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avgust 20, 2008
NATO cluster bombs kill Serb troops
By Martin McLaughlin
10 July 1999
The US-NATO air war against Yugoslavia culminated Monday in the biggest
one-day slaughter since the bombing campaign began, with as many as 600 Yugoslav Army
soldiers killed when their column was hit by cluster bombs from a single B-52 bomber.
American and NATO officials said two battalions of Yugoslav troops had left their bomb
shelters to engage a Kosovo Liberation Army force that had crossed the Kosovo-Albania
border near Mt. Pastrik. The soldiers, who numbered between 800 and 1,200, were caught in
the open on the mountain hillside.
According to the Washington Post account, "Initial aerial assessments
showed such massive annihilation that fewer than half the targeted troops are believed to
have survived." Cluster bombs scatter hundreds of powerful explosive charges when
they detonate, each charge capable of inflicting multiple casualties. The bomb is used as
an anti-personnel weapon and is particularly effective against massed ground troops.
The massacre on Mt. Pastrik was the worst of a series of mass
killings by NATO warplanes during the eleven-week bombardment of Yugoslavia. NATO
officials estimated last week that 5,000 Yugoslav soldiers had been killed and 10,000
wounded, and the death toll has increased significantly this week, with hundreds of
casualties each day from intense bombing, especially in Kosovo.
The stepped-up bombing has been closely coordinated with the KLA's activities on the
ground, demonstrating the role of the guerrilla force as a direct instrument of US-NATO
policy. The KLA launched an offensive in late May, which failed to
hold much territory inside Kosovo. Nor was it really intended to. Its purpose was to engage Yugoslav Army forces in combat and
have NATO warplanes annihilate them from the air.
KLA guerrillas have also carried out an increasingly aggressive series of terrorist
attacks on Serb targets in Kosovo, especially on passenger buses traveling between the
cities. A Serb bus driver was killed Tuesday when KLA gunmen
ambushed a passenger bus bound from Pristina, the Kosovo capital, for Belgrade. Another
bus driver and four passengers were wounded in a second attack just outside Pristina,
while a Serb passenger was killed in an attack Sunday on a bus near Kosovska Mitrovica.
These shootings go beyond retaliation against Serb police and government officials
involved in attacks on Kosovar Albanians. The KLA
is clearly seeking to intimidate the Serb minority in Kosovo and create the conditions
for a full-scale flight of the Serb population once the Yugoslav Army is withdrawn and
NATO troops and KLA guerrillas take over the province. As many as 200,000 Serb civilians
would become targets for a new round of ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia.
The gruesome death toll on Mt. Pastrik is reminiscent of another military slaughter in
the waning days of another US war against a small and completely out-gunned opponent
"Highway to Death" the Persian Gulf War against Iraq.
After a six-week aerial bombardment and a four-day ground war that destroyed much of the
Iraqi army, there was a wild flight of thousands of soldiers and civilians from Kuwait
back across the border into Iraq. Navy and Air Force
jets caught one long column of fleeing Iraqi vehicles on the Kuwait to Basra highway and
pounded it mercilessly with bombs and machine-gun fire. As we
described it at the time: "Soldiers seeking to flee north away from the fighting were
attacked without mercy. Pilots flying missions against the highway between Kuwait City and
Basra, the main evacuation route for Iraqi troops, described the systematic bombing and
strafing as shooting in a sheep pen.' The road, clogged by four lanes of one-way,
bumper-to-bumper traffic, was carpet bombed by B-52s dropping 1,000-pound bombs, and
repeatedly hit with laser-guided missiles and smart' bombs".
Like the attack on the "Highway of Death," there was no military necessity
for the cluster-bomb attack on Yugoslav conscripts on Mt. Pastrik.
The Yugoslav government had already capitulated to the US-NATO air war and committed
itself to a complete withdrawal from Kosovo, while discussions were stalled in Macedonia
over the exact timetable and modus operandi for implementation. The immensity of the slaughter, however, sheds light on the
legitimate concerns of Yugoslav military officials over the terms of the withdrawal and
their desire to secure guarantees for the safety of their retreating troops.
This assault was above all staged to demonstrate the ruthlessness of American and
European imperialism, and make
of the Serbs an object lesson to the other peoples of the region that no resistance to
US-NATO dictates will be tolerated.
But the Serbs will not forget this. NATO will occupy Kosovo only until the Serbs decide
that its time for NATO to learn an object lesson to the other peoples of the region what
resistance to US-NATO is.