Horror and Responsibility; Slaughterhouse: Bosnia and the Failure of the West by David Rieff

Horror and Responsibility; Slaughterhouse: Bosnia and the Failure of the West by David Rieff

This is a courageous and painfully honest book that must have been very hard to write. Although it is very well written, it will earn David Rieff few friends. It is extraordinarily difficult to write serious reportage about Bosnia-Herzegovina while the carnage continues. Being analytical opens you to the charge of depraved indifference. If you report that victimization does not make people nobler and that hunger, deprivation, and constant fear of death make them appear “self-centered,” you are taken to be unsympathetic to their pain. If you argue that the demand to “lift the unjust arms embargo against the victims” must necessarily be accompanied by a call for military intervention by NATO or the United States, you are accused of dragging your feet. And when you denounce the arrogant “angels” of the UN who have stood by and witnessed the slow-motion genocide of Bosnia’s Muslims over the past three years, limiting themselves to feeding the survivors and the future victims, you are accused of being overwrought. The brutal facts are these:

(1) Military intervention, at least by air, must accompany the lifting of the arms embargo, since someone must deliver the arms, and this can be done only if the Serbian anti-aircraft fire is silenced and the Bosnians are protected from the Serbian offensive that would inevitably follow any prospect of massive aid. This argument is unpopular both with the Bosnian government and the pro-Bosnian activists in the West. But without that logistical support, the call to lift the arms embargo is cruel demagoguery played for domestic political reasons: by the Republican right to embarrass Clinton, and by irresponsible parts of the left in order to preserve their impeccable anti-interventionist and anti-imperialist credentials. (But who, you may ask, is to provide and above all to deliver the arms if not the imperial powers? This is a question that these stalwart leftists have never answered.

(2) The United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR)—which, whatever else it does, does


Duggan | University of California Press Gardels