NATO mistakes take more lives than the Serb-Albanian war did

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 63 – April 16, 1999

Originally published here.

Serbo-Croatian version here.


According to the Yugoslav Ministry of Foreign Affairs, around 300 civilians have been killed between March 24 when NATO’s bombing campaign started and April 13. These civilian casualties are related to places such as Aleksinac, Pristina, Kursumlija and Grdelica Gorge.

Two days ago a refugee convoy was hit, killing some 60 Albanians. Thus, due to NATO’s mistakes about 350 civilians have been killed in 24 days. That is an average of 15 per day.

The war between various Yugoslav/Serb forces on the one hand and the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK or KLA) broke out in February 1998. Thus there were 13 months of warfare in Kosovo, or 395 days. The international community estimates that 2.000 – soldiers and civilians – were killed. That is an average of 5 per day. 

About 250.000 people were estimated to have fled their homes during the 13 months of war, but remained predominantly within Kosovo and Montenegro. That is an average of 632 per day.

Since NATO began bombing, the figure has risen to perhaps as many as 750.000 outside and an unknown number inside Kosovo. Thus if 500.000 refugees have been added in 24 days, that makes an average of 20.833 per day.

These refugees run away because of a) Serb ethnic cleansing of Albanians (as a reprisal of NATO’s bombing in support of Albanian interests) b) because of NATO’s bombs and c) because of the regular warfare between Yugoslav military and paramilitary units and UCK. 

“Even if the figures above are estimates, there must be something fundamentally wrong with a peace policy that seems to kill 3 times more civilian people and produce 33 times more refugees per day than did the war it aims to stop ,” says TFF director Jan Oberg, and continues:

“It happens to be April 16. On this day in 1944, Easter Sunday, Allied forces – American and British – carried out a blanket bombing of Belgrade with a devastation and despair no smaller than that caused by the German attack on April 6, 1941.

About this Milovan Djilas, the first and perhaps greatest ‘dissident’ in Europe describes the emotions at the time in his “Wartime” (1977): ‘This is how it lies buried in the memories of the people of Belgrade to this day. That bombing aroused a double bitterness in us: emotional, because we pitied a city of legendary suffering which Hitler had turned into ruin and a place of torment; political, for we suspected – and at times believed – that the Allies were carrying out bombings in order to make postwar rehabilitation and administration harder for us Communists.’

“Perhaps history repeats itself. Undoubtedly, rehabilitation will be hard after this combined civil war and international aggression. And few think of the past or of the future at this moment,” says Oberg.

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