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December 22, 2016
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January 11, 2012
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September 16, 1985
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STAT Declassified in Part - Sanitized Copy Approved for Release 2012/01/11: CIA-RDP90-00965R000504280002-4 ARTICLE APT NEW REPUBLIC RED ON PAGE 16 E 23 September 1985 The odd career of our new man at the United Nations. AMERICA'S TOP MESSENGER BOY BY MICHAEL MASSING THE SENATE confirmation hearing last May for Ver- non A. Walters, nominated to replace Jeane Kirkpat- rick as ambassador to the United Nations, lasted exactly 48 minutes. Most of them were given over to flattery and deference. Democrat Joseph Biden, for one, could hardly contain himself: "I have only been here going on 13 years," he said, "and I think you are about the most fasci- nating guy who has ever appeared before us.... You are a man of extraordinarily broad range. Yours is a career that is something the novelists make up." Walters's nomina- tion sailed through without dissent. This was the fifth confirmation hearing in Walters's long career, and all have been equally pro forma. Vernon "Dick" Walters, now 68 years old, commands respect. He was with Harriman in Paris at the birth of the Mar- shall Plan, with Truman at Wake Island when he con- fronted MacArthur, with Nixon when his car was attacked Michael Massing wrote "CBS Under Siege" in the May 6 issue of TNR. He writes frequently on foreign affairs. by angry mobs in Venezuela. He smuggled Henry Kissin- ger in and out of Paris during his secret talks with the Chinese and North Vietnamese. And, as deputy director of the CIA from 1972 to 1976, he was one of the few Nixon appointees to emerge from Watergate with his reputation intact. Over the last four years Walters has traveled to 108 countries in his job as ambassador-at-large for the Reagan administration. From Mengistu Haile Mariam to the pope, Walters undertook the administration's most sensitive diplomatic missions. When Roberto d'Aubuisson threat- ened to get out of hand in El Salvador, it was Walters who went to straighten him out. And when Fidel Castro ex- pressed his willingness to talk with the United States, it was Walters who was dispatched to meet him. Personally as well as professionally, Walters seems larg- er than life. Fluent in seven foreign languages, he has frequently been called on to translate for presidents. On visiting a foreign land, Walters has been known to arrive early and ride the buses for a day in order to pick up the 01" Declassified in Part - Sanitized Copy Approved for Release 2012/01/11: CIA-RDP90-00965R000504280002-4 Declassified in Part - Sanitized Copy Approved for Release 2012/01/11: CIA-RDP90-00965R000504280002-4 local dialect. He is a lifelong bachelor and devout Catholic Vernon Walters was born in New York City in 1917. At who never skips Sunday Mass. His talents as'a raconteur the age of six he moved with his family to France and then are well known, and his engaging personality has won Britain, where he gained proficiency in French, Spanish, him friends of all political persuasions. Italian, and German. Returning to the U.S. as a teenager, Most remarkable of all is Walters's durability. He is Walters had to drop out of school to help with his father's now entering his fifth decade of government service. Wal- insurance business. Years of clerkdom stretched ahead of ters always seems to surface in some capacity, be it trans- him when World War II intervened. In the Army, Wal- lator, envoy, soldier, or spy. "He's indestructible," says ters's language skills gained him admission to officers' Thomas Powers, the author of The Man Who Kept the school and then assignment to an intelligence unit. He Secrets, a history of the CIA. "He's been a workhorse for eventually ended up in Italy, where General Mark Clark, so many administrations. They feel free to call on him impressed with his language mastery, made him his staff to do just about anything." Powers sees Walters as a aide. modern-day courtier, a person whom rulers can count From there Walters's rise has a storied quality about on to do unpleasant "housekeeping" chores in a loyal, it. In 1945 Major Walters was assigned to Brazil as assist- uncomplaining manner. Richard Helms, one of Walters's ant Army attache. When General Marshall came for a visit, bosses at the CIA, observes, "As Harriman once said, Walters translated for him. Marshall subsequently recom- 'I may not agree with him, but he's loyal and always mended him to Averell Harriman, who took him to Paris does as he's asked.' " He adds that Walters "is an to assist in administering the Marshall Plan. When Harri- accomplished linguist and a very bright fellow, but he's man returned to Washington two years later, Walters not a policymaker." Indeed, through 40 years of govern- went with him. In Washington his knowledge of lan- ment service, Walters has never held a policy-making guages came to the attention of Eisenhower, who took post. him as his translator on a 