[WW] Pentagon gave orders for war crimes

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  • Subject: [WW] Pentagon gave orders for war crimes
  • From: "WW" <ww at wwpublish.com>
  • Date: Sat, 8 Jan 2000 19:19:14 -0500
Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the Jan. 13, 2000
issue of Workers World newspaper

KOREA 1950, KOSOVO 1999: 

By John Catalinotto

What do the U.S. war against Korea in 1950 and the U.S.-
NATO war against Yugoslavia in 1999 have in common? In both 
cases the Pentagon gave orders to its pilots to attack 
civilian targets.

This fall, after nearly half a century of silence, the 
media reported on a massacre by U.S. soldiers of hundreds of 
civilians huddled under a bridge at No Gun Ri during the 
Korean War. Now Associated Press reporters investigating 
that massacre have found more evidence of atrocities in 
recently declassified Pentagon documents about the 1950-1951 
air war. The AP broke the news on Dec. 28.

They interviewed Korean civilians who had been attacked as 
well as U.S. pilots who did the attacking. Even in after-
mission reports at that time, pilots said they had been 
ordered to strafe a group of Koreans who "could have been 

In early August 1950, some six weeks after the war began, 
pilots were aware of the problem. "Pilots have difficulty in 
determining whether personnel in enemy-held territory are 
noncombatants or not," read one report from the U.S. 35th 
Fighter-Bomber Squadron. "Leaflets should be dropped on them 
warning them to keep out of sight or that they will be 

This was no surface problem. The truth was that U.S. 
ground forces were in rapid retreat at that point in the 
war, and many of the Korean fighters described as "North 
Koreans" were guerrilla fighters completely at home with the 
local population. Just as in Vietnam, the U.S. troops could 
not separate the Korean "enemy" from the people because the 
vast majority of the people were against the U.S. invaders.

So the orders from the Pentagon brass were to open fire on 
the people. 

According to the AP report, "Documents found in 
declassified military archives show that some troops were 
ordered to shoot approaching civilians - orders that 
military law experts say were illegal." The Pentagon 
considered anyone dressed in white outfits a legitimate 

In January 1951, according to south Korean witnesses, U.S. 
bombing and strafing killed about 300 south Korean civilian 
refugees hiding in a cave some 90 miles south of Seoul, in 

"The area outside the cave was busy with people coming and 
going, villagers said. An observer plane circled and then 
four planes dropped incendiary bombs near the cave's 
entrance, setting fire to household goods just inside, they 
said. Most victims suffocated from smoke.

"Earlier that week, 60 miles to the west, another 300 
South Korean refugees were killed by a U.S. air attack as 
they jammed a storage house at the village of Doon-po, said 
survivor Kim In-tae. Kim, now a Presbyterian minister, said 
the planes bombed the location after the refugees set a fire 
outside to keep warm. `I woke up from the piles of corpses 
after three days,' Kim said."

These and other U.S. massacres of Korean civilians in the 
1950-1951 period described in the AP report are war crimes 
under the international accords guiding the conduct of war 
signed by the U.S.

The generals and politicians who ordered the attacks, as 
well as the pilots, are war criminals, whether or not the 
Pentagon admits it.


The Pentagon is worried its troops might face such 
charges--not only over Korea, but in connection with the 
many U.S. military interventions of the last 50 years. So in 
April 1998 the generals rounded up 100 foreign-service 
officials and told them that Washington should refuse to 
support any permanent international war crimes tribunal. 
Strangely enough, the U.S. government had proposed such a 
tribunal in the first place.

The brass wanted no part of any tribunal that could 
possibly put U.S. officers or soldiers on trial. They went 
along with the special UN War Crimes Tribunal on Yugoslavia 
only because it was limited to investigating alleged crimes 
committed by Yugoslavs.

This tribunal owes its existence to the U.S. and the other 
NATO powers. It was created in 1993 to discredit the 
political leadership in Yugoslavia and prepare public 
opinion for war. It indicted top leaders of the Yugoslav 
government even as NATO bombs were raining on Pristina, 
Belgrade and Novi Sad last May.

Yet even this tool of NATO, under pressure from growing 
public hostility to that ugly war, is trying to look less 
like a Star Chamber.

On Dec. 28, the chief prosecutor for the special War 
Crimes Tribunal, Carla Del Ponte, announced she would review 
a report on the conduct of NATO pilots and their commanders 
during last spring's 78-day bombing campaign against 

Del Ponte has made it clear no charges will be brought 
against NATO troops as a result of the report. But even 
raising such a possibility shakes things up. As one news 
report said, "Never has a Western leader or military figure 
been hauled before an international tribunal." 


Some of the pressure on Del Ponte comes from a movement 
for a "people's tribunal" to try U.S.-NATO war criminals. 
This movement has been growing since the International 
Action Center held the first hearing last July in New York 
before 700 people. 

Since then, similar hearings have taken place in 10 U.S. 
cities and in Rome, Berlin, Paris, Oslo, Vienna, Novi Sad, 
Sydney and Tokyo. The most dramatic was a Nov. 8 tribunal in 
Athens before 10,000 people.

In conjunction with these grassroots efforts, members of 
the Russian Duma and Canadian attorneys have attempted to 
bring some of the evidence of NATO's crimes before the UN 
War Crimes Tribunal, demanding they be investigated. 

Some truthful accounts of events surrounding the war have 
finally made it into the corporate media. They essentially 
show that the U.S. provoked the war, that it used a Big Lie 
to justify what was really aggression, and that NATO 
purposely targeted civilians.

One, by Robert Fisk in The Independent, a British daily, 
on Nov. 26, admitted that U.S. and other NATO forces 
provoked the war by setting terms at Rambouillet in March 
1999 that the Yugoslavs could never accept.

The cries of "genocide" NATO politicians used to justify 
the intervention had no basis in fact. U.S. officials said 
first that 500,000 Kosovo Albanians had been killed, then 
100,000, then 40,000. Yet a United Nations team 
investigating so-called "mass graves" found 2,108 bodies--
and these were of all nationalities and had died from all 
causes. (Toronto Star, Nov. 4; New York Times, Nov. 10.)

U.S. Air Force generals Wesley Clark and Michael Short 
argued over which targets should get priority, wrote Dana 
Priest in the Washington Post on Sept. 19, 20 and 21. Clark 
wanted to hit military targets in Kosovo and civilian 
targets in all of Yugoslavia. Short wanted all bombs and 
rockets directed at civilian targets. But both these U.S. 
generals directing NATO bombing purposely struck civilian 
economic targets to bring pressure on the Belgrade 
government to capitulate.

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