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An honest mistake:

NATO, Describing Village as Army Post, Admits Strike

The New York Times, May 15, 1999



BRUSSELS -- NATO said Saturday that it had carried out an attack on a military command post in southern Kosovo and acknowledged that civilians were accidentally killed in the attack.

The Yugoslav Government says that more than 80 civilians were killed in the Thursday night raid, which took place in the village of Korisa. President Slobodan Milosevic used the incident to appeal for an end to the allied air strikes.

Those numbers could not be verified, but if they are accurate, the strike on Korisa would be one of the war's worst examples of the accidental killing of civilians [by now].

Allied officials said that four United States F-16's were involved in the attack, which focused on a military compound that contained military vehicles and dug-in artillery pieces, about 1,000 yards from the village.

NATO said it had not been aware that ethnic Albanian refugees were in the area, and allied officials suggested that Serbian forces might have invited them into the area to use them as "human shields" against allied air attacks.

"We have a report from the K.L.A. that says the refugees were brought into the area where the targets were," a senior NATO official said. [Could it be that KLA, as a side in the conflict - could be biased?]

Allied officials also said that Serbian soldiers and police officers might have been among those killed.

Still, the NATO attack raised the question of whether allied targeting procedures are adequate to deal with a confusing battlefield in which bands of refugees are often interspersed with Serb forces.

Homeless and hungry Albanians have been roaming the devastated province...

Allied officials said that they could not say definitely how the refugees came to the target area near Korisa, but that NATO's goal is avoid attacks on civilians [sic]. In the case of Korisa, NATO's targeting and intelligence procedures fell short.

NATO officials said they had received human [KLA again?] and electronic intelligence in recent weeks that Albanians had been forced out of the Korisa area and that it was being used by the Serbian military. It was also in a region of heavy fighting.

By the time the attack occurred -- just before midnight on Thursday -- the refugees were back in the area.

The pilots' night targeting system detected dug-in military equipment, the silhouettes of armored vehicles and earthen walls, another military preparation, but not the civilians.

The forward air controller in the lead F-16 dropped a GBU-12 500-pound laser-guided bomb. A second pair of F-16's dropped another GBU-12 [500 pound bomb!] and 6 M-82 gravity bombs.

KORIS, Yugoslavia (Reuters) - Tractors burn after the village of Korisa was bombed Friday. NATO said on Friday 14 May it was checking Serb reports that 100 civilians were killed when it hit Yugoslavia overnight with the heaviest raids of its seven-week bombing campaign.

Reuters Photo

"NATO identified Korisa as a military camp and command post," an alliance statement said. "NATO deeply regrets accidental [Albanian!] civilian casualties that were caused by this attack."

Since its mistaken attack last month on a group of refugees near Djakovica, NATO's spokesmen have made an effort to rapidly and accurately explain mistakes.

NATO was quick to acknowledge today that it had struck civilians. But the account its spokesmen provided was sketchy and partly inaccurate, including erroneous information about the number of aircraft involved and how many bombs were dropped. The Pentagon provided a more accurate and detailed account Saturday afternoon.

NATO has stepped up its air strikes to pressure President Milosevic to withdraw his troops from Kosovo and meet other allied demands.

For the last week, the brunt of the effort has been against Serbian forces in Kosovo. There have been no strikes against targets in central Belgrade since a United States B-2 bomber attacked the Chinese Embassy on May 7, in a mistaken sortie guided by faulty maps.

NATO officials say they have not put new limits on strikes in Belgrade. They say military commanders are being careful to double-check targets in the Yugoslav capital and are concentrating on the Serbian forces in Kosovo because of good weather.

With 40,000 Serbian soldiers and police officers in Kosovo, the air campaign appears to be a grinding battle of attrition. And with Serbian units stationed near houses and churches, NATO's attacks also carry the risk of more civilian casualties.

NATO insists that it takes extensive precautions to limit civilian casualties for moral reasons [sic!] and because they have become a major tool for Belgrade in its public relations offensive against the alliance's military campaign [of mass murder at random (Our comment)].

Still, allied warplanes accidentally bombed a group of refugees who were interspersed in a Serbian military column [a blunt lie - counting on lack of memory] near Djakovica. They accidentally dropped a load of cluster bombs on a marketplace and clinic in Nis on the same day the Chinese Embassy was hit.

It has been very difficult to determine the real extent of civilian casualties. When NATO accidentally bombed civilian vehicles near Djakovica, the Belgrade authorities said 75 people had been killed. Foreign journalists who were brought to the scene saw far fewer bodies.

