Accidents Can Happen

In a news analysis piece about the Kosovo peace agreement in the June 4 New York Times,  Steven Erlanger, tallying Yugoslav casualties from the air war, writes that “at least 1,200 civilians have died in NATO accidents and NATO estimated Thursday that at least 5,000 Yugoslav soldiers and policemen have died.” What interests Chatterbox here is the Times’ casual and somewhat euphemistic use of the word “accidents.” Certainly one can point to numerous isolated instances where bombs fell in places that NATO obviously never intended to bomb–the Chinese Embassy being a notable example. And Chatterbox doesn’t mean to imply that NATO is engaged in a deliberate campaign of terror against the citizens of Yugoslavia. Still, isn’t it a bit much to count every civilian killed by NATO bombs the victim of some sort of “accident”? Doesn’t NATO (and, more to the point, the Times) distinguish between genuine foul-ups and deaths that occur as collateral damage when legitimate military targets are bombed? Are we really supposed to consider the 1,200-plus noncombatants killed in the NATO bombing the practical equivalent to the nine people killed in this week’s plane crash in Little Rock, Ark.? Chatterbox thinks a less propagandistic and more accurate term for Yugoslav victims of “NATO accidents” would be “civilian casualties.”