country to avoid facing up to its responsibilities."

Humanitarianism as an evasion, an expression of political cowardice: this lesson will not be gladly received by many Western readers. But it is one of the central lessons of our savage world. After Rwanda, Destexhe came to believe that the only proper response to genocide is political action. He left the world of humanitarian aid, entered politics, and is now a member of the Belgian Senate. Whether he will accomplish more there remains to be seen; but he is certainly correct in insisting that "human needs cannot be met by humanitarian action alone, although this is generally the only response to world tragedies." In a time when humanitarian operations, along with " preventive diplomacy" have replaced peacekeeping as policy catchphrases, and where the military both in Western Europe and in the United States are spending a great of deal of time preparing for future "humanitarian" operations, Destexhe's skepticism both about their moral and practical utility could not be more valuable.

It is not clear, however, that Destexhe's attempt in his book to define genocide in a manner so restrictive that only three twentieth-century events can be called genocides--the massacre of the Armenians by the Turks in 1915; the Jewish Holocaust between 1939 and 1945; and the extermination of the Rwandan Tutsis in 1994--is intellectually or morally sustainable. Indeed, it could be argued that, if one returns to Lemkin's original definition, Destexhe's claim that there have only been three "genuine" genocides is far too restrictive. It may even be that his definition is, in its own way, almost as much of a misuse of the term as are those wanton uses--"cultural genocide," "hunger holocaust"--that he rightly deplores.

Destexhe does not so much want to return to Lemkin as to the definition of genocide as it was understood in the late 1940s. At that time genocide was commonly understood as a peculiarly modern and Western contribution to the history of barbarism. Of course, the preamble of the Genocide Convention acknowledges that "at all periods of history genocide has inflicted great losses on humanity." But what its framers clearly have in mind is the Holocaust. In the late 1940s, this made sense. And yet, in retrospect, it is not clear that the term "genocide"--as opposed to "Shoah" or "Holocaust," words specific to what happened in Europe between 1941 and 1945 that need never lose their appositeness or their force--could long have retained its moral and conceptual coherence as Hitler's war receded from living memory.

For even as a genocide, Hitler's crime was unique. To eradicate European Jewry, Hitler sacrificed everything else, including the resupply of his forces on the Russian front. There are times in Destexhe's book where he seems on the verge of insisting that there have only been two genocides, of the Jews and of the Tutsis. Were he to have made that argument, his book would have an intellectual consistency that it does not otherwise possess. He wants to insist that genocide is "the most infamous of crimes," but he excludes from his definition not only the Serb campaign against the Bosnian Muslims, but also Stalin's terror famine, Pol Pot's campaign of mass murder and, on a numerically though in no sense culturally smaller scale, the extermination of various Amazonian tribes.

Leave aside for the moment the quantitative question of whether a crime that leaves more people dead than any of the genocides by which Destexhe is haunted can really be considered a lesser evil. Destexhe counts the Armenian tragedy as a genocide. But does it fit his own horrific paradigm? For what the Turks did was not nearly as all-encompassing as what the Nazis did. For a start, the Turkish authorities did not try to kill every Armenian everywhere that Ottoman power held sway. Quite the contrary. The mass extinction of the Armenians of northeastern Anatolia was carefully planned and carried out, and the Turkish authorities wished to eliminate, through murder and mass expulsion (what the Serbs have taught us to call "ethnic cleansing") the Armenian presence in most of the country--and yet the substantial Armenian populations of Smyrna and Constantinople were by and large left alone, and those few Armenians from the northeast who managed to reach the Turkish Aegean were neither hunted nor attacked.

The fact that not all Armenians were killed has been used by Turkish apologists to buttress their obscene denials that a genocide took place. What is most interesting about the Turkish denials is that the Nazi example is often used to support a claim of innocence. Thus the Holocaust may have come not only to define the issue, but also to confuse it. If one principal characteristic of genocide is extermination carried out with absolute single- mindedness, even to the detriment of the genocidal state's other policies and ambitions, and if the other principal characteristic is numerical, then genocide will never really be understood except insofar as it approaches or falls away from the Holocaust. And in this way the Holocaust may be used to exonerate many crimes and many criminals.

