The body count and proportionality

The media never considered the huge disparity between the number civilian casualties in Libya and Kosovo compared to zero NATO casualties.

Kosovo 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Kosovo 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Guardian, on May 14, 2012, claimed that according to Human Rights Watch (HRW) at least 72 civilians including 24 children were killed by NATO air strikes during the 2011 Libyan campaign. HRW issued a report describing bombed sites in which no clear evidence of a legitimate military target was found, but NATO and all the nations that participated in the air campaign, including the UK, have refused even to acknowledge these fatalities, to provide specific information on the military target or to conduct a field investigation into the incidents.
In seven of eight bombed sites HRW investigated, they found no clear military target at the time when NATO strikes resulted in civilian fatalities. The most serious of these incidents occurred in the village of Majer on August 8, 2011, when NATO air strikes on two family compounds killed 34 civilians, five of them children, and injured at least 30 more. Initial strikes killed 16 civilians. A further strike, shortly thereafter, killed an additional 18 civilians who had rushed to the scene to assist the wounded and dying.
The NATO bombing campaign in Kosovo in 1990 was even more dramatic. Just over 38,000 combat sorties, including 10,484 strike sorties, were flown by Allied forces with no Allied combat fatalities, a remarkable achievement.
The campaign involved up to 1,000 aircraft as well as aircraft carriers stationed in the Adriatic and Tomahawk cruise missiles fired from aircraft, ships and submarines.
Despite strenuous efforts to avoid civilian casualties, errors inevitably occurred, including the accidental bombing of a Kosovar Albanian refugee convoy and a strike again the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade. (Some sources subsequently indicated that the latter may have been intentional with the goal of eliminating radio equipment being used by the Yugoslav army).
In assessing the Kosovo campaign, a NATO paper titled “Kosovo one year on” stresses that modern technology, the skill of NATO’s pilots, and control over target selection made it possible for the Alliance to succeed in that campaign with remarkably few civilian casualties. Nevertheless NATO admits that the actual toll in human lives will never be precisely known, though HRW has estimated that between 488 and 527 civilians may have lost their lives. The Yugoslavs claim there were 1,200-5,700 civilian deaths.
NONE OF the international media considered the huge disparity between the number civilian casualties in Libya and Kosovo compared to zero NATO casualties worth mentioning. The question of proportionality simply did not arise.
By contrast, in the current Israel-Gaza conflict, reporters have been quick to accusingly blazon repeatedly that only 3 Israelis have been killed to date, compared to 61 Gazans, and on this account they charge Israel with a disproportionate response.
How then does one explain this selective focus on body count, and how should one interpret the dismal lack of understanding that every one of the 12,000 rockets fired into civilian areas of Israel during the past three years was intended to kill and maim as many as possible? Rockets were fired towards schools deliberately at 8 a.m. when the kids were on their way to classes, and only by the grace of the Almighty did they not succeed in these mass murder attempts.
Moreover the manner in which the rockets are fired into civilian Israeli areas from the midst of populated civilian areas constitutes a double war crime. This procedure ensures that responsive attacks on the rocket launchers cannot be achieved without tragically incurring collateral civilian casualties.
The writer is a commentator on current affairs. His web site is located at