There are more than 25,000 people in Southern California who trace their origin to the states of the former Yugoslavia and many have been passionate partisans on the sidelines of the Bosnian war. JIM BLAIR talked with a Serb, a Croat and a Bosnian Muslim who are active in their local communities about the local mood on the verge of a hoped-for peace and their communities' opinion of American involvement in a NATO peacekeeping force. *
President, Croatian National Assn., an umbrella organization of Southern California Croatian fraternal, religious, social and athletic groups. Lives in Pasadena.
First of all, I don't think there's doubt in anyone's mind that the entire community wants peace. We've all had people that have been affected by the war. I've lost relatives. Others have been injured. That applies to everybody from Croatia or Bosnia Herzegovina.
I'm an American of Croatian descent and I may have a different opinion as far as sending American troops over there than those Croatians who have immigrated here, particularly since World War II. But, speaking for myself, I'm opposed to sending any American troops. I think it's wrong. American troops don't belong there and, furthermore, I don't think any [foreign] troops--French, British or Russian--belong there.
I think there will be mixed feelings in this country generally [as well as] among Croatian-Americans. The same problem existed when we went to Somalia and Haiti--mixed feelings about sending American troops to act as policemen. I don't think we're a police force. We've certainly sent troops all over the world. I served in the Armed Forces during World War II. There's a lot of support for sending American troops to do an American job. But to do somebody else's job? Those who were born in this country have a built-in resistance to sending American troops anywhere.
I'm not too close to the Muslim group here, but I have a lot of Serbian friends. We don't really talk about this situation very much. But I would sense that the same feeling exists--nobody's really too anxious to get American troops involved.
Graduate film student, American Film Institute. Second generation Bosnia-American Muslim, Beverly Hills.
The mood [among the Bosnian Muslim community in Los Angeles] is positive. We're hopeful peace will come. This is the opinion of Bosnian Muslims in general, because most of the community here, has just been made up in the last three years of refugees. I know this because I have relatives who've become refugees, who've lost everything, living in our home. The fact that America is trying to help us have peace is really appreciated. Ultimately, our community has felt very strongly that unless America had an interest in sustaining us we would never have lived through this hell.
The only way [American] troop participation can work is if America has a long-standing presence there as [protection] against any future threat. Are we going to be well-armed enough [if American troops leave in six months]? I think that's what will happen. You see the same scenario in Israel--they're armed to the teeth. Why? Because of the other powers around them. They've become a very militant nation.
Obviously, the Serbian community is of no interest to me or to many other people as far as I know, which is sad. I feel very sorry for Serbs who feel that this conflict should continue.
President of the Serbian-American Voters Alliance, established in 1987, contributor to Serbian-American newspapers in Pittsburgh and Chicago, lives in Los Angeles.
I don't think you'll find one ounce of support in the Serbian community for sending American troops to Bosnia.
There are several reasons. First, everyone in the media seems to have lost sight of the fact that NATO is a defensive treaty, period. Using NATO forces as U.N. Robocops is in direct violation of the NATO treaty. I'm surprised that it's only the Serbian community that's been outraged by this illegal changing of NATO into some kind of international police force.
Then they would look upon this as the 20th Century Trojan Horse, primarily because the United States will be aiding, sending weapons to and simultaneously training Muslim forces. Retired American generals and other officers have been advising the Croats and the Muslims now for several years. Dropping $100 million worth of bombs on Serbians does not endear them to the American version of peacekeeping.
Isn't that how we got into Vietnam? We first start out by advising and then we send in troops and those troops get attacked and then we have a war. I would say the question [of improving relations among the Croatian, Muslim and Serbian communities, particularly here in Los Angeles,] is moot because there hasn't been much of a relationship to begin with. How do you want to bring people together when, for the last 20 or 30 years we haven't been together at all?