|Is Bosnia the end of the road for the UN?|
There have been many voices calling for the restructure of the United Nations, particularly of the representation of the non-First World states within the General Assembly, and the operations of the Security Council consisting of the permanent five that largely utilise the UN for its own political and capital interests. The inept management of the conflicts in Bosnia by the UN have made those voices more vociferous, with some calling for the end of the United Nations.
Francis Boyle is the Professor of International Law at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, served as the Legal Adviser to Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic and Foreign Minister Haris Silajdzic during the Owen-Stoltenburg negotiations in Geneva, and represented the Bosnian Government at the international court of justice. He won two World Court Orders to Bosnia which the UN Security Council refused to enforce, due to the manipulations of Britain, Russia, France, and the US at the diplomatic table. In this recent interview he outlines the background to the diplomatic negotiations in Bosnia, the corruption and amorality of the great powers, and how the greed and capital interest of the West, and its anti-Muslim actions will spell the end of the post-World War II political order.
Initially the scenario existed where the international players, or the so-called great players, wanted to keep Yugoslavia intact, but when it became obvious that this wasn't going to be the case, the West introduced a number of conferences and plans; first, the International Conference on Yugoslavia at the Hague, the Vance-Owen Peace Plan, the Owen-Stoltenburg Plan, the Washington Plan, the Five-Nation Contact Group Plan. If these plans violated established Human Rights, Racial Discrimination, and Apartheid Conventions and are perceived to be illegal according to international law, why have they been poorly conceived and attempted to be implemented?
The great powers have basically concluded that the Bosnians have lost the war, and of course, the reason the Bosnians lost the war was that the great powers at the Security Council imposed the arms embargo upon them. So when the signal was given by President Milosevic to attack Bosnia--and remember that he also took General Ratko Mladic who had destroyed Croatia and Vukovar, and put him in charge of the Bosnia operation--the Bosnian people were totally defenceless. So from the great power perspective, the Bosnians have lost the war and, as they see it, they need to work out some type of deal that will effectively recognise this. Hence, the creation of the plans and schemes that violate every known principle of international law.
When I was instructed by the Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic to sue Britain in November 1993, I put out a statement at the UN announcing that the Owen-Stoltenburg Plan violated the Genocide, Racial Discrimination, and Apartheid Conventions--it clearly did. Anyone who knew anything at all about that plan would have understood that--and Cyrus Vance is an international lawyer, he should have known better. So any of the permanent members of the Security Council can be sued--and the Bosnian government is aware of this--for violating the Genocide Convention, the Racial Discrimination Convention and the Apartheid Convention. And I have no problems at all in suing all of them on the basis of these three conventions and I'm sure of winning those law suits. It's an open and shut case.
But the problem was that when President Izetbegovic instructed me to sue Britain, the Bosnians were threatened. The then Bosnian Foreign Minister Ljubijankic, who was later assassinated, was called in, basically threatened, and told that if the Bosnian government was to continue with the law suit, the humanitarian assistance that was being provided to the Bosnian people would be cut. They were pressured by the French, the Germans, and the Americans, as well as Owen and Stoltenburg, to drop the whole case. So that's the problem, where the great powers of Europe threaten to cut off humanitarian assistance to civilians--and the Bosnian people can only survive because of food brought in by the world community. When Bosnia goes to court to sort out its rights, which it has a perfect right to do, the so-called protecting powers threaten starvation for their people. Unfortunately, the Bosnians had to go along with this as they always have.
What are the historical connections between the Vance-Owen and Owen-Stoltenburg Plans and the Munich Pact from 1938?
First, there needs to be an understanding of the historical evolution. The Vance-Owen Plan would have carved up Bosnia into ten cantons on an ethnic basic, but would not have destroyed Bosnia as a state. When the Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and the Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karazdic and his so-called parliament rejected the Vance-Owen Plan, the great powers then moved into the Owen-Stoltenburg Plan. The Owen-Stoltenburg Plan would have carved up the state itself--it would have destroyed the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina as an independent nation state.
Therefore, this plan is the modern day equivalent of the Munich Pact. It was designed to carve up a UN member state, and would rob Bosnia-Herzegovina of its United Nations membership--the main difference was that the carve-up was not taking place at Hitler's lair at the Berchtesgarten but this time the carve-up was taking place in Geneva, at United Nations headquarters and under the auspices and supervision of the United Nations, the European Union and the United States Government. So this time all the major powers of Europe and the United States were in on the carve-up of a sovereign member state of the United Nations.
