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Clinton: NATO won't back down

These Kosovo refugees, who may have been caught in a NATO attack on a military convoy, say that despite their suffering, NATO should continue its airstrikes
Text of Clinton's address: 'We are in Kosovo because we care about saving lives ... '

Yugoslavs say NATO planes attack Kosovo village

Capitol Hill pushes for cost of Kosovo


April 15, 1999
Web posted at: 7:46 p.m. EDT (2346 GMT)

In this story:

Clinton: U.S. security at stake

Does president have moral authority?


SAN FRANCISCO (CNN) -- War is "not a business of perfection," President Clinton told a group of U.S. newspaper editors Thursday, when asked about what NATO has described as an attack on a military convoy that may have contained civilians.

Clinton called any civilian casualties regrettable, but inevitable.

"If anyone thinks that this is a reason for changing our mission, then the United States will never be able to bring military power to bear again," he said, "because there is no such thing as flying airplanes this fast, dropping weapons this powerful, dealing with an enemy this pervasive, who is willing to use people as human shields, and never have this sort of tragic thing happen."

"You cannot have this kind of conflict without some errors like this occurring. This is not a business of perfection."

Yugoslav officials claim NATO fired on the ethnic Albanians Wednesday, killing between 64 and 85 people. NATO has released no casualty figures.

Clinton told the American Society of Newspaper Editors the only alternative to acceptance of some NATO military mistakes would be to allow Yugoslav President free reign to drive a million Kosovars from their homes, raping and killing thousands.

To stop the NATO bombing campaign, all the Yugoslav leader has to do is withdraw his forces from Kosovo, allow ethnic Albanians to return and accept international peacekeepers in the Serbian province, Clinton said.

He said NATO is "more united today than when the operation began," and the 19-member military alliance is determined to ratchet up the attacks for "as long as necessary" until Milosevic bows to NATO's demands.

"Ultimately, Mr. Milosevic will have to choose -- either cut his mounting losses or lose his ability to maintain his grip on Kosovo," Clinton said. "Our timetable will be determined by our goals -- not the other way around."

Clinton: U.S. security at stake

The president insisted that the United States has a moral and strategic imperative in the Balkans.

U.S. troops are there "because stability in Europe is important to our own security. We want to build a Europe that is peaceful, undivided and free, a Europe where young Americans do not have to fight and die again."

Clinton said even the side effects of Yugoslavia's campaign of ethnic cleansing could destabilize the region.

"We don't want young democracies that have made the right choices to be overwhelmed by the flight of refugees and the victories of ethnic hatred," he said.

Samuel Berger, Clinton's national security adviser, told the editors that cruelty was Milosevic's only motivation in denying humanitarian aid to Kosovo Albanians who have fled their homes for the mountains.

"Mr. Milosevic denies access to relief organizations to these people, in total contravention of any principle of conflict or decency. These international relief organizations are not a threat to any of his objectives," Berger said.

Does president have moral authority?

Clinton was asked how he would respond to radio talk show critics who question whether he has the moral authority, in the wake of White House scandals, to be commander in chief and how he would answer to an Air Force pilot.

Clinton said he didn't have to.

"I am his commander in chief," and U.S. pilots are performing admirably. "They don't deserve to hear that."

Outside the hotel where the president spoke, hundreds of protesters rallied for both sides of the Kosovo conflict.

About 50 pro-Albanian demonstrators chanted loudly in support of the bombing, holding signs reading "Thank You NATO" and "Stop Serbian Violence and Genocide".

But the pro-NATO group was out-shouted by a much larger anti- war contingent, who held signs saying "Clinton, how many kids have you killed today?" and "Clinton lies, People Die".

The president's speech was the first stop of a two-day trip that will include fund-raising events in Detroit and Boston.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Cohen: U.S. casualties likely in NATO campaign
April 15, 1999
More U.S. warplanes head to Europe
April 14, 1999
Convoys of Kosovo Albanians bombed; 85 dead
April 14, 1999
Week 4 begins; NATO warns attacks could continue for months
April 14, 1999
EU, U.N. leaders to hold summit on Kosovo crisis
April 14, 1999
Serb troops cross into Albania, officials say
April 13, 1999

Extensive list of Kosovo-related sites:
  • Kosovo

  • Federal Republic of Yugoslavia official site
      • Kesovo and Metohija facts
  • Serbia Ministry of Information
  • Serbia Now! News

  • Kosova Crisis Center
  • Kosova Liberation Peace Movement
  • Kosovo - from

  • F-117s arrive at Aviano to support possible NATO operations
  • NATO official site
  • BosniaLINK - U.S. Dept. of Defense
  • U.S. Navy images from Operation Allied Force
  • U.K. Ministry of Defence - Kosovo news
  • U.K. Royal Air Force - Kosovo news
  • Jane's Defence - Kosovo Crisis

  • U.S. Agency for International Development (Kosovo aid)
  • Doctors of the World
  • InterAction
  • International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
  • International Committee of the Red Cross
  • Kosovo Humanitarian Disaster Forces Hundreds of Thousands from their Homes
  • Catholic Relief Services
  • Kosovo Relief
  • ReliefWeb: Home page
  • The Jewish Agency for Israel
  • Mercy International

  • Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
  • Independent Yugoslav radio stations B92
  • Institute for War and Peace Reporting
  • United States Information Agency - Kosovo Crisis

  • Expanded list of related sites on Kosovo
  • 1997 view of Kosovo from space - Eurimage
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