18 years ago today, began something that I, as a British person, feel ashamed of our involvement in, to this day. Operation ‘Noble Anvil‘, the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, which began on March 24th, 1999. It began after NATO’s claim that the Albanian population in Kosovo were being persecuted by Yugoslavian (FRY) forces, and that military action was needed to stop this.
NATO attempted to gain authorisation from the United Nations Security Council, but were opposed by Russia and China, meaning they launched the operation, which it decribed as ‘humanitarian intervention’ themselves – involved countries being NATO members Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom, and United States. It was NATO’s first action against a sovereign nation.
Here’s a look at what some sources say about events of 18 years ago:
Serbian broadcaster B92 – 18 years since start of NATO bombing
The attacks started on March 24, 1999, lasted 11 weeks, and according to various sources, resulted in the deaths of between 1,200 and 2,500 people.
The 78-day bombing campaign caused severe damage to infrastructure, business facilities, schools, health care institutions, media outlets, monuments of culture.
Video of the time:
The attacks started a little before 20:00 hours, on the order of then NATO secretary-general, Javier Solana. The Yugoslav government declared a state of war the same night.
NATO’s campaign, that was referred to as aggression by the federal government, but also by numerous legal experts, came after the failed negotiations to solve the crisis in Kosovo, held in Rambouillet and Paris in February and March 1999.
There is different data on the material damage caused by the bombing, with then authorities assessing it at around 100 billion dollars, and seeking compensation from NATO members.
A group of economists known as G17 assessed it at 29.6 billion.
The bombing ended on June 10, 1999, with the adoption of Resolution 1244 at the UN Security Council.
As I was tweeting about this, some from Serbia expressed their own sentiments:
And as for Nis, this from the site ‘There Must be Justice’.
May 7, 1999, Nis, Serbia: Mercy of a merciful… NATO WAR CRIME
The following text is written by a survivor of the NATO aggression, M. Petrovic from Nis:
On that certain day, NATO aircrafts dropped United Nations forbidden mass-killing cluster bombs over two civilian neighborhoods in Serbian second major city of Nis. “Targets” were people at the marketplace, and city’s central civilian hospital. 15 people have died, more than 60 injured. Among them, also my teacher of literature, elder woman aged over 60. My parents have been in one of the bombed streets just 10 minutes before the bombings, so I guess they were lucky.
More from Twitter, where today evoked strong emotions:
And indeed, no one has ever been brought to justice for the NATO attacks. Who is ultimately responsible? Here, CNN, writing about US Secretary of State at the time, Madeleine Albright.
She helped push the U.S. into Kosovo. It was part of the assertive, moralistic new world role she is urging for America.
The Kosovo conflict is often referred to, by both her fans and foes, as Madeleine’s War. n a literal sense, of course, that’s not true these days. Now that it’s become an armed conflict, she plays a supporting role to the President, National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, Defense Secretary Bill Cohen and the military brass.
Here, from Sputnik –
In March 1999, at the direction of the United States of America, NATO engaged in its first act of illegal aggressive war, beginning what can only be called the “dark age of intervention” in which we are living today. The fact that NATO was allowed to get away with the aggression on Serbia and Montenegro emboldened US/NATO and the US military industrial intelligence banking complex and since that day, under a doctrine of Responsibility to Protect, Humanitarian Interventionism, Preventive War and then the all encompassing “War on Terror”, US/NATO have proceeded to destroy country after country and do away with leaders that they have not found to be submissive enough to their will.
This aggression resulted in the loss of 4,000 human lives, including 88 children, and 10,000 people were severely wounded. Over two third of these victims were civilians. How many human lives have been lost in the meantime due to the consequences of weapons with depleted uranium, as well as of remaining cluster bombs, will hardly ever be established.
Breaching the basic norms of international law, its own founding act as well as constitutions of member countries, NATO was bombing Serbia and Montenegro during 78 days continuously destroying the economy, infrastructure, public services, radio and TV centers and transmitters, cultural and historical monuments. NATO bears responsibility for polluting the environment and endangering the health of present and future generations. Economic damage caused by the aggression is estimated at over USD 120 billion. War damage compensation has not yet been claimed, and judgments ruled by our court, by which the leaders of aggressor countries were convicted for the crimes against peace and humanity, were annulled after the coup d’état in 2000.
