BALKANS : Thatcher Appeal on Bosnia Stirs War of Words : Christopher describes her comments as ‘emotional.’ But her views have support from some Western officials.


Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has reignited the international debate about how best to bring peace to the Balkans with her withering attack on Western nations for failing to support Bosnia-Herzegovina’s Muslims.

Baroness Thatcher this week accused Prime Minister John Major and his government of lacking resolve, as she widened her campaign urging support for Bosnia’s Muslims in their struggle against the attacking Serbs.

Thatcher, in turn, has been depicted by Cabinet ministers--led by Defense Secretary Malcolm Rifkind--as talking “emotional nonsense.” That view was echoed by Secretary of State Warren Christopher; in an American television interview Thursday, he termed her perspective “emotional.”

Thatcher began her campaign early this week in interviews with British television, in which she accused Britain and the European Community of being “accomplices to massacre” by not reacting to Serbian aggression. She continued her criticism on American TV, calling on Western governments to arm the Bosnian Muslims and back them up with “aggressive” air strikes against Serbian positions shelling Muslim communities.


“We cannot just let things go on like this,” she said. “It is evil. If these governments are not moved by those pictures of death and suffering, if they are not moved by the position of ‘ethnic cleansing’ in Europe, 2 million refugees, mass graves being found in Croatia, then they should be.

“All that is required for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing,” she said. “Humanitarian aid is not enough.”

Thatcher’s remarks were triggered by the Serbian shelling of Srebrenica, which killed more than 70 adults and children. The Monday attack was launched shortly after the North Atlantic Treaty Organization began enforcing a “no-fly” zone over Bosnia.

Thatcher’s view--that NATO allies should strike Bosnian Serb positions and send weapons to Bosnian Muslims--has won support from some Western politicians, commentators and members of the Clinton Administration. During his campaign, President Clinton talked of bombing Serbian gun positions.


But this policy has been opposed by most NATO senior officers and Pentagon generals, who assert that air strikes alone cannot bring peace to Bosnia and that further Serbian attacks can be halted only by sending in hundreds of thousands of NATO troops.

Thatcher rejected the assertion that her view was “emotional nonsense” and that the action she advocates would lead to more deaths in Bosnia, declaring: “I hope they do feel emotional about what’s happening. And when they have felt that, a little bit of resolve on their part would not come amiss.”

Contrasting the current attitude of the British government toward the Balkan crisis with Winston Churchill’s valiant stand against Nazi aggression, Thatcher implicitly criticized Major, her successor. “The Bosnian Muslims are denied the means to defend themselves,” she said. “That is wrong.”

But Rifkind defended the government’s position that arming Bosnian Muslims would “prolong the conflict and make it even bloodier and more vicious than it is today, bringing continuing suffering to innocent civilians.”


Major said in Parliament on Thursday that the sale of arms to Bosnia must be “dampened down” rather than increased; he reiterated his view that diplomacy is the best way to end the conflict. He spoke as U.S. special envoy Reginald Bartholomew was in London to discuss a potential American initiative to send weapons to Bosnia.