Years from now, when the war in Serbia is over and the dust has settled, historians will point to January 15, 1999 as the day the American Death Star became fully operational.
That was the date on which an American diplomat named William Walker brought his OSCE war crimes verification team to a tiny Kosovar village called Racak to investigate an alleged Serb massacre of ethnic Albanian peasants. After a brief review of the town's 40-odd bullet-ridden corpses, Walker searched out the nearest television camera and essentially fired the starting gun for the war.
«From what I saw, I do not hesitate to describe the crime as a massacre, a crime against humanity,» he said. «Nor do I hesitate to accuse the government security forces of responsibility.»
We all know how Washington responded to Walker's verdict; it quickly set its military machine in motion, and started sending out menacing invitations to its NATO friends to join the upcoming war party.
How Russia responded is less well-known.[..] As connoisseurs in the art of propaganda and the use of provacateurs, they recognized a good job when they saw one. And, more importantly, they knew who William Walker was. [..]
[..] Walker's record as Ambassador to El Salvador is startling upon review today, in light of his recent re-emergence into the world spotlight as an outraged documenter of racist hate-crimes. 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 hate crimes while serving in El Salvador.
In late 1989, when Salvadoran soldiers executed six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and her 15 year-old daughter, blowing their heads off with shotguns, Walker scarecely 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 apologize 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 these kinds of situations,» he said.
In discussing the wider problem of state violence and repression -- which in El Salvador then was at least no less widespread than in the Serbia he monitored from October of last year until March of this year -- 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 organization 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 jeopardize» its relationship with El Salvador by investigating «past deaths, however heinous.»
This is certainly an ironic comment, coming from a man who would later recommend that the United States go to war over...heinous deaths.
One final intriguing biographical note: Walker in 1996 hosted a ceremony in Washington held in honor of 5,000 American soldiers who fought secretly in El Salvador. While Walker was Ambassador of El Salvador, the U.S. government's official story was that there were only 50 military advisors in the country (Washington Post, May 6, 1996).
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.[..]
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