The Guardian June 2, 1999

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 

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 

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.

Back to index page