I imagine those who were killed would wish that the bullets and bombs had been "symbolic".
It was quite symbolic. When the secessionists encircle the government forces and capture thousands of them, the death a few dozens (on both sides) is symbolic. If Florida decided to unilateraly secede and captured federal troops and blockaded the bases of US Army, more people would die.
Either way the Federal troops which put up the resistence were led by a Croatian general (not by Milosevic).