One of the most controversial incidents of the 78-day campaign, the bombing of the Radio Television of Serbia headquarters. Here, Wikpedia:
The NATO bombing of the Radio Television of Serbia headquarters occurred on 23 April 1999, during the Kosovo War. It formed part of NATO’s aerial campaign against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and severely damaged the Belgrade headquarters of Radio Television of Serbia (RTS). Other radio and electrical installations throughout the country were also attacked. Sixteen employees of RTS died when a single NATO missile hit the building. Many were trapped for days, only communicating over mobile phones. The station returned to the air 24 hours later from a secret location.
The BBC covered this at the time, putting the strong accent on justification of the attack, with several sources referenced giving explanations for the bombing, yet only one source condemning.
Nato has defended its bombing of Serbia’s state television station, saying it was a legitimate target and a “ministry of lies”.
International condemnation of NATO’s actions of 1999 has only increased over time, leading the BBC to take a more circumspect tone, albeit not retracting earlier statements. From 2015 –
In 1999, Serbia and Kosovo were engaged in a conflict over independence.
Another hugely controversial incident came on May 7th. Here, Wikipedia –
On May 7, 1999, during the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia (Operation Allied Force), five US JDAM guided bombs hit the People’s Republic of China embassy in the Belgrade district of New Belgrade, killing three Chinese reporters and outraging the Chinese public. According to the U.S. government, the intention had been to bomb the nearby Yugoslav Federal Directorate for Supply and Procurement. President Bill Clinton later apologized for the bombing, stating it was accidental. Central Intelligence Agency director George Tenet testified before a congressional committee that the bombing was the only one in the campaign organized and directed by his agency, and that the CIA had identified the wrong coordinates for a Yugoslav military target on the same street. The Chinese government issued a statement on the day of the bombing stating that it was a “barbarian act”.
Here, an interesting article from Reddit, title – The CIA intentionally bombed the Chinese embassy in 1999.
On May 7, 1999 an American B-2 bomber dropped 5 guided munitions on the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. The attack killed three Chinese nationals. The United States government has always maintained it was an accident.
I believe that at least some people in the CIA knew the target was actually the Chinese embassy and wanted it to be attacked. We have no 100% solid proof of this, but put enough evidence together and I believe it goes beyond a reasonable doubt.
The official account of the bombing from the U.S.’s perspective is fairly straightforward. The CIA wanted to target a Yugoslav arms agency. Due to out of date maps / mapping errors the Chinese embassy was attacked instead. No harm was meant, these things happen in war, etc, etc.
Their are a number of problems with this story.
- The Chinese embassy had been in its current location for over three years. An embassy isn’t some little fly by night mom and pop shop. Embassies rank near the top of things not to bomb so great attention is given to them. In addition it was a very large and distinct building. http://www.paulmidler.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/a.jpg
- The CIA had likely been monitoring communications from the embassy (more on this later) so they knew where it was.https://inthesetimes.com/issue/24/01/bleifuss2401.html
- A source at the U.S. National Imagery and Mapping Agency told the Observer the “wrong map” story is “a damned lie.”https://www.theguardian.com/world/1999/oct/17/balkans
In addition the CIA itself admitted it had up to date maps. http://cjonline.com/stories/072399/new_ciaembassybomb.shtml
- The Chinese embassy was correctly listed on the no-strike list. https://www.theguardian.com/world/1999/oct/17/balkans
- According to some sources. Before China built their embassy the land was just a vacant lot. Making the outdated map story even less likely. http://www.salon.com/1999/05/12/cia_2/
- The supposed target, Yugoslav Federal Directorate for Supply and Procurement, was over 500 meters from Chinese embassy. https://www.theguardian.com/world/1999/oct/17/balkans
- The Chinese embassy may have been aiding the Yugoslav army in transmissions.https://www.theguardian.com/world/1999/oct/17/balkans
- The CIA may have feared that the Chinese had stolen technology from the recently downed stealth bomber.http://www.foxnews.com/world/2011/01/23/chinas-new-stealth-fighter-use-technology.html
- Of the 900 targets struck in the war. CIA was only responsible for one.http://cjonline.com/stories/072399/new_ciaembassybomb.shtml
- The mission was run outside of the usual chain of command.
