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What Should Clinton Have Said?
TIME readers write in with their suggestions

Following are comments we received from readers in response to our poll about the NATO bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. Our poll asks if readers believe Clinton's apology is sufficient. We asked readers who believe his apology is not sufficient to write in with their suggestions about what he should have said or done. Please note that we could not post all the comments we received. Thanks, though, to everyone who took the time to share their thoughts with us.

It's evident that Clinton's apology is not sufficient at all. I don't think that any person, after killing innocent people, can be considered not guilty by pretending to do it mistakenly. It's the same principle for countries. Even between countries in war, their diplomats and embassies are protected by international [law]. I cannot understand how an easy apology can be sufficient.

In addition, there is no evidence to prove that this strike isn't a prepared action against China. It's difficult to imagine that a very accurate strike by missiles in three different directions can be a "mistake". According to me, if it comes from any human or mechanical error, then that person should be punished. If it comes from any institutional error, then [NATO Secretary-General Javier] Solana or [Supreme Allied Commander] Gen. Wesley Clark should be punished by international court in The Hague.

--Chen Ke

Mr. Clinton should have made a clear-cut apology. At least he should have used a whole sentence to issue it, not mixing it with "but..." and "while", as he did in the educational policy meeting. He should have promised a thorough investigation and to make the results public as soon as possible.

Both the U.S. and the NATO officials argued for the accuracy of their air campaign. But what I found most disturbing is exactly the fact that one of the only 12 "inaccurate" attacks out of more than 9,000 in fact targeted a highly visible Chinese embassy.

The initial NATO response stating that the real responsibility belongs to the Yugoslavia authority is certainly an insult to the Chinese people.

--Dingbo Xu

U.S. President's "apology" is by no means sufficient! Look at the following case, can any sane and humane person regard only saying "sorry" sufficient?!

I killed Mr. Clinton, then I say, "I'm so sorry for that! But it is just a tragic error, because I mistake him as Hitler!"

As a young Chinese, I would use my life and my body to protect my country's dignity and sovereignty when it is necessary!

Damn the barbaric bombing done by NATO!

--Yong-hui Wang

A mother was killed on the day before mother's day. A mother lost her daughter and son in law on the day before mother's day. What did they do to die like this?

If your American embassy was attacked, and your American mother or brother or sister was killed by another country, would you think that some kind of damned 'regret' is enough?

Have you American ever treated other country's people like your own?

--W.K. Lee

Is President Clinton's apology sufficient?

No, I do not think so. When he apologized, he did not seem to take it very seriously. He was like: "Oops, I am sorry we made a mistake." And then, immediately, he asked the Chinese people to blame Yugoslavia and insisted that he believed NATO should continue bombing. What an arrogant apology!

His second apology is okay. But, if he could promise in-depth investigation, it will help convince people that NATO did not do that intentionally, and finally solve the crisis.

--Wei Guo

As Americans, we should ask ourselves this question: What would we want the Chinese government to do if the Chinese "mistakenly" bombed our embassy? One thing is sure: we would not want the Chinese to just say, "I am very sorry" and then shrug their shoulders and walk away. Not only would such action not be enough, I would argue it would further [isolate] us because the showing of insincerity. Words are not enough, only actions and sincere actions on the part of our government would be deemed appropriate. Here is what I think our government should do:

President Clinton and his chief advisors should hold a news conference on this matter. Mainly to express regrets and issue apology, thus fulfilling the demand by the Chinese of receiving a "full apology". The President should also make it known that the U.S. and NATO intend to pay full restitution to all the victims in the bombing, including the dead and wounded; also to the Chinese government for the rebuilding of the embassy in Belgrade. The President should also promise a full investigation of the incident and subsequent punishment of the responsible ones (heads are going to roll anyway).

The keyword here is "sincerity".

--Charles Young

The U.S. bombing of the Chinese embassy killed three people and wounded 20 more. The NATO is keeping killing the Serbs and also Kosovars even today. President Clinton and the NATO leaders kept talking about the statistical accuracy of their attacks, but failed to point out a much more important fact: so far the vast majority of the people killed by the NATO bombing were innocent civilians. Needless to point out that the Chinese were the citizens of a neutral country. The attack on the Chinese embassy was a serious violation of the international law.

