Who is Telling us the Truth about the Serbs?
" When men differ in opinion, both sides ought equally to have the advantage of being heard by the public; when truth and error have fair play, the former is always an overmatch for the latter. "
In the last three months we have seen the one who should be the guardian of the flame of free speech, the President of the United States, bomb the Yugoslav TV studios, transmitters, and the nation's electric power plants for the stated purpose of silencing that nation's electronic media. " Serb radio and TV is an instrument of propaganda and repression," a NATO spokesman, Air Commodore David Wilby, declared on April 8. "It is ... a legitimate target in this campaign."
In spite of bombing the studios, and killing journalists and make-up artists, the Serbs somehow managed to continue sending reports out. NATO spokesman Jamie Shea and Bill Clinton announced the growing "success" in destroying Slobodan Milosevic's military. Shea said that over 10,000 of the 40,000 Serb soldiers in Kosovo had been killed, two-thirds of its MIGs destroyed and 40 per cent of Milosevic's 280 tanks had been destroyed, along with 60% of their artillery and mortars, while "wiping out" Milosevic's MIGs.
A month ago, on May 24th, Bill Clinton wrote a letter to the editor in the New York Times in which he said:
"Meanwhile, our air campaign has destroyed or damaged one-third of Serbia's armored vehicles in Kosovo, half its artillery, most of its ability to produce ammunition, all its capacity to refine fuel and done enormous damage to other sectors of its economy. Though he has driven hundreds of thousands of Kosovar Albanians from their homes, Mr. Milosevic has not eliminated the Kosovar Liberation Army. Indeed, its ranks are swelling, and it has begun to go on the offensive against Serb forces hunkered down to hide from air strikes."
On the day the bombing stopped, Milosevic was shown on CNN telling the people of Yugoslavia that the "476 soldiers" who were killed were heros. Who was lying? Jamie Shea and Bill Clinton, or the "indicted war criminal", Slobadon Milosevic? Milosevic claimed only 476 soldiers were killed. Shea and Clinton were saying, before the bombing stopped, that 10,000 Serb soldiers were killed, the KLA was going on the offensive against the Serbs, and that NATO had taken out "half its artillery."
And then, the Yugoslav army came out of hiding and started leaving Kosovo. The entire world was able to count tanks as they left, and the number of soldiers - of the 40,000 that were reportedly there - less the 10,000 reportedly killed. As it turned out, only 13 tanks had been destroyed, not 112.
In the London Telegraph yesterday, John Simpson, who reported the war from Belgrade, announced that
" Time and again when I was in Belgrade my colleagues back in London used to ask me about signs of casualties. The military death toll must be pretty high by now, they would say; what about the funerals, the death notices, the anecdotal evidence that lives were being lost? " I always answered, quite truthfully, that the only casualties I heard anything about were civilians. Not surprisingly, as it turned out. Something like 400 soldiers seem to have been killed, as compared with about 1,700 civilians. Night after night Nato would hit army barracks and government ministries, as though the Yugoslav army were obliging enough to hang around there."
After more than 40,000 or so sorties and thousands of tons of bombs, what NATO hit were empty barracks, canvas and wood replicas of artillary and mortars, old armored personnel carriers, broken-axled and rusting, which the Serbs had carefully left out for NATO pilots to see and bomb from 13,000 feet. From 13,000 feet, apparently, farm tractors were mistaken for armored personnel carriers so a real, but dead, personnel carrier was a reasonable decoy.