More incidents are virtually inevitable.

"This is war," said Maj. Gen. Charles Wald, the operations director for the Joint Chiefs of Staff declared at the Pentagon briefing.

NATO nations, however, insist that they are not waging a war against Yugoslavia but are merely conducting a military campaign to pressure the Milosevic to accept [Rambouillet] settlement. General Wald quickly realized his slip of the tongue.

[It is "pressure" of 500 pound bombs only... not a war!]

"It's combat, as I said," he immediately corrected himself.
(End quote).

War in The Balkans -

'It all went very well,' said the general. 'Another effective day'

[British] The Independent, 15 May 1999

By Rupert Fisk


A massacre on the road to Prizren, more than 100 civilians - most of them ethnic Albanians - torn apart in the village of Korisa, stories of women and children ripped apart by Nato cluster bombs. And how did Nato kick off its three o'clock follies yesterday afternoon? Without a single word about these frightful reports, not a single bloody word of astonishment or compassion.

Instead, Jamie Shea and his Luftwaffe general droned on about Nato's successful operations over Kosovo. "They went very well," Major-General Walter Jertz informed us. "It was another very effective day of operations."

KORIS, Yugoslavia (Reuters) - An ethnic Albanian boy cries Friday, May 14, in the village of Korisa in southwestern Kosovo. NATO said on Friday it was checking Serb reports that 100 ethnic Albanian civilians were killed when it hit Yugoslavia overnight with the heaviest raids of its seven-week bombing campaign. The town was hit with eight cluster bombs, according to Yugoslav sources. Each bomb releases up to 200 "bomblets", which are the size of a soft drink can and are capable of destroying an area the size of a football field.

Reuters Photo

In Saigon, during the Vietnam War, they had the five o'clock follies. In the 1991 Gulf War, the Americans boasted of their military successes at the four o'clock follies. In Brussels, Nato's follies start at three o'clock. But yesterday, the Shea and Jertz show was theatre of the obscene.

Indeed, as we all waited to hear Nato's reaction to what might be its most terrible bloodbath to date... a Nato technician projected a massive test slide on to the screen next to the 19 flags of the alliance. "They say we're young and we don't know - won't find out until we grow," the words said on the screen. Were these lines from the Sonny and Cher song supposed to be gallows humour or just monumental ill-taste? The moment Shea and Jertz walked to the podium, we knew.

"We still see no indications of a Serb ground force redeployal (sic)," General Jertz announced. Forty tons of supplies had reached the Red Cross at Pristina. "I can assure you we will do everything possible to ensure the safe passage of these convoys."

All of us in the darkened Joseph Luns auditorium at Nato headquarters were holding our breath. Several journalists (the television coverage never shows this, of course) shook their heads in disbelief. There had, it seemed, been no safe passage in Kosovo. We were thinking of the first reports coming in - of Nato cluster bombs bursting amid 500 Albanian refugees, many of them children, of a massacre that would make even the Prizren-Djakovica slaughter in April small scale. We wanted to know about those who were young but would never grow.

But no, General Jertz of the Luftwaffe - or the "German Air Force" as we are for some reason encouraged to call it here - wanted to tell us that there had been 679 Nato missions over Yugoslavia in 24 hours, that there had been attacks on oil refineries, electricity stations, and the Batajnica airfield.

The same day - another mistake: Experts in Sophia Saturday, May 15, 1999 inspect part of the missile which landed Friday near Bulgaria's border with Yugoslavia... The projectile struck some two kilometers (1.2 miles) from the village of Varbovo, 10 kilometers (6 miles) east of the border with Yugoslavia, making a six meter (18 foot) wide crater. It was the sixth missile to go astray and hit Bulgarian territory since NATO launched its air campaign against neighboring Yugoslavia.

(AP Photo/Dimitar Deinov)

Projected on to the slide screen - incredibly - were the words "A GOOD DAY". Then Mr Shea - the Horatio Bottomley of Nato - launched into his usual denunciations of Serb atrocities, exhuming some old pictures of alleged mass graves and some (slightly) newer ones of burnt villages.

He quoted from old human rights and newspaper articles and managed to mispronounce the names of seven Kosovo villages. "God knows, frankly, what we are going to find when Kosovo is open," he said, solemnly shaking his head.