1951 tour of Europe. Through- As U.N. ambassador, he at last has a podium for his out the 1950s he accompanied Eisenhower on all of his own views, and the world may be startled by what it trips'abroad. In 1960 Walters, by then a colonel, became hears. Vernon Walters may be a man of many tongues, but Army attache in Italy; two years later he was posted the language he speaks best is the language of the cold to Brazil. war. IT WAS TO BE an eventful assignment. President T 0 UNDERSTAND Vernon Walters, there's no better Joao Goulart, a left-leaning populist and nationalist, place to begin than his memoirs. Silent Missions, pub- seemed determined to enact far-reaching social and eco- lished in 1978, is surely one of the most extraordinary nomic reforms. This distressed many Brazilian military political autobiographies ever written. Not for the insights officers, who by early 1964 began plotting Goulart's over- it offers into contemporary history or world politics- throw. Walters, who had excellent contacts within the there's little of that-but for the cascade of details it pours Brazilian military, kept in close touch with the conspir- forth. Walters is by nature a garrulous man, and in these ing officers. So close that in the week before the coup, 630 pages he recounts virtually every unclassified act to he wired precise details back to Washington, accurately have befallen him, from negotiating with Mossadegh in predicting the day on which the golpe was to begin Iran to losing a cat in Vichy. (March 31, 1964). The coup's leader was General Hum- The great figures of postwar history parade through berto Castelo Branco, a very close friend of Walters; the book, their every gesture recorded for posterity. the two had been floor-mates in Italy in World War II. When Walters is laid up in the hospital, Eisenhower Walters had lunch with the general the day after his sends flowers and helps him get a private room. When inauguration. Jacqueline Kennedy waits for a plane connection at the All of which has led to widespread charges that Walters Rome airport, Walters is there to keep her company. A helped instigate the coup. "He was the linchpin, the one whole chapter is devoted to de Gaulle, recounting every person all the officers would talk to while they were still conference and state dinner at which the two men met. afraid to talk with one another," says Jan Knippers Black, We even learn of the mementos de Gaulle bestows on author of the book United States Penetration of Brazil (1977), Walters: a cigarette case on one occasion, a lighter on which is highly critical of U.S. policy. Walters denies this, another. maintaining that he did only what his job required, which By far the most ubiquitous presence in the book, was to gather information. "What advice could an Ameri- though, is Walters's mother, who lived with him until she can colonel give to Brazilian generals who'd overthrown died in 1964. When Walters calls on the pope, he takes his two governments in the previous five years?" he asks. "I mother along. On one occasion, Laura Walters causes a was a well-informed observer, not a participant." He says crisis by sending her son's only wing collar to the laundry that of the many documents from the period that have hours before he is due at a formal dinner. And, when been declassified, "not one shows any participation by Walters is transferred from Washington to a NATO job in me." France, he writes that "as usual I left my mother behind to Those same documents do show that the United States do all of the actual work of moving and flew to Paris." fully backed the coup and even drew up contingency NOW Declassified in Part - Sanitized Copy Approved for Release 2012/01/11: CIA-RDP90-00965R000504280002-4 Declassified in Part - Sanitized Copy Approved for Release 2012/01/11: CIA-RDP90-00965R000504280002-4 3. plans to intervene if necessary. In the end, whether Wal- ters simply reported on the coup or actually helped foment it is probably a moot point. Even assuming that he exer- cised remarkable self-restraint and did not communicate Washington's approval of the coup, his presence was probably enough to reassure the plotters. Either way, Wal- ters was simply carrying out U.S. government policy. Within a year of the coup, he was promoted to brigadier general. Once the coup had succeeded, Walters did not conceal his joy. Arthur Schlesinger Jr. recalls meeting Walters at Harriman's estate soon after Goulart's over- throw. "He was so pleased with the coup," says Schlesing- er. "He seemed ex- treme in his views of Goulart. Goulart was a sometimes radical demagogue, but Wal- ters thought he was an agent of international communism." Even in 1978, after Brazil had undergone years of re- pression, Walters had only praise for the coup: "A regime basi- cally unfriendly to the United States had been replaced by another one much more friend- ly. Some may regard this as bad. I do not. I am convinced that if the revolution had not occurred, Brazil would have gone the way of Cuba.... We would have had another Gu- lag archipelago." In 1%7 Walters re- ceived a plum