18 May 1999

NATO attacks enter deadlier phase

18 May 1999
The Times of India

NATO attacks enter deadlier phase

By Siddharth Varadarajan

The Times of India News Service

BUDAPEST: The massacre of more than 80 ethnic Albanians at Korisa in
southern Kosovo by NATO bombs on Friday marks a new phase in the western
military alliance's war against Yugoslavia.

Unlike previous incidents in which civilians have been killed, NATO
spokespersons have refused to strike an apologetic tone or even suggest that
the carnage was the result of wrongful targeting. Instead, they insist that
Korisa was a ``legitimate military target'' and that the Kosovar Albanians
should not have been there in the first place. British defence minister John
Spellar said the Serb forces had brought the Albanians to Korisa as ``human
shields,'' though he refused to comment on how the Serbs knew so precisely
that a NATO attack was imminent.

On the other hand, independent Western journalists on the ground have
pointed out that the absence of military fortifications at the bomb site
suggests the village was entirely a civilian target. The refugees, it seems,
had merely halted there overnight on their way back to their own villages.

In many ways the bombing of Korisa is the direct consequence of NATO
warplanes being pressed into service on behalf of the Kosovo Liberation
Army, which recently stepped up its activities against Serb forces in the
region. Before the present conflict started on March 24, NATO leaders had
repeatedly said they did not want the alliance to become the ``air force of
the KLA.'' However, the lack of consensus on an allied ground invasion of
Yugoslavia has meant NATO commanders planning joint air and ground
operations with the KLA. This has led to increased targeting of anything
that looks even remotely military.

The Korisa incident also comes close on the heels of statements by
Lt-General Michael C Short, NATO's air war commander, that the bombing of
Yugoslavia has to be greatly intensified. Criticising those who have called
for restraint in the wake of the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade,
Lt-Gen Short told the New York Times Yugoslav civilians had to be made to
suffer. ``I think no power to your refrigerator, no gas to your stove, you
can't get to work because the bridge is down -- the bridge on which you held
your rock concerts and you all stood with targets on your heads. That needs
to disappear at three o'clock in the morning.'' As for targets in Kosovo,
Lt-Gen Short said he wanted to ``take the monkey off the (bomber's) back.''

``They're up there at 400 to 500 miles an hour, people shooting at them,
dodging in and out of weather. They don't need the additional responsibility
of, `What'll happen if I miss that tank (and hit a house)? Will I be in
trouble?','' Lt-Gen Short said. The tragedy at Korisa is perhaps the first
outcome of this new gloves-off strategy. In the days and weeks ahead, the
civilian death toll is bound to mount.

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