ME and Ophelia

Monday, November 17, 2003

Many responsible for mass rape continue to hold public office -
The children have even been abandoned by their own country

Before you read anything else, please see below 'Barbarous times' and 'letters to the Editor' printed in November 16, 2003 Sunday Times. And, no matter how long it takes you to complete - even if it is in stages, please read the full report by Christine Toomey: A cradle of inhumanity (link courtesy of The Bosnian Institute - sorry, The Sunday Times does not provide direct linking to its reports).

By dedicating column inches of our blogs to this story and situation, we can do something. Please spread the word of this shocking story with a link to A cradle of inhumanity. After you have read it, you will understand why it is important to share it with as many bloggers - around the world - as possible. Thank you.


A week ago this newspaper carried a harrowing account of the children born to the tens of thousands of Bosnian women who were subject to what the United Nations later described as mass genocidal rape by their mainly Serbian captors. The report, in the Magazine, recounted how these women, perhaps numbering as many as 50,000, were held prisoner for months and raped repeatedly, often several times a day. Most, unsurprisingly, suffered permanent psychological scars. When children resulted from these brutal and unholy unions, most were abandoned at birth. They are the permanent legacy of a bloody and vicious civil war. Those guilty of these appalling war crimes, meanwhile, have gone unpunished. Today, some even hold public office.

The response from readers to this article has been extraordinarily compassionate. Some pointed out that at a time when we were remembering the dead of two world wars, this was a reminder that war is an unwelcome constant in many peoples lives. Others were struck by the proximity of events that seem almost medieval in their cruelty and disregard for humanity. Bosnia, after all, is but a two-hour plane journey from Britain and all this happened only a decade ago. Readers were united in wanting to try to help the children of the Bosnian rape victims and a fund has been set up to do this.

The story was a reminder of the veneer of modern civilisation. Appalling acts were committed, not in the muddy trenches of Flanders or in the thick vegetation of Vietnam, but in streets very much like our own. We know about such things, of course, from the atrocities in Northern Ireland during the height of the Troubles. In the wars being waged around us now by terrorists, there is no visible enemy and often no identifiable aim. Only yesterday more than 20 people were killed and over 250 injured by car bombs exploding outside synagogues in Istanbul. Such events appal but they no longer shock. The common theme linking Bosnia to Istanbul is a callous contempt for human life. Civilisation is precious, not least because it is so fragile. We forget that at our peril.

Letters to the Editor:

THE HORROR OF FORGOTTEN WAR: My wife and I read Christine Toomey's article (A cradle of inhumanity: the plight of the children born to the rape victims of the Bosnian war, Magazine, last week) on the same day as we watched the remembrance service. The war to end all wars sounds very hollow. It is difficult to express the feelings triggered after reading the article and understand how such a thing could happen - yet another manifestation of the depths we can sink to in the name of religion and nationhood. We understand that very little can be done to put things right, but it seems that the victims continue to be punished. Given the enormity of what happened, we don't understand why governments are not being pressured to do more. John and Marjorie Rouse, Dobcross, Oldham

SHAME: It is almost beyond belief that such inhumanities occurred barely two hours away from this country and that the whole of Europe and the United States effectively did nothing for so long. One can only be left with a sense of shame and deep sorrow at the terrible legacy of our dilatory response. Isabelle Watson, New Malden, Surrey

NEED TO KNOW: I cried myself to sleep after reading your article. I was unaware of these events and couldn't believe this could happen in our modern world. Instead of digging up tales of cheating movie stars and speeding footballers, why don't we dedicate column inches to this situation? I have never been so touched, outraged and distraught about anything. Niki Proctor, Manchester

DISGRACE: I was deeply moved by the article. As a mother of two teenage boys I feel both humble and privileged. That nothing was done is an utter disgrace. I would be very keen to help in whatever way I can - financially, to raise awareness or sponsor a child. Jane Boyce, Banbridge, Co Down

