20,000 U.S. Troops Begin Deployment In Bosnia

By Maurice Williams, The Militant, Vol.59 no.46, 11 December 1995

Intervention Aims To Advance Washington's Imperialist Interests

Appealing to bourgeois public opinion to support the U.S. rulers' decision to send 20,000 troops to Bosnia, U.S. president Bill Clinton claimed in a televised speech November 27 that Washington can help “the people of Bosnia to secure their own peace agreement.” Two days later a small reconnaissance team of GIs landed in Tuzla, northwestern Bosnia, where the U.S. army is to have its headquarters.

This will be the largest force U.S. imperialism has deployed inside a workers state since the Korean War in the early 1950s. A small detachment of 550 GIs has been stationed in the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia since 1993.

Being slightly more frank than Clinton, U.S. secretary of state Warren Christopher said in an op-ed piece in the November 27 New York Times, “Without American leadership [read military and economic muscle], there would have been no agreement. Without our troops, an agreement that serves our interests will not be carried out” (emphasis added).

The 20,000 GIs will be part of a 60,000-strong NATO force, which will enforce the partition of Bosnia brokered by Washington in Dayton, Ohio. The accord was signed November 21. “We have worked out all the arrangements on the military side,” Gen. John Shalikashvili, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, assured reporters in Brussels.

Some 1,400 U.S. soldiers are scheduled to arrive in Bosnia and Croatia in early December as part of a 2,600- strong NATO advance group. According to the Washington Post, 735 GIs will be included in an advance unit of 1,400 in Bosnia. Another 700 U.S. soldiers will be part of an additional 1,200-strong NATO force sent mainly to the Croatian capital of Zagreb, where many of the command and logistics operations will be based.

Clinton stated that the military “mission should and will take about one year.” Other Democratic Party politicians, campaigning in favor of the imperialist expedition set in motion by the White House, went to lengths to express their view that U.S. Marines could be in Bosnia much longer. “We signed the NATO treaty in 1949, but we didn’t say we were going to stay in Europe only one year,” said Senator Bob Kerrey (Democrat-Nebraska) in a television interview aired on C-SPAN November 27. “Now, I’m not saying we’ll stay in Sarajevo for 40 years. But we may need to be in Bosnia longer than 12 months.”

Emphasizing that Washington will be calling the shots in Bosnia, Clinton declared in his TV address, “American troops will take their orders from the American general who commands NATO.” The British government announced November 27 that it would also send 13,000 troops to Bosnia for one year, but only if Washington participated in the intervention. The next day, Moscow said it would send 1,500 Russian soldiers, and the German government announced plans to send 4,000 troops to help impose the plan. The deployment of German troops would be the largest since World War II.

The accord partitions Bosnia, with 49 percent of the territory to be held by the Belgrade-backed Serb forces and 51 percent going to the tenuous alliance of the Bosnian and Croatian governments. If the agreement goes through, those who were driven from their homes would theoretically be permitted to return. But there is no procedure for determining how disputes would be settled or who would gain property rights.

A conference to discuss implementing the “peace deal” is set for December 8-9. The formal signing of the accord is planned for December 13-14 in Paris.

Senator Robert Dole, the Republican presidential front- runner, equivocated his support for troop deployment, saying, “I want to find a way, if it's possible, to support the president.” House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who put himself at a distance, said, “The burden is on the president” to win public support. Capitalist politicians debate `mission’

Rightist politician Patrick Buchanan, who is also running for president, chided the two Republican leaders for sitting on the fence. “I think the Republican Party should stand up and say we oppose American troops in Bosnia,” Buchanan stated.

Clinton and other big-business politicians are preparing for the storm in the event of combat casualties. “No deployment of American troops is risk-free and this one may well involve casualties,” Clinton said. “We can’t just rush for the door when the casualties occur,” declared Sen. John Chafee. Seeking to quell nervousness concerning the imperialist intervention, national security advisor Anthony Lake vowed on the ABC News program “This Week with David Brinkley” that “if anybody fools with our forces, they will get hit very hard.”

The U.S. Army's chief of staff, Gen. Dennis Reimer, recently estimated that 6 million mines have been planted in Bosnia, many of them in uncharted fields and currently covered by snow.

“I expect there will be a lot of angry men gunning for us,” said one NATO military official. “After all, we bombed the Serbs for two weeks.”

Meanwhile, in Sarajevo angry groups of young men stoned and turned over UN vehicles passing through sections of the city held by pro-Belgrade Serbs. “The Dayton agreement has created a new Beirut in Europe; it is going to bleed for decades,” said Serb chauvinist leader Radovan Karadzic. “We never agreed to give up Sarajevo.” Under the accord, which Karadzic initialed, the entire city of Sarajevo is supposed to be under control of the Bosnian-Croat federation.

On November 25, about 1,000 people in the section of Sarajevo held by Karadzic's troops organized a demonstration against the plan. The same day some 2,000 Croats marched in Dubrovnik to protest the Croatian regime's agreement to cede the Prevlaka peninsula to the Serbian government in exchange for land in the mountains above Dubrovnik.

“We will still fight,” said Nedjeljko Prstajevic, mayor of Ilidza, a suburb of Sarajevo held by pro-Belgrade troops. “If the multi-national force tries to drive us from our homes, or take away our rights to defend ourselves, there will be no authority on earth, including the Serbian authorities, that can stop us.”

Sarajevo was carved up between Belgrade-backed Serb forces and the Bosnian government after the war erupted in 1991. Some of the most vicious fighting, including house-to- house street battles, sniper fire, and shelling that killed thousands, has occurred there. A new violent confrontation there could draw in NATO troops.

“Remember Somalia? We too will drag the bodies of dead soldiers through the streets,” warned Jovan Busarin, a Serb worker in Ilidza.