assign- ment-military attache in Paris. But he wasn't happy. As he explains in his memoirs, it would have been "intoler- able" for him "to go straight from the cocktail circuit in Rio de Janeiro to the cocktail circuit in Paris," especially with the Vietnam War in progress. So he made a detour to see that conflict firsthand. He was there only slightly more than a month, and from his own account, he seems to have spent most of his time flying in and out of battle zones-camera in hand- inspecting the damage after some fierce battle or other. For Walters, Vietnam was a "battlefield of freedom," "one of the noblest and most unselfish wars in which the United States had ever participated." Despite the brevity of his stay in Vietnam, Walters was promptly pro- moted to major general. Then it was off to Paris for cocktails. After five years in France-highlighted by Henry Kissinger's 15 secret missions-Walters returned to Wash- ington in 1972 to become deputy director of the CIA. No sooner had he been installed than Watergate began to explode. In June the FBI's investigation of the burglary threatened to expose the White House connec- tion, and Nixon decided to enlist the CIA's help in calling off the bureau. Walters was chosen for the job because, as John Dean later told the Senate Watergate Committee, "he was a good friend of the White House and the White House had put him in as deputy director so that they might have some influence over the agency." Nixon's chief of staff, H. R. Haldeman, told Wal- ters that the FBI's probe could expose sensitive operations in Mexico and that he should instruct the bu- reau to back off. Wal- ters complied. Soon af- ter, Walters checked out the White House story and found it wasn't true. Sensing a cover-up, he refused to cooperate further with the president's men, turning down a request that the CIA post the burglars' bail. Walters won praise for his per- formance, and in 1973 received a CIA medal for withstanding exter- nal pressure. Walters spent much of his time at the agency co- ordinating CIA liaison with foreign intelligence agencies; as part of his duties, he received more than 50 chiefs of foreign intelligence services on their visits to Washing- ton. One of the organizations he dealt with was DINA, Chile's dreaded secret police. Walters has acknowledged that, as part of his normal liaison activities, he twice re- ceived DINA's head, Manuel Contreras, on his visits to Washington. The connection came to light after two DINA agents assassinated Orlando Letelier, Chile's foreign minister under Salvador Allende. In the summer of 1976 Walters traveled to Paraguay to negotiate the release of a CIA agent from jail. A few weeks later two DINA agents dial Declassified in Part - Sanitized Copy Approved for Release 2012/01/11: CIA-RDP90-00965R000504280002-4 Declassified in Part - Sanitized Copy Approved for Release 2012/01/11: CIA-RDP90-00965R000504280002-4 4. bearing false passports showed up in Paraguay requesting U.S. visas. Their stated mission: to investigate Chilean exiles living in the U.S. The agents said they intended to contact Walters once they arrived in Washington. The U.S. ambassador in Paraguay sent Walters a cable inquir- ing about the mission. Walters, who had just retired from the agency, replied that he knew nothing about the Chileans and had no desire to see them. The visas were denied. But the DINA agents managed to enter the U.S. by other means and, in September 1976, they successfully carried out their real mission-the murder of Letelier. THE TIMING of Walters's visit to Paraguay, plus the DINA agents' use of his name, has raised suspicions, especially among former associates of Letelier in Washing- ton, that Walters knew in advance about the DINA mis- sion. Walters dismisses such charges. He notes that he met with FBI agents about the case and offered to take a lie-detector test. He also met with the prosecutor in the case, Assistant U.S. Attorney Eugene Propper. "He had all the CIA records, all the files," says Walters. "Why didn't he call me to testify?" Propper, now in private practice in Washington, backs up Walters's account: "Wal- ters had no connection to any of this. He was already out of the agency." Walters got a chance to comment on the assassination in 1981 during a congressional hearing on Chile. Letelier, he asserted, had been receiving money from the Cuban intelligence service. Asked if Letelier had thus posed a threat to Chile, Walters replied, "Well, I really can't say. I think whoever did it thought so. You know, it was like Talleyrand's remark to Napoleon after the murder of the Duke of Enghien, whom Napoleon had kidnapped in Germany.... He had brought him to Paris and he shot him in the moat of the Castle of Vincennes. And Talley- rand, who was an absolutely unscrupulous rascal and a very wise man, was pouting and Napoleon said, 'Mr. Talleyrand, you think it was a crime, don't you?' And Talleyrand said, 'No, Your Majesty, it was worse. It was a mistake.' I think if there was ever a mistake, it was the killing of Orlando Letelier." The remark is vintage Walters, in both its