June 10, 1995


An American Hero or Actor of the Year?

Why Was O’Grady "Rescued" 60 Miles from Crash Site?

By Bob Djurdjevic

PHOENIX, June 10, 1995 - An American F-16 jet is shot down by the Bosnian Serbs on June 2. The pilot survives for six days on grass and water, some of it squeezed out of his socks. On June 8, he is rescued in a daring mission by a group of brave marines. President Bill Clinton hails the airman, Capt. Scott O’Grady, as "an American hero." The nation rejoices and celebrates another example of the U.S. military prowess. Clinton suggests a movie could be made based on this event.

It could. Because it shows that Clinton’s State Dept., NSC and Pentagon advisors seem to have as much imagination as the Hollywood script writers. But Washington’s plot is weak. For, if the movie were made based on what really happened, the film’s title could be "Deception," and its sequel could be "Impeachment."

What did really happen? We don’t know for sure. But it seems that the Bosnian Serb Gen. Ratko Mladic (and/or Serbia’s President Slobodan Milosevic), made a deal, brokered by the UN, intended to make Clinton look good at home. They released the captive pilot and let the marines "rescue" him. In return, they probably got assurances that they won’t be bombed again by NATO. And that the Administration will not allow the arms embargo to be lifted.

In other words, Bob Dole’s proposed "lift and strike" policy (lift the embargo to help the Muslims, strike the Serbs from the air), was flipped into a "strike and lift" move. Strike the US aid to Bosnia, and lift the air threat against the Serbs. As America celebrated O’Grady’s freedom, Mladic and Milosevic were probably toasting each other on having outsmarted the "most powerful country in the world."

If this sounds too far-fetched, consider the following "play-by-play" recap:

June 2, 1995

"...Bosnian Serb officials said a parachute was seen just before the fighter jet crashed into a populated area near the town of Mrkonjic Grad, about 40 miles south of Banja Luka."

"A search an rescue operation... has been mounted (by NATO) near Banja Luka."

By Roger Cohen, NYT, Sarajevo

"A Bosnian Serb military source quoted by Associated Press said a chute had been sighted shortly before the plane crashed on the outskirts of the town Mrkonjic Grad."

"Admiral Leighton Smith told the CNN that he had an unconfirmed report that the pilot had been captured by the Serbs."

By R.W. Apple Jr., NYT Washington

June 3, 1995

A NATO spokesman "said there were indications from commander of the Bosnian Serbs, Gen. Ratko Mladic, that his forces have captured the pilot."

By Roger Cohen, NYT, Sarajevo

June 4, 1995

"Gen. Ratko Mladic... has insisted that he will not give any information on an American pilot who F-16 jet was downed on Friday until NATO renounced the use of air strikes in Bosnia, the UN said today."

"Gen. Mladic made it clear that until he has a meeting with the commander of the UN forces in the former Yugoslavia, Gen. Bertrand Janvier, and until he receives security guarantees, there will be no hostage releases and no information on the pilot."

By Roger Cohen, NYT, Sarajevo

June 8, 1995

A NATO A-130 pilot picked up a signal from O’Grady at 2:08 a.m. Bosnian time about 20 miles southeast of Bihac.

"It took American military officials (only) five hours to plan and carry out the risky daylight rescue."

"At one point, an American officer... requested permission to fire a missile at a Serbian radar installation... Permission was denied."

"Bosnian Serbs contended the mission under NATO was no surprise."

"The (Serb) radar site in Knin, code named Giraffe, was turned on at 6:21 a.m., according to NATO chronology, which made it ominously plain that if the Serbs were initially surprised by the raid, they were in the dark no longer."

(TiM Ed.. Yet, they chose to do nothing!?)

"At 6:58 a.m., an (American) officer recommended that NATO forces destroy the radar base at Knin. The request was rebuffed by senior officers."

By Francis X. Clines, NYT, Wash.

June 9, 1995

Pentagon and NATO were at a loss to explain how the Serbs managed to shoot down the F-16. "My personal feeling is that they intentionally set a trap and sprung it. And we have lots of indications that this was the case," said Lieut. Gen. Michael Ryan, the American commander in Italy.

"NATO will now try to avoid flying over Bosnia and rely mainly on aircraft that will fly over water close to the coast, and look in with long-range radar."

