Lies, Damn Lies, and Maps:
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HOW NATO & THE MEDIA MISREPRESENTED THE
CHINESE EMBASSY BOMBING
Opponents of the war against
Serbia argue that much of what passes for news these days is really a kind of war
propaganda, that NATO puts out misinformation and the media disseminates the stuff
A case in point is the coverage of the bombing of
the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade. I download wire service reports from the AOL world news
database (accessible at aol://4344:30.WORLD.338815.464449182 if you are an AOL member.
This allows me to see exactly how wire services and newspapers change the news from hour
to hour. Very instructive for studying how misinformation is disseminated.
Studying misinformation is a special interest of
mine. If you'd like to see some of my previous work in this area, send me a note and I'll
email you The Emperor's Clothes, which analyzes how the NY Times misinformed its readers
about the bombing of a Sudanese pill factory in August, 1998.
Before we examine the news coverage of the
bombing of the Chinese Embassy, let me recount a very interesting report from a Chinese
intellectual, currently at Harvard's Kennedy Institute, who spoke on May 8th at the weekly
Boston anti-war rally (held at 3:00 every Sat. in Copley Square). The man had conferred
with people overseas and thus had direct knowledge of the attack on the Chinese Embassy.
He said three missiles had struck the Embassy compound, hitting three
apartments where one or both adult family members was a journalist. The missiles apparently carried a light explosive charge.
Why NATO Targeted Chinese Journalists - Why,
asked the speaker, did all three missiles strike journalists' apartments?
Clearly, he said, the goal was to punish China for sympathizing with the
Yugoslav people against NATO. More specifically,
the intention was to terrorize Chinese newspeople in Yugoslavia, thus silencing yet another non-NATO information
Does that seem too nightmarish to be true?
Keep in mind, NATO has consistently bombed
Serbian news outlets with the stated intention of silencing sources of "lying
propaganda." Why would it be so far-fetched for them to do the same to Chinese
Perhaps NATO wants to silence ALL non-NATO
reporting on the war, even at the risk of starting WW III.
Or perhaps NATO, or a part of NATO, such as the
U.S. government, wants to provoke a fight with China before China gets too strong to be
crushed? Let's take a look at the "news" coverage.
|Belgrade, ambulance: The injured Chinese journalists.
NATO spokesman Jamie Shea's first response to the
Embassy bombing was a) to apologize and b) to explain that the NATO missiles had gone
astray. NATO had intended to hit a building across the street, a building that houses what
SHEA called the "Federal Directory for the Supply and Procurement."
Said Shea: "I understand that the two buildings are close together." (Reuters, May 8)
(If they ever catch the terrorists who bombed the
US Embassy in Kenya and bring them to trial, could their legal team utilize the Shea
Defense which consists of a) first you say I'm very sorry and b) then you say you meant to
blow up the building across the street?)
But getting back to the "news" --
according to Jamie Shea the Chinese Embassy is close to the "Federal Directory for
the Supply and Procurement." But the Chinese Embassy is in fact located in the middle
of a large lawn or park in a residential neighborhood and:
|"The embassy stands alone in its own
grounds surrounded by grassy open space on three sides. Rows of high-rise apartment blocs
are located 200 (600 feet) metres away and a line of shops, offices and apartments sits
about 150 meters (450 feet) away on the other side of a wide tree-lined avenue,
[called]...Cherry Tree Street."
BUILDING? WHAT NEARBY BUILDING?
Apparently realizing that a "Federal
Directory for the Supply and Procurement" would not be placed in an apartment complex
-- or on a 1000 foot lawn - NATO spun a new story a few hours later:
|"Three NATO guided bombs which slammed into
the Chinese embassy in Belgrade overnight struck precisely at the coordinates programmed
into them, but it was not the building NATO believed it to be.
'They hit bang on the three aim points they were given,' a
military source said....
[NATO military spokesman General Walter] Jertz
declined to say what sort of weapon hit the Chinese embassy, except that it was 'smart' or
guided munitions and not free-fall bombs. He denied planners were 'using old maps, wrong maps.'"
(Reuters, May 8)
OK. Three smart missiles or bombs
hit the three locations they were supposed to hit. It was a misidentified target. And the
Pilot(s) wasn't misled by old or bad maps.
On the face of it, what is the likelihood of NATO
picking target coordinates that just happen to coincide with three apartments occupied by
journalists? I mean, one computer-guided bomb destroying a journalist's home would not be
unlikely. But three hitting three journalists' homes?
In the same Reuters story, another expert
suggests it would be highly unlikely for NATO to make the kind of mistake Jertz is
|"'Target identification and pilot
preparation would have been extensive in this case, because of the military importance of
the intended target and because Belgrade is heavily defended by Serb forces,' [Air Force
Maj. Gen. Charles Wald, a strategic planner for the Joint Chiefs of Staff] said at a
briefing for reporters. '
targeting works ... the higher the threat, the more valued the target, the more time you
would study it. The more time you have to study it, the better,' Wald said."
