SOURCE: Yugoslavia.com
Lord David Owen - a witness and a prosecutor in one

               Wrathful departure of a persevering peace-maker

               If the bombing of Serbian military depots in Bosnia was
               completely useless, as is generally thought by military
               experts and qualified political public, that short-sighted
               and hazardous act contributed to the achievement of at least
               one of the non-declared, though visible objectives of the
               American and German Balkan policy: the chances for the
               intermediary effort of the European Union and UN, embodied in
               the Owen-Stoltenberg mission and the Contact Group, to be
               successful in the foreseeable future, have been lost once
               again. In addition, all condemnations addressed to the
               militant Muslim and Croatian leaders, who are continuing to
               spoil unpunished every opportunity for the performance of the
               "blue helmet" peace-keeping and humanitarian mandate, have
               been completely eliminated.

               The man whose painstakingly built and frail tower of "the
               only possible peace in Bosnia - a peace in hell" has been
               demolished several times in the same or very similar ways by
               one the same intercontinental Washington-Bonn axis, doesn't
               want to be exposed to pressure any more. The unpleasant
               witness and the convincing prosecutor in one has decided to
               discard the gown of an unbiased and sincere intermediary. The
               Balkan militants and their inspirers were insulting that gown
               increasingly and shoving it into the gloom of irrelevance.
               The decent and distinguished representative of the European
               Union - who was referred to as "diplomatic rabble" by the
               American-educated and American protTgT Bosnian Muslim Prime
               Minister Haris Silajdcic - fulfilled the wish expressed many
               a time by Bonn and Washington: he resigned and declared that
               he will step down from the political scene without any
               regret.

               The prelude to this significant act can be reconstructed
               easily on the basis of the chronicles of this century's fifth
               war in the Balkans. However, the consequences of Owen's
               resignation and of the May/June aggression epidemic
               throughout Bosnia and against the Serb Krajina associated
               with it can be surmised only. Although they are still vague,
               such probable consequences will horrify any well-informed
               observer. The sole light at the end of the pitch-black tunnel
               of war can be seen from one source only - Belgrade. Having
               announced his resignation, Lord Owen first came to Belgrade
               for a farewell visit. In a three-hour talk with President
               Miloćevic, he summarized together with his colleague
               T.Stoltenberg the situation and the most important Balkan
               dilemmas in the light of world tendencies. After this
               meeting, he said: "I believe that Miloćevic is doing
               everything he can towards bringing peace in all of its
               aspects".

               It remains to be seen what testimony about and appraisals of
               the negotiations and fighting in the former Yugoslavia will
               Lord Owen present once he is released from the duty to speak
               with refraint and to be balanced in criticism and praise.

               When the European Parliament requested under a special
               resolution adopted in January this year that Lord Owen be
               replaced by somebody else as the EU representative in the
               Yugoslav crisis and co-chairman of the International
               Conference on the Former Yugoslavia, the whole British
               establishment gave him full support, refuting the unfounded
               accusations addressed to him. The obvious EU and UN failure
               in the Balkans - which was engineered by the USA and Germany
               mostly - wasn't analyzed either comprehensively or
               accurately, or even honestly. The initial big mistakes were
               unveiled and some of those who made them had the decency to
               admit making them (ministers Baker, De Mikelis and Dumas,
               Ambassador Zimmerman and Kenny, a high State Department
               official, and even President Mitterand). Be it as it may,
               despite such admissions, the main blame was being put on
               D.Owen quite arbitrarily. Moreover, he was even accused of
               being biased in favour of Russians and Serbs, which was
               noticed all of a sudden! In rejecting such slander and
               propaganda maneuvers together with his country's parliament
               and government, Lord Owen refused to comply with the request
               to resign.

               Given his integrity of an intermediary, critical approach to
               all involved in the Yugoslav crisis and war, unbiasedness and
               ability to avoid propaganda hoaxes, David Owen was bound to
               encounter first and then clash with the destructive pressures
               exerted by some Washington circles. They are those who share
               the greater German interest in maintaining a "low intensity
               conflict" in South East Europe, between the German-dominated
               Central European bloc and the Near East sphere under American
               control.

