"CARPET BOMBING is not legal or morally justifiable," said Labour defence secretary George Robertson last week. Yet carpet bombing-the total devastation of an entire area aimed at leaving nothing alive in it-is exactly what NATO is gearing up for in the Balkans. When this war was launched we were told NATO would avoid civilian casualties by using "smart" weapons on military targets only. But at least one in seven of the supposedly "precise" cruise missiles which NATO has been raining on Serbia miss their intended targets, says the reputable Institute of International Affairs.
Other "smart" weapons are even less accurate. For the fourth time a NATO "smart" weapon hit the wrong country last week. A US AGM88 missile was fired by a NATO warplane over Serbia last Thursday. It landed in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, over 40 miles away. The missile destroyed the upper half of a house in a residential area, and only narrowly missed wiping out the Varbanov family sitting downstairs watching TV. NATO at first denied it had fired the missile, then changed its story to admit it "went rogue".
Now the US Pentagon military command admits it will soon be "area bombing" in Serbia. That is what the new wave of giant B52 bombers which arrived in Britain from the US last week are for. These planes will drop gravity bombs, unguided explosives, to "area bomb" in the same way they did in the Vietnam War. In just one such "area bombing" raid in Vietnam these death machines killed 30,000 people. NATO's "clean war" is getting dirtier and more murderous by the day.
THE BRITISH government had to be dragged kicking and screaming into accepting any Kosovan Albanian refugees-despite its rhetoric of going to war on their behalf. On Tuesday Jack Straw announced the government would accept up to 1,000 refugees a week. Germany has let in 10,000 and was ready to take another 10,000.
The British government says it has been pleased that most people are ready to welcome the refugees. Ministers should look at their own attitudes. The British government made sure at the start of the Balkan crisis that "UK" was not included on the form given to refugees as a choice of destination. Development secretary Clare Short said in parliament on Thursday last week, "It's not the case that Britain is not accepting them. Most people don't want to come here." Yet the Independent On Sunday said it asked "dozens of refugees if they would like to go to the UK: almost all said yes."
Jack Straw has now indicated that he may water down some of the new Asylum Bill proposals in an effort to deflect immediate criticism over the handling of Kosovan refugees. That is not enough. The whole bill should be scrapped. Straw should not be allowed to stop refugees from anywhere in the world claiming asylum in this country.
While NATO moves more troops and arms into the region, less effort is going to relieve the suffering in the refugee camps. Aid agencies report that refugees are suffering massive overcrowding, with a real danger of epidemics breaking out. NATO troops have stepped up patrols in the camps because they fear riots. In some camps the refugees cannot move around or leave without passes.
ORDINARY workers are paying the price of NATO's bomb attacks on Serbia according to research compiled by US financed economists in Belgrade called Group 17.
The effect of bombing "military targets" like railway bridges, road networks and communications equipment has devastated the economy, putting more than 100,000 people out of work. Unemployment was officially 27 percent last year. The economists warn it is likely to double.
NATO spokesman James Shea admitted last week that warplanes have a licence to fire off their deadly missiles at whatever takes their fancy, including buses and trains. If the planes can't hit their main targets, Shea said, "there are secondary targets, targets of opportunity".
ANTI-MILOSEVIC Serbs who have become asylum seekers in neighbouring countries are describing how the NATO bombing has made things worse. One newspaper ran an interview with "Milos", who has sought refuge in Hungary. Milos says NATO's bombing means "the people are afraid, and their fear makes Milosevic stronger. "I am very sorry for the Albanians-all the Albanians from Kosovo are refugees or prisoners-but the Serb refugees don't get as much publicity. What is happening in Kosovo is the same as [Croatian president] Tudjman did in Krajina, expelling the Serbs as fast as possible and then making it impossible for them to return."
A COLUMN in last weekend's Sunday Telegraph was a scary reminder of just how bloodthirsty some in the pro-war camp are. Author Andrew Roberts argues, "I know a way to win this war. I refer of course to the use of nuclear weapons." He writes that the technology exists for "smart" nuclear weapons that are "briefcase sized" which only target limited areas.
JOHN PILGER is the latest journalist to warn of the devastating effects of NATO using depleted uranium, which comes from radioactive waste, in its weapons. He calls it "a poison as cataclysmic as Agent Orange".
The depleted uranium remains in the dust and in the air. It can penetrate lung tissue and be stored in the liver, kidneys and bones. It was used in Iraq by the US during the 1991 Gulf War and children are still being born with birth defects.
"I HAVE been working as an orthopaedist for 15 years. I have never seen such horrific wounds as those caused by cluster bombs. The only option is amputation." Those were the chilling words of Rade Grbic, a surgeon at the main hospital in Pristina, the capital of Kosovo, in a report for the Los Angeles Times.
Grbic says children have been playing with the US made bombs, which have an incendiary effect when they explode. He reports that some 300 to 400 people have been treated at the hospital with cluster bomb wounds.
IRAQI CIVILIANS were the targets of recent relentless US and British bombing raids. The mounting death toll includes 20 killed on Thursday of last week in Mosul in northern Iraq. The next day three bombs hit a shepherd's tent near Bashiqa, a village north of Baghdad. All seven members of the shepherd's family were killed. On Monday the bombers killed another two people and injured 12 in Mosul. Monday marked the 52nd day of US and British bombing of Iraq since Operation Desert Fox started last December.
THE US government was forced to admit that its air strike last year on the al Shifa medicine factory in Sudan had absolutely no justification. US cruise missiles blew the factory up in August after bombs went off outside US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. The US claimed the embassy bombings were terrorist acts carried out by Osama bin Laden and the Taliban Islamist group.
The US froze the bank accounts of the factory's owner, Salah Idris, claiming he had links to Osama bin Laden. Now US government officials have quietly retreated, admitted there was not a shred of evidence to link Idris to Osama bin Laden, and released his bank accounts.