WAR WOUNDS: I knew vaguely of the events described in Toomey's harrowing and enlightening article but as she says they happened a while ago and other issues around the world have taken over. This is horrendous. I cannot imagine how I would have coped had I been in their situation. As a woman I feel outrage and disgust that men can use rape as a means of winning a war. Julie Holmes, Chesterfield, Derbyshire

NUMBED: We were moved beyond words by your article. Besides making a regular donation, is there any support we can offer? It is difficult to imagine how these people survive. I felt quite bleak that such atrocities have happened many times in our history and will no doubt happen again. Our media is so full of stories of meaningless suffering it is hard not to be numbed by it - to be horrified and then to push it from our minds. Judith and Dion Vaughan, London W9

TRAGEDY: Nobody who read the article on Samira and the other young women can fail to be moved by the sheer tragedy. I had never realised the full extent of their plight. I am appalled that many responsible for the mass rapes continue to hold public office. I hope the matter can be raised in parliament. Mohammed Khamisa, London NW4

DO SOMETHING: I was stunned and ashamed that the world had allowed this atrocity. I found it difficult to tell my husband about the article as I felt too emotional. He had to read it himself. We would only be able to contribute a small amount but we have to do something. Nikki Powell, Oxted, Surrey

REMINDER: Having read your very moving and distressing article on the women and children suffering as a result of mass rape, I am ashamed that I had forgotten the Bosnian war. Julia Brown, Woldingham, Surrey

APPEAL: I am a psychology tutor and part of the syllabus involves learning about the effects of deprivation upon children. While the girls are not from wealthy backgrounds I am often amazed at their ignorance of the conditions which many children have to survive. Having read your article I feel it is no longer enough to teach this without actively encouraging the students to engage in trying to do something about it. While I recognise that Samira is only one of many children who need help, I would like to begin by raising money on her behalf and other children in her situation. Helen Tickle, West Derby, Liverpool
_ _ _
Excerpt from The Sunday Times:

Many readers have written to inquire whether they can do anything to help. If you would like to make a contribution to Medica or Samira, email

The Sunday Times has set up an account from which money will be sent to Bosnia once all donations have been received. So please make any cheques and postal orders payable to "Bosnia Cradle" and send them to:

News International
Treasury Dept
Fleet House, Cygnet Park
Hampton, Peterborough
England, UK

Please indicate on a note with the cheque if you have a particular preference that the money go to Medica or to Samira.


The first full state visit by an American president since Woodrow Wilson three quarters of a century ago

The welcome being prepared for George W Bush when he flies in to England tomorrow is a super-royal upgrade. This is a full state visit, the first by an American president since Woodrow Wilson three quarters of a century ago. Bush has been personally invited by the Queen - manu regia, in her own hand - and will be her official guest, staying at Buckingham Palace and given the full regal package.

Rolling fortress ready to repel allcomers

If President George W Bush strains his neck while peering out of his car windows at protesters during his visit to Britain, relief will be at hand. The presidential limousine, known as Cadillac One, has reclining rear seats and vibrating massage cushions, writes Tony Allen-Mills of The Sunday Times.

Americas First Automobile has been shipped to London for motorcade duties. It is the safest, heaviest, most expensive Cadillac ever built and can protect its occupants from missiles ranging from an egg to a rocket-propelled grenade.

Bush says he is unperturbed by the prospect of mass protests over the war in Iraq. Cadillac One makes his secret service protectors equally confident.

The latest high-tech version of a long line of Cadillacs designed for presidential use, the seven-seat stretched limo is regarded as a rolling fortress with 5in-thick military-grade armour and night vision cameras. Bush also gets a folding desk, blue leather armchairs and a CD player.

Industry sources say the car is a completely unique vehicle with no shared technology. Popular Mechanics magazine discovered it uses just three components from the Cadillac DeVille, the production model it most resembles: the headlights, the brake lights and the Cadillac emblem above the radiator grille.

Modifications are known to include the infrared night driving system that identifies movement outside the range of the headlights and a climate control system capable of sealing the passenger cabin against a chemical or biological attack.