The Vance-Owen Plan was bad, but the Owen-Stoltenburg Plan would have been the end of Bosnia's statehood and would have turned Bosnia into a new Lebanon. The Owen-Stoltenburg Plan would have been a total catastrophe--to carve up Bosnia into three pieces and rob it of its UN membership. It was clear that in Geneva during the so-called peace negotiations, that the whole purpose of the exercise was to destroy the Bosnian statehood so that the Muslim, Jewish and non-Serb or Croat population would simply be wiped out. In historical terms, back in the 1930s the Jews were wiped out because they did not have a state of their own, and the only thing that has kept the Bosnians from completely being wiped out, fully and completely, has been their statehood and their UN membership. Owen, Stoltenburg, the UN, and everyone else knew that the only thing that would keep these people from going the way of history was their UN membership and statehood, so they had to get rid of it.
Indeed, Owen's lawyer admitted to me and our team--we have this on file with the World Court--that the suggestion to eliminate Bosnian statehood came from Karazdic, the war criminal. Karazdic suggested this notion to Owen and Stoltenburg and they approved it personally. Their lawyer then redrafted the documents to eliminate Bosnian statehood--we have all this on record, with witnesses, at the World Court. It reminded me of Hannah Arendt's comment on the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem, about the banality of evil. That here were nameless, faceless bureaucrats operating in Geneva, destroying a sovereign member state of the United Nations, knowingly inflicting ethnic cleansing on a million-and-a-half to two million people and doing all of this by means of a word processor. And that is literally what was going on. And the plan today, the so-called Contact Group plan, carves Bosnia up into two pieces. It will preserve the shell of the Bosnian state, although, effectively Bosnia will be carved up. So, all of the discussions in the Security Council about respecting the territorial integrity and political independence of Bosnia is nonsense. These men at the Security Council know exactly what they are doing--that was my assessment in dealing with them personally. They're still trying to carve Bosnia up, and the land that they have allocated to the so-called federation will make Bosnia an appendage of Croatia.
The Bosnian Muslims, and the Serbs, the Croats, and the Jews loyal to the Bosnian government, would have never survived the Owen-Stoltenburg carve-up if it had been implemented. The Contact Group carve-up was designed and drafted by the US State Department. It appears that if it were to be implemented, that those people would at least physically survive. But ultimately Bosnia would lose its independence. So it's a slight improvement but it still represents a violation of every known principle of international law including a violation of the UN Charter, a toleration of genocide and war crimes, condoning this type of behaviour and again, it would be tantamount to the Munich Pact. It raises the question then, and everyone must consider this: what good is the United Nations? If the UN is not going to be prepared to defend a member state, but instead carve it up and destroy it, then obviously the United Nations has lost its utility, just as the League of Nations did when it could not confront Mussolini over what he did in Abyssinia in 1935. I remembered, when I was in Geneva with President Izetbegovic, that it was Haile Selassie that had come to Geneva in the same building to make a plea for the powers to save Abyssinia from the Italian fascist invasion and they didn't listen to him. Abyssinia was taken over and eventually the League was destroyed because it could not protect small states like Austria, Czechoslovakia, Abyssinia, and Poland from fascist invasions.
So if the UN is getting into the business of carving up UN member states then it's not a good sign for the integrity of the United Nations. It must be understood that this is all being supervised by the Secretary General of the UN--Boutros Boutros-Ghali--he knows what's going on--and at the direction of the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Russia--they're all in on it. And in the background the Clinton administration is posturing, and saying 'oh, isn't it terrible what the Europeans are doing'. This is all public relations--the US government was in on the carve-up just like everyone else.
The Washington Plan instigated a confederation between Croatia and Bosnia. Do the Serbs have a moral or legal right to set up a federation with Serbia proper--and this has been one of their complaints--if the Bosnian government can federate with Croatia, why can't the Bosnian Serbs federate with Serbia?
This is public relations machinery at work again. The Washington Agreements were designed by the State Department to carve up Bosnia under the fiction of preserving the state of Bosnia, but effectively consigning these people to the control of Croatia. The federation with Croatia was imposed on the Bosnians--it's not something that they wanted. It was imposed on them, so the argument that the Serbs must have the same deal is just total hypocrisy. But the point is, that the Serbs have already been promised a confederation by the great powers. That's why the federation-confederation was set up between Croatia and Bosnia--to ultimately give the Serbs the same thing. The State Department and the Pentagon admitted that the Washington Plan was just a sophisticated carve-up under another name--I have the admissions on file. So the Washington Plan was another design for a carve-up, to a preservation of the fig-leaf of the republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina while effectively carving it up into two. And Karadzic is still holding out for his independent Serb state. If he were smart--which he is not--he'd go along with the carve-up plans and he'd probably get his state in five, ten, fifteen years from now--and that is what the ultimate agenda is within the Washington Plan. Just read through the documents that are being drafted by State Department lawyers--all you have to do is read through them and it's very clear that this is what the deal is. But most people don't read these documents, they're long, and they're complicated.
