Misguided Bombs and Accidental Collateral Damage
by Jan Baughman

I set out with the intention of quantifying the "accidental" bombings and the number of civilian injuries and deaths during the war in Yugoslavia, only to find the information sketchy, at best. In contrast, one can easily find information on the number of refugees and their location. We see their faces and learn their names and hear their stories on the nightly news. The unintended casualties are nameless, faceless; collateral damage. And the "accidents" and "mistakes" continue:

April 5 -- Attack on a residential area in Aleksinac kills 17

April 12 -- Southeastern Serbia, NATO missile strikes a passenger train killing at least 17

April 14 -- Attack on a civilian convoy in Djakovica mistakenly kills an estimated 75 refugees

April 23 -- Headquarters of Serbian Television and Radio attacked, 16 employees killed

April 27 -- NATO missiles strike a residential neighborhood in Surdulica killing at least 17

May 7 -- Belgrade: a B-2 bomber mistakenly hits the Chinese Embassy, 4 killed

Nis: Cluster bombs were accidentally dropped on a marketplace and clinic

May 13 -- Cluster bomb attack on a military command post in Korisa accidentally killed approximately 80 civilians

May 20 -- An errant bomb struck a Belgrade hospital, killing 3; the homes of the Spanish, Swedish and Norwegian ambassadors were accidentally hit

So, in these nine bombings alone, approximately 229 civilians were killed. In April, an ISSA fact-finding mission to Yugoslavia reported that there were between 500 to 1000 dead, with several thousand injured. That was one month and tens of thousands of bombs ago. NATO spokesman Jamie Shea stated on May 20: "We will continue to take every precaution we can to hit the military target and nothing but the military target." In the meantime, since I wrote the first draft of this article, we've mistakenly bombed an army base that the KLA had seized from the Yugoslav army, killing 7 and wounding 25...

The Guardian (John Pilger) reported on May 18, "Every day, three times more civilians are killed by NATO than the daily estimate of deaths of Kosovans in the months prior to the bombing". No one ever mentions that on the evening news.

Two recent quotes by Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon help to frame the rationalization and the continued disregard for the devastation we are inflicting on innocent people, allegedly in the name of "humanitarianism":

May 17 -- Ken Bacon estimated that one-third to one-half of all civilians killed in the NATO air campaign may have been deliberately placed around bombing targets. "What kind of person would use humans as shields?", he asked.

Excerpt from the Transcript of the Pentagon Briefing on "Operation Allied Force", May 21, 1999*:

..."I saw an AFP report based on a poll that was done in Yugoslavia, a poll, a survey of 750 people. It said that 96 percent of the people surveyed said they had been psychologically rattled by NATO's bombing campaign, and about close to 50 percent of them were either out of work or had lost work time because of NATO's bombing campaign, and about 40 percent of them had either moved away from their houses or were thinking of doing it because of NATO's bombing campaign."

"So clearly this campaign, although it's not at all aimed at civilians, is having a deep psychological impact on the country. We believe that that, combined with the major impact it's having on the forces on the ground in Kosovo and elsewhere, the forces throughout Yugoslavia, will begin to have an impact on the leadership."

I ask you this, Mr. Bacon: What kind of person would use humans as pawns?


Humanitarianism Relative to What?


*For full text of Pentagon briefing, see USIA.gov/regional/eur/balkans/kosovo/kosovo.shtml

Published May 23, 1999
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