|From: "Seth Sandronsky"
Subject: [PEN-L:6651] Chinese Embassy Bombing
Date: Tue, 11 May 1999 09:40:47 PDT
It's hard to believe the triple-missile attack on the Chinese embassy in
Belgrade was an error. In any case, these NATO missile strikes serve the
class interests of American and Chinese rulers, who are mobilizing their
populations under attack by the social forces of global capitalism and its
WSWS : News & Analysis : Europe : The Balkan Crisis
How could the bombing of the Chinese embassy have been a mistake?
By Mike Head
10 May 1999
After two days of varied official accounts, the least credible explanation
for Friday night's NATO bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade is that
it was a pure accident. On Sunday, a US official in Washington told news
agencies that the CIA had simply supplied inaccurate information, wrongly
identifying the embassy as a Yugoslav weapons warehouse. It was the fourth
version of events produced within several hours.
Initially NATO's spokesman Jamie Shea told reporters on Saturday that
NATO pilots had mistaken the building for a legitimate military target and
then hit it with precision-guided weapons. But several hours later, at
possibly the most hostile NATO news briefing in Brussels since the bombing
began, Major General Walter Jertz said the error had been made in the
initial target selection process.
Jertz said the embassy had been mistaken for the Yugoslav Directorate
of Supply and Procurement, a military supply facility. When pressed, he said
there was no evidence that NATO maps were inaccurate or out of
date, neither was there any evidence that NATO intelligence was
inaccurate. Asked if NATO knew where embassies were located in
Belgrade, he replied: "Yes, of course we know where the embassies
Shea then switched his story, saying a "review of procedures" had
identified a "mistake" in the target selection process. He quoted a joint
statement issued at midnight Saturday US time by US Defence Secretary
William Cohen and CIA Director George Tenet, which exonerated the pilots and
NATO equipment. "The extensive process in place to select and validate
targets did not correct the original error," the statement said.
Finally came the claim of CIA culpability. Another unnamed US official
referred to "stale information" as the source of the error.
It is virtually impossible to give any credence to these accounts. The
Chinese embassy has been housed at its present location for four years. Its
site was clearly marked on tourist maps that are on sale
internationally, including in the English language. The embassy was well
known to many journalists, diplomats and other visitors to Belgrade. Its
address is listed in the Belgrade telephone directory. For the CIA to have
made such an elementary blunder is simply not plausible. Apart from
publicly-available maps, US intelligence agencies have access to satellite
reconnaissance and other high-technology surveillance, for which some $29
billion is budgetted annually.
Furthermore, one is meant to believe that such an error went unchecked
through an exhaustive target selection, verification and authorisation
process. Published accounts indicate that targets are largely identified by
the US military, sometimes using information supplied by the CIA as part of
its validation process. Targets are nominated at the Aviano airforce base in
Italy, verified at NATO headquarters in Belgium, designated on lists sent to
the Pentagon for confirmation and then sent to Washington and other NATO
capitals for authorisation. By some reports, US President Clinton personally
approves targets in Belgrade.
Numerous military experts have told Western news outlets that the CIA
could not have been the sole source of target information. Robert Gaskin, a
US air force officer who helped select targets during the 1990-91 Gulf War,
told the Los Angeles Times: "We would always make sure we had at least two
sources of information on the targets. You can't afford to make a mistake
Other sources said planning each target involves dozens of officers in
Europe and the US who collect intelligence, calculate the risk of civilian
casualties, decide which munitions to use and mark the Designated Mean Point
of Impact (DMPI) where the bomb would do the most damage.
Moreover, if the attack on the embassy were a "tragic mistake" as
Clinton and other NATO leaders insisted, one would expect at least a
pause in the bombing or even a narrowing of targets to ensure that the
error was not repeated. More so, perhaps, because the embassy tragedy
was the latest in a strong of supposed "collateral damage" incidents,
including the dropping of cluster bombs that killed more than a dozen
people at a hospital and market in Nis on Friday.
Instead, the bombing of Belgrade and other major Yugoslav cities
reached a new intensity on Saturday and Sunday nights. NATO jets hit
targets in Kragujevac, wounding 13 people in the city 100 km south of
Belgrade, targetted a railway station near Kraljevo in central Serbia, fired
two missiles at the main highway between Belgrade and Nis, and
attacked another bridge over the Danube in downtown Nis.
One aspect of the official accounts of the embassy bombing has remained
unexplained. If the embassy building were indeed mistaken for the
Directorate of Supply and Procurement, why was it only selected as a target
last Friday, in the seventh week of NATO's air assault? If it were an
identifiable military target why had it not already been hit during one of
the 18,000 bombing missions against Yugoslavia?
The question has to be asked: given that the targetting was almost
certainly deliberate, why was the embassy bombed? It came just days
after the G8 foreign ministers summit had produced a draft agreement
ostensibly aimed at cutting short the war, and amid intensive activity by
the German and Russian administrations to fashion a deal that could be
concluded with the Milosevic government. An agreement based on the
G8 model was due to be put to the UN Security Council, where China
holds a veto vote.
Just a day after the bombing, one US newspaper, the Philadelphia
Inquirer, published a report that Pentagon planners feared that the
Clinton administration was so eager to settle the Yugoslav war that it may
accept a "dangerously flawed deal". The newspaper's Washington bureau cited
anonymous Pentagon officials expressing concern about the
inclusion of non-NATO forces in an international force for Kosovo and
restrictions on heavy US weaponry in such a force. It also quoted
unidentified White House officials predicting that an acceptable deal
would be worked out between Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic
and Russian envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin.
The bombing directly cut across such efforts. Russian President Boris
Yeltsin denounced it as a "barbarous and inhuman act" and ordered
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov to cancel a trip to London for
negotiations. Chernomyrdin noted that the bombing "does not help the
conflict settlement and may weaken the negotiating process," but
proceeded to meet German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and
newly-appointed UN representative Carl Bildt in Bonn.
Beijing's embassy was also hit at a time of heightening Sino-American
tensions, fuelled in part by belated intelligence claims that a Chinese spy
obtained US nuclear secrets. China is in the final throes of applying for
membership of the World Trade Organisation, despite concerted Washington
criticism in recent months over threats to Taiwan, the jailing of political
dissidents and a widening trade gap (China recently surpassed Japan as
holding the biggest surplus with the US).
For their part, Chinese officials accused the US of striking the embassy to
punish China for representing Yugoslav diplomatic interests in Washington.
Whatever the precise motivation, the attack was certainly designed to send a
blunt message to China: the devastation being wreaked upon Yugoslavia can be
applied to China or any other country that obstructs US economic and
While everything points to a pre-meditated attack on the embassy, it is
entirely conceivable that President Clinton personally had no knowledge of
the plan. Given the Byzantine nature of the struggles between the White
House, the Pentagon, the CIA and other elements within the US political and
military establishment, it is quite possible that the bombing was designed
to embarrass the Clinton administration, escalate the war and pursue an even
more militarist agenda. Sections of the military have hardly disguised their
loathing for Clinton. Key factions within the ruling elite have demanded a
far more unilateral US military and diplomatic policy, and were prepared to
remove Clinton by impeachment to achieve it. Of one thing there is no doubt:
the most reckless and aggressive elements are exercising enormous influence
over American foreign policy, with incalculable consequences for world