the lost american INTERVIEW WITH LARRY HOLLINGWORTH - EXCERPTS

Hollingworth retired from the British Army after 32 years, threw away his
razor blade and went off to Bosnia to work with the United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees. As a logistics officer he was involved in many of
the same issues that were facing Fred Cuny but from the UN side of the fence.
His book, Merry Christmas, Mr. Larry, recounts his experiences in
Bosnia.

FRONTLINE Producer Sherry Jones: Fred had, as you know, a long history of coming up against the United Nations and specifically UNHCR, for which you worked. Were his criticisms fair in the situation in Bosnia and Sarajevo.

LH: I think so. I think his criticisms were fair. But what Fred always tended to forget is that the United Nations whether he likes it or not, it is a Larry Hollingworthpolitical body and there is a political angle to everything. And no matter which aid agency you're in, your masters eventually have to answer politically. And Fred never ever saw that. Fred's attitude was to go through the wall and do it because this is the humanitarian way to do it. And a lot of us agreed with that. But no matter how much of a maverick you are within the United Nations you nevertheless still have to conform to some of its rules and regulations. And at the end of the day you masters have a political slant and they will impose upon the plan.

FRONTLINE: How could he not understand that?

LH: I think he understood it but he didn't want to understand it. He didn't want to accept it. He thought that you could short circuit it and get better results.

FRONTLINE: Give some examples of the things that were frustrating him, making him angry, that perhaps people like you agreed with.

LH: Fred would say if something is needed here let's put in here. Whereas from the United Nations point of view you'd have to say okay let's put it there, but what happens if when we're putting it there the other two sides say you can't put it there. Are we on one side. Are we on all sides. Shall we build three of them. The other point is that if we put it there and somebody blows it away, do we buy a new one, and put a new one there? Fred's attitude would have been put it there and tell everybody leave that alone, and that's it. That's the only one you're getting. Leave it alone, everything's okay. And then he would walk away and, and it would be left there. Now we were aware of the fact that every time we did something, it was blown out, moved and shifted. Again I think because we were the United Nations people are toying with this, this powerful organization. You're being twisted and shunted and pushed because they want to try to get you to respond, they want you to carry out a plan which is best for them. Now Fred was completely devoid of all of this. Fred's was single minded. We'll do it this way. And this is the result we're going to get.

FRONTLINE: Do you think that in this situation the West, the United Nations should have been neutral?

LH: My own view is you can never be neutral wherever you go. And you can never be seen to be neutral because whichever crisis you're in, you're going to be feeding one side or another at some time of the day. And when you're feeding one side, the other side won't like it. The fact that you may actually give exactly the same to the second side as you give to the first side doesn't make any difference. Whilst you're delivering it or giving it you'll be criticized by the other side. And in a case like Bosnia where there were three sides, you could never get it right.

FRONTLINE: There's not a soul that I've talked to who lived in Sarajevo during the siege who doesn't criticize the West in general, the United States in particular, for not standing up to the bullies, not standing up to the Serbs.

LH: I think everybody would agree with that. I mean there's no question if you lived in the city as we did and you could look around the hills and you could see the guns in the hills and then you could hear them firing into the blocks of flats and whatever, you'd say ... well, we all said to ourselves, "What is going on? Is this really 1992 and 1993, 1994. Can it be possible that there is somebody up in the hills just shelling innocent people." And the answer is: It was possible. It was absolutely true. And it was happening. When indeed America did decide to do something, of course it changed the whole scene. IFOR, SFOR, has done what should have been done in the first place. No question about that. It needed American involvement from the start. You can't just make noises. You have to get out and put people on the ground and do the job. And I have no doubt in my mind if you'd done that earlier on, the whole war would have been foreshortened.

FRONTLINE: Why didn't we do it?

LH: I don't know. I have no idea at all. I mean certainly Mr. Clinton was aware of it because he was sort of making a lot of noises. "Oh yes, let's arm the Muslims, let's arm the Bosnians." As if that was going to solve everything. What was needed was strength, and no one was prepared to show the strength that was needed.

FRONTLINE : In that kind of situation it sounds like what Fred was doing was right in a sense.... he was railing against the inaction of his own government.

LH: Fred was a very frustrated man. He had worked in lots and lots of theaters where Uncle Sam had produced marvelous results. He knew the capability of American money and American force and American strength and he realized it just wasn't coming.

FRONTLINE: Why do people like you and Fred spend your lives going to the world's worst places?

LH: It's exciting. I think that's a fact. But also it's where the greatest need is. If you have these skills and if you want to display these skills and you want to use your skills, that's the best place to be. But also I have no doubt about it, it is the fact that it is exciting. It's the same reason why the journalists get hooked on war zones and whatever. There is a very special buzz about operating in places which have a high crisis and a high risk. And I just think Fred certainly was set on fire by it, that's for sure.



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