A recent Bosnian Serb artillery attack left 73 dead in Tuzla, an industrial city in Bosnia that the United Nations had designated a safe haven.
Most of the dead were teenagers or persons in their 20s, and "many lie in a new cemetery above the town," reporter Alex Thompson said in a story from Independent Television News that aired Monday on PBS' "The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour."
"And where the shells struck the crowded streets," Thompson added in his crisp British accent, "[there was] open anger from people who accuse the U.N. of failing to protect this so-called safe area."
A woman from Tuzla was furious: "Sometimes I want to get a grenade and throw it at the U.N. transporters, no matter the consequences." And reflecting perhaps a deeper sorrow, a man from Tuzla plaintively asked: "Where is the conscience of these people?"
Through television, Bosnia speaks.
There's nothing new about news media being used to rally public support for an apparent underdog and opposition to a brutal oppressor.
In the TV age alone, for example, flash back to 1990, when a 15-year-old girl, identified only as Nayirah, horrified a congressional committee and much of the United States with her televised accounts of Iraqi atrocities in Kuwait, just prior to a vote on this nation's use of force in the Persian Gulf.
Echoing reports from other Kuwaitis lobbying for U.S. intervention, she recalled seeing invading Iraqi troops storm into a hospital and pluck 15 babies from their incubators, leaving them "on the cold floor to die."
Although her testimony drew skepticism from Amnesty International and other human rights groups, Congress voted overwhelmingly for U.S. involvement, and the rest is history. Not until early 1992 was it revealed that Nayirah, far from being an ordinary citizen, was the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the United States. In effect, a ringer.
How pivotal was this teen-ager's testimony? Were some lawmakers duped by her and others into endorsing war against Iraq? Given the smashing military victory over Iraq, these questions and her congressional appearance endure only as blurry footnotes.
In any event, as the United States continues shaping its policy regarding the bloody, complex tangle in the former Yugoslavia, the Nayirahs testifying from Bosnia appear not to be embellishing or telling any tales. Their heart-wrenching accounts of ongoing misery--mostly of Bosnia's Muslims being victimized by Serb aggressors--have been independently verified by reporters again and again.
"I just don't want any more people I've grown to admire and love . . . to die," National Public Radio's Scott Simon said Sunday in a Bosnia commentary on NBC's weekend "Today," the program he once hosted.
Those he cares for in besieged Sarajevo include Irena, a 17-year-old he befriended during several trips there on assignments. Her face in photographs--she's a striking beauty with dark hair and enormous black eyes--hauntingly recalls Anne Frank.
Simon captured Irena's thoughts on tape on several occasions, once after they had all been pinned down by a sniper attack. "Behind my building . . . sometimes in the whole day . . . it's shooting, and I have to just run," she said in the "chatty English" that Simon said she'd picked up from listening to rock stars. "But I don't care about my life. I don't give a damn about it."
Ongoing is the debate about whether to end the U.N.'s so-called peacekeeping role and send in NATO jets to take out the Serbs' lethal artillery emplacements. Simon said that he told Irena not long ago that he feared that Bosnian Serbs would counterattack such air strikes in ways that would endanger her and her family (her father is Serbian, her mother Muslim).
Irena replied: "The people who I know, they say, 'Please, God, let NATO bomb them. They can, if they want, destroy all Sarajevo. We don't want to live like this anymore.' I'm saying to all America, please do it. Destroy the Serbian positions. It's OK. We can save ourselves. We go to the basement of somewhere to hide ourselves. It's OK for us. You don't have to worry. We got used to it."
Simon said that because central Bosnians have been living peaceably for some time, he abhors hearing Americans say, "Those people over there have been fighting for centuries. Why should we care?"
There are, of course, many reasons to care. Throughout his commentary, Simon's and Irena's words were supported by the sounds of guns and footage of Bosnians living under the ongoing terror of combat, running for cover, running for their lives.
On Globalvision's "Rights & Wrongs," the feisty renegade that bills itself as "human rights television," pictures from the Bosnia death zone are more gruesome: Body bags along with slaughtered children, their eyes empty and mouths open, lying on the ground in an eerie stillness that belies the shrill carnage that engulfed them.