This highlights the problems within the management and respect of international law. You did win two world courts orders on behalf of the Bosnian government, but so far, neither respect nor implementation of those orders has occurred. What are the difficulties associated with the management and implementation of international law, and what are the ramifications for the international political order?
I think that at this point, if the UN and the great powers are prepared to let Bosnia go down when there are two World Court orders overwhelmingly in Bosnia's favour on all points, then it seems to me that we're at an end of the international legal order that was set up in the aftermath at the end of World War II.
"I think we've reached a historical era now where the West has proven its complete and total moral bankruptcy on Bosnia and has now forfeited any moral right to leadership that it might have had in terms of a commitment to principles like human rights, democracy, the rule of law, all of which they have subverted, undermined and destroyed in Bosnia." Francis Boyle
When we have the UN carving up a UN member state and violating every known principle that the post-World War II order was expected to uphold, I believe that we're witnessing the eclipse of the international legal order, and I can assure everyone that that's the way that the Islamic world sees Bosnia. If Muslims had killed a quarter-of-a-million Christians and Jews, and Muslims had raped 30,000 Christian and Jewish women, this war would have been over three years ago. The West would have never tolerated it. But when it comes to Muslim people being massacred, every known principle of international law has been violated by the permanent members of the Security Council, by the United Nations organisation itself, and by all of Europe--they just do not care. Again, as I argued at the World Court, if the UN and the World Court cannot save Bosnia, then what good is the UN. What is left? I think that the answer is nothing. And the longer this goes on, the more that will become apparent. It's the same with NATO. What good is NATO? Again, the answer is nothing. Here we have the world's largest military alliance sitting around in Europe for 40 years with nothing to do. President Bush actually tried to revise the mandate of NATO to put it into a peace-keeping type operation to deal with regional threats in Eastern Europe. The first regional threat appears and what happens? Nothing. And it's destroying NATO from within, and without. I'm sure that we'll see more of this in-fighting at the UN and other types of international forum where the West has proven its total hypocrisy to the Third World and the Islamic world.
For what reasons are the UN and the US distorting the mandates that have been provided to them and why has there been the lack of effective mediation and conflict resolution in Bosnia?
It goes back to Machiavellian power politics, a situation that we saw a decade or so before World War I where there was a reestablishment of the triple entente between Russia, France and Britain. As they see it, Bosnia is not worth another world war. Of course, all three countries unquestionably suffered terribly during World War I. Paris was almost overrun by the Germans, the British lost an entire generation of men, and the Russian empire was dissolved. So their attitude is that the Bosnians are not worth fighting for, the UN Charter isn't worth fighting for, and above all, that as the Balkans is a nasty place there will need to be a strongman in charge of the Balkans. That strongman, of course, is Milosevic--the great powers can do business with Milosevic, and have done business with Milosevic and his predecessors, going back to Tito. Tito was the darling of the West as long as he was opposed to Stalin.
This is the doctrine of the policeman, that every region of the world needs a policeman to keep it under control and Milosevic is the policeman in the Balkans. So we're going to have some hand-wringing and some tears for the Bosnians but they will be sacrificed on the altar of great-power politics. It's really a reversion to pre-World War I mentality and pre-World War II behaviour.
Milosevic is perceived by the US and the West as someone that they can do business with. Is this in terms of the arms trade, or economics, or other geopolitical factors?
In control and domination of the Balkans. And I'm not the only one saying this--you can read it in the pages of the newspapers, or on the Internet--they're all saying the West can do business with Milosevic, not only in respect to Bosnia, but in the whole region. He can keep it under his thumb and keep it under control. The Balkans is a volatile area--that's the assumption, and as far as the West is concerned there needs be someone there to keep it under control and Milosevic can do it. It's pretty much the replay of the Nixon doctrine. For example, the Shah of Iran was America's policeman in the Persian Gulf. That's the notion with Milosevic and whoever his successor might be. Putting aside the rhetoric, the continuity between the Bush and Clinton administrations is striking. When Yugoslavia was about to fall apart, George Bush sent his Secretary of State, Jim Baker, to meet with Milosevic and make the statement that the United States supports the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia. Why? The policeman theory--the US needs Belgrade to keep the Balkans under control and that statement by Baker effectively was the green light to Milosevic to invade Slovenia, then to invade Croatia, and then to invade Bosnia. And then the arms embargo was put on. If you read the negotiated history of resolution 713 at the UN Security Council, it was not Belgrade's suggestion to implement the arms embargo over the former Yugoslavia, it was the United States', Britain's, France's and Russia's suggestion in order to facilitate Milosevic in his control and domination of the Balkans.
On the issue of the international arms embargo over the former Yugoslav republics, the UN General Assembly voted to lift the embargo, the US Congress voted to lift the embargo as well, yet it remains in place. Why has the international arms embargo not been lifted, and what is the relationship between the arms embargo, human rights and genocide according to the definition provided within the UN Charter?