(Reuters, May 8)
Based on what Wald is saying here,
isn't it pretty much unlikely that an embassy would be mistaken for a "Federal
Directory for the Supply and Procurement?"
TOO MANY NAMES
Which brings us to yet another problem. Because
in the same MAY 8 Reuters Story the name of the place which NATO intended to bomb
mysteriously changes - not once but twice. Read the following quote from General Jertz
|"Careful to avoid making excuses, NATO
military spokesman General Walter Jertz said NATO went after the target because it thought
it was the weapons warehouse of the Federal Directorate for Supply and Procurement. 'The
information we had was that in this building was the headquarters of the Directorate, and
we have no evidence that we were misled,' he said."
So now the thing they thought they
were bombing was:
a) the Federal Directory for the Supply and Procurement;
b) Weapons warehouse of the Federal Directorate for Supply and Procurement; and
c) the headquarters of the Directorate.
No wonder they couldn't be misled. They couldn't
even name the place.
AND TOO MANY
NATO's next spin-control effort was an attempt to
simplify things. Retelling the story again a bit later on the 8th, AP reported that:
"The precision-guided weapon that hit the Chinese embassy in Belgrade apparently did
just what it was told. .." One weapon. That does make things more believable, unless
of course the reader has seen the previous stories that refer to Three missiles....Since
few people read multiple news stories about the same topic, and even fewer read them
carefully, moving from three to one missile is a pretty safe gambit.
But the problem still remains: how could NATO
targeteers, pouring over their maps, not notice the label CHINESE EMBASSY on a building
they were planning to bomb?
THE MAPS! IT WAS
NATO's answer: switch positions on the map
What was the source of "the erroneous B-2
bomber attack, which dropped several satellite-guided bombs on the embassy"?
Here's the latest explanation:
|"In mistakenly targeting the Chinese
Embassy in Belgrade Friday night, U.S. intelligence officials were working from an
outdated map issued before China built its diplomatic compound several years ago, American
and NATO authorities said yesterday. 'The tragic and embarrassing truth is that our maps
simply did not show the Chinese Embassy anywhere in that vicinity,' a senior NATO official
(Washington Post, May 10)
Let's consider the implications of
what we've just read.
First, the Post accepts without question NATO's
assertion that the embassy bombing was accidental. Indeed the Post doesn't mention the
highly newsworthy fact that the news media stories are so mutually contradictory.
Doesn't that tell us something
about these news agencies, about their attitude toward NATO and this war? That they are
really part of NATO's public relations effort, dutifully reporting whatever they are told
without pointing out the implications of NATO's ever-evolving explanations. Doesn't that suggest that we should be very skeptical about
other media coverage - for example, the stories "proving" the Serbs are
Second, the claim that using "old maps"
was the problem flatly contradicts an equally confident assertion made about 36 hours
earlier by a NATO spokesman, General Jertz. You remember: "He [that is, Gen. Jertz]
denied planners were 'using old maps, wrong maps.'" (Reuters, May 8)
Third, consider the phrase "outdated map
issued before China built its diplomatic compound several years ago. The phrase suggests
maps books or perhaps fold-up maps, the kind you take on a road trip. Is it conceivable
that NATO would be using such ancient technology? What's the matter, they can't afford
computers? They have no technical staff? We are after all talking about the combined armed
forces of the U.S. and most of Europe.
The whole focus of their attack on Serbia is
aerial bombardment. Aerial bombardment depends primarily on maps and intelligence. Doesn't
it fly in the face of rudimentary common sense -- indeed of sanity -- to believe that this
super-technological military force would have anything but the most sophisticated mapping
facilities, updated with satellite photos and local intelligence reports hourly, all of it
in computerized war rooms with giant screens, scores of technical personnel, etc.
And isn't it equally obvious, that that one thing
such an armed force would have at its finger tips would be exact information about
sensitive installations -- such as diplomatic facilities -- precisely to make sure they
did not get bombed?
Unless of course
NATO wanted them to be bombed.
And of all the diplomatic facilities in all of
Yugoslavia, wouldn't the one to which NATO would pay the most attention be the Chinese
Embassy in Belgrade - both because of China's immense world-importance and because it is
Belgrade's chief ally?
Of course NATO had up to date maps of the area
around the Chinese Embassy. And of every square inch inside the Embassy and complete
dossiers on all the people working in the Embassy as well. Fourth, since NATO claims it
decided to bomb the Embassy because of what the targeteers saw on these "old
maps" - just what did the targeteers see? We are told they didn't see the Embassy.
