Nato should own up to terrible mistake

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 April, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 30 April, 1999, 12:00am

The Americans and Nato have been bombing the civilian infrastructure and now the civilian communications systems in Yugoslavia, notwithstanding their statements that they are only bombing 'military targets'.

Whilst it may be accepted that the bombing of Slobodan Milosevic's home was military related, if it was indeed used as a command post, it is difficult to rationalise the bombing of the Serbian radio and TV building as anything but an attempt to black out Yugoslav-sponsored information on the conduct of the war against the Nato aggressors.

There is no doubt the official Yugoslav media are biased, especially when it comes to political matters directly affecting the Milosevic regime. However, based on personal eyewitness reports from friends and relatives in Serbia, their reporting of the bombing has been largely accurate, and in many cases more accurate, and more timely, than the vested interests of CNN, ABC and the other American news agencies.

The largely American media have deliberately distorted, by inflation of the refugee numbers and by hyperbole, the situation of the refugees in Kosovo, and Nato has employed a special public relations consultant to try to explain away such things as the bombing of civilian trains, refugee convoys and civilian houses and factories. It obviously considers it is not getting the message across, the message being that it is doing no wrong and that Serbia can do no right.

Hence the need to destroy the only alternative source of information (even though it is not a military target).

Perhaps Nato and the American media would have more success if they told the real story behind the bombings or at least asked some hard questions of their political masters.

Questions such as why the failed Rambouillet agreement required Milosevic to accept Nato (not UN) troops to deploy and manoeuvre anywhere in the whole of Yugoslavia - effectively forming an army of occupation, which no sovereign nation would accept. And why is it that Nato so easily accepts the 'collateral damage' of civilians in a nation that has been the ally of and fought for a free Europe for longer than the likes of Germany, Italy and Spain and, at the same time, supports the terrorist separatist Kosovo Liberation Army whose tactics are similar to those of the IRA? It is about time that Nato admitted that it has made a terrible mistake and accepted the Russian initiative for a return to the conference table, where the Yugoslav ethnic Serbs and Yugoslav ethnic Albanians can negotiate amongst themselves (rather than through the intermediaries of Nato as previously).