God knows, I'm sure, what Mr Shea was thinking; he was far more frightened of what Western journalists - bused to the scene by the Serb authorities - would find in the village of Korisa. Fifty tractors had been destroyed in the attack, the Serbs were reporting, close to an area that had been the scene of sustained Nato attack.

It was, you see, significant that Mr Shea had not mentioned - had not alluded for a second - to these extraordinary reports. Had he thought for a moment that the Serbs had slaughtered these people, he would have told us all he knew. But he was silent. A colleague muttered in my ear that when Mr Shea was asked about the reported massacre, he would express no compassion for the dead but "promise another of his full and thorough investigations".

And when at last he was asked, Mr Shea expressed no compassion for the dead but promised "a full and thorough investigation". He hoped, he added sarcastically, that the journalists bused to the village by the Serbs would "insist on their right to go around freely and do their own research" - Mr Shea is now apparently a professor of journalism as well as Nato flak - and that they would investigate "ethnic cleansing" in the nearby town of Prizren. "You know Nato - we give the truth on these issues, every single time, the full facts."

But it doesn't. Nato does not give "the full facts" (or "the full fax" as Mr Shea keeps saying).

It lies. When I asked for Nato's reaction to the KLA appointment of one of the most notorious ethnic cleansers as its new military commander - Agim Ceku, one of the planners of Croatia's ethnic cleansing of 300,000 Serbs in Krajina - Mr Shea said he had no comment because "Nato has no direct contact with the KLA".

This is totally untrue. Nato liaises with the KLA, holds security and intelligence meetings with its commanders, maintains radio contact with KLA men in Kosovo. Nato officials (including J Shea Esq) regularly announce KLA operations with approval.

When I asked General Jertz if Nato was using depleted uranium munitions in Serbia, he said it had not done so for two weeks but that depleted uranium is harmless. This, too, is a lie. There is growing evidence that the dust from spent depleted uranium shells has caused an epidemic of cancers in southern Iraq and may well be a cause of Gulf War syndrome.

British weapons testing sites are meticulously washed down after depleted uranium test- firings, their contents sealed in concrete. Nothing to worry about, said the general. "You find uranium in all sorts of things - in rocks, soil ..." No harm could be caused by the use of such shells, Mr Shea added. So much for the deformed babies now being born in Basra. And so much, I suppose, for the contaminated homes of Kosovo to which Nato claims it will return all of the Albanian refugees.

I kept wondering what this whole farce reminded me of. Here were the two Nato men recording, minute after minute, hour after hour, day after day, the destruction of the Kosovo population... the symbol none the less of Nato's total, abject failure in the Balkans. Every day, they tell us about mass graves and death and torture. And I recalled after a while what it all reminded me of - the discreet voices, the dipped lights, the flags hanging like dead flowers behind the podium, even the sinister iron Death Star, which stands grimly outside Nato headquarters. It reminded me of an undertaker's office.

The mock soul-searching, the old pictures, the expressions of regret. The cockney and the general were the morticians, as unable to contemplate an end to Nato's bombardment of Serbia as they were to arrest old age or find a cure for death.

Kosovo is dead. Its people are dead or dispossessed. For investigation, read autopsy. And after a while it dawned on me, as it has dawned on others attending these preposterous gatherings, that we are being prepared for the death of Nato.
(End quote).

Professor Dr. Michel Chossudovsky


Following a familiar pattern, NATO initially denied the bombings and attempted to cover-up the incident by blaming the Serbs:

"Officials at NATO headquarters, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there was no immediate indication that allied aircraft were involved and claimed there had been Serb shelling near the village as well".

A spokesman for NATO's SHAPE military command centre stated on the 14th of May:

"We are not confirming or denying it. There are a lot of strikes in that area and for that reason it's a possibility." Another spokesman said: "This is a dirty war. We certainly cannot take what the Serbs tell us as the plain truth."
(quoted in the Daily Telegraph, 15 May 1999).

In response to journalists, Jamie Shea, NATO spokesperson stated that:

"NATO does not target civilians, that is it, let's be perfectly clear about that... but I am not going to speak on this incident until I have the facts, until I have the full story. But when I do have the full story I will give it to you. You know NATO, we give the truth on these issues, every single time..."
(NATO, 14 May Press Conference).


After foreign journalists had fully reported the casualties, NATO was subsequently obliged to issue a carefully worded text which acknowledged that NATO had "attacked the convoy" while stating that the village was "a legitimate military target" because it was being used as "a military camp and command post... The pilot validated the target prior to the strike" (NATO Statement, Backgrounder Press Conference, 15 May 1999).

