Whoops! There goes another Serbian hospital

'If Serbia was our best effort then the Battle of Britain must have been like a pub darts match'
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The Independent Online

I always doubted whether the bombs thrown at Iraq, and then at Serbia were as accurate as claimed. To start with, if they were really that fast and efficient, why hadn't we been using them before as taxis? But excited military officials would point their baton at a piece of grainy film and say "there we see it, going up onto Milosevic's mantelpiece to break his favourite ornament".

I always doubted whether the bombs thrown at Iraq, and then at Serbia were as accurate as claimed. To start with, if they were really that fast and efficient, why hadn't we been using them before as taxis? But excited military officials would point their baton at a piece of grainy film and say "there we see it, going up onto Milosevic's mantelpiece to break his favourite ornament".

Now a leaked document has revealed that at least one-third of the smart bombs missed their targets, and of the RAF's non-smart bombs, only two per cent went where they were supposed to go.

Two per cent! They'd have got more if the bombing operation was a version of It's a Knockout, with a team from Chelmsford trying to lob the things out of the back of the plane while having trifles chucked at them by the team from Abergavenny.

None of this seems to have upset John Spellar, the armed forces minister, who insisted that many of the 98 per cent didn't necessarily miss, they're just "unaccounted for". He must also be under the impression that England has never lost a penalty shoot-out. But the ignorant referees haven't understood that the shots into the top stand are just "unaccounted for".

More bizarrely, he insists that the bombing operation was "the most accurate ever". Which means that up until now, they've always scored less than two per cent. So the Battle of Britain must have been like a pub darts match, going on for hours and hours until someone said "tell you what, nearest the bull wins and then we can call it a day".

The figures had been withheld, according to Mr. Spellar, because they were "open to misinterpretation". And also because they might be read by a "potential adversary" (though it seems the people who should worry the most are those that live a mile and a half away from a potential adversary). To compound this drivel, a report from the Munitions Effects Assessments Team in America has also been suppressed, for confirming that the number of Serb tanks destroyed by the bombing wasn't 140, as claimed by the US air force, but 14.

But this is where I would leap to the defence of the ministers concerned. Despite the confusing statistics, the bombing campaign WAS accurate, because the people waging it were aiming not just atmilitary targets but the whole of Serbia. And, leaving aside that a few bombs landed in Bulgaria which is only one country out, they did drop most of their gear on Serbia.

The stuff about trying to avoid civilian collateral damage was never for real. When Surdulica hospital was bombed, Nato spokesman Jamie Shea claimed it was a barracks. Of course it looked like a hospital. But that was because Milosevic disguised the barracks by filling it full of sick people and bedpans, surrounding it with ambulances, and getting surgeons to carry out operations in the place. Which just goes to show how cunning and evil he can be.

When a civilian train was bombed on a bridge - twice - killing every passenger, Jamie Shea told us the pilot was aiming at the bridge and not the train. To illustrate his point he showed a video of the train to show how fast it was moving, giving the pilot no time to readjust as it arrived on the bridge. Months later it emerged that the video was shown at double the real speed, but at the time most of the media accepted the story. Shea could probably have got away with showing a clip from Road Runner, and the likes of Mark Laity would have nodded their heads and said "you're right, Jamie, it was going EVER so fast".

As in most modern wars, the enemy became the entire population, which was reflected by their demonisation in much of the press. Most spectacular was the huge tabloid headline "Was it a Serb who killed Jill Dando?" The ensuing article went on to say there were no leads whatsoever at that point. From which the paper seems to have concluded "oh well, must have been a Serb then".

No-one lapped this up more than the liberal bombers. For example, Andrew Rawnsley wrote as the war ended, "Who can argue that the outstanding political winner of the first humanitarian war is Tony Blair? ... The steeliness of his rhetoric ... that certainty, the sense he gave that he felt the Almighty sitting on his shoulder directing him to wage a divine crusade, frightened outside observers", etc, etc, making you start to wonder whether he had learned his journalism in Russia in 1938.

I expected it to continue "The sun shines but half the day, whereas you, o outstanding steely one, shine all night too".

Though Blair may not have seemed quite so glowing if you were in the way of one of the 98 per cent of the bombs that were meant to go somewhere else, leaving you irredeemably unaccounted for.

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