The Militant(logo) 
    Vol.61/No.33           September 28, 1997 
Bosnia Vote Takes Place Under NATO Guns  

NATO officials hailed the recent sham elections held in 142 Bosnian municipalities as a success. Bosnian residents voted as NATO troops in armored personnel carriers and helicopters patrolled the region, part of the 36,000-strong U.S.-led occupation force. U.S. Gen. Wesley Clark warned ahead of time that the military operation "has the authority and capability to use lethal force" against violent disrupters. "Should it be so threatened, it will use that force," he declared.

The September 13-14 balloting was organized by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and other imperialist representatives, who controlled the electoral process and must certify the results. These officials warned residents that communities that do not accept the election results will have sanctions imposed on them.

The elections were considered a fake by many people in the area. "This is a farce," said Vaskrsije Kusmuk, a 65- year-old resident in Pale. "If this was really a democratic election we would not have these foreign planes and these foreign tanks rolling through our streets."

Some refugees who were driven from their homes during the 1992-95 war returned to vote.

Leaders of the Bosnian Serb Democratic party and the Bosnian Croatian Democratic Union spoke of boycotting the polls. Both organizations dropped such threats after Carlos Westendorp, the head of the so-called civilian intervention in Bosnia, and his deputy U.S. Gen. Jacques Klein flew to Belgrade and Zagreb, where they threatened Croatian president Franjo Tudjman and Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic with economic and other sanctions.

The elections come in the aftermath of intensifying U.S. military confrontations with supporters of chauvinist Serb leader Radovan Karadzic. The latest incident occurred September 8 when a company of GIs, backed by Bradley fighting vehicles and Apache helicopters, blocked buses carrying 1,000 Serbs who were traveling to Banja Luka to attend a political rally. The group had overwhelmed a platoon of Norwegian soldiers who tried to stop them.

About 500 of Karadzic's supporters did rally in Banja Luka September 8, facing off with a hostile crowd of hundreds of supporters of Bosnian Serb president Biljana Plavsic. After the rally, Momcilo Krajisnik, the Serb member of the joint Bosnian presidency and an ally of Karadzic, went to a hotel with a security team across the street from Plavsic's residence in downtown Banja Luka.

A crowd of thousands of people, including Plavsic's supporters, surrounded the building. NATO officials eventually negotiated with Krajisnik men to surrender their weapons. Krajisnik had refused to leave the hotel, expressing concern that he and other members of his group could be arrested by the U.S. military as indictees on the secret list of the imperialist-crafted war crimes tribunal meeting in The Hauge, Netherlands. He and his crew finally fled from the hotel, pelted by rocks and eggs.

U.S. State Department spokesman James Foley described the pro-Karadzic mobilization as a coup attempt against Plavsic. Washington has thrown its weight behind Plavsic, who supports aspects of the Dayton "peace" agreement the Clinton administration imposed on Bosnia in 1995.

Under sharpening tensions, U.S. military officials acknowledged they were considering retaking or destroying a transmitting tower if the pro-Karadzic controlled radio and television station in Pale continues to broadcast opposition to the Dayton agreement and the imperialist occupation force. NATO troops had seized the transmitter August 28 and held it for several days. On September 11 the Pentagon deployed three "electronic warfare aircraft" to Bosnia that can jam local programs and transmit broadcasts of their own.

Moscow's envoy to NATO, Vitaly Churkin, said any attack on radio or television stations controlled by Karadzic's forces would be an intolerable use of force. Washington's stepped-up moves against Karadzic have outraged Russian government officials.

Meanwhile, capitalist spokespeople have begun to debate the merits of capturing or forcing Karadzic from the region. "Every step we've taken in the last few days and weeks has had that objective," an unnamed Clinton administration official told the New York Times in early September. "Both the U.S. government and the [NATO military] alliance are stronger than ever in their conviction that the key to all of this is the removal of Karadzic from power."

"Those who think that arresting [Karadzic] or getting him to The Hague is the panacea .. don't understand what's going on in this country. It's a necessary but insufficient condition," said another official.

Some politicians are expressing nervousness over the possibility of casualties. "Our soldiers are getting more and more involved in dangerous operations," complained U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in an opinion piece printed in the September 11 New York Times.

However Carl Bildt, former European High Representative in Bosnia and former prime minister of Sweden, wrote in the London Financial Times, "There is a need for decisive action... What is needed are soldiers on the ground ready to take risks... That is why we have troops in Bosnia."  
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