In the Korisa incident as in previous bombings, civilian casualties were presented by NATO as "the necessary price to pay". Killing people is inevitable in carrying out a "humanitarian operation" on behalf of ethnic Albanians. In addition to the use of cluster bombs, Kosovar Albanians have been bombed (since the onslaught of the air operation) with toxic radioactive missiles and shells using depleted uranium.

The bombings in Korisa were casually downplayed and justified by NATO as inevitable "collateral damage". Included below are sections of the Transcript of the NATO Backgrounder Press of May 15th:

Question: Can you tell us how far this apparently large group of refugees was from the military positions that were attacked? How far exactly, was it close, was it at a distance? And can you tell us either if the pilot did not see those tractors or took them for military vehicles?

Peter Daniel [NATO Spokesperson]: We had a legitimate military target, it was a command post with artillery, riveted positions. The riveted positions were validated by the pilot prior to the strike.


Question: Are you assuming at this point that you by mistake - I don't know exactly how - attacked those refugees and those tractors?

Peter Daniel: I am telling you, as we put out in our statement this morning, that we believed this to be - and do believe this to be - a legitimate military target that was validated according to the procedures prior to the pilot launching his strike.

Question: But you also regret the civilian victims that fell there accidentally so do you assume that NATO bombs were responsible for that?

Peter Daniel: Look! We regret all civilian loss of life wherever it might be. This is a statement that we made. People have claimed there has been loss of life, we regret the loss of life, civilian or military for that matter.

Question: Do you assume that you were responsible for the civilian victims on the scene, Sir?

Peter Daniel: I cannot address that question. I can tell you that we were striking what we believed to be - what we validated to be - a legitimate military target. We're not on the ground, you're not on the ground. It would be nice to be able to go there and examine exactly what did happen. We know through our pilots that this target was on the list, it was validated according to the procedures prior to the strike being launched and that is what we know...

Question: Could you have a go at explaining to us exactly what "validating the target" means? It's a phrase you've used a couple of time now and I don't understand it.

Peter Daniel: As I understand it, another word I could use would be "eyeball".
(NATO, Backgrounder Transcript, 15 May 1999)

In response to further questions, the NATO spokesperson was unable to concretely describe the command post or identify how much artillery was there:

Question: You can't say more about this command post?

Peter Daniel: I can't_.

Question: ..the activities of this command post in the area? Peter Daniel: I cannot say any more.

Question (inaudible):

Peter Daniel: I think, as I told the gentleman there, validating means you look at it.

Question: What about the procedures for the pilot?

Peter Daniel: That you would have to ask an air force person, I can't answer that but I'm sure that somebody from the military side would be willing to talk you through what the procedures are, I can't answer that question. In response to a further question pertaining to the activities of the presumed command post:

Peter Daniel: "There is movement constantly on the ground of people and we've shown you some pictures yesterday of some of the people that we could see from the air but the way we do these things is that this was not a last-minute "We're gonna hit this!" This was on the target list, was a validated target, we believed this, as we put out in our statement, to be a military command post with artillery and other equipment there and Serb military forces. I remember in the early days sitting in the back of the room while Jamie was constantly badgered as to why we weren't hitting the forces in Kosovo, the people doing the killing for weeks and weeks and we told you how this campaign was going to unfold, that we had various phases that we were going to go through and that we would eventually be hitting those forces doing the killing, the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo and hitting them hard and now that is exactly what we're doing and we're trying to do it in a way that minimises to the maximum extent possible any collateral damage. I don't know how many times we've addressed this question over the last 53 days. This is something that we make every effort to avoid. In this particular case, it is a military target, a legitimate military target with military equipment, validated in the regular way as procedures would dictate by these pilots, there was forward air control on this mission and we told you in the statement what we believe and have received in the way of information from the pilots.


Question: I may have missed this bit but could you just tell us if you know what time the attack took place and how many bombs were dropped? Secondly, just to get the thrust of what you are saying politically, are you saying that because this was a military target that the collateral damage was essentially a price that was worth paying, that you don't actually regret this in hindsight or what?

Peter Daniel: I can absolutely and categorically disagree with the last statement you made. This was approached in a professional way, it was identified as a military target, it was on the list, it was validated and it was struck and we have gone through the entire night in trying to back-track through the whole system as to what exactly happened here and you can ask questions formulated in any way you wish and I am going to give you the same answer because that is the answer.".
(NATO, Backgrounder Transcript, 15 May 1999)

Copyright, Michel Chossudovsky, Ottawa, 1999. Permission is granted to post this text on noncommercial community internet sites, provided the essay remains intact and the copyright note is displayed. To publish this text in printed and/or other forms contact the author at chossudovsky@sprint.ca, fax 1-514-4256224 .