First of all, the arms embargo was never imposed on Bosnia. Resolution 713 outlining the arms embargo was imposed on the former Yugoslavia. There is no Security Council resolution at all that says that the independent Bosnia is subject to an arms embargo. The situation consisted of the British, and the French and the Americans deciding to prevent the government of Bosnia--a government which not only represents Muslims, but Serbs, and Croats and Jews and others--from defending themselves from a genocidal assault by the Serbs, led by Milosevic, by Karadzic, and by Mladic.
This was a conscientious decision. It was the British Navy, the French Navy and the American Navy in the Adriatic and their Air Forces that made it quite clear that no weapons could go into Bosnia. They couldn't care less about the resolution--the resolution has nothing to do with it. Eventually Congress forced Clinton to pull out but the British and the French are still there policing this embargo. Again, this goes back to the Bush policy, which was to preserve Yugoslavia as an entity at all costs and if the Bosnians had to be sacrificed, then so be it. As the US sees it, they're just Muslims anyway, who cares--President Bush had just killed a quarter-of-a-million Muslims in Iraq and no-one cared, so why should anyone care about the dead Muslims in Bosnia. So, the great powers are working hand-in-glove with Belgrade. And with resolution 713, the great powers had to ask Belgrade to give them permission to put the arms embargo on because it was their idea, not Belgrade's. And Belgrade, after some procrastination, went along with this because they already had enough weapons. They had all the weapons that they would ever need and therefore the embargo was not going to hurt them, but hurt the Bosnians.
That was the policy and all the great powers were in on this--the US, Russia, Britain, and France--they're all in on it and they all know exactly what they're doing. It's dirty. Again, when I was in Geneva with the Bosnian Presidency at the Owen-Stoltenburg carve-up, it was like a combination of Munich and Poland, and like watching the Jews go off to Auschwitz in cattle-cars. Even the State Department predicted that if the Owen-Stoltenburg Plan had been carried out, a million-and-a-half to two million Bosnians would be subjected to ethnic cleansing. And, despite this, the plan was still being pushed by Christopher. He and his Ambassador were there pressuring President Izetbegovic to go along with this carve-up. It was so bad that it led to three State Department officials to quit in protest over a thoroughly duplicitous and unprincipled policy that was being pursued by Christopher, and with the full knowledge and approval of Clinton. Christopher then made some statements about how if the Serbs continued to bombard Sarajevo and other Bosnian cities that there might be airstrikes. Now imagine this--there we were in Geneva trying to negotiate a peace plan, which for all intents and purposes was really a carve-up, and at the same time Serb artillery, tanks and anti-aircraft weapons were pouring fire down on Sarajevo, on Tuzla, Zenica, Gorazde, and all the other Bosnian cities.
NATO airplanes were flying over Bosnia, watching all this going on, taking pictures and sending the reconnaissance photos back to NATO headquarters, to the UN and to Washington, London and Paris. Yet nothing is being done. And you can watch all this on CNN. Meanwhile, President Izetbegovic is told 'by the way, you have to sign this document that will carve Bosnia up and rob Bosnia of its UN membership'. This is what's going on here.
During the so-called peace negotiations in Geneva, we sent a letter to President Clinton asking for airstrikes against the Serb artillery, tanks and anti-aircraft weapons that were then raining death and destruction upon the innocent people of Bosnia. Christopher had only threatened to use airstrikes, so I suggested that we send a letter to Clinton and specifically ask for airstrikes.
So I drafted the letter which effectively asked 'how do you expect us to negotiate here when we are being bombarded. If you want reasonable good faith negotiations, then, at a minimum, we need airstrikes, we need some counter-power here because the Serb leaders aren't interested in negotiating with us'. I've been at peace negotiations--I was with the Palestinians in Washington and that was pretty bad, but nothing like this. These were not negotiations, these were diktats. There is no way that it can be anything but a diktat as long as the Bosnians cannot really do more to defend themselves than they currently are. And that's what the international community has been doing so far. The Owen-Stoltenburg Plan was a diktat. The Vance-Owen Plan was a diktat. The Contact Group plan was a diktat--all imposed on the Bosnians against their wishes. President Izetbegovic is not a Muslim fundamentalist who wants a mini-Muslim state in Bosnia. He is a very cultured, educated, old-world gentleman who would very much like to see a true European state. And he is up there in Geneva with the other members of the Bosnian presidency fighting for a true multi-cultural state. The irony for me is that the Bosnians are fighting for human rights, international law and democracy. That's what the Bosnians want--and the West, the US, Britain, Russia, and France are saying, 'you can't have that--we're not giving it to you. All you have is a little apartheid mini-Muslim state. That's all we're going to give you, there you go'. That's the greatest irony of all.
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|William A. Cook|