Wednesday, November 17, 1999

Apportioning blame
for Bosnian massacre

Bullet The issue: Thousands of Muslims were slaughtered in the town of Srebrenica by Bosnian Serbs while U.N. peacekeepers stood by.

Bullet Our view: The United Nations report on the massacre should help prevent future fiascoes.

THE 1995 Srebrenica massacre was probably the most shameful episode in the history of the United Nations. While Dutch peacekeeping troops stood by, Bosnian Serb forces overran the Bosnian town, which had been designated a United Nations-protected "safe area," and slaughtered thousands of Muslim men and boys.

Now the United Nations has issued a report on Srebrenica, admitting that it failed to protect the victims -- as many as 8,000 were listed as missing and the remains of nearly 2,500 have been found in mass graves -- because of errors, misjudgment and "an inability to recognize the scope of the evil confronting us."

Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the United Nations treated Serbs and Muslims equally when they should have made a "moral judgment" that the Serbs' campaign of ethnic cleansing was evil. Part of the responsibility for the tragic failure of the United Nations must fall on Annan himself. He headed U.N. peacekeeping operations during the war in Bosnia.

The U.N. assigned 150 Dutch troops to protect Srebrenica. But when Bosnian Serb forces began their assault on the town, the outgunned Dutch failed to fire on the attackers. U.N. commanders rejected appeals from the Dutch contingent for NATO air support. The U.N.'s local officer refused to release weapons to the Muslims to defend themselves.

The report's strongest criticism was aimed at the U.N. leadership, including former Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, his senior military commander, French Lt. Gen. Bernard Javier and his top diplomat, Yasushi Akashi of Japan, all of whom strongly opposed the use of air power against the Bosnian Serbs. The U.N. Security Council was also blamed for framing policies on Bosnia that were doomed to fail.

Of course, as Annan said, primary responsibility for the tragedy lies with the Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and his military chief, Gen. Ratko Mladic, who ordered the systematic killing of the Srebrenica Muslims.

But Annan also pointed fingers at U.N. staff in New York -- including himself, U.N. peacekeepers on the ground in Srebrenica and the six-nation "Contact Group" that oversees the Balkans: the United States, Russia, Britain, France, Germany and Italy.

Annan declared, "The cardinal lesson of Srebrenica is that a deliberate and systematic attempt to terrorize, expel or murder an entire people must be met decisively with all necessary means, and with the political will to carry the policy through to its logical conclusion."

The disaster of Srebrenica symbolizes the futility of the U.N.'s policies for much of the Bosnian conflict. The lesson it taught about the folly of inaction may have influenced NATO's decision this year to launch a bombing campaign against Yugoslavia in defense of the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. And there may be further repercussions as the U.N. confronts other challenges.

Relocation expenses
for welfare recipients

Bullet The issue: The state is considering a proposal to help welfare recipients with job offers on the mainland or neighbor islands pay relocation costs.

Bullet Our view: The proposal would provide needed assistance in getting off the welfare rolls.

JOBS are plentiful on the mainland, and the challenge for some of Hawaii's unemployed who are living on welfare is getting there. The state Department of Human Services is considering methods of helping those who have been guaranteed jobs on the mainland and neighbor islands make the move. The idea is worth pursuing.

The state is not entertaining the idea of shipping hundreds of welfare recipients to the mainland -- the reverse was rumored during hard times on the mainland in the 1980s -- to get them off Hawaii's welfare rolls and foist them on other states. Those targeted for assistance in paying relocation costs would be those who requested such help and have been assured employment.

"They have a labor shortage and we have a labor surplus," explains Kris Foster, who heads the state's welfare reform program. "It makes sense."

According to the proposal, which would need the Legislature's approval, the state could provide several months' worth of welfare payments to help a recipient move to a location where a job had been offered. If the job didn't last, the person would not be allowed back on Hawaii's welfare rolls.

Ruby Hargrave, executive director of the Honolulu Community Action Program, worries that a person whose mainland job doesn't work out might not have the resources to return to Hawaii to be close to family. That certainly should be a consideration for those embarking on moves to the mainland. So should the fact that other job vacancies are more numerous on the mainland than in Hawaii.

The proposed assistance would not force anybody to move to the mainland. It would merely help welfare recipients who have been able to secure jobs there but can't afford the relocation expenses. The proposal, if adopted, would help merge Hawaii into the national job market.

Published by Liberty Newspapers Limited Partnership

Rupert E. Phillips, CEO

John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

David Shapiro, Managing Editor

Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor

Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors

A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

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