use of anecdote and its refusal to pass moral judgment on an authoritarian ally, in this case Pinochet's Chile. After his retirement from the CIA in 1976, Walters moved to Palm Beach, Florida. But he returned to Washington after Ronald Reagan's victory to serve as ambassador-at-large. Walters's connections and stature made him, in many respects, a superb emissary. Leaders on the left knew that when Walters came calling, they had better listen. And leaders on the right were more willing to hear out a former lieutenant general than an effete foreign service type. Thus, Roberto d'Aubuisson seems to have gotten the message when Walters warned him not to knock off the U.S. ambassador to El Salvador. And when U.S. relations with Spain be- came strained, Walters was sent to meet with Socialist premier Felipe Gonzalez and relieve the tension. Walters, says one State Department admirer, is "a master diplomat." Perhaps nowhere did Walters's skills prove more useful than in approaching the Latin American military govern- ments that had become pariahs under Jimmy Carter. Wal- ters undertook frequent goodwill missions to Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Uruguay. One of his objectives was to help lift the arms embargoes that the U.S. under Carter had imposed on the region's prime human rights offend- ers. In March 1981, for instance, Walters told a House .subcommittee of his opposition to sanctions against Chile. As usual, Walters appealed to history to make his case: "I was a very young man when Italy invaded Ethiopia and the whole world banded together to apply sanctions to Italy. They had no effect. I know of no case where sanc- tions of any kind have ever influenced a government other than to rally the people around the government even though the government may have been unpopular at the time." (This stand did not keep Walters from publicly endorsing the U.S. trade embargo against Nicaragua in a press conference last May.) GUATEMALA WAS another frequent destination. In 1981 the regime of General Romeo Lucas Garcia was generally regarded as the most repressive in the hemi- sphere. From the start of Lucas's presidency in 1978, thou- sands of Guatemalans had been killed by the security forces; an estimated 400 people were slaughtered in Janu- ary 1981 alone. Nonetheless, Walters visited Lucas three times to express the administration's desire to restore mili- tary aid. Privately, Walters told Lucas that a resumption of assistance would require some improvement in his gov- ernment's human rights record. Publicly Walters held a rare press conference in May 1981 in Guatemala City. Speaking in Spanish, he told re- porters that the United States wanted to help the Lucas government defend "peace and liberty" and "the consti- tutional institutions of this country against the ideologies that want to finish off those institutions." Noting that it was "not difficult to see which are our friends and which are not," Walters promised that Washington would "stay by the side of our allies." When asked about reports of extensive political killings in the country, Walters replied dismissively, "There will be human rights problems in the year 3000 with the governments of Mars and the moon. There are some problems that are never resolved." Ambassador-at-large Walters was a regular visitor to Africa as well. In northern Africa, Walters worked to isolate Libya and to strengthen the administration's ties with the region's pro-Western regimes-Nimeiry's Sudan, Bourguiba's Tunisia, and especially Hassan's Morocco. Walters had known King Hassan since World War II, when he gave the 13-year-old prince a ride in an American tank. Hassan is one of Washington's few friends in the Arab world, and Walters frequently vis- ited Rabat in an effort to keep it that way. He also traveled to Algeria, seeking to draw that traditionally Declassified in Part - Sanitized Copy Approved for Release 2012/01/11: CIA-RDP90-00965R000504280002-4 Declassified in Part - Sanitized Copy Approved for Release 2012/01/11: CIA-RDP90-00965R000504280002-4 S left-leaning country into the Western camp. In southern Africa, Walters served as traveling sales- man for the administration's "constructive engagement" policy. He visited virtually all of the black "Front Line" states, attempting to convince them to negotiate with South Africa. Two visits he made to Angola in the summer of 1982 throw some light on Walters's operating style. At first glance, he might seem an odd choice for such a mis- sion. After all, according to John Stockwell, a former CIA employee who broke with the agency and wrote an ac- count of the Angola campaign, In Search of Enemies, Wal- ters had tried to enlist Brazilian and French help in the CIA's unsuccessful effort in 1975 to install a pro-Western government in Angola. But Walters speaks Portuguese and knows the region, and he was sent to talk with President Jose Eduardo dos Santos and other high officials. His objective was to convince Angola to enter a dialogue with South Africa. Despite Walters's background, the Angolans were impressed with his affability and