Cohen Rejects Revisionists' Views of Kosovo Operation
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
MUNICH, Germany, Feb. 7, 2000 Defense Secretary William Cohen used the Wehrkunde Conference here Feb. 5 to decry "revisionist histories" of NATO operations in Kosovo.
He said people should reject "out-of-hand" any suggestion that equates NATO operations with Serb President Slobodan Milosevic's actions against the ethnic Albanian Kosovars.
"The notion that NATO is in some moral equivalence with Milosevic is sheer, patent nonsense, and it should be rejected … by those who suggest that NATO has engaged in immoral acts," Cohen said. "The fact is, we were seeking to reverse something that every one of us felt was antithetical to what we stand for."
Cohen objected to statements that NATO didn't do enough to protect civilians during Operation Allied Force. On the contrary, he said, military planners considering targets did everything in their power to avoid civilian casualties.
"Let me say for the record that most of you have no idea -- nor should you -- of the extraordinary effort in planning by the military leadership to make sure we minimized civilian casualties," Cohen said.
"[The planners asked] what types of aircraft were used, under what circumstances, what type of munitions, what was the blast effect, what was the angle of attack. All of that was taken under consideration every single day of the 78-day campaign," Cohen said.
He rejected revisionists' view that a ground invasion of the area should not have been taken off the table. He said the NATO allies debated for nine months before agreeing on Allied Force.
"The very notion at the time … to use ground troops would have resulted in no action taking place," he said. "We must remember what we were debating at the time: NATO acting not in defense of its territory, but dealing with a different type of enemy."
Some critics said the presence of ground troops in Kosovo would have meant a smaller number of civilian casualties. "There are a number of conflicts in the world today with troops on the ground, and I would like to compare how many civilians are dying in those conflicts to Kosovo," Cohen said.
Finally, Cohen dealt with critics who say NATO pilots were in no danger over Kosovo. "[These people have the notion that] somehow our pilots who were flying missions were invulnerable to attack," he said. "Those pilots put their lives on the line every single day. They flew over mountains, through cloud cover, with anti-aircraft coming up and surface-to-air missiles fired at them. They put their lives at risk every day.