Lemkin at least was torn between insisting that genocide was sui generis and proposing that it was one of a series of crimes against humanity that the world community had to declare unacceptable. Destexhe is not so torn, which is why, I think, his argument is not completely sustainable. This is not only because the Armenian genocide does not entirely fit the Nazi paradigm or the Rwandan paradigm, but because there is something morally troubling about the claim that a campaign of mass murder systematically directed against an ethnic group is self-evidently a greater crime than a similar campaign directed against, say, a social class, even if more people from the social class are killed, the campaign goes on longer, and the regime that orchestrates it seems just as much an embodiment of evil. Is it really clear, as Destexhe thinks it is, that the former is guilty of "both the greatest and the gravest crime against humanity" and the latter guilty of a great but lesser crime against humanity?

Is there really so much to choose, such a difference to appreciate, between the mass murderer Hitler and the mass murderer Stalin (and probably the mass murderer Mao, too)? And yet, according to Destexhe's argument, the man who set out to exterminate a social class--the kulaks--did not commit a crime on the moral and legal scale of the man who set out to exterminate a people--the Jews. It is important to be clear that Destexhe is not exonerating, he is classifying. Still, there is something very troubling about a moral and legal classification of depravity according to which Pol Pot's regime in Cambodia, which was responsible for the planned murder of more than a million "class enemies"--one-seventh of the Cambodian population--is less hateful, less urgent in its demand for a response, than the Hutu butchers in Rwanda; in which the fate of the Bosnian Muslims, with which Destexhe sympathizes deeply, is nonetheless consigned to an inferior order of criminality.

It is not clear whether Destexhe is trapped by his understanding of Lemkin's original definition, or is simply at his wit's end in finding a way to combat the indifference that a latitudinarian definition of genocide has engendered in the West. But his passion leads him to misstatements of fact. Destexhe's implicit (and correct) insistence on the radical, unique evil of Hitler's war against the Jews is contradicted by his own characterization of it as "murder on the greatest scale known in this century." If we are discussing scale, then it is important to remember that on purely numerical grounds the famine that Stalin visited on the Ukraine was responsible for more deaths than the death camps and the Einsatzgruppen. Such a comparison may seem a little obscene, but this is really the fault of those, such as Destexhe and the other "strict constructionists" of genocide, who have set up a quantitative standard. Other, unquantitative conceptions of genocide are possible. And they are not so strict that they are useless.

It is unlikely that most of the crimes in which genocidal killing and genocidally motivated campaigns of rape, vandalism and expulsion take place will be as total as what took place in Nazi-occupied Europe or in Rwanda. Destexhe, like Lemkin, argues that a strict definition of genocide will make people less complacent, more inclined to help bring the perpetrators of the few real genocides to justice. I do not think that he is right. It seems more probable that such an infrequently instantiated notion of ultimacy will make people more complacent, as they dismiss the overwhelming number of crimes that do not correspond to the exacting definition. If I am right, and we are entering a time in which genocide will become more and more commonplace, there will be enough fatalism around without buttressing it with the moral excuse that Cambodia, or East Bengal, or Bosnia, or South Sudan, is not Auschwitz or Nyarubyue Mission. In the matter of genocide, strictness of definition can have the same unfortunate effect as sloppiness of definition. Our sense of genocide must be as flexible and as inventive as the human capacity for evil.

Raphael Lemkin coined the word "genocide" as a way of facilitating historical understanding. If the word helps us to come to grips with Rwanda, or Bosnia, or other crimes and tragedies that await us, if it helps us to remember, as Gerard Prunier puts it in the foreword to his book, that "what we have witnessed in Rwanda is a historical product, not a biological fatality or a spontaneous' bestial outburst," then let us continue to rely upon it. But the word was always a moral and intellectual shorthand, a necessary but futile attempt to master evil by describing it. If the word itself has become a kind of mystification, a way of forcing the bitterest of human experiences into hierarchies of suffering that no longer make much moral or practical sense, then there is no reason to cling to it. Its referent, anyway, will be with us. The victims will still be there, as will the need for human solidarity, without whose rebirth our world will soon become morally uninhabitable.

David Rieff is the author most recently of Slaughterhouse: Bosnia and the Failure of the West (Simon and Schuster).

Copyright 1995 International Herald Tribune
International Herald Tribune
November 24, 1995

SECTION: OPINION

HEADLINE: For a Lasting Peace, Bitter Bosnians Must See Justice Done

BYLINE: David Rieff

DATELINE: NEW YORK

BODY:

The Bosnian peace agreement is rightly being hailed as a triumph for American diplomacy and, with luck, as the beginning of the end of the conflict.

Unfortunately, the second proposition does not follow from the first. The Croatians and President Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia are delighted.

