Which of the atrocities in Kosovo is worse?

Bombing: NATO will kill innocents and lose personnel, or abet one of history's worst crimes.

April 16, 1999

NATO has wisely admitted that one of its pilots killed Albanian refugees in a convoy in southwestern Kosovo.

Whether it admitted what Belgrade propaganda alleged or something else is unclear. The transcript that NATO released suggests that a pilot was fooled by Serbian use of civilians as shields. But this may not be the last word.

The NATO bombing campaign perpetrates its own atrocities. No bombing campaign fails to do that. Innocent Serbs in Serbia may be direct victims and certainly are indirect economic victims.

In forecasting U.S. casualties, Secretary of Defense William Cohen referred to persistent air defense and to the imminent deployment of Apache attack helicopters, which can more effectively attack the military targets the unidentified F-16 fighter was seeking.

The alternative would be to do nothing as the Yugoslav army depopulates Kosovo -- killing, raping, robbing, displacing and obliterating the trace of 1.6 million Kosovar Albanians. The policy exceeds Serbian atrocities in Bosnia, which provoked indictments for crimes against humanity.

Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic's policy of genocide is modeled on one of the great crimes of history, the extermination of Serbs by the Ustashe government of Croatia that served Hitler in the early 1940s.

There would be no point saying, "Never again," if no one means it.

At the same time, NATO must keep open the possibility that the bombing could end, with its five conditions that must be met. It must welcome Russian efforts at mediation and the role of former Prime Minister Victor Chernomyrdin.

All the while it must suspect that Spain's former prime minister and failed peace-maker, Felipe Gonzalez, was right when he wrote: "There will be no democracy, nor peace, nor respect to minorities while Milosevic continues being the dictator that provokes war and ethnic cleansing."

The bombing is awful. Only acquiescing while Mr. Milosevic's forces torture and destroy the Kosovars would be worse.

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