               The plan for a peaceful division of Bosnia and Herzegovina
               and establishment of a new inter-ethnic arrangement of that
               country, which was made by David Owen and Cyrus Vance, failed
               in Owen's opinion because Washington did not think well of
               it. "Bill Clinton was against it right from the beginning. He
               and many others felt that under this plan, the Muslims would
               be given too little and the Serbs too much of the territory
               they had taken. Towards the end of April (1993), Clinton
               launched the well-known plan about air strikes against the
               Serbs." - said D.Owen on 25 December 1993 to a correspondent
               of the Elsevier of the Hague. This correspondent asked him:
               "Didn't Clinton abandon the Vance-Owen plan when it was
               already superseded, because the Bosnian Serbs declared
               themselves against it by referendum?" Owen replied: "That's
               right. But that could have been dealt with by making minor
               adjustments. Don't forget that President Miloćevic, on whom
               they are dependent, announced sanctions against them. We
               could have exerted maximum pressure on them through him. We
               would have known how to deal with that. The plan failed in
               Washington, not at referendum".

               The consequences of the abandonment of this plan spoiled very
               much the chances for reaching a peaceable settlement of the
               conflict. The threat of bombing and generally greater
               involvement of NATO, and the actual bombing which produced no
               military effect, encouraged the extremists on all warring
               sides, diminished the confidence in the intermediary
               capabilities, compromised the UN mission...

               In Lord Owen's opinion, the main reason for such action of
               the USA was in the fact that in the event of the peace plan's
               success, its government would have to send about 40,000
               troopers to Bosnia, where they would have to act under the UN
               flag. Subsequent plans made provisions for guaranteeing peace
               arrangements, in the transitional period at least, and much
               smaller contingents of supplementary forces. It all boiled
               down to the American promise that if evacuation of the "blue
               helmets" becomes necessary, Pentagon would send 20,000 to
               25,000 troopers to the risky Bosnian territory, so that such
               a hazardous operation could be carried out with as few
               casualties as possible. Ultimately, even this commitment,
               which was too heavy for Clinton, was reduced to sending two
               to three thousand specially trained troopers to join the
               rapid reaction forces, or perhaps to act independently. In
               the general confusion seen at the beginning of June, nobody
               had a clear answer to questions of crucial importance for the
               UN mission in this part of the world.

               Rosenthal, a New York Times commentator, said with a big dose
               of sarcasm: "Who said that we don't have a firm position on
               the war in Yugoslavia? President Clinton worded it three
               times differently in only six days".

               David Owen was the first Western diplomat to say openly and
               substantiate on more than one occasion that Washington has
               always been resorting to military threats to the "bad guys"
               whenever peace was in sight, encouraging thus the Muslim and
               Croatian military illusions.

               As a firm politician of undoubted integrity and diplomatic
               talent, and a middle-aged man brimming with energy, David
               Owen began his Balkan venture by announcing resolute,
               including military measures against the "Serb conquerors".
               However, he was soon to realize also the historical roots of
               the Yugoslav conflict and the true motives of all parties
               involved, as well as the external influences, aspirations and
               methods of action which are usual in that part of Europe
               which itself is brimming with historical resentments. And he
               also had the courage to report his findings in public
               largely. Owen became an undesirable, even dangerous associate
               for many of those who were working behind the scene towards
               having Yugoslavia dismemberd and the insubordinate Serbian
               people brought to heel.

               When the insane inconsistency and dangerous shortsightedness
               of those who are playing with the fire in the form of
               "limited or controlled warfare" (as if a woman can be
               pregnant only a little) led to the May/June escalation of
               hostilities in the Serb Krajina and Bosnia (another futile
               bombing, taking of hostages, blockade of the UNPROFOR
               humanitarian mission and continued calamity of the Muslim and
               Serb population), and the peace negotiation task was
               transferred from the Contact Group to its American member,
               Freizer, David Owen made a gesture which is more eloquent
               than any of his statement. Since his government agreed to the
               demolition of the bridges he and other honourable advocates
               of peace in the Balkans tried to build, Lord Owen had to
               leave the scene.

               In a situation which is worse than all of the hitherto
               stumbling, delays, delusions, deceptions, lies, threats,
               destruction and killing, one of the rare Western politicians
               who wanted to oppose that, is leaving. On the eve of a
               possible Vietnamization of this part of Europe, after its
               Lebanonization, the European diplomatic/expert team has been
               left without a member whose departure might also be a warning
               and one of the more important announcements of forthcoming
               even heavier political (only ?) clashes.

               Milutin Milenkovic