But for those who fought and endured terrible hardships to keep the dream of a unitary Bosnian state alive, the accord is little more than the ratification of Bosnia's defeat.

In Sarajevo and across free Bosnia, there is as much bitterness as relief. Many in the army believed the tide of the war was shifting in their favor. This state of mind is an agent of post-war instability.

Among ordinary people, for all the relief at the prospect of peace, there is an overpower-ing sense of having suffered four years for nothing. Few are like-ly to celebrate an agreement that effectively ratifies the disappearance of Bosnia as it existed before 1992.

It was in defense of the ideal of a multinational, multireligious Bosnia that its mainly Muslim people have shed their blood and endured privations.

For all the talk of Islamic fundamentalism, most Bosnians did not fight so their country could turn into a monoethnic state like Serbia or Croatia but for it to survive as something different and better - like the European norm.

After both the army's failure to lift the siege of Sarajevo in May and the slaughter in Srebrenica, the Bosnians knew their only alternative was to give in. America wanted peace and was backing away from its commitment to a unitary Bosnian state.

The prospect of being caught between the Serbs and an unreliable Croatian ally while facing a Europe that was largely hostile to them and an indifferent United Nations was terrifying.

Before the Bosnians arrived in Dayton, they knew there was no real alternative to the humane version of ethnic partition cobbled together by Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke. President Alija Izetbegovic was right to sign.

The question is whether, even if NATO troops are sent to Bosnia, the Bosnians will accept their defeat or see enough tangible benefits in the peace to allow them to see the wisdom of President Izetbegovic's insistence that ''this may not be a just peace, but it is more just than a continuation of war.''

Peace and the prospective deployment of American troops are the only tangible benefits the Bosnians have received. It is not clear that American guarantees to arm and train the Bosnian forces are hard and fast.

Nor is it clear whether the reconstruction help that Bosnia needs if peace is ever truly to come will really be forthcoming.

Most important, it is not clear how committed the world is to bringing those who committed mass murder at Srebrenica and countless other towns to account.

Without the catharsis of Nuremberg, Germany's return to the civilized world would have been far more difficult. Without a similar process in Bosnia, it is unlikely the peace deal initialed in Ohio will endure.

For lasting peace, the Bosnians must be reconciled to what befell them while the world watched. Given the bitterness in Bosnia, there must be justice. Without it, there will be no lasting peace, only a lull in the hostilities that will last just as long as America keeps troops in Bosnia.

There are too many Bosnians who, armed and unreconciled, will wait for the moment to take matters into their own hands.

The writer, an author and journalist who frequently writes about Bosnia and Cuba, contributed this comment to The New York Times.

Copyright 1995 The New York Times Company
The New York Times
November 23, 1995, Thursday, Late Edition - Final

SECTION: Section A; Page 27; Column 1; Editorial Desk

HEADLINE: Reconciliation, at a High Price

BYLINE: By David Rieff; David Rieff is author of "Slaughterhouse: Bosnia and the Failure of the West."

BODY:

The Bosnian peace agreement is rightly being hailed as a triumph for American diplomacy and, with luck, as the beginning of the end of the conflict. Unfortunately, the second proposition does not follow from the first.

The Croatians and President Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia are delighted. But for those who fought and endured terrible hardships to keep the dream of a unitary Bosnian state alive, the accord is little more than the ratification of Bosnia's defeat.

In Sarajevo and across free Bosnia, there is as much bitterness as relief. Many in the army believed the tide of the war was shifting in their favor; this state of mind is an agent of postwar instability. Among ordinary people, for all the relief at the prospect of peace, there is an overpowering sense of having suffered four years for nothing. Few are likely to celebrate an agreement that effectively ratifies the disappearance of Bosnia as it existed before 1992. It was in defense of the ideal of a multinational, multi-religious Bosnia that its mainly Muslim people have shed their blood and endured privations. For all the talk of Islamic fundamentalism, most Bosnians did not fight so their country could turn into a mono-ethnic state like Serbia or Croatia but for it to survive as something different and better -- like the European norm.

After both the army's failure to lift the siege of Sarajevo in May and the slaughter in Srebrenica, the Bosnians knew their only alternative was to give in. America wanted peace and was backing away from its commitment to a unitary Bosnian state.

The prospect of being caught between the Serbs and an unreliable Croatian ally, a Europe that was largely hostile to them and an indifferent United Nations was terrifying. Before the Bosnians arrived in Dayton, Ohio, they knew there was no real alternative to the humane version of ethnic partition cobbled together by Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke. President Alija Izetbegovic was right to sign.