Did they see something else they wanted to attack and destroy? Just what was this
something else? Was it a building which housed some military facility? In the middle of a
1000 foot lawn in a residential section of the city? And if there is such a map with such a building, why doesn't
NATO produce this ancient document, and show it to us?
Fifth, the story says the bombs were delivered by
a "B-2 bomber." Don't the B-2's fly out of a U.S. base - I believe it's in
Missouri. So let us "be from Missouri" for a moment, and ask a couple of
Missouri (that is skeptical) questions:
a) Keeping in mind that NATO has air bases in
Italy - right near Yugoslavia - as well as aircraft carriers in nearby waters, is it
really believable that the U.S. government would send a super-expensive plane on an eight
hour flight to deliver three smart missiles or bombs to a relatively minor site in
Yugoslavia? (I say relatively minor because it took NATO two days to even get clear on the
name of the institution they meant to bomb...)
b) Having made the unbelievable decision to send
this plane on that mission, is it believable that the U.S. military would do such a thing
based on the information contained in some "outdated maps issued" years before?
And sixth -- did you notice we are once again
talking about multiple bombs or missiles?
LET US NOW REVIEW
According to NATO there were three -
NO, there was only one
smart bomb that hit the Chinese Embassy by
mistake because it missed a building across the street that houses the "Federal
Supply and Procurement Office" --
NO, that wasn't the problem. The missiles
(because we're back to three missiles again) didn't miss -- they hit right on target
except it turned out the target was all wrong, t wasn't the Federal Supply and Procurement
Office at all, it was the Chinese Embassy and somehow the targeteers got it all confused
but one thing is definite: the mix-up was not the result of using old maps.
But that's not right either because if a target
is important a great deal of care is taken, and given that this was such an important
target, even more care would be taken to make sure it really was the a) Federal Directory
for the Supply and Procurement and -
NO, that should be the b) Weapons Warehouse of
the Federal Directorate for Supply and Procurement,
NO, that isn't right either it wasn't just a
warehouse, it was the c) HEADQUARTERS of the Directorate and -
NO! Forget everything we've said so far. It was
the maps. The maps were very old so you couldn't tell that the building on that site was
an Embassy. And there were three missiles, of course. Who ever said anything about there
only being one?
And as for sending a B-2 bomber half way around
the world to carry out this mistaken attack on a target whose name nobody can get
straight, all I can say is: what damn fool went and admitted it was a B-2 bomber?
A PARK, AND OTHER
This writer has just spoken to a Serbian
gentlemen whose family lives a few blocks from the Embassy. He says the Embassy was built 4 or 5 years ago and
that prior to the building of the Embassy, the only thing there was: a park.
A letter from an American living in Belgrade says
the embassy is in area called New Belgrade (Novi Beograd), developed from sand marsh land
after W.W.II. She confirmed that the land on which the Embassy sits was unoccupied before
it was built. However, she says "park" is too fancy a term, that it was just a
huge lawn, with very few trees.
Therefore the notion that NATO could possess a
map drawn before the Chinese Embassy was built which showed any building occupying the
land on which the Embassy now stands is simply impossible. There was nothing there.
Therefore NATO is lying.
Since NATO is lying, what are we are left with?
There is the Chinese gentleman's explanation. There is the possibility that this bombing
is an intentional provocation, perhaps aimed at challenging China before China gets too
There is the possibility that NATO and or the
U.S. government was "delivering a message" to China - and to other would-be
independent governments - that independence will be punished with death.
Also, keep in mind that the bombing occurred at
the perfect time to disrupt German Prime Minister Schroder's visit to China. The trip had
economic motives and was also an attempt by Germany to enlist China in helping
"settle" the war on terms favorable to Germany.
When Schroder returned from China he gave a press
conference on May 19. Here's what the NY Times says:
|"At his news conference, even
before he took questions, Mr. Schroder also challenged Washington's official explanation
for the bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade - that target analysts relied on a
faulty street map -- by renewing his demand for a formal NATO inquiry into the bombing.
"Diplomats here say that Mr. Schroder, who just returned from China, was angry that a
trip he had long planned to herald his chairmanship of the European Union was transformed
into an official apology for the embassy bombing."
(NY Times, 5-20-99)
Was the attack intended to 'send a
message' not only to Beijing, but to Bonn?
In any case, it seems clear that the attack was
planned, and that to make sure it went precisely according to that plan, the most
sophisticated plane available was sent thousands of miles to deliver three small bombs. NATO deliberately blew up three apartments
inhabited by Chinese journalists in the Chinese Embassy. This was a high-tech execution.
|Students in Beijing light a candle to the dead journalists
The question is: What will NATO do
(Note to reader: If you wish to see the complete
text of the articles I have quoted from, drop me a line and I'll be glad to send them to
Please, take a look at Mr. Israel's web site at: http://www.emperors-clothes.com/.