The tyres will not shred if punctured; the tinted windows look like glass but are transparent armour and cannot be opened. Door handles have been replaced by grab bars for secret service agents who run alongside. Five aerials sprout from the boot.

Security measures turn any presidential overseas trip into Bushs flying circus. More than 650 staff will be following him to London, travelling in two Boeing 747s Air Force One and Air Force Two while much heavy security equipment, including the Cadillac, has already been delivered by huge C17 Globemaster cargo planes.
_ _ _

President Bush's critics should be heard but not appeased.
History will vindicate him.

To mark this historic event, I am reproducing here - in full - the excellent lead article in The Sunday Times, November 16, 2003:

Take the long view

The best causes sometimes have the worst propaganda. This week demonstrators are expected to protest against President George W Bush in London. Never mind that thousands of Iraqi children were dying every year under a sanctions regime exploited by Saddam Hussein until the Americans entered Baghdad. Never mind that the Iraqi dictator was a mass murderer, using chemical weapons against his own people. Never mind that some of the organisers of the Stop the War Coalition supported the Soviet Union in its inglorious heyday. And never mind that the United States is today, as in 1917 and 1941, the arsenal of democracy.

The demonstrators can be dismissed easily enough. Their response is as predictable as it is depressing. Like their CND forebears, they believe that in politics there can be no enemies on the left, only the right. The wider public antipathy to Mr Bush is more troubling. Certainly Donald Rumsfeld, his defence secretary, has been inclined to shoot from the hip. Post-war liberal Britain appears peculiarly allergic to the American right. Our own governments mixed record in the run-up to the war has also tarnished the reputation of its visitor - the prime ministers bravery in fighting his corner was sadly counterbalanced by the bureaucratic skulduggery revealed by Lord Huttons inquiry. The result, as our poll shows, is that the British are too ready to listen to the caricature: that Mr Bush is a dangerous, dim-witted warmonger.

This is a president who has engaged with the world when many predicted a new and dangerous American isolationism, particularly after September 11. He has recognised that terrorism is the prime threat facing the West and he has pursued a resolute strategy of defeating it. Unlike his predecessor, he has been prepared to risk the lives of American troops to drive that strategy forward. He may be pursuing the interests of America, but he is also acting in the interests of the free world. It has been said that this visit is an embarrassment to Tony Blair; that Mr Bush would have done him a favour by cancelling. That is nonsense. The prime minister is to be applauded for recognising the need to keep America engaged. That need has driven much of Britains foreign policy in recent times. This weeks ceremonials are part of that important process.

It would naturally be better if the situation in Iraq were more stable. But the attacks by a small number of determined Baathists and outsiders should not overwhelm the fact that progress is being made in restoring normality to the lives of Iraqis. Even so, the 400th American soldier has died, the post-war process has been muddled and the political pressures on the president are growing. His poll ratings at home have suffered despite the strongest economic surge for 20 years. In a years time he will seeking the support of the US electorate for a second term and that explains the renewed urgency about restoring Iraq to its people. Paul Bremer, the American administrator, met the countrys 24-member governing council in Baghdad yesterday to discuss a plan under which independence will be restored to the country as early as next June. If it works, the plan will be good for all sides. For Mr Bush, it offers the possibility of bringing the boys home soon is always a vote-winner. For the Iraqis, it offers the chance of democratic self-rule. As long as the process is not seen as a panic response to casualties, the omens are good.

It is easy to underestimate this president. Saddam did so, and so did the Taliban. The Europeans loathe him. Mr Blair has not made that mistake. He is aware that by supporting Mr Bush's strategy to fight a long and difficult war on terror, he is looking after the interests of Britain. We, too, are in the front line. If Mr Bush is dismayed by some of the hostility he sees, he should console himself by taking the long view. Ronald Reagan, another right-wing Republican president, was also vilified in Europe. Yet his confident assertion of American power ended the cold war and brought real peace with the Soviet Union. Mr Bush's critics should be heard but not appeased. History will vindicate him.

# posted by Ingrid J. Jones @ 11/17/2003
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