The question is whether, even if NATO troops are sent to Bosnia, the Bosnians will accept their defeat or see enough tangible benefits in the peace to allow them to see the wisdom of Mr. Izetbegovic's insistence that "this may not be a just peace, but it is more just than a continuation of war."

Peace and the prospective deployment of Americans troops are the only tangible benefits the Bosnians have received. It is not clear that American guarantees to arm and train the Bosnian forces are hard and fast. Nor is it clear whether the reconstruction help Bosnia needs if peace is ever truly to come will really be forthcoming.

Most important, it is not clear how committed the world is to bringing those who committed mass murder at Srebrenica and countless other towns to account. Without the catharsis of Nuremberg, Germany's return to the civilized world would have been far more difficult. Without a similar process in Bosnia, it is unlikely the peace deal initialed at Dayton will endure.

For lasting peace, the Bosnians must be reconciled to what befell them while the world watched. Given the bitterness in Bosnia, there must be justice. Without it, there will be no lasting peace, only a lull in the hostilities that will last just as long as America keeps troops in Bosnia. There are too many Bosnians who, armed and unreconciled, will wait for the moment to take matters into their own hands.

Copyright 1995 Council on Foreign Relations, Inc.
Foreign Affairs
November / December 1995 November, 1995 /December, 1995

SECTION: REVIEWS; Responses; Pg.

HEADLINE: Appease with Dishonor;
The Truth about the Balkans;
Denying Moral Equivalence

BYLINE: DAVID RIEFF; DAVID RIEFF is a Fellow at the World Policy Institute.

BODY:

The only difference between Serb behavior in Srebrenica and Croat actions in the Krajina, insists Boyd, lies in the amount of Western handwringing and CNN footage. In fact, what took place in the Krajinam with tacit American support -- was ethnic cleansing, but it was not mass murder. What took place in Srebrenica was simply the killing of all males between 15 and 50 by the Bosnian Serbs. Despite pro forma disclaimers, Boyd advances the claim that the parties to the conflict are morally equivalent, taking it as an article of faith that there have been no good guys or bad guys in this war, only "warring factions" that commit atrocities.

Boyd's position, which echoes that of "moderate" Serbs to an uncanny extent, is that Bosnia is an illegitimate, unreal entity outside the Federal Yugoslav context and that the Bosnian Serbs had a right to secede from it. The Bosnian government, although recognized by the United Nations, the European Union, and the United States, is just another "faction," no more legitimate than the one headed by Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic. But even a cursory reading of Bosnian history shows that the country has existed in one form or another for a thousand years and disproves Boyd's claim that it is an "invented" state.

Most appalling is Boyd's inability to include moral criteria in his argument. Regardless of the validity of the Bosnian Serbs' claims about the Yugoslav breakup, they had no right to commit mass murder to attain their objectives. Decent people throughout the world have condemned the Bosnian Serbs for this reason. None of the other belligerents has perpetrated mass murder, whatever ethnic cleansing any of them might have engaged in.

The difference may have been lost on Boyd, but it has been well understood by the prosecutors at the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, who have indicted Karadzic and Mladic for their carefully crafted policy of mass murder. The prosecutors have not found similar evidence implicating Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic or Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic. And in that fact lies the fundamental moral distinction that must be drawn -- precisely the moral distinction that Boyd's piece does its best to obfuscate.

Copyright 1995 The Times Mirror Company
Los Angeles Times
August 13, 1995, Sunday, Home Edition

SECTION: Book Review; Page 11; Book Review Desk

HEADLINE: GREAT (UNMET) EXPECTATIONS; MANAGING THE EAST'S MORAL TRANSITION TO DEMOCRACY; THE HAUNTED LAND: FACING EUROPE'S GHOSTS AFTER COMMUNISM, BY TINA ROSENBERG (RANDOM HOUSE: $25; 448 PP.)

BYLINE: By David Rieff, David Rieff's most recent book is Slaughterhouse: Bosnia and the Failure of the West (Vintage).

BODY:

It could hardly have been expected that many Eastern European dissidents during the Communist era would spend their time mapping out in practical terms how they would deal with the legacy of communism. For all their heroism, people in the East did not really imagine the fall of the Soviet empire any more than people in the West did. When they did think about the future, it was in the broad sense of replacing injustice with justice, communism with democracy. The more down-to-earth issues of how to move from one to the other arose less frequently.

