Reed IrvineMore phony numbers from Kosovo
May 24, 2000
When the time came for Jamie Rubin to step down as State Department spokesman, the New York Times and the Washington Post both ran stories generally praising his performance. The Post said one of his "high points" was the war in Kosovo, "in which the State Department's rhetoric was matched by firepower and broad administration support." Rubin was quoted as saying, "I'll miss that intensity on behalf of a cause that's not only just, but wise."
Running this quote shows how the media are still under the spell of Rubin and his former boss, Secretary of State Albright. Looking back, it is clear the Kosovo war was designed to divert attention away from Clinton's impeachment. Critics make the case that it was also illegal and unconstitutional. The intervention has turned into a complete disaster, with hopes of a multiethnic Kosovo going up in smoke as the Serbs have fled. U.S. peacekeeping troops there could remain for years, if not decades.
One of the big lies, which Rubin promulgated, was that tens of thousands of Kosovo men had been eliminated by the Serbs in a form of "ethnic cleansing" that approached a genocide. This lie was used to justify U.S. military intervention. It turned out that only a few thousand were killed, which was part of the ongoing civil war in Kosovo.
Now, another big lie has surfaced. Newsweek calls it the "Kosovo Cover-Up." A recent story declares, "NATO said it won a great victory, but the war did very little damage to Serb forces." The figures are startling: the Pentagon claimed 120 Serb tanks and 220 armored personnel carriers had been destroyed; the real numbers according to a suppressed Air Force report, were 14 and 18. The Pentagon claimed that 450 artillery and mortar pieces had been destroyed; the real figure was 20.
Newsweek went on to say that, despite Pentagon claims of 744 "confirmed" strikes by NATO pilots during the war, the Air Force report could find evidence of just 58. NATO pilots were fooled by the Serbs, who deployed dummy missile launchers made of painted logs, and a phony bridge that repeatedly drew fire. But when NATO General Wesley Clark got a copy of the report showing the Air Force had greatly exaggerated the damage done to the Serb forces, he ordered another report. This one, bearing the name of Air Force Brig. Gen. John Corley, claimed that we had destroyed 93 tanks and 153 personnel carriers, but Corley had not replicated the work of the team that based its numbers on the destroyed vehicles it was able to find.
It's worth noting that, at the end of the war, a Serb general said they had lost 13 tanks, just one off the 14 reported in the suppressed report. The bottom line seems to be that the Serbs were more truthful than our own government. The Pentagon tried to perpetuate the cover-up with a news conference in the wake of the Newsweek story that featured Gen. Corley, the Air Force officer who had come up with new numbers without new field work. This news conference got coverage that should have gone to the devastating Newsweek report. We will discuss this in our next commentary.