Clinton Tells Editors the US Bombing of Albanian Refugees is
Milosevic's Fault |
By: Mary Mostert, Analyst, Original Sources,
April 16, 1999
Yesterday in San Francisco, in response to a question from an editor at the American Society of Newspaper Editors, President Clinton said bombing of Albanian refugees by an American pilot was "regrettable and tragic, but no reason to change the mission" and blamed the carnage on Slobodan Milosevic. He said that "the refugees would not have been in harm's way had not Milosevic's forces driven them from their homes. We cannot simply watch as hundreds of thousand of people are brutalized, murdered, raped, forced from their homes ... all in the name of ethnic pride."
The only problem with that answer of course is that these people were not brutalized, murdered or raped by Milosevic's forces. They were brutalized and murdered by having an American pilot drop a bomb in their midst after Milosevic assured them it was safe for them to return to their villages, now that the government forces have driven out, or killed, the KLA forces. Furthermore, they have been told, the Americans have this remarkable technology which allows them to read a license plate on a car from 30,000 feet up in the air and the American pilots are the best educated and trained people on the face of the earth. They are not incompetent or accident prone.
Before the Pentagon 'fessed up to the Yugoslav version of the reports - that the attacks came from NATO aircraft most of those editors had published front page stories in their newspapers from the Associated Press which reported the Serbs "may have been responsible for the carnage." Network TV reports said the Serbs had done the bombing. Yet, surely had there actually been any Yugoslav aircraft in the skies the efficient Americans would have spotted and obliterated them The Washington Post reported: "As a senior Joint Staff officer then reviewed the extensive precautions that pilots flying attack missions over Yugoslavia are supposed to take before dropping any bombs, Bacon phoned Belgium to talk with Gen. Wesley K. Clark, NATO's top military commander. Returning to the briefing room, Bacon offered another account. He reported that "Clark had 'verbal reports' of the possibility that after military vehicles were hit by NATO warplanes, Yugoslav forces 'got out and attacked civilians' who were traveling in the middle of the convoy."
Clinton, who never passes up an opportunity to blast Milosevic, of course didn't scold the editors for printing erroneous stories about the NATO bombing of a refugee convoy. He did criticize the press in Yugoslavia, saying, "the government run press in Yugoslavia has created an alternative reality based on propaganda about Kosovo. Thank goodness our press and the press around the world have tried to get at and get out the truth,'' Clinton said. Long term, he said, NATO is fighting for the future and stability of multiethnic democracies in southeastern Europe, the historically troubled Balkans.
Of course, in the case of the bombed refugee story, the truth only came out because those pesky Serbs started broadcasting it all over the Internet and via e-mail. In fact, only those who have Internet or e-mail would know what Milosevic actually said about the tragic story following the incident. Milosevic said in a statement in the wake of NATO bombing of a column of refugees on the Djakovica-Prizren road: "Today's massacre of ethnic Albanian refugees, who were returning to their homes in broad daylight, has demonstrated the NATO's most brutal aspect. Striking four times on refugee convoys cannot be described as a mistake. It was done on purpose."
"The Republic of Serbia and all its people are shocked by the horrible massacre perpetrated today by the criminal NATO airforce against innocent civilians. With indignation for the perpetrators and sorrow for the dozens of innocent victims, I point to the fact that the only fault of the ethnic Albanian victims was that they had been citizens of our common homeland. These unprecedented crimes in contemporary world history are committed by those who publicly advocate respect of all human rights and freedoms, and who make special efforts, as they claim, to protect the ethnic Albanian community.
"The way they are caring for their alleged protégées is so
ruthless and brutal that it has caused indignation and disbelief among all people in
Serbia and elsewhere in the world. The men who gave orders to perpetrate this most
horrible massacre of innocent civilians at the end of the 20th century in Serbia's Kosovo
and Metohija province will be held responsible for their acts before the entire
Before March 24th, 1999, your village was intact. You and your
mostly non-political friends, just tried to stay alive as the KLA guerrilla bandits from
your former homeland in Northern Albania and the Yugoslav police fought with one another.
Now your village factory where you worked has been destroyed by
American bombs and you are out of a job and your children can no longer attend school
because it was hit when the factory went up in flames. You learn that someone asked
Mr. Clinton about the bombs dropping on you and he replied: "a united NATO is
determined to maintain and intensify attacks' against the Serbs to save Kosovo." You learn that Clinton said the bombing of fellow Albanians as they
returned home which had killed several of your friends was "regrettable and tragic,
but no reason to change the mission. You cannot have this kind of conflict without
some errors like this occurring. This is not a business of perfection.''