By Elaine Sciolino, NYT, Washington

"The White House today rejected a request by the Prime Minister of Bosnia that the US lift the arms embargo against his Muslim-led government, and said that President Clinton would veto any legislation designed to force such a change in policy."

By Alison Mitchell, NYT, Washington

The preceding are some basic facts, as reported in the media. For the sake of consistency, we’ve quoted only from the New York Times’ reports. They raise a ton of questions:w-bosnia.gif (68364 bytes)

(1) Capt. O’Grady’s parachute was seen not far from his downed jet, some 25 miles southwest of Mrkonjic Grad (see the map). He was "rescued" about 20 miles from Bihac. How did he manage to travel about 60 miles unseen, especially as O’Grady said himself that he moved no more than a mile and a half from his hiding place?

(2) For a man who was supposed to have eaten only grass leaves for six days, O’Grady seemed in fine shape. What was his weight before he went down? What was his weight upon return? Can his weight and poor diet for six days be reconciled by medical experts?

(3) The Pentagon and NATO said initially that they had picked up some signals from the downed pilot. After that, his radio stayed silent for several days. Why did O’Grady wait so long before trying again?

(Pentagon officials blamed the bad weather for it. After the hundreds of billions of dollars which we spend on our military, why can’t the Pentagon get a radio that works in the rain?)

(4) Why did the senior NATO officers turn down the request of the American flyers to silence the Serb radars in Knin - a standard procedure in situations such as that on June 8? Because Naples (NATO command) knew of the political deal, but the boys in the air didn’t?

(5) The Serb leaders have declared NATO and the UN enemies. They made good on that by downing an F-16 in broad daylight, and by taking nearly 400 UN soldiers prisoner. According to Pentagon’s own admissions, Serbs have proven that they are smart enough to fool even the sophisticated NATO command. So why did the Serbs not fire on June 8 when they illuminated an entire NATO flying armada?

(6) Why did the Serbs let the American helicopters land on their territory without any opposition?

(7) The helicopters reportedly landed within 50 meters of O’Grady’s hiding spot. Isn’t that fantastic precision for a single, short transmission which O’Grady had sent some six hours before?

(8) The choppers spent only two minutes on the ground before taking off with O’Grady on board. An American officer told CNN that O’Grady came out of the woods running toward the US marines, pistol in hand, before they were able to properly identify each other, as military procedures required. Why was O’Grady so sure these were US marines?

(9) Large military apparatuses, such as the Pentagon or NATO, aren’t exactly famous for their "speed to market." Yet, here we are supposed to believe that they were able to plan, verify O’Grady’s authenticity, map his exact location, assemble the flying flotilla, get the necessary approvals, and launch the rescue mission - all in about five hours! Was there any previous time in which the military responded with such an incredible speed?

(10) If Clinton really meant to get tough with the Serbs, why is he now content only to "look in with long-range radars," instead of take out their radar or missile sites in retaliation for the downed US jet? Because he caved in and agreed not to bother the Serbs anymore - as Gen. Mladic had demanded?

(11) Is that also why Clinton did not meet the Bosnian Prime Minister, Haris Silajdzic? And why Al Gore instead delivered a stern message to Silajdzic, which included, for the first time, President’s promise to veto any embargo-lifting legislation passed by the Congress?

(12) In addition to the events in Bosnia and Washington, the US government recalled last week from Belgrade its negotiator, Robert Frasure, where the latter was trying to persuade Milosevic to recognize Bosnia in exchange for the lifting of the sanctions. The European, a British-based newspaper, reported that Frasure left Belgrade fuming. That’s because Madeleine Albright had apparently prevailed over Richard Holbrooke, voicing her opposition to the US "soft-soft" approach toward Milosevic.

But what if that had nothing to do with Ms. Albright? What if Milosevic decided, after he and Mladic were able to outplay Clinton in this high-stakes poker game, that Serbia no longer needed to recognize Bosnia to get the sanctions lifted?

Bob Djurdjevic
Phoenix, Arizona

A Post Script

PHOENIX, Apr. 10, 1999 - The preceding article was written nearly four years ago.  As it turned out, even though the Bosnian Serbs turned O'Grady in on June 8, 1995 allowing the U.S. marines to "rescue" him, they were bombed by NATO anyway in August-September 1995. Which showed how much Clinton administration's word was worth.  Zero.  No wonder Milosevic is now keeping the three American soldiers captures in Kosovo. "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me," goes the old saw.  Bob Dj., TiM Ed.

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