And yet, as Tina Rosenberg demonstrates in her fine book "The Haunted Land," managing the moral transition was bound to be as critical to the success of these societies as any economic undertaking. How the new democracies of Eastern Europe dealt with their collective past was the first test of whether tolerance and the rule of law would prevail.

Rosenberg examines the efforts of the people and governments of Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. From the time she began traveling to Eastern Europe in 1991, she writes, "I watched as these nations debated the facts of their Communist Party leaders, border guards who shot fleeing citizens, secret police informers and spies."

She chronicles various responses of the new states, ranging from the decision by the German government to put Erich Honecker and other members of the East German leadership on trial and the Polish government's trial of Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, to the Czech government's passing of a "lustration law" -- a measure that prohibited members of the old regime from holding public office. Rosenberg also chronicles, at times quite movingly, the response of individuals, particularly within the dissident movement, as they discovered who among their friends, colleagues and, in some instances, spouses had been police informers.

About the efforts of states, Rosenberg is caustic. For her, lustration laws and public trials are counterproductive and morally suspect. In their approach, they remind her unpleasantly of the communist period. Too often, she insists, the process of confronting the past was one in which the new regimes showed themselves eager to arrogate all authority to themselves. These governments, she writes, were unwilling to grant their citizens "the right to defend themselves from (state) power," withheld information about what actually went on, and have "twisted the legal system to suit political ends." The result has been the re-emergence of unchecked state power, which, in Rosenberg's view, is the deepest evil of the communist system.

It is a gloomy picture. In effect, what Rosenberg is suggesting in "Haunted Lands" is that communism has been replaced less by the rule of democracy and by civil society, than by an anti-communism that at times greatly resembles what came before. The former Communist rulers, the border guards who carried out orders to shoot to kill and the web of secret police informers may indeed by guilty of everything the state-run prosecutions and commissions of inquiry accused them of. But by denying them much due process, or the opportunity to clear their names, Rosenberg argues, the new states have fallen into what is in effect the old Communist trap: supplying the people with ready-made moral judgments supplied by the state, rather than allowing people to come to their own judgments.

This is not to say that Rosenberg dismisses the need for trials altogether. In cases of torture, murder and disappearance, she insists, justice is an absolute necessity. But, she writes, important though trials are, what is essential to the survival of democracy in Eastern Europe is for individuals to sit in judgment, privately and informally, on their own actions during the Communist period. What is needed, Rosenberg writes, is "a society-wide examination of how the dictatorship maintained its power, especially its relationship to ordinary citizens. For citizens to acknowledge their own part in maintaining a repressive regime will require great courage, but it is crucial to preventing dictatorship's return."

Rosenberg writes moving of how the problem with communism was that "its utopian landscape . . . was stocked with ordinary people." So she must be aware that the kind of self-examination by individuals that she is calling for is itself something of a utopian project. Indeed, if there is an intellectual flaw in the argument of "Haunted Lands," it is Rosenberg's failure to come to terms with the possibility that if the new post-Communist states have dominated the process of judging -- and, equally importantly, of defining -- the Communist past, this is not just some legacy of Communist conformity and fear, but because people in Eastern Europe are more comfortable not having to examine their own conduct too closely.

It would be one thing if the human race were made of the heroes Rosenberg describes in her book -- people such as Adam Michnik and Konstanty Gebert in Poland or Jan Urban in the Czech Republic -- but it is not. Rosenberg knows this perfectly well. Indeed, the bitter conclusion to her chapter on the Czech Republic, in which she notes that during the "Velvet Revolution" people kept saying that they were not like the Communists but that this was "a cruel lie," would seem to undermine faith in the efforts she suggests Eastern Europeans should have undertaken. But to quarrel with Rosenberg on this is not to dispute either the basic good sense of her prescription or the brilliant way in which she exposes the follies of the way the post-Communist states actually went about the business of coming to terms with the past.

"Haunted Lands" stands as the definitive account of what the transition away from communism in Eastern Europe has meant in moral terms. It is, to a very large extent, a story of disenchantment, of expectations unmet and old distortions giving way not to truth but to newer ones. Certainly, Rosenberg's account is morally disappointing, but that may not, in the end, be such a bad thing. In this century, utopian hopes have proved themselves as toxic as utopian societies. And if, in post-Communist times, the Czech Republic, the former German Democratic Republic, Poland and Slovakia have not been able to live up to the expectations those who struggled against the old regime had harbored, that too is part of normalcy. And Rosenberg's brilliant and impassioned account should not make us lose sight of this.