Only a few years later, Kerry backed U.S. intervention in two bloody struggles in the Balkans: first in Bosnia, then in Kosovo. "History has taught us that we can't sit idly by while people commit these incredible evil acts against humanity," the Boston Globe quoted Kerry as saying in response to Serb attacks on Bosnian civilians in Sarajevo in 1994.
"There are basic interests at stake," he added. Aides who worked for Kerry during the Balkan crises said he saw them as significantly different from the war against Iraq: They threatened to destabilize Europe but could be contained with less risk to U.S. forces, they said.
But Kerry appeared to be moved mainly by the specter of genocide against the Muslim population. The memories of Rwandans slaughtering one another while major powers averted their eyes were still vivid for many lawmakers, including Kerry, and they didn't want to see it happen again, the aides said.
In addition, there was a Democrat in the White House -- unlike in 1991 -- and some Republicans were trying to score political points off President Bill Clinton's handling of the Balkan crises, they said. Kerry rode to the aid of the Clinton administration in the major congressional showdown over Bosnia, helping lead the fight in the Senate against lifting an arms embargo on Bosnia, a move that major U.S. allies also vigorously opposed.
He argued that lifting the arms embargo would help the Serbs and compel the British- and French-led peacekeeping force to withdraw.
"This is a policy that's an epitaph for Bosnia, and it basically says, 'We ignored you for a few years, then we lifted the embargo after we did you damage, and we wished you good luck. Have a nice war,' " he said. Congress passed the anti-embargo bill, but Clinton vetoed it.