The argument that the NATO has been doing this all because of Milosevic's cleansing policy against Kosovars has no legal grounds or whatsoever.

Imagine midnight tonight, when you are asleep, police come to your house and brutally shoot your innocent kids to death. I bet you will not accept an explanation such as "I am sorry. I thought your kids were murderers whom I was chasing. I regret what I did to your kids. It was a tragic mistake, but you really should blame the real criminals. I was just doing my job. Sometimes I make unavoidable mistakes which you just have to accept."

What the NATO has done are the war crimes, not accidents. An apology would never be enough for a crime. There should be criminal trials.

It is so sad to find that Mr. Clinton, who cared so much about the Columbine massacre and who was against the Vietnam war, would now believe that a brutal superpower is the only method to solve the regional, religious and racial conflicts. All the U.S. politicians and the media seemed so indifferent to the equally precious lives lost in other parts of the world. From much of the TV and newspaper coverage in the USA on the embassy bombing, I found no one caring about the health conditions of the casualties. The politicians just cared about the political consequences, for example, whether China would veto the G8 plan in the United Nations or whether China would cut the ties with the West. The media was trying to find the cause of the bombing and seemed unbelievably naive on this incident. They seemed all accepted from the beginning the NATO's explanation. I would ask: as a professional journalist, how could you be so easily convinced it was a mistake but not a conspiracy, given that the investigation is still going on? This only leaves me the doubt that the U.S. media is also a part of the governmental propaganda, similar to the Serbian or Chinese media.

In my opinion, it is mainly this kind of the cold-blooded, selfish cultural arrogance that led to the Columbine tragedy and is showing us the new ones in Yugoslavia right now.

--Xu-Yan Chen

It is ridiculous to say such an apology is sufficient. Think about what Americans have done while your embassy was bombed. What USA and NATO should do is to apologize formally and openly and investigate the whole issue and punish those who should be responsible and compensate for the losses.

Never do I believe this is a mistake. It is ridiculous that NATO could use an old map during a thoroughly prepared war.

--Karl Ye

[Three] innocent people were killed by NATO. What would the American government do if [three] American citizen were killed by the Chinese army?

Followings are my suggestions:

1. Try and sentence the people who are guilty [for the bombing].
2. Top delegate of American government should go to China, apologize and attend the funerals.
3. NATO should make compensation for all economic losses.
4. Compensate the families of the dead.

--Weijun Li

For Clinton, it is enough that he has apologized. He has done his job. But for the NATO, they need to apologize and compensate [the victims]. I like the Americans around me but I think the U.S.-led NATO should be responsible for this 'mistaken' bombing. Do something to show the world U.S. is the responsible policeman.

--Hongliang Fang


May 17, 1999

Cover Story: Madeleine's War
She helped push the U.S. into Kosovo. It was part of the assertive, moralistic new world role she is urging for America. Here's a look behind the scenes as she struggles to make it work

China: Bombed Out
Errant NATO missiles strike China's embassy in Belgrade and roil already tense relations between Beijing and Washington

In-depth analysis, polls, photo essays and more

Up-to-the-minute coverage

Is President Clinton's apology for bombing the Chinese embassy in Belgrade sufficient?

This edition's table of contents | TIME Asia home



U.S. secretary of state says China should be 'tolerant'

Philippine government denies Estrada's claim to presidency

Faith, madness, magic mix at sacred Hindu festival

Land mine explosion kills 11 Sri Lankan soldiers

Japan claims StarLink found in U.S. corn sample

Thai party announces first coalition partner


COVER: President Joseph Estrada gives in to the chanting crowds on the streets of Manila and agrees to make room for his Vice President

THAILAND: Twin teenage warriors turn themselves in to Bangkok officials

CHINA: Despite official vilification, hip Chinese dig Lamaist culture

PHOTO ESSAY: Estrada Calls Snap Election

WEB-ONLY INTERVIEW: Jimmy Lai on feeling lucky -- and why he's committed to the island state


COVER: The DoCoMo generation - Japan's leading mobile phone company goes global

Bandwidth Boom: Racing to wire - how underseas cable systems may yet fall short

TAIWAN: Party intrigues add to Chen Shui-bian's woes

JAPAN: Japan's ruling party crushes a rebel at a cost

SINGAPORE: Singaporeans need to have more babies. But success breeds selfishness

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