Copyrighted material

How the Story of Embassy Bombing Changed

by Jared Israel

At least three contradictory versions
Opponents of the war against Serbia argue that much of what passes for mainstream news these days is really a kind of war propaganda that NATO puts out -- misinformation and the Western press disseminates the stuff uncritically. In the case of the Chinese Embassy bombing, the explanations changed daily, sometimes hourly, each new version told without doubt.

NATO spokesman Jamie Shea's first response to the Embassy bombing was to apologize and explain that the NATO missiles had gone astray. NATO had intended to hit a building across the street, a building that housed what Shea called the "Federal Directory for the Supply and Procurement." Said Shea: "I understand that the two buildings are close together." (Reuters, May 8).

But the Chinese Embassy is in fact located in the middle of a large grassy park in a residential neighborhood. "The embassy stands alone in its own grounds surrounded by grassy open space on three sides. Rows of high-rise apartment blocs are located 200 meters away and a line of shops, offices and apartments sits about 150 meters away on the other side of a wide tree-lined avenue, [called]...Cherry Tree Street." (Reuters, 5/8)

Apparently realizing that a "Federal Directory for the Supply and Procurement" would not be placed in an apartment complex -- or on a 1000-foot lawn -- NATO spun a new story a few hours later:

Three NATO guided bombs which slammed into the Chinese embassy in Belgrade overnight struck precisely at the coordinates programmed into them, but it was not the building NATO believed it to be.

"They hit bang on the three aim points they were given," a military source said....

[NATO military spokesman General Walter] Jertz declined to say what sort of weapon hit the Chinese embassy, except that it was 'smart' or guided munitions and not free-fall bombs. He denied planners were "using old maps, wrong maps." (Reuters, May 8)

OK, three smart missiles or bombs hit the three locations they were supposed to hit. It was a misidentified target. And the pilot(s) wasn't misled by old or bad maps.

In the same May 8 Reuters story, the name of the place which NATO intended to bomb mysteriously changes -- not once but twice. Read the following quote from General Jertz carefully:

"Careful to avoid making excuses, NATO military spokesman General Walter Jertz said NATO went after the target because it thought it was the weapons warehouse of the Federal Directorate for Supply and Procurement.

'The information we had was that in this building was the headquarters of the Directorate, and we have no evidence that we were misled,' he said."

So now the thing supposed to be bombed was: a) the Federal Directory for the Supply and Procurement; b) weapons warehouse of the Federal Directorate for Supply and Procurement; and c) the headquarters of the Directorate.

But the problem still remained: how could NATO targeteers, pouring over their maps, not notice the label CHINESE EMBASSY on a building they were planning to bomb?

NATO's answer: switch positions on the map question.

What was the source of "the erroneous B-2 bomber attack, which dropped several satellite-guided bombs on the embassy?"

Here's the latest explanation:

"In mistakenly targeting the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade Friday night, U.S. intelligence officials were working from an outdated map issued before China built its diplomatic compound several years ago, American and NATO authorities said yesterday.

'The tragic and embarrassing truth is that our maps simply did not show the Chinese Embassy anywhere in that vicinity,' a senior NATO official said." (Washington Post, May 10)

But an article that appeared the next day in the Kansas City Star made that excuse seemed flimsy. The bombs were delivered by a B-2, better known as the Stealth Bomber. These controversial planes fly only from of a U.S. base near Kansas City. Keeping in mind that NATO has air bases in Italy as well as aircraft carriers in nearby waters, is it really believable that the U.S. government would send a super-expensive plane on a fifteen hour flight to deliver three smart missiles (or bombs) to a relatively minor site in Yugoslavia?

A transcontinental B-2 mission is carefully plotted by planners at its home Whiteman Air Force Base before the plane even leaves the ground. Using exact locations provided by NATO, they even calculate the angle of attack and the size of the bomb needed to destroy only the intended target. Doesn't it fly in the face of rudimentary common sense -- indeed, of sanity -- to believe that this super-technological military force would have anything but the most sophisticated mapping facilities, updated with satellite photos and local intelligence reports? It sounds more like NATO was claiming it used fold-up maps bought at a gas station.

