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Published on Wednesday, April 12, 2000 in the Boston Globe
US Bombing Of Chinese Embassy: Implausible Blunder?
Editorial
 
To understand why China is not satisfied with the CIA's belated punishment of seven employees responsible for the accidental bombing last May of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, Americans need only view things from Beijing's perspective.

In firing one agent and chastizing six others, the CIA explained that agency target-selectors were working with a year-old unclassified military map. To locate the Serb arms procurement site that they wanted to provide to the Pentagon, the agency operatives guessed that the street where the site was supposed to be would have the same building numbers as a parallel street whose numbers were on the map. That was bad enough. Then nobody in the military asked the right questions about the target-selecting process during several reviews.

The Chinese find such incompetence in the world's greatest military and technological power implausible. They point out that their Belgrade embassy had been at its current location for four years and in that time officials from the American embassy in Belgrade attended several diplomatic receptions there. Making a reasonable supposition, the Chinese believe that a certain number of CIA officials were among the US diplomats taking cocktails at China's embassy in Belgrade.

The Chinese also find suspicious the fact that at least one of America's smart bombs penetrated a secure intelligence room in their embassy building.

Since Beijing at the time had been vociferously protesting NATO's bombing of Serbia, the bomb that killed three PRC journalists in the embassy's intelligence room struck Chinese sensibilities as a crude American suggestion that Beijing mind its own business.

Some folks seem hopelessly addicted to conspiratorial interpretations of events.

The one argument for the incompetence theory that Chinese officials ought to heed is that the political timing of the embassy bombing could not have been more inimical to US interests. A disadvantage of being the world's sole superpower is that lesser powers cannot believe the blunders perpetrated by America's intelligence agency.

Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company

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