On the afternoon of October 23, IU faculty, students, and members of the Bloomington community gathered at the Hamilton-Lugar School of Global and International Studies for the First Annual McCloskey Forum. Organized by the REEI and co-sponsored by the McCloskey Fund, the Department of Political Science, the Institute for European Studies, and the Office of the Vice President for International Affairs, the event honored the memory of the late Frank McCloskey (1939-2003), an IU alumnus (A.B. 1968, J.D. 1971) who represented Indiana’s 8th District in Congress from 1983 to 1995 and also served as mayor of Bloomington from 1972 to 1982.
As a Democratic congressman who took a passionate interest in the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s, Frank McCloskey withstood the resistance of his party and the White House by persistently advocating for US action to stop the genocide in former Yugoslavia. His efforts spurred US involvement in the diplomatic process that eventually led to the Dayton Accords of 1995. After an unsuccessful re-election campaign in 1994, McCloskey continued to pursue an end to ethnic strife in the Balkans, making numerous trips to Bosnia and serving the National Democratic Institute as Kosovo Director.
The forum panelists shared a common background as close colleagues of Frank McCloskey: (retired) Congressman Lee Hamilton, Distinguished Professor of Practice in International Studies at Indiana University and member of the US House of Representatives from 1965 to 1999; Representative Ed Delaney, who has served in the Indiana House of Representatives since 2009 and represented the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina in arbitration hearings under the Dayton Peace Accords; and Professor Asim Mujkić, a philosopher and sociologist who chairs the Department of Philosophy within the Faculty of Political Science at the University of Sarajevo and, as the recipient of REEI’s McCloskey Fellowship, conducted research at Indiana University during the current semester. Each panelist shared memories of Frank McCloskey and discussed aspects of his legacy as a crusader for peace and democracy in the Balkans.
Representative Delaney delivered a short historical overview to contextualize the humanitarian crisis that unfolded in Bosnia upon the breakup of the former Yugoslavia. He then discussed the US political background to the intervention and arbitration that led to the Dayton Accords, addressing the tension between Frank McCloskey and many of his Democratic colleagues, as his eagerness for justice abroad dismayed many who favored a less active approach to the Bosnian War. While sharing some comedic and heart-warming anecdotes, Representative Delaney lauded Frank McCloskey’s commitment to justice and disposition to "act on valor not fear."
Professor Mujkić provided more specific context for the Bosnian War by situating the breakup of Yugoslavia within a growing tide of nationalism that began to sweep across Europe with the disintegration of the Eastern Bloc in 1989 and the buildup thereto. With the fall of Communism in the background, the rhetoric of hope and liberation that accompanied the reestablishment of national independence disguised the proliferation of far-right militant groups set on reconstituting ethnic-based national identities. Together with re-nationalization projects came economic shock therapy measures and growing tension across Central and East Europe. As a constitutionally plural, ethnic republic, Bosnia (now independent of Yugoslavia) struggled and ultimately failed to withstand the growing waves of nationalism that emerged in the wake of a precipitous drop in living standards and political opportunism from nationalist leaders. It was in his hometown of Brčko that Professor Mujkić first met Frank McCloskey upon the latter’s arrival in Bosnia, when Bosnian Muslims lacked any means to defend themselves amidst sieges, mass murder and rape and looked toward Western Europe and the United States for intervention. Professor Mujkić served as the congressman’s guide, translator, and mediator during the course of subsequent visits to Bosnia during which Frank McCloskey won the admiration and gratitude of Bosnians for his courage, initiative, and significant role in bringing an end to the conflict.
“The thing I admire [most] about Frank was his sense of justice and response to victims of injustice,” remarked Congressman Lee Hamilton as he shared some concluding thoughts on Frank McCloskey. Reiterating Frank’s propensity for action and uncompromising nature, qualities that won him the deep esteem of friends, colleagues, and political opponents alike, Congressman Hamilton echoed Delaney and Professor Mujkić in citing Frank’s actions in Bosnia as a courageous response in opposition to complacency and hesitation on behalf of many in the US House and Senate. Eventually, with no small part played by McCloskey’s insistence and passion, representatives from both sides of the spectrum responded to the call and the US intervened in Bosnia. Congressman Hamilton made clear the significance of a Hoosier congressman taking initiative to intervene against injustice miles away, reflecting the adage that injustice anywhere threatens justice everywhere. Concluding with audience questions, the well-attended First Annual McCloskey Forum testified to the significance of area studies programs in emphasizing global awareness as well as the role of Hoosiers in keeping social justice on the agenda in an increasingly individualistic world.