Reviewing the different NATO stories
According to NATO there were three one smart bombs that hit the Chinese Embassy by mistake because it missed a building across the street that houses the "Federal Supply and Procurement Office..."

Wait, let's start over. The missiles (because we're back to three missiles again) didn't miss -- they hit right on target except it turned out the target was all wrong, and wasn't the Federal Supply and Procurement Office at all, it was the Chinese Embassy and somehow the targeteers got it all confused, but one thing is definite: the mix-up was not the result of using old maps.

No, wait, that's not right either. The bombing of the Federal Directory for the Supply and Procurement, er, weapons warehouse of the Federal Directorate for Supply and Procurement, um, headquarters of the Directorate was caused by bad maps. The maps were very old so you couldn't tell that the building on that site was an Embassy. And there were three missiles, of course. Who ever said anything about there only being one?

And a B-2 bomber was sent halfway around the globe to attack this target whose name nobody can get straight.

Why did all three missiles strike journalists' apartments?
I recently interviewed a Serbian gentlemen whose family lives a few blocks from the Embassy. He remembers that the Embassy was built 4 or 5 years ago and that prior to the building of the Embassy, it was a park.

A letter from an American living in Belgrade says the embassy is in area called New Belgrade (Novi Beograd), developed from sandy marshland after WWII. She confirmed that the land on which the embassy sits was unoccupied before it was built. However, she says "park" is too fancy a term; it was just a huge lawn, with very few trees.

Therefore the notion that NATO could possess a map drawn before the Chinese Embassy was built which showed any building occupying the land on which the Embassy now stands is simply impossible. There was nothing there.

Since NATO is lying, what are we are left with?

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to hear a very interesting report from a Chinese intellectual from Harvard's Kennedy Institute. The three missiles that struck the Embassy compound, he said, hit three apartments directly. In each apartment, one or both family members was a journalist. The missiles apparently carried a light explosive charge.

Why, asked the speaker, did all three missiles strike journalists' apartments? Clearly, he said, the goal was to punish China for sympathizing with the Yugoslav people against NATO. More specifically, the intention was to terrorize Chinese newspeople in Yugoslavia, thus silencing yet another non-NATO information source.

On the face of it, what is the likelihood of NATO picking target coordinates that just happen to coincide with three apartments occupied by journalists? I mean, one computer-guided bomb destroying a journalist's home would not be unlikely. But three hitting three journalists' homes?

Does that seem too nightmarish to be true? Keep in mind, NATO has consistently bombed Serbian news outlets with the stated intention of silencing sources of "lying propaganda." Why would it be so far-fetched for them to do the same to Chinese newspeople?

Perhaps NATO wants to silence all non-NATO reporting on the war, even at the risk of starting WWIII. Or perhaps NATO, or a part of NATO, such as the U.S. government, wants to provoke a fight with China before China gets too strong to be crushed?

Also, keep in mind that the bombing occurred at the perfect time to disrupt German Prime Minister Schroder's visit to China. The trip had economic motives and was also an attempt by Germany to enlist China in helping "settle" the war on terms favorable to Germany.

When Schroder returned from China he gave a press conference on May 19: "...Eeven before he took questions, Mr. Schroder also challenged Washington's official explanation for the bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade -- that target analysts relied on a faulty street map -- by renewing his demand for a formal NATO inquiry into the bombing.

"Diplomats here say that Mr. Schroder, who just returned from China, was angry that a trip he had long planned to herald his chairmanship of the European Union was transformed into an official apology for the embassy bombing." (NY Times, 5-20-99)

Was the attack intended to 'send a message' not only to Beijing, but to Bonn?

The mystery thickens, but the real question is this: What will NATO do next?

Jared Israel studies U.S. foreign policy and media manipulation. He encourages free distribution of his original article and of his essay, "The Emperor's Clothes," which analyzes how the NY Times misinformed its readers about the bombing of a Sudanese pill factory in August, 1998. Copies of these may be obtained by writing

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Albion Monitor May 24, 1999 (