Clinton: 'Victory for a safer world'
Cohen: Precision bombing limited casualities
June 10, 1999
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In an Oval Office address to the American people Thursday night, President Clinton said the United States and its NATO allies "achieved a victory for a safer world" in Kosovo.
"For the first time in 79 days, the skies over Yugoslavia are silent," Clinton said. "An unnecessary conflict has been brought to a just and honorable conclusion."
Clinton said now the job is to prosecute war criminals, rebuild war damage and return refugees. He said NATO's victory brings new hope that the world will not look the other way when people are persecuted for their race or faith.
Clinton also thanked the men and women of the U.S. armed forces for their service, and thanked the American people for "standing up to ethnic cleansing" and helping the Kosovar refugees.
Earlier Thursday, U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen said that the precision bombing of Operation Allied Force pummeled Yugoslavia's military machine while limiting civilian casualties in the country.
"We achieved our goals with the most precise application of air power in history," Cohen said.
"Three months ago Yugoslavia was a heavily armed country with a significant air defense system," Cohen told reporters. "We reduced that defense system threat by destroying over 80 percent of Yugoslavia's modern air fighters and strategic surface-to-air missiles."
Cohen said NATO missiles and bombs destroyed more than 50 percent of Yugoslavia's artillery and more than 33 percent of its armored vehicles.
The alliance reduced the country's capacity to make ammunition by 66 percent and destroyed its oil refining ability at more than 40 percent of its military fuel supply sites, he said.
He said 35 percent of the bombs and missiles used were precision guided, with the majority dropped on oil refineries, ammunition storage sites and troop staging areas, enabling NATO to hold down civilian casualties.
"Of more than 23,000 bombs and missiles used, we have confirmed just 20 incidents of weapons going astray from their targets to cause collateral damage," he said.
About 75 percent of Belgrade and 35 percent of Yugoslavia overall remains without electrical power due to the NATO bombings, said Army Gen. Henry Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
He said NATO used both "hard-kill" and "soft-kill" weapons on Yugoslavia's electrical systems. Soft-kill weapons allow power to be restored within 72 hours or weeks, while hard-kill weapons cause damage that could take years to repair, the general said.
The judicious weapon choice by NATO was the only reason all of Serbia was not in the dark, Shelton said.
'Magnificent job' by pilots
Cohen cited the "magnificent job that our pilots did" for the record of 78 straight days of air attacks with no fatalities and only two planes lost.
As for criticism by some that ground troops would have ended the conflict sooner, Cohen said that the debate among NATO members about the need for ground troops made it impossible to make a quick decision to deploy them.
The air campaign "was the best option under the circumstance, and ultimately has proved successful," Cohen said.
"This was a fight over values, a fight against ethnic and religious hatred, a lack of tolerance for others and the right to live in peace," he added.
Cohen warned that the upcoming peacekeeping mission to Kosovo was not without risk to NATO troops.
The peacekeeping operation is likely to cost U.S. taxpayers $1.5 billion to $2 billion a year, Cohen said.
That figure does not include the cost of returning the hundreds of warplanes and thousands of troops that the Pentagon has sent to the Balkans and elsewhere in Europe since March 24 to carry out the airstrikes.
Pentagon officials said Yugoslav forces are required to withdraw from different parts of Kosovo in phases with three distinct deadlines.
U.N. Security Council standing by for Kosovo vote
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