Karen Clancy is torn between two realities about Bosnia.
The Spokane day-care operator is a single mother with an 18-year-old son training to be an Army medical supply specialist. Due home for Christmas, he’s already being warned to be ready to go to the Balkans.
“I do believe we do have a moral obligation to help those people,” Clancy said. “But here I am - a mother, concerned about sending my son off into the unknown of what could be another Vietnam. It’s very personal. And it’s very scary.”
Clancy was among some 50 readers Tuesday who called The Spokesman-Review’s comment line to express an opinion on President Clinton’s plans to send U.S. troops to Bosnia as part of a NATO peacekeeping force.
By nearly 3-to-1, callers in the unscientific survey opposed the plan. For many, the reactions were visceral.
“Not only no, but hell no,” said Fred Lange of Pullman, a former Air Force pilot who flew combat missions in Vietnam.
He spent part of Tuesday calling members of Congress to express his opposition to a military campaign in a land where he feels America has no national interest.
“At least in Vietnam, you knew you were fighting the Viet Cong,” added Lange, a retired ROTC professor at Washington State University. “In Bosnia, whose side are you on?”
Bill Huston of Naples, Idaho, a veteran of Vietnam and Korea, said he’d go to jail rather than go to Bosnia if he were still in the military.
Francis Garrett, a Spokane retiree, said Clinton should be charged as an accomplice to murder if an American serviceman or woman dies.
“It’s a horrible situation, but we have horrible situations on our doorstep,” said Valley resident Carol Bray, a school aide in special education.
Her 24-year-old daughter is an Army nurse in Wiesbaden, Germany, preparing to go to Bosnia as early as next week. Samantha Bray is upbeat; her mother is terrified.
“I wonder if Mr. Clinton would be so quick to jump the gun if (his daughter) Chelsea was over there,” Carol Bray said.
Although initially opposed to using U.S. troops to fight Iraq, Bray helped organize a yellow ribbon campaign after the troops were sent to the Middle East. If they go to Bosnia, she hopes the troops will have public support, even if Americans disagree with Clinton.
Callers feared troops would be easy targets for the warring factions, doubted they would be able to leave in a year, and questioned Clinton’s competence and motivation.
“If it were somebody with actual military experience, I’d view it differently,” said Vickie Huling of Newport, a homemaker and part-time school bus driver. “He’s clueless.”
Jen Brodie of Newman Lake said she listened hard to Clinton’s Monday night speech for some justification for the plan.
“I didn’t hear any,” said Brodie, a registered nurse at Sacred Heart Medical Center. “He never mentioned Vietnam when he talked - I wonder how he can explain his draft dodging.”
But other callers said they support the Bosnia plan as the best chance to end atrocities.
“We owe the people who are still alive some help,” said Jean Caldwell, an Ephrata retiree. “If we don’t do something, it could get worse.”
Echoed Billie Randall of Post Falls: “The president already promised to send help. I think help is needed, and it’s important for us to be there.”
Putting Americans in harm’s way is a concern, said Julian Powers, an environmental activist from Spokane.
“But the alternative is much worse,” Powers said. “The conflict has the possibility to spread.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Graphic: Send U.S. troops to Bosnia?