- It seems very strange that the CIA would take such interest in what by their accounts was a minor arms dealing operation. Even stranger was that this seemingly routine bombing needed to be separate of the NATO chain of command.In summary the official account is highly suspect, they had the motive, and a bunch of circumstantial evidence to prove that at least someone knew what they were doing.One building indisputably hit on purpose, several times, the Yugoslav Ministry of Defence building, providing one of the defining images of the 1999 NATO campaign – it had been considered a masterpiece of post-war architecture.
RT – On March 24 (1999), NATO began its 78-day bombing of Yugoslavia. The alliance bypassed the UN under a “humanitarian” pretext, launching aggression that claimed hundreds of civilian lives and caused a much larger catastrophe than it averted.
Former NATO Secretary General Javier Solana ordered military action against Yugoslavia following a failure in negotiations on the Kosovo crisis in France’s Rambouillet and Paris in February and March 1999.
NATO’s decision was officially announced after talks between international mediators – known as the Contact Group – the Yugoslav government, and the delegation of Kosovo Albanians ended in a deadlock. Belgrade refused to allow foreign military presence on its territory while Albanians accepted the proposal.
Back then, Slobodan Milosevic‘s forces were engaged in armed conflict with an Albanian rebel group, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), which sought the province’s separation from Yugoslavia. Former US President Bill Clinton’s special envoy to the Balkans, Robert Gelbard, had earlier described the KLA as “without any questions, a terrorist group.” (The KLA was later repeatedly accused of being involved in the organ trafficking of Serbs in the late 1990s.)
However, despite not announcing the link officially, NATO entered the conflict on the side of the KLA, accusing Serbian security forces of atrocities and “ethnic cleansing” against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. The main objective of the campaign was to make Milosevic’s forces pull out of the province. The fact that there was violence on both sides of the confrontation was ignored both by allied governments and Western media – which stirred up public anger by focusing only on Serbs’ atrocities and being far less vocal regarding abuses by Albanians.
“All efforts to achieve a negotiated political solution to the Kosovo crisis having failed, no alternative is open but to take military action,” Solana said on March 23, 1999. “We must halt the violence and bring an end to the humanitarian catastrophe now unfolding in Kosovo.”
Racak massacre controversy
An incident involving the “mass killing” of Albanians in central Kosovo’s village of Racak – a KLA stronghold – became a major excuse and justification for NATO’s decision to start its operation. Serbs were blamed for the deaths of dozens of Albanian “civilians” on January 15, 1999. However, it was alleged that the accusations could have been false and the bodies actually belonged to KLA insurgents whose clothes had been changed.
A central role in labeling the events in Racak “a massacre” belonged to William Walker, who headed the OSCE Kosovo Verification Mission. He visited the site shortly after the incident and made his judgment.
“[Walker] arrived there having no powers to make conclusions regarding what had happened,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in an interview with Rossiyskaya Gazenta paper in November last year.
Yugoslav authorities accused Walker of going beyond his mission and proclaimed him persona non grata, while Western leaders were infuriated over the Racak incident.
“And some time later the bombing started,” Lavrov recalled, adding that the situation in Racak became the “trigger point.”Moscow insisted that an investigation should be carried out. The EU commissioned a group of Finnish forensic experts to prepare a report on the incident. Later, the European Union handed it over to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Lavrov said. The full version of the document has never been made public, said the minister, who was Moscow’s permanent representative to the UN between 1994 and 2004.
“But parts of the report leaked and were quoted in the media saying that [the victims] were not civilians and that all the bodies found in Racak were in disguise and that bullet holes on clothes and bodies did not match. There was also no one who was killed at short range,” Lavrov said. “Even though I’ve repeatedly raised this issue, the report itself still has not been shown.”
NATO halted its air campaign with the signing of the Military Technical Agreement in Kumanovo on June 9, 1999, with the Yugoslav government agreeing to withdraw its forces from Kosovo. On June 10, 1999, the UN Security Council adopted resolution 1244 to establish the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).