From Saga Magazine, September 1999

See also other media reports on this interview with Lord Carrington

Guardian -,2763,203180,00.html


Photographs Snowdon
Written By Douglas Keay

Former Foreign Secretary Lord Carrington tells Douglas Keay why it was wrong to interfere in a civil war


Lord Carrington came in from the garden – his brown shoes caked with dried mud – and settled into a comfy old armchair. A man- servant appeared with coffee and biscuits. A grandfather clock in the large flag-stoned hall next door chimed the hour. “Now, what do you want to know?” enquired the sixth Baron Carrington of Bulcot Lodge with that twinkle in the eye that in its time has helped to disarm more than one belligerent foreign negotiator.

It is difficult to know where to start when interviewing someone who served under six prime ministers, shared a house at school (Eton) with Humphrey Lyttelton, commanded a squadron of tanks in the war, was Defence Secretary in Ted Heath’s government, achieved a schoolboy ambition to become Foreign Secretary – only to resign dramatically three years later over the Falklands conflict – was Secretary General of Nato in the 1980s, and who chaired a constitutional conference at the time when Yugoslavia was beginning to break up into separate warring factions. Carrington Picture 2“I spent about 18 months trying to sort that one out, and in the end the European Union made catastrophically stupid decisions – like recognising Croatia and Slovenia, and then asking Bosnia whether it wanted independence when I told them it would lead to civil war. 

“Finally I decided there was nothing more I could do and Cy Vance and David Owen took over, and much the same thing happened to them. The United Nations came in with a force that was not allowed to use its weapons except in self-defence, which alienated everyone. The whole business in the Balkans has been mismanaged from the start. It was obvious it was going to blow up.” 

Lord Carrington is one of those increasingly rare people who, while being deadly serious, can also sense the ridiculous. He has a chuckly sense of humour. (This is the man who, when he and Margaret Thatcher were entertaining a VIP from overseas, had been known to scribble a note and slip it in front of the Prime Minister: “The poor chap’s come 600 miles, do let him say something,” it read.) 

Today he recalled three golden rules that a friend, now a field marshal, had been given many years ago by an instructor at the Military Staff College in Camberley: “Never march on Moscow, never get involved in the Balkans, and never trust your luggage to the Royal Air Force.” 

But, to be totally serious for a moment, did Lord Carrington believe that Nato’s action in Kosovo in the past few months had been mistaken? 



“Well, to start with, it was impossible for Milosevic to accept the Rambouillet agreement because what it asked him to do was allow Nato to use Serbia as a part of the Nato organisation. Sovereignty would have been lost over it. He couldn’t accept that. 

“I think what Nato did by bombing Serbia actually precipitated the exodus of the Kosovo Albanians into Macedonia and Montenegro. I think the bombing did cause the ethnic cleansing. 

“I’m not sticking up for the Serbs because I think they behaved badly and extremely stupidly by removing the autonomy of Kosovo, given them by Tito, in the first place. But I think what we did made things very much worse and what we are now faced with is a sort of ethnic cleansing in reverse. The Serbs are now being cleared out. I think it’s a great mistake to intervene in a civil war.” 

Lord Carrington has no liking for President Milosevic but, again, he thinks it was wrong to brand him officially as a war criminal. “I don’t think he is any more a war criminal than President Tudjman of Croatia who ethnically cleansed 200,000 Serbs out of Kyrenia. Nobody kicked up a fuss about that. I think we are a little bit selective about our condemnation of ethnic cleansing, in Africa as well as in Europe.” 

It was clear that Lord Carrington’s views on Kosovo differed somewhat from those of Tony Blair’s Government and of William Hague’s Opposition Conservative Party, which has broadly supported the Government’s Balkans policy. But Lord Carrington has never been afraid of speaking his mind. (Among the many jobs he does nowadays – “for increasingly less pay” – is sit on the board of the Daily Telegraph. “And I don’t always go along with what it says!”) 

The obvious next question was what would he, former Defence Secretary, former Foreign Secretary, former Secretary General of Nato, have advocated in place of the policy adopted by the American and Western European governments? 

“I would have increased the number of UN observers in Kosovo and gone on negotiating with Milosevic. Removing the UN observers, as happened, gave a signal to the Serbs that they were going to be bombed. And, being a ruthless people, they took advantage of that and got rid of Albanians. If negotiations continued to fail and the Serbs continued to behave badly, you would then have had to declare war on them with ground troops as well as with bombardment.” 

But some have already argued that that could have led us to the brink of a third world war. “Of course it wouldn’t! Mark you, I think we ought to have tried harder to take the Russians with us, however difficult. If you were a Russian and had seen yourself as a superpower 10 years ago, astride the world with America, and then overnight you lose the superpower status and you get ignored by everybody and you are in a terrible mess economically, you become extremely resentful. I think we ought to have tried to clasp the Russians to our bosom much more than we did.” 







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When Lord Carrington was Secretary General of Nato in the mid 1980s it was the Soviet Union that was the potential enemy and Nato was designed to preserve the integrity of the Atlantic area. Now that particular threat has disappeared… “and the question George Robertson, (the newly appointed Secretary General), has to ask himself, and persuade other member countries to answer, is What is Nato now for

“If the idea is that it is going to be used for humanitarian purposes – which, I gather, is what was suggested in Washington recently – then are you going to do it under the auspices of the United Nations? And how selective are you going to be? When do you intervene and when do you not? These are some of the questions that George Robertson – who, incidentally, I believe is an admirable choice for the job – will be faced with.” 

Lord Carrington regrets that the political side of Nato, as originally mooted in the Treaty, never really materialised – “partly because France didn’t like the United States’ domination.” He thinks the position has now changed. “Nato is the only forum in which Western Europe and America have any contact at all. I think it would be very much better if we tried to expand the political side of Nato, to make the organisation into a sort of North Atlantic Group.” 

But might this not conflict with the idea of the European Union? 

“I don’t think so. In the EU you’ve got some neutral countries, such as Sweden and Austria, and in addition I don’t think any western European government is prepared to spend the money to make an effective defence force. You’ve got to have America in there. I genuinely believe that Nato kept the peace of the world in the Cold War and I think it would be rather silly to throw away a good insurance policy without having thought rather carefully about the future. After all, the only thing one ever learns about foreign affairs is that the unexpected always happens.” 

It happened, