Notify me of new HIR pieces!

HIR mailing list 

Real Civilian Casualties vs.
The Freezer Truck Hoax

Historical and Investigative Research - 23 Sep 2002; last updated April 2018
by Francisco Gil-White & Jared Israel

As we show in The Freezer Truck Hoax, there is simply no evidence that the Serbs were killing Albanian civilians at all. The same cannot be said for NATO. Consider the case of the Albanian Refugee Column, in the vicinity of the Kosovo town of Djakovica, which NATO bombed on 13 April 1999, three weeks into NATO’s war, and which was included in a list of accusations of NATO war crimes.

NATO first denied it had bombed a column of civilian vehicles, including tractors, full of the same Albanians that NATO was supposedly defending. NATO claimed this slaughter was the work of Yugoslav forces. In response, the Yugoslav government brought reporters to the scene. They examined pieces of missiles and identified US markings.

This was a bit embarrassing, but no problem: NATO simply changed the official story. According to the new story, yes, NATO pilots did bomb the refugees, but that was a mistake. After attacking military vehicles responsible, they said, for burning an Albanian village, they got a bit carried away and, in the confusion, they also bombed a refugee convoy. (Hence, the Serbs, not NATO, should be held ultimately responsible...)

To back up the revised story, NATO held a press conference where General Giuseppe Marani, the NATO spokesperson, played a tape of what he claimed was the pilot’s voice, which showed, according to Marani, that the pilot didn’t realize he was bombing civilians. Deutsche Presse-Agentur reported:

In a tape recording played at the daily briefing at NATO headquarters, the unidentified NATO pilot made no mention of tractors or other signs of civilian life during the attack.

He said he was convinced he was targeting Yugoslav forces responsible for the burning of villages.[1]

But some of the Western reporters whom the Yugoslavs brought to the scene of attack reported no evidence of anything but a civilian convoy. Some interviewed Albanian survivors who said there were no military vehicles present. And Serbian TV (RTS) was broadcasting these facts around the world 24 hours a day. (NATO bombed RTS a few days later...) How could the pilot mistake farm tractors for a military target?

Was the voice on the tape really the voice of the NATO pilot that dropped the bombs?

Three days later, Marani admitted that it wasn’t. As reported by AFP, another wire service:

“Alliance officials admitted that a pilot’s statement they released last week did not correspond to the specific incident for which NATO has accepted responsibility.

This is contrary to what the world’s media was given to believe on Thursday when NATO broadcast a recording of a pilot talking about how he had taken the decision to bomb what he believed to be a military vehicle.

NATO spokesman Brigadier General Giuseppe Marani said the purpose of the broadcast was ‘to clarify the process of a pilot involved in an action of that type.’

The alliance had not meant to imply there was ‘a relationship between that pilot and the narrative on the tape and specific events on the ground.’ ”[2]

In the popular image of the “free press,” reporters are hell-bent on exposing wrongdoing by the powers-that-be. So please keep in mind that, with any news article, most people read only the headline, making it crucial. What was a fair headline for this AFP article? How about NATO ADMITS PILOT TAPE A HOAX, or NATO BOTCHES PILOT TAPE LIE. Perhaps you can think of a better one. But you’ll never guess the headline that AFP ran:


This is careful work. It manages to be literally true—because the pilot whose voice is on the tape is not the pilot who did bomb the refugee convoy—while suggesting that NATO didn’t bomb those refugees.

Since NATO could not show that the pilot wo dropped the bombs on the refugees had mistakenly thought farm tractors were a military target, one might ask: Why did NATO bomb these refugees?

According to Kosovo historian Cedomir Prlincevic, in the spring of 1999, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), a terrorist group that NATO decided to support, was attempting to take control of the clans. These have a centralized structure and a traditional culture that make them susceptible to violent coercion, and exert an all-powerful influence over Albanians in Kosovo.

According to Prlincevic, the KLA had ordered all Albanians out of Kosovo. The KLA, and its NATO handlers, filmed the exodus and, using carefully selected interviews, convinced the world that the Serbs were violently ‘cleansing’ the province of Albanians, thus seeming to justify the NATO bombing.

But the Albanians whom NATO bombed were moving back home.

Did that make sense? Would Albanian civilians move back home into a violent ethnic cleansing campaign conducted by the Serbs? Obviously not. These Albanians were moving back home because they could see there was no such ethnic cleansing campaign.

What if other Albanians, who could also see this, copied their example and returned home? Then the NATO-KLA narrative would be in jeopardy. Hm…

Perhaps, then, NATO and the KLA decided to make an example of these Albanian civilians—a lesson to other refugees who might also be thinking of returning home. This would explain why, on a perfectly clear day, NATO bombed what was obviously a refugee column of the very Albanians they were supposedly defending.


Footnotes and Further Reading

[1] Deutsche Presse-Agentur; April 15, 1999, "Convoy tragedy 'will not undermine NATO resolve'"


“QUESTION: I also note that the pilot said that he saw three dark green, two-and-a-half ton vehicles, which are obviously not tractors with trailers behind them or horses and carts. Is there some discrepancy here? Are we talking about two possible different incidents?

GEN. MARANI: The pilot said he saw the houses burning on a road north of the road that we are talking about.”[1] (Our emphasis)

[2] NATO pilot was not responsible for bombing of refugee convoy, Agence France Presse -- English, April 18, 1999, International news, 233 words, BRUSSELS, April 18


If you arrived here directly (e.g. through a search engine) be advised that this piece is supporting documentation for the following main article, which you are welcome to consult:

The Freezer Truck Hoax: How NATO framed the Serbs














































































































Notify me of new HIR pieces!

HIR mailing list