fluency, according to Gerald Bender, an Angola expert at the University of Southern California who briefed Walters before his meeting with dos Santos. Bender recalls that during Wal- ters's stay, he handed out chocolate bars to everyone in sight. There was only one problem: shortly after he left, the South Africans bombed an Angolan town. Within weeks, they began their annual summer offensive. The Angolans were livid, and Walters was never sent back to talk with them. "The South Africans left Walters without any credi- bility," says Bender. Did Walters know about the South Africans' intentions? Bender doubts it. "Quite probably the South Africans pulled the rug out from under him. He acted strictly as a messenger boy. He presented what he came with." A AMBASSADOR to the United Nations, too, Vernon Walters can be trusted to carry out the secretary of state's instructions. His reputation for loyalty surely helped him get the post. George Shultz, who became dys- peptic whenever Jeane Kirkpatrick strayed from the reser- vation, should enjoy much better digestion with Walters. Still, the U.N. post requires a great deal of spontaneous debate, and the world will no doubt have the opportunity to hear Walters unbound. Politically, Walters describes himself as "right of cen- ter-midway between Lowell Weicker and Jesse Helms." He becomes indignant whenever anyone questions the Reagan administration's commitment to human rights: "One of my principal purposes has been to remind people all over the world about our attitude to human rights.... When I think of the number of trips I've made on human rights matters, and then hear the Reagan administration accused of callousness, it makes me angry." In Africa, in fact, Walters has helped spring prisoners from the jails of regimes of the left and right. Frequently, however, Walters's pronouncements sound distinctly Helmsian. The world of Silent Missions is full of fanatical communists incessantly scheming to enslave the free world. In discussing the events of May 1968 in France, Walters saw parallels to Czechoslovakia, "where the population had gone to sleep in a democracy and had awakened in a Communist state." The Dominican Repub- lic in 1%5 faced "a brutal Communist takeover," and the U.S.-led invasion enabled the country "to find its way to stable, orderly democratic government again." More gen- erally, Walters remarked that "the Latin American mili- tary are a stabilizing force and a block to the ambitions of the Communists." This in 1978, when Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay were locked in the vise of military dictatorships. TODAY, Walters maintains that Augusto Pinochet's regime "is unquestionably the legitimate government of Chile"; his last election, in 1980, was "fair and legiti- mate." He does add "that doesn't mean I approve of what he's doing." He has nothing but praise for Zairian presi- dent Mobutu Sese Seko, whom Walters considers a good friend (he attended Mobutu's most recent inauguration in December), and who, he says, "has held his country to- gether. That's no small achievement." I asked Walters about Guatemala. "This country has not solved its human rights problem," he said. "Its govern- ment hasn't solved a lot of problems-schooling, housing, hunger, human rights. Every government has to face these things." Recalling his conversations with Lucas Gar- cia, he said, "I told him there was no chance he would get aid while he was killing bystanders, killing college profes- sors and labor leaders. He didn't comply." So was the "quiet diplomacy" favored by the administration effec- tive? "In the long run, yes," said Walters. "The Guatema- lan military realized it wouldn't get anywhere by killing people. The military is beginning to understand. They're not killing as many people as they did before." (In July The New York Times reported that "Guatemala appears to still have the worst incidence of human rights violations in Central America." It quoted the archbishop of Guatemala as saying that "the Army kills many people [including] children.") Delegates to the United Nations will find in Vernon Walters the embodiment of a great American paradox. On one hand, Walters is a gregarious, earnest, kindhearted man. His image of America was fixed in World War II, when GIs handed out chocolates to war-stricken Europe- ans. Walters fervently believes in the principle of freedom and will travel anywhere, anytime, to argue on its behalf. In a sense, Walters represents the sense of decency and fair play that lies at the core of the American character. But he also reflects a less attractive side of the national charac- ter. This America so fiercely opposes communism that it seems forever ready to reinforce the status quo. It pro- claims its support for nationalism and self-determination so loudly that it feels free to intervene in order to preserve them. In the name of freedom, this America makes com- mon cause with dictators and despots. It is an unfortunate message to send to the world. Declassified in Part - Sanitized Copy Approved for Release 2012/01/11: CIA-RDP90-00965R000504280002-4