A U.S. Air Force general said the war could have been shortened - and the danger to U.S. pilots reduced - if the French had not vetoed bombing key targets in Serbia.
CBS National Security Correspondent David Martin reports that throughout the 78-day air war against Serbia, NATO officials downplayed disagreements among the allies. But in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, the general who commanded the bombing let it all hang out, beginning with his frustration over not being allowed to hit targets in downtown Belgrade.
"I would have gone for the head of the snake on the first night. I'd have turned the lights out the first night. I'd have dropped the bridges across the Danube," said Lt. Gen. Michael Short. "I'd hit five or six military headquarters in downtown Belgrade. [Serb leader Slobodan] Milosevic and his cronies would have waked up the first morning asking what the hell was going on."
In a war which on television looked like a video game, Short revealed the human face behind all those smart bombs.
"This is a personal thing for me, senator," Short said. "My son flew 40 missions in the A-10 [aircraft] in Kosovo. He was hit by an SA-13 [missile]. He called me that night. I picked up the phone. The first words were, 'Don't tell mom,' 'cause he'd been hit that night."
The longer the air war dragged on, the longer he had to keep sending his son in harm's way.
Said Short: "The litmus I felt I had to pass every night was if my son were killed in Kosovo. I needed to be able to tell his mother and his wife that he was killed doing something that I thought would genuinely bring the war to a close."
Short blamed France for vetoing repeated requests to hit targets in Belgrade. He also said the pilots - he called them "kids" - were placed in greater danger because a Serb airfield in Montenegro was off limits.
"Clearly every night and every day I was sending the kids through Albania understanding on their left flank sat Pogerica airfield with surface-to-air missile systems that we could not strike and interceptor aircraft that we could not strike," Short said.
After NATO bombed a bridge and accidentally hit a passenger train, Short was given orders that further increased the risk to pilots.
"You will only attack bridges between 10 o'clock at night and four o'clock in the morning. That creates a sanctuary and makes the kids very, very predictable," he said.
Military officers are rarely this outspoken in public, but Short is about to retire and on Thursday, he offered a rare glimpse of the battles that rage behind the scene in any military operation.
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