TALKING IT OVER
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON
March 31, 1999
During World War II, France's Vichy government asked Morocco's King Mohammed V for a list of Jews to be handed over to the authorities. He refused and called on all Muslims to stand together with their Jewish brothers and sisters -- saying we aren't Jews or Arabs, only Moroccans.
As I've traveled in Morocco this week, I've witnessed many examples of how this country continues to expand the circle of human dignity. And I've imagined how life would be different in other parts of the world -- especially in Kosovo -- if all of the world's leaders worked for tolerance and peace rather than divisiveness and war.
As the United States and its 18 NATO allies try to stop the ethnic slaughter in Kosovo before it spreads and claims more innocent lives, it is important to remember how the fighting in that region began.
The former Yugoslavia is home to many ethnic groups, standing as it does at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and the Middle East. The ingredients for conflict have always been present, but for the most part, people of different religions and ethnic groups have found ways to live together for generations.
The current violence began 10 years ago, when the leader of Serbia, Slobodan Milosevic, fanned the flames of ethnic division for his own personal political advantage and exploited the consequences to wage war on his neighbors and his own citizens.
What we are seeing now in Kosovo, as was the case earlier in Bosnia and Herzegovina, is nothing less than ethnic cleansing. Ethnic Albanian refugees, most of whom are Muslims, are streaming by the tens of thousands out of their homes, seeking refuge from the Serbian military and police forces who, they report, are burning homes and entire villages, destroying Albanian shops, separating men and boys from their families, executing them in cold blood, and rounding up and murdering community leaders. Those who are lucky enough to remain alive are told to leave Kosovo and never return again.
Last year, I met a doctor who worked with the refugees of the violence in Kosovo. She described what it was like to treat the displaced families as they came down from the mountains, scared and sick with disease and malnutrition. Even those who were not physically injured, she told me, bore the psychological scars of what they had seen and experienced.
All this began long before NATO launched its air strikes against the forces involved in the repression of this largely defenseless people. It is now clear that, while the Kosovars were engaged in peace negotiations in France with representatives of the Serbian government, President Milosevic was planning a campaign for the systematic destruction of Kosovo -- a plan that he is now executing. Had NATO stood by and done nothing, there is no doubt that he would not only have begun his current offensive, but he would have continued with impunity until he killed or displaced most of the Albanian population.
That is why my husband and our NATO allies are determined to persevere until Milosevic has embraced peace or we have significantly limited his ability to wage war.
Achieving a permanent peaceful solution to the tragedy in Kosovo will not come without a price. But we must do whatever it takes to ensure that ethnic tensions are resolved by the force of argument, not the force of arms.
It is no easy task to expand the circle of dignity to all people. As we have learned in the United States, and as I have seen in Morocco this week, governments can enforce rights and create a fertile climate for tolerance, but only individuals can decide whether to love or hate. Only individuals can decide whether there will be genuine harmony between those of different faiths, nationalities and ethnic groups.
In the last few days, I have asked some of the Moroccans I've met this question: "How do your children learn tolerance?" In each case, I've received the same answer: Children learn tolerance in their homes. They learn it in their schools. They learn it in their places of worship. And they learn it in their communities every time they see adults who refuse to stereotype or degrade other human beings.
It is time to learn this lesson and to teach our children to be tolerant and respectful of all people, to follow leaders who work for peace, and to make sure that the circle of human dignity is finally wide enough to include everyone.
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April 29, 1997