Despite a U.N. embargo, loss of a seat in the United Nations, global revulsion and international threats, the murderous Serb aggression continues against Muslims in stricken Bosnia-Herzegovina. Yet the worst might be still to come.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees warned this week that 400,000 people could die this winter from cold and hunger unless more help reaches victims of the war, but time already is running out.Most of the deaths would occur among the 2 million refugees displaced by the violence. Fighting in Bosnia already has killed more than 10,000 people since Muslims and Croats voted for independence from Serbian dominated Yugoslavia.
Stories of Serb atrocities continue to trickle out of the region. Muslim eyewitnesses said that 3,000 men, women and children were slaughtered at a detention camp in the northern city of Brcko during the spring. Up to 50 at a time were killed by gunfire or being run over by Serb armored vehicles.
For the hundreds of thousands driven from their homes, the winter ahead may be devastating, particularly since a severe cold season is expected. U.N. officials say the "point of no return" already has been passed for providing adequate food, shelter and medicine.
Getting help into Bosnia has proved difficult. The U.N. airlift into besieged Sarajevo was suspended earlier this month after an Italian relief plane was shot down, killing all four crew members. That has left only inadequate ground convoys slowed by rain and fighting.
The crisis at Sarajevo is only part of the picture. Other parts of Bosnia are suffering as well, with tens of thousands of Muslims being driven from their homes in a brutal "ethnic cleansing" by Serb forces. The flood of refugees has forced neighboring states, including Austria and Croatia, to close their borders - a cruel act that leaves desperate people almost nowhere to turn.
While all this is going on, a horrified Europe and United States - fearful of getting involved militarily - seem unable to summon the will to act, even financially. The U.N. refugee agency still lacks more than $100 million of the $300 million it has tried to raise to help people in the former Yugoslav republics.
There are rumors that the United States will resume relief flights into Sarajevo this week in the hope that other nations will follow, but the only way to save the people of Sarajevo may be to turn the city into a demilitarized zone - an undertaking that would require thousands of U.N. troops, air cover and other support.
The United States has planes and ships standing by in the vicinity, but this will have to be more than a U.S. operation. What is really needed is the kind of determined international coalition that confronted Saddam Hussein in the Persian Gulf War.
Lack of leadership, internal squabbles and continued hesitation in Europe and America mean a death sentence this winter for hundreds of thousands of people in Bosnia. It would be unconscionable for the world to just stand by and watch them die. The U.N. Security Council must replace politics and hand-wringing with decisive action.