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July 2, 2002
The Honorable Colin Powell
Secretary of State
Department of State
Washington, DC 20502
Dear Mr. Secretary:
I write to express the concerns of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' about the possible ending of the mandate of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina. U.S. leadership was critical in bringing an end to the horrendous violence in Bosnia. The continuing presence of the United States and its allies is still vital for maintaining the peace and helping to build a viable functioning society and state.
The conflict in Bosnia represented the worst outbreak of ethnic and fratricidal war in Europe since World War II. The 1995 Dayton Accords, an effort led by the United States, brought an end to the immediate violence. Since then, the United Nations peacekeeping mission has helped to establish a framework of security that has enabled the groups comprising Bosnia to make some progress on a range of social, political, and economic issues. However, the effort to develop a viable functioning state that can maintain peace remains an unfinished task. A precipitous end to the mandate could jeopardize the progress made to date and risk new setbacks and renewed violence. For example, the exit of the UN mission, which supports the police in Bosnia, could interrupt in real or perceived ways the level of security in the country and undermine minority returns.
The U. S. Catholic bishops have spoken to the need to "pursue justice, contain conflict and replace violence and war with peaceful and effective means to address injustice and resolve disputes." The United Nations and its peacekeeping missions, as well as regional structures like NATO, are essential instruments in a global effort of cooperation to end conflicts, ease tensions and restore peace and security. We recognize that peacekeeping is not an easy task. Its risks to the safety of peacekeepers and the financial costs associated with these missions are genuine concerns. However, the United States has and should continue to play a constructive leadership role in a common international effort to maintain peace.
Since the end of the Cold War, there has emerged an understandable desire of many to move away from complicated international concerns and commitments, including peacekeeping missions. However, after the events of last September, this seems neither possible nor wise. International intervention in Bosnia helped put an end to terrible violence, but a true and lastingresolution requires a long term commitment to restore genuine peace and stability. While we recognize that the United States has a dispute with many other nations over aspects of the International Criminal Court, this dispute cannot be allowed to undermine or delay the extension of the United Nations peacekeeping mandate for Bosnia.
Bernard Cardinal Law
Archbishop of Boston
International Policy Committee
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