ANDREW ALEXANDER Daily Mail 5/11/99
Let’s Kill The Lies About Kosovo
Since truth is the first casualty of war, it should surprise no one that the Kosovo war has turned out to contain so many lies. But the scale on which the public was misled about the atrocities – and not just Nato’s bombing ‘successes’ – threatens to be mind-boggling. The murder of Kosovars by the Serbians was put by the U.S. Defence Secretary William Cohen at ‘up to 100,000’. Our own Geoffrey Hoon, Minister of State at the Foreign Office, put the figure at 10,000. The United Nations suggested, with the relative precision which always helps make a claim authoritative, that the figure was likely to prove to be 44,000.
The head of a Spanish team sent out ready to provide 2,000 postmortems left last month having found only 187 corpses, some of which may have been bombing casualties. He guesses that perhaps 2,500 civilians were killed.
A study group examining data so far, thinks the total could turn out to be a few hundred.
An atrocity is, of course, an atrocity, whatever the numbers. But we cannot know at this stage how many Kosovars killed might not have been from the Kosovo Liberation Army, once listed by the U.S. State Department as a ‘terrorist organisations. Such deaths would suggest crude justice rather than a simple atrocity against civilians.
When the final audit is done, two questions will arise. Would the public have supported the war so readily without the death toll being exaggerated? And how many murders justify a massive military campaign, which led us, the Western Alliance, to kill innocent civilians in turn? Nato knew that its actions against such targets as bridges and broadcasting stations were liable, even certain, to kill and maim civilians.
One other question is mindboggling but inescapable. Could it turn out in the end that we killed more innocent civilians than the Serbs did? It is certainly unlikely, but cannot be ruled out as yet. Belgrade claimed that the Allies killed 1,200 civilians. That was almost certainly a straightforward piece of propaganda. But journalists and observers in Serbia were able to identify civilian deaths due to Nato somewhere upward of 200.
The whole war seems to have been a big lie. Despite 34,000 sorties flown by Nato, only 13 Serbian tanks appear to have been destroyed. But all the time we were told by the Nato commander, General Wesley Clark (who seems to have stepped out of Dr Strangelove), the egregious Jamie Shea (who seemed to have stepped out of EastEnders) and, of course, a triumphant Foreign Secretary Robin Cook that Serbian military might was being destroyed.
One of many unseemly outcomes of the war was that journalists were berated by No. 10’s Alastair Campbell for failing to accept the Western AWance’s claims. He owes the Press corps – and the general public – an apology.