4. Did the U.S. Deliberately Bomb the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade?

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Published: Last Updated on

In These Times
A Tragic Mistake?
Author: Joel Bleifuss

In These Times
Title: Mission Implausible
Author: Seth Ackerman

Pacific News
Title: Reports Showing U.S. Deliberately Bombed Chinese Embassy Deliberately Ignored by U.S. Media
Author: Yoichi Shimatsu

Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting
2/ 9/2000
Title: NY Times on Chinese Embassy Bombing: Nothing to Report
Action Alert (No author given)

Faculty/community Evaluators: Philip Beard Ph.D., Robert Lee Nichols Lt. General U.S. Marines (Ret.)
Student Researchers: Stephen Hayth, Erich Sommer, Melanie Burton

Foreign news coverage: The Herald (Glasgow), The Politiken (Copenhagen) The Scotsman, The South China Morning Post, The Times (London), The London Observer

Elements within the CIA may have deliberately targeted the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, without NATO approval, because it was serving as a rebroadcast station for the Yugoslavian army.

The London Observer and Copenhagen’s Politiken reported that, according to senior U.S. and European military sources, NATO knew very well where the Chinese embassy was located and listed it as a “strictly prohibited target” at the beginning of the war. The Observer stated that the CIA and its British equivalent, M16, had been listening to communications from the Chinese embassy routinely since it moved to its new site in 1996. The Chinese embassy was taken off the prohibited target list after NATO detected it sending Yugoslavian army signals to forces in the field. “Nearly everyone involved in NATO air operations (radio) signals command knows that the bombing was deliberate,” said Jens Holsoe of Politiken, lead investigative reporter on the news team reporting on the story.

President Clinton called the bombing a “tragic mistake” and said it was the result of a mix-up. NATO claimed that they were using old maps and got the address wrong. However, Observer reporters quoted a Naples-based flight controller who said the NATO maps that were used during the campaign had correctly identified the Chinese embassy.

A French Ministry of Defense report stated that the flight that targeted the Chinese embassy was not under NATO command, but rather an independent U.S. bombing raid. In July 1999, CIA director George Tenet testified before Congress that of the 900 sites struck by NATO during the bombing campaign, the only one targeted by the CIA was the Chinese embassy.

In response to the claims by the New York Times and the Washington Post of having investigated this story and having found no substantiation, Seth Ackerman states that within the CIA there are strong anti-China elements. The Counter-Proliferation Division within the CIA is known for its opposition to Clinton’s China policy. The CIA’s regular targeting office-the Central Targeting Support Staff-was not consulted about the mission. Instead the Counter-Proliferation Division forwarded the target information to U.S. forces.

The CIA was outraged not only because the Chinese were helping the Serbs by serving as a rebroadcast station, but also because they believed that Yugoslavia had sold the wreckage of the downed U.S. F-117 stealth fighter to the Chinese, thereby improving China’s ability to develop a stealth-proof radar system.

According to the New York Times April 17, 2000 edition, the CIA still claims that the bombing was an accident, but cannot explain “why so many mistakes occurred.”

The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Porter Goss, said he was confident that the strike was not deliberate, but added, “unless some people are lying to me.”

The bombing of the Chinese embassy was described by Chinese Ambassador Li Zhaozing as “a horrifying atrocity, something rarely seen in the entire history of the worst of diplomacy.”

Update by Joel Bleifuss

The information and evidence presented by the Observer of London and Politiken of Copenhagen, pointing to a deliberate U.S. decision to bomb the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, has been totally ignored by the mainstream press. Though some reporters, including Steven Lee Myers, the New York Times’ Pentagon correspondent, raised doubts about the bombing. Myers has nonetheless concluded, with some skepticism, that the bombing was a mistake. FAIR, the media watch group has further information on the bombing allegations at:http://www.fair.org/activism/embassy-bombing.html, http://www.fair.org/activism/china-response2.html, andhttp://www.fair.org/activism/embassy-update.html.

Joel Bleifuss: itt@inthesetimes.com