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Bosnia betrayed.

I used to wonder what it must have felt like to be a grownup living in Germany or in the United States during World War II. How did anybody hear about the Nazis? Did everyone believe the news? Did anybody care?

I always wanted to imagine that only bad people didn't know what was happening; only bad people could choose to ignore or else accommodate to evil. This had to mean that regular good people locked arms within minutes of the first reports and then powerful good people went without food and sleep until they figured out what to do. And then, of course, they did it: They moved whatever and whomever needed to be moved to stop the genocide.

But today was cloudy. And tonight it's raining. At dinner, I had to accept or reject a small piece of lemon pie, and then I had to decide for or against a second slice. Mostly, this is the way I live: watching the weather, and making decisions of extremely little consequence.

My friends are not much different. One of them just flew back from a boring job interview in Colorado, and to celebrate his return, we played tennis for an hour. Another friend turned fifty, and well-wishers came around for birthday barbecue.

But every night, I keep waking up. There is now a visible rash on my neck. Is this the trivial big picture in which yet another Muslim girl is savagely attacked and raped? Is this the pedestrian frame of reference in which yet another Muslim village explodes in flames? More than 20,000 Muslim girls and young women repeatedly and repeatedly raped!

Systematic rape makes me nauseous, even as an idea. And I am dark. I'm black, in fact. And a whole lot of folks find me and mine definitely undesirable. And I do not require some megadose of anything to imagine me and mine the object of "ethnic cleansing," and I really have a problem with a program like that. I really do.

And I cannot understand why people wonder about what kind of health care Bill Clinton will finally propose, or if he will ever forget about the deficit and focus, for example, on South Central L.A. If "ethnic cleansing" doesn't get to you, if the comic-book specter of Ross Perot is more disturbing to you than the documented and relentlessly ruinous assault Muslim girls and young women, then things are pretty clear. There is nothing to wonder about.

Bill Clinton, who cravenly capitulates his constitutional civilian power to the military, utterly lacks a value system hinged to the survival of human life and dignity, which is why he buddies up with Colin Powell.

And Powell! Did he luck out or what? When Clinton was elected, he probably thought he had become the dutiful employee of a President with whom he might regularly disagree. But no! Now he finds himself the Big Boy in the picture: the man to be mollified and coddled and photographed with.

Powell was a poor student at City College years ago, and today, in the context of gay and lesbian rights, he clearly does not remember Harry Truman ordering the military to integrate. That made possible Powell's very own j-o-b. But his job is the least of it.

Evidently, Powell does not remember the Middle Passage that carried millions of Africans captured for slavery to these shores. He does not remember how many more millions of his African forefathers and foremothers perished during that bedeviled voyage. He does not recall how, once the surviving victims reached America, a national policy of "ethnic cleansing" beginning with slave codes beleaguered our days and our nights from that awful moment of arrival to this moment. Does he?

Isn't he the humanitarian genius who concocted the plan to deliver food to Bosnian Muslims by dropping ten-ton packages from jet planes thousands of feet up in the sky?

Isn't he the tough guy whose idea of a good fight is Grenada or another round of infernal bombing of Baghdad, in famished, disease-ridden Iraq?

Isn't he the courageous military counselor advising Clinton to stay out of former Yugoslavia because maybe there might be an American fighter plane shot down or American troops wounded, and so forth?

Thank God Powell and Clinton did not head the country during World War II. We were unconscionably slow getting into it but, at last, and at least, we did get into it. To coexist with genocide is to collaborate with genocide. "Ethnic cleansing" implies and glorifies genocide. More than 120,000 Bosnian Muslim men, women, and children slaughtered! More than a million and a half Muslims terrorized into refugee flight!

What will compel national and international commitment of every kind of resource available to stop the brutality and the genocide?

If we do not rescue Bosnian Muslims from their rapine executioners, if we do not restore to them their rightful, sovereign territory, then how shall we justify our military might and our think-tank capacities?

Is there any cause more clear, more summoning, than the cause of human life? Apparently, yes. And, therefore, there is no safety for any of us: no safety. Nor do we deserve to suppose that we should be safe when the intended extermination of another people does not disturb our routine preoccupations.

Yes, but if we went into Bosnia what about other situations of similar horror? Wouldn't we have to intervene all over the place? ...

You bet. And so what about that! I mean, excuse me, but are we or are we not talking about "ethnic cleansing"? Are we or are we not talking about somebody viotently seizing space that belongs to someone else-someone not clean enough to live?

Exactly who is clean enough to stay alive? Exactly who should decide who's clean and who's dirty/wrong/off/dark/undesirable?

Hey, I would like to return to my quandary about slices of lemon pie. And I would like to devote myself to loving somebody who loves me. And there is music I need to hear. And flowers I need to see. And children I want to hold close to my heart. And these homely desires define a delicate human condition that cannot withstand our indifference, our inertia, our insensibility when somebody else is screaming for help in his and her house.

At the least and at this horribly late date I say it's time to retrieve our national moneys from our armed forces: Armed forces not at the disposal of human life ar indefensible.

Let us aggressively retrieve those ill-spent moneys and spend them in ways that may begin to enable us to be and act like human beings down and dirty for the rightful, dignified survival of us all.

June Jordan, the poet, is professor of African-American Studies and Women's Studies at the University of California-Berkeley. Her column appears regularly in The Progressive.
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Title Annotation:United States policy on intervention
Author:Jordan, June
Publication:The Progressive
Date:Sep 1, 1993
Previous Article:Activist summer.
Next Article:Yokel no more.

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