Who saw them die?
I, said the spy
On May 24, The Australian carried a report from the head of "NATO's Albanian humanitarian operation" that it could be two years before Kosovo refugees could return to their homes "because of the damage caused by fighting in the province". Not by the bombing, you will notice, but by the "fighting". Lieutenant General John Reith's comments were backed up by the US head of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) war crimes verification team, William Walker, who "monitored" ethnic violence in Yugoslavia from October of last year until March of this year. Walker pointed the finger squarely at the Yugoslav authorities and army. The refugees, Walker said, would be going back to "a stripped bare Kosovo. What hasn't been ruined has been taken away. It's not going to be a pleasant experience." Walker's opinion, by virtue of his "humanitarian" position, carries considerable weight, as it is meant to. Walker, a long-time US diplomat, headed the OSCE team that reported the notorious Racak massacre in Kosovo, the prelude to the NATO attack on Yugoslavia. Kosovo, however, is not Walker's first encounter with "humanitarian" matters. According to information contained in Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh's lengthy indictment of Iran-Contra conspirators Elliot Abrams and Oliver North, Walker was responsible for setting up a phony humanitarian operation at an airbase in Ilopango, El Salvador. This shell organisation was used as a conduit for arms and supplies to the Contra rebels fighting to overthrow the recently installed Sandanista Government in Nicaragua, a government deemed to be "not in the USA's interest". The Contra force had been set up in Honduras in the early 1980s, the very time that Walker was posted to the US Embassy there as Deputy Chief of Mission. The Contra force was a cornerstone of then-CIA Director William Casey's anti-Communist directive, and Honduras was considered, along with El Salvador, to be in the front line. Walker's work must have pleased his bosses, because in 1985 he was promoted to the post of Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Central America. This promotion made him a special assistant to Elliot Abrams, who was then Assistant Secretary of State. Despite having been named in Walsh's indictment (although, unlike his boss, he was never charged himself) Walker's diplomatic career continued to prosper. In 1988, he was named ambassador to another Central American country, El Salvador, at the time still in the grip of US-sponsored civil war and state terror. In the light of his recent re-emergence into the world spotlight as an outraged documenter of racist hate-crimes, Walker's record as Ambassador to El Salvador is very revealing. His current posture of moral disgust toward "Serbian ethnic cleansing" may seem convincing today, but it is hard to square with the almost comically callous indifference he consistently exhibited toward exactly the same kinds of events while serving in El Salvador. In late 1989, when Salvadoran soldiers executed six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and her 15-year-old daughter, by blowing their heads off with shotguns, Walker scarcely batted an eyelid. When asked at a press conference about evidence linking the killings to the Salvadoran High Command, he went out of his way to apologise for chief of staff Rene Emilio Ponce, dismissing the murders as a sort of forgiveable corporate glitch, like running out of Xerox toner. "Management control problems can exist in these kinds of situations", he said. In discussing the wider problem of state violence and repression in El Salvador Walker was remarkably circumspect. "I'm not condoning it, but in times like this of great emotion and great anger, things like this happen", he said, apparently having not yet decided to audition for the OSCE job. Finally, in what may be the most amazing statement of all, given his current occupation, Walker questioned the ability of any person or organisation to assign blame in hate crime cases. Shrugging off news of eyewitness reports that the Jesuit murders had been committed by men in Salvadoran army uniforms, Walker told Massachusetts congressman Joe Moakley that "anyone can get uniforms. The fact that they were dressed in military uniforms was not proof that they were military." Later, Walker would recommend to Secretary of State James Baker that the United States "not jeopardise" its relationship with El Salvador by investigating "past deaths, however heinous". One final intriguing biographical note, in the light of the strenuous official denials of French press reports that US and British special forces troops have been active in Kosovo and elsewhere in Yugoslavia since before the bombing began: Walker in 1996 hosted a ceremony in Washington held in honour of 5,000 American soldiers who fought secretly in El Salvador (Washington Post, May 6, 1996). While Walker was US Ambassador to El Salvador, the US Government's official story was that there were only 50 military advisors in the country. The presence of 4,950 undercover mercenaries he regularly denied with a straight face. With a background like this, it seems implausible that Walker would be chosen by the United States to head the Kosovar verification team on the basis of any established commitment to the cause of human rights. He had no experience in the region which qualified him to head the verification team in Yugoslavia. What seems more likely, given Walker's background, is that he was chosen because of his proven willingness to say whatever his government wants him to say, and to keep quiet when he is told to keep quiet. The Iran-Contra incident isn't the only thing in Walker's background which gives reason for pause. Another is his curious ability to remain in Central and South America throughout virtually his entire diplomatic career. Not since before the fall of Nationalist China has the State Department allowed its career people to remain in one place for any significant length of time After the Chinese Revolution, the State Department enacted what has come to be known as the Wriston reform, which dictated that Department employees be rotated out of their posts every few years. With this reform, the Government was hoping to put an end to a problem which they termed "quiet-itis" — the development of "excessive" sympathies towards the culture of one's host countries. With the Wriston Act, the US Government eventually got exactly what it wanted — a State Department characterised by fortress-like embassy compounds, in or around which Americans live amongst themselves in monolingual, isolationist bliss, counting the hours until they're rotated out to their next job in Liberia, or Peru, or wherever. As a result, most State employees see three or four different posts in different corners of the world every ten years. It is well-known among career foreign service people, though, that among the few exceptions to this rule are the CIA agents in the embassies. Intelligence people take longer to develop their contacts, and in order to preserve these "personal relationships" (bribe-takers don't like to change bagmen), they tend to hang around longer. Significantly, Walker was in Latin America virtually throughout his entire career, until he arrived in Kosovo. Furthermore, he spent the entire 1980s occupying high-level State Department positions in Central America, under the Reagan and Bush White Houses, when the region was the source of more East-West tension than any other place in the world, and Central American embassies were the most notoriously CIA-penetrated embassies the USA had. Nonetheless, one need not prove that Walker is a CIA agent or that he was sent to Kosovo to guarantee that evidence of ethnic cleansing would be "discovered", to make the case that the United States made a serious error in judgement in appointing him. "Ambassador Walker's record in El Salvador does not a priori invalidate his testimony on the massacres in Kosovo, but it certainly does compromise his reliability as an objective witness", said James Morrell, research director for the Washington-based Centre for International Policy. There is a widespread belief not only in Russia, but in other countries, that Walker's role in Racak was to assist the KLA in fabricating a Serb massacre that could be used as an excuse for military action. Two major mainstream French newspapers — Le Monde and Le Figaro — as well as French national television have run exposes on the Racak incident. These stories cited a number of inconsistencies in Walker's version of events, including an absence of shell casings and blood in the trench where the bodies were found, and the absence of eyewitnesses despite the presence of journalists and observers in the town during the KLA-Serb fighting. Eventually, even the Los Angeles Times joined in, running a story entitled "Racak Massacre Questions: Were Atrocities Faked?" The theory behind all these exposes was that the KLA had gathered their own dead after the battle, removed their uniforms, put them in civilian clothes, and then called in the observers. Walker, significantly, did not see the bodies until 12 hours after Serb police had left the town. As Walker knows, not only can "anybody have uniforms", but anyone can have them taken off, too.
* * *With thanks to The Democrat.