Those are traits you'd rarely associate with politicians. But that is how I would describe former Representative Frank McCloskey. He died yesterday of bladder cancer. He was 64.
Despite his humility and simplicity, this Catholic, a Democrat who represented Indiana's 8th district until 1995, was the moral voice for Bosnia. McCloskey had no family or political connections in Bosnia. He did not profit from any post-war contracts. He did not have a Bosnian constituency in his district. Yet, he stood tall in Congress as the moral voice of America in favor of saving lives in the genocide of Bosnia. This was a very courageous and unusual stand at a time when our government was busy denying genocide, when Europeans were mum, and an Indian national UN commissioner was hiding the news of concentration camps for more than six months.
"In the wider world, a Milosevic victory will expose the end of America's military commitment to European peace and security," he wrote in the June 1993 issue of the magazine The Washington Report On Middle East Affairs. "It will reduce the power of the United Nations and the U.N. Security Council to that of the League of Nations in the 1930s. It will poison relations between the West and the Muslim world, and strengthen fundamentalist extremism in the latter. It will embolden aggressors and extreme nationalists everywhere, and drive them and their potential victims into arms races."
McCloskey was also determined to bring the crimes against Bosnians to light at a time when certain quarters were interested in covering up the concentration camps, rapes, torture, and murder.
"Milosevic's genocidal aims and utter bad faith are perfectly clear," he wrote in the Washington Report article. "The inadequacy of diplomacy, trade sanctions, and U.N. 'peacekeeping' to deter, contain, or reverse Milosevic's genocidal aggression is flagrant."
McCloskey also criticized then-president Bill Clinton's way of dealing with the conflict, going so far as to call for the resignation of Warren Christopher, who was then secretary of State.
In addition, he called for Serb leaders, especially President Slobodan Milosevic, to be brought to trial for war crimes.
McCloskey lost the election as Republican storm troopers took over Congress in 1994. His opponent declared him a congressman from Bosnia, accusing him of neglecting his constituency.
I met McCloskey only once, long after he had lost the election but won peace a chance in Bosnia. When I thanked him for his work, his response was as humble as he looked. He did regret losing his seat in Congress, but thought it was more due to a nationwide Republican mobilization than his opponent’s campaigning against his work in Bosnia. His sincerity towards the cause of Bosnia struck me as an extension of his honest personality.
He had agreed to speak at the Bosnia rally in Washington DC organized by the Bosnia Task Force, USA. He was, however, stopped by a member of his staff who thought that his standing with Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) on the same stage was wrong because of Yusuf Islam’s "controversial" position on Salman Rushdie. The staff member said it could be used by his opponents against the Congressman. McCloskey, nevertheless, personally called the office of Bosnia Task Force, USA to show his regret and full support for the cause.
On behalf of the now defunct Bosnia Task Force, USA, its volunteers, the Bosnian and the Muslim community in the USA, I would like to express my deep sorrow to the family of Frank McCloskey. I pray that we have more moral voices like his in America for the cause of justice in all quarters of the world. It is individuals like him who can once again make America great by being good.
Abdul Malik Mujahid was national coordinator of Bosnia Task Force, USA. This was an alliance of almost all national organizations of Muslims in the US, as well as Masjids across the country. BTF led the effort to mobilize America to stop the genocide in Bosnia with a rally attended by more than 50,000 people in Washington DC. It also led the move to declare rape a war crime. The Islamic Shura Council of North America was formed at the invitation of Bosnia Task Force, USA.