Posted by Luana on March 28, 2003 at 06:51:52:
Where were all you hypocrites when this happened?
The Globe and Mail, Monday, May 22, 2000
Canadian pilots killed civilians: commanders
By Jeff Sallot
Ottawa -- Senior Canadian military commanders say their pilots probably
killed innocent civilians during the Kosovo air war last year despite
elaborate precautions and vetoing several questionable targets that NATO
Those precautions, the commanders say, included having Canadian Forces
lawyers vet every assigned target to determine that each bombing run met
the tests of international and Canadian law on the reasonable use of lethal
Despite those measures, the commanders say, the odds are that Canadian
bombs caused unintended damage, injury and death.
In evidence presented recently to a parliamentary committee, the
government acknowledged that 28 per cent of the laser-guided "smart" bombs
dropped by Canadian pilots missed their targets. That means about 100 of
the 361 laser-guided bombs exploded somewhere other than on a military
"I do believe we caused collateral damage. I'm certain that we did," air
force Colonel Dwight Davies, the Canadian task force commander for most of
the Kosovo campaign, said.
"Some civilian structures were knocked down that we didn't intend to. There
is a distinct possibility that some civilians were killed that we never
intended to," Col. Davies, now wing commander at the fighter base at
Bagotville, Que., said in a recent interview.
"But to my knowledge, I can't tell you when or which mission that it might
have occurred on."
Rear Admiral Bruce MacLean, the director of security policy for the
Canadian Forces, told the parliamentary committee that "conflict is and
always will be very dirty and very ugly and there will always be accidents
and there will always be miscues, but that's the nature of the business."
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization has never identified Canadian pilots
with any of the high-profile mistakes, such as the bombing of a passenger
train south of Belgrade three weeks into the war.
Some targets were hit so many times by bombs from different NATO countries
during the 78-day campaign that it is impossible to sort out who did what
damage when, Col. Davies said.
Selecting targets was a tough business because many of the Yugoslav
military installations were in built-up areas where civilians lived,
another senior air force officer, Colonel Yvan Houle, said.
The importance of the target had to be weighed against the risk of
collateral damage, he said.
"With high-value targets, there is a point where the chain of command has
to accept a certain element of risk," Col. Houle said.
Whether accepting risk also means accepting legal responsibility when
things go wrong and bombs go astray is a question being asked at an inquiry
by the Commons committee on foreign affairs. The committee completed
hearings this week, and its report is due next month.
Meanwhile, Michael Mandel, a law professor at York University's Osgoode
Hall, and an international group of lawyers are pressing the Yugoslav war
crimes tribunal at The Hague to prosecute Prime Minister Jean Chr=E9tien and
other NATO leaders for murder, arguing that the air campaign was illegal
from the start because it was not authorized by the United Nations.
The government categorically denies all suggestions that anything about
Canada's involvement in the bombing was illegal. "Canada's actions in
Kosovo are completely defensible, both legally and morally," the government
says in a recent written submission to the Commons committee.
To back its claim, the government outlined the precautions that were taken
before each bombing mission by the 18 Canadian Forces Hornet fighter jets
assigned to NATO. Canada, one of the few NATO countries equipped with
laser-guided bombs, flew 10 per cent of the alliance's air attacks.
Only five of the 18 NATO countries dropped bombs on Yugoslavia: the United
States, Britain, France, Spain and Canada. Ambassadors from all 18
countries set the strategy for the campaign at meetings of the North
Atlantic Council in Brussels.
"Every target that NATO attacked was put through a rigorous review
procedure to avoid civilian casualties," the government statement says.
In addition, "for every Canadian mission flown, a Canadian Forces legal
officer carefully examined the target that had been assigned with a view
towards its legitimacy and relevance under Canadian and international legal
If a target assigned by NATO did not meet those standards, the Canadian
task force commander refused the target, the statement says, without
"It became very evident to me early on that I had to be fairly careful
about what our guys were doing, so I instituted a process whereby the legal
staff would look at the targets to make sure the law of armed conflict
would not be violated," Col. Davies said.
"The flight lead [pilot] and the lawyer would have a pretty hard look at it
to see whether it was a doable target, a legal target, and what the level
of collateral risk was."
Col. Davies, who was the Canadian task force commander for the first seven
weeks of the air campaign, recalled rejecting a daylight attack on a
critical Yugoslav satellite communications facility after examining aerial
reconnaissance photos and realizing that there was a large parking lot with
civilian cars parked in it. "The risk of collateral damage was extreme."
He persuaded NATO superiors to take the communications facility off the
target list for the day. The facility was hit later in a night raid when
few, if any, civilian employees were around.
On other occasions he rejected targets that were too close to villages or
other civilian structures and "the risk of collateral damage was greater
than I was willing to accept," Col. Davies said.
He said he based his calls on the capabilities of his pilots, their
aircraft and their munitions.
It was rare, but pilots sometimes made mistakes identifying targets. They
might release their bombs and then realize, "Oh my God, this is not the
target. This is something else. This is a farm," Col. Davies said. But the
smart-bomb technology allowed the pilots to point the laser target
"designator" in another direction and steer the bomb off into a field or
some other safe place.
This happened 1 or 2 per cent of the time, Col. Davies estimated.
He recalled another instance when a Canadian pilot who was assigned to bomb
a bridge arrived at the target to find a large truck parked on the span.
The pilot could not determine whether it was a civilian or military truck.
He radioed NATO's air campaign headquarters for instructions.
Lieutenant-General Michael Short, the U.S. officer in charge of the air
campaign, told the pilot to return to base in Aviano, Italy, with his bomb
load rather than risk killing civilians.
There were sometimes sharp disagreements among the NATO allies about the
Post a Followup
legitimacy of some targets. For instance, throughout the war, France
blocked efforts by the United States and Britain to include Belgrade's
bridges on the target list.
Post a Followup