Michel Chossudovsky Professor of Economics, University of Ottawa Member of the Ad Hoc Committee to Stop Canada's Participation in the War in Yugoslavia

Voice 613-5625800, Ext. 1415
email chossudovsky@sprint.ca

Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting Media analysis, critiques and news reports


Networks Need to Be Skeptical of Both Sides Reporters Repeated NATO Falsehoods on Refugee Bombing

May 21, 1999

In the latest in a series of "accidental" bombings of Yugoslavian civilians by the U.S., at least 87 ethnic Albanians were killed May 13 in the Kosovo village of Korisa. But the Pentagon did not admit that it had in fact bombed the village until several days later; during the first news cycle, when the story was big news, U.S. and NATO officials advanced a variety of cover stories in order to deny or reduce its guilt. And network news media were all too eager to carry these false stories.

Here's NBC's Jim Miklaszewski on May 14, the day after the bombing, reporting that NATO officials are "fairly certain" they didn't bomb the village:

"NATO's still investigating, but privately, Pentagon officials believe the Serbs attacked the village with mortars or small artillery, and then laid the blame on NATO."

Meanwhile, officials were "privately" giving ABC an entirely different story. Here's ABC's John Cochran on the same night:

"Privately, though, U.S. officials say American planes apparently did bomb Korisa, where they say there were legitimate military targets, including troops and anti-aircraft artillery. NATO analysts are looking at the possibility that, after the bombing, the Serbs shelled the town with artillery to make the devastation appear even worse. The analysts say the pictures from the scene do not seem to match the damage they believe was caused by the bombs."

Why did officials lead the networks to such divergent conclusions? First, when you hear about such NATO "investigations," keep in mind that in modern warfare, planes drop bombs on specified targets whose coordinates are precisely known. Nonetheless, NBC ran with NATO's "fairly certain" denial of even targeting the village without a shred of evidence, when NATO's own targeting data would have revealed the truth.

ABC, on the other hand, offers NATO's alternate explanation: that Serb forces shelled the village after a NATO attack. Again, no substantiation was ever offered for the charge that Yugoslavians had themselves shelled the site to worsen the carnage. After NATO officials dropped this claim, and openly admitted that they had in fact bombed the Albanians, they settled on a new story to try to redirect the blame for the mass slaughter: The refugees were "human shields" who were brought to a military facility in hopes that they would be killed and provide a propaganda victory for Yugoslavia. (New York Times, 5/15/99)

But press accounts from the scene cast doubt on the idea that Korisa was a military target: The London Independent, reporting from the scene, noted on May 16 that "Western journalists who visited the scene saw burnt scraps of flesh and the scattered possessions of villagers--but no sign of a military presence beyond a small number of soldiers apparently billeted in nearby homes." Reports from journalists at the site (e.g., L.A. Times, 5/15/99; Independent, 5/16/99) suggest that NATO bombs were not aimed at any obvious military target, but at the tractors and wagons of the refugees.

Still, most of the press accepted the "human shields" story with little questioning -- including those news outlets that had reported NATO's original falsehoods without a hint of skepticism. U.S. news reports are properly skeptical of Yugoslavian government assertions, since many of Belgrade's claims turn out to be wrong. Shouldn't independent journalists apply the same standards to NATO's frequently inaccurate statements as well?

ACTION ALERT: Please contact the TV networks and urge them to show skepticism of unverifiable claims made by both Yugoslavia and NATO, since both sides have made a series of claims that have turned out to be incorrect.

ABC News
47 W. 66 St.,
New York, NY 10023
Phone: 212-456-7777
Fax: 212-456-4297
mailto: netaudr@abcnews.com

CBS News
524 W. 57 St.,
New York, NY 10019
Phone: 212-975-4321
Fax: 212-245-7560
mailto: audsvcs@cbs.com

30 Rockefeller Plaza,
New York, NY 10112
Phone: 212-664-4444
mailto: nightly@nbc.com

FAIR (212) 633-6700
E-mail: fair@fair.org.

Our note: Kosovo Albanians that were butchered by NATO attack were trying to return home.

America will bomb Kosovo - to the last Albanian!

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Last revised: May 12, 1999