Clark says bomb damage report not suppressed
WASHINGTON, May 11, 2000 -- (Reuters) Former NATO commander General Wesley Clark on Wednesday said there was no suppression of a bomb damage assessment on the 1999 air war on Yugoslavia; and the count of Serb military vehicles hit differed because of what was seen from the air versus reports from the ground.
Clark echoed Pentagon and Air Force officials who denied a Newsweek report that the U.S. military and NATO vastly inflated bomb damage to Serb armor in the 78-day air campaign while quashing disappointing results of the strikes.
Newsweek said an Air Force report was suppressed that showed only 14 Serb Army tanks were verifiably destroyed compared to U.S. and NATO claims of 100 or more, and only 18 armored personnel carriers were destroyed instead of 220.
The magazine also said only 20 artillery pieces not 450 were destroyed by U.S.-led air strikes aimed at forcing Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to withdraw troops from Kosovo, where ethnic Albanians were fleeing violence.
"The numbers were different because first of all there were a certain number of vehicles that were found on the ground. These were vehicles that were conclusively destroyed," Clark told Reuters after briefing a closed session of the Senate Intelligence Committee, where he gave an assessment of successes and lessons learned from last year's NATO air campaign.
"There were other cases where you could look in the instrumentation that the pilots had, television monitors and other things, and clearly see the vehicle that was struck, but when we went to the spot, that vehicle wasn't there," Clark said.
"Now in some cases those may have been decoys; in other cases they weren't, and we had to leave it to the best judgment of the experts as to how they assessed the results on the ground. What happened to it (vehicle)? It's anybody's guess; I don't know," he said. "But there was no effort to suppress any data," Clark added.
The Yugoslav Army on Wednesday, in response to the Newsweek article, said it had suffered minimal losses during the NATO air strikes - 13 tanks, eight artillery pieces and 19 anti-aircraft guns, state news agency Tanjug reported.
On Monday, U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. John Corley, director of studies and analysis at U.S. Air Force headquarters in Europe, stood by the official figures.
Corley conceded that only about 26 destroyed and burned-out Serb tanks were found by his team of military and civilian investigators after the bombing ended. But he said the total count was 93 destroyed after information from sources such as searches, satellite pictures and gun-camera film was considered.
Clark, who handed over NATO military command to U.S. Air Force General Joseph Ralston earlier this month, said he has not made any decisions on what he will do next, but has ruled out working for a defense contractor.