Report claims NATO lost war in Kosovo

 

Did NATO lose its war in Kosovo? Its air forces bombed the Serbs for 78 days, destroying bridges and rail lines in and around Belgrade.

NATO's most famous and notorious target, of course, was the Chinese embassy. China demanded an abject apology with compensation and got both. President Slobodan Milosevic remains in power. The object of the exercise was to remove him.

In its May 15th issue, out on Monday, Newsweek reports: "It seems almost too good to be true - and it was. In fact, as some critics suspected at the time, the air campaign against the Serb military in Kosovo was largely ineffective. NATO bombs ploughed up some fields, blew up hundreds of cars, trucks and decoys, and barely dented Serb artillery and armour."

According to a suppressed US air force report obtained by Newsweek, the number of targets verifiably destroyed was a fraction of those claimed: 14 tanks, not 120; 18 armoured personnel carriers, not 220; 20 artillery pieces, not 450. Out of the 744 "confirmed" strikes by NATO pilots during the war, " air Force investigators, who spent weeks combing Kosovo by helicopter and by foot, found evidence of just 58".

"Air power was effective in the Kosovo war, not against military targets, but against civilian ones," Newsweek reports. The Pentagon buried the negative report in its files.

Mr William Cohen, the US Secretary of Defence, said of the Kosovo campaign: "We severely crippled the [Serb] military forces in Kosovo by destroying more than 50 per cent of the artillery and one-third of the armoured vehicles."

What happened, Newsweek's report suggests, is that the Pentagon essentially declared victory and hushed up any doubts about "what the air war exactly had achieved".

The air campaign, which was designed to remove President Milosevic from power, appears to have miscarried as well as misjudging Serbian resistance. NATO's commander, Gen Wesley Clark, did not believe this. His discomfort is such that he is taking early retirement next month.

He ordered the US Air Force to locate the Serb tanks it had miscounted previously and to draft a new report, according to Newsweek reporters, John Barry and Evan Thomas. He described the air bombardment of the Serbs during the Kosovo war as "largely ineffective".

The Air Force protested against this judgment. Officers pointed out that tanks are hard to hit from 15,000 feet, but Gen Clark persisted. He was under pressure from Washington to produce positive bombing results from politicians desperate to avoid committing ground troops.

Asked how many Serb tanks were destroyed in Kosovo, Gen Clark will only reply "Enough".

In Washington the politicians warned the generals to avoid "body counts" and rely on aerial bombing for victory.

"The Serb dictator [Milosevic] was not so much defeated as pushed back into his lair - for a time," Newsweek asserts.

Its report concludes: "Air power was effective in the Kosovo war, not against military targets, but against civilian ones. Military planners do not like to talk frankly about terror-bombing civilians. (Strategic targeting is the preferred euphemism.)"

Newsweek's report leaves little doubt that is how NATO waged war in Kosovo.

In Washington the politicians warned the generals to avoid "body counts" and rely on aerial bombing for victory.