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May 1997

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[THE GUARDIAN - 12 May 1997]

Letters - Our readers go to war over an attachment in Bosnia

Ed Vulliamy argues that journalists with "a sense of humanity" reject the neutrality in war in favour of, in Martin Bell's phrase, "the journalism of attachment" (Being there, May 9). He says he's pointed out for years that Western diplomats could have stopped the slaughter of children instead of appeasing barbarism.

But the bloodbath causing children's deaths was also fuelled by Western diplomats. In Bell's book, In Harm's Way, he shows how the Western recognition of Croatia in 1991 was viewed by some negotiators as causing the Bosnian war and, according to Bell, "condemned 200,000 people to death".

While attachment to life rather than death is common-sense, it does not follow that it is common-sense for journalists to be attached to a particular Western diplomatic or military strategy. Journalists may all agree that children should not die, but have different readings of events and therefore alternative solutions.

In any understanding of a war, analysis of the myriad factors propelling a country into war is paramount. Any one can be attached. What is important is on what basis a journalist takes sides.

William Woodger. Researcher, Journalists At War Project, London International Research Exchange, 127 Sussex Way, London N7 6RU.

Ed Vulliamy's main criticism of Welcome To Sarajevo seems to be that none of the film's creators "even set foot in Sarajevo until the nightmare was over". But he still thinks the film captures the horror of the siege and sends the right message - "that the West allowed this to happen". So, surely you don't have to have visited Sarajevo in order to know "the truth" about the war.

Lets have more films about the war in Bosnia, less sanctimonious breast-beating by Ed Vulliamy and tougher questions being asked. Like for instance, how possibly could a film about the helpless people of Sarajevo hold the key to understanding a war that ravaged the whole of Yugoslavia?

Richard Woolfenden. 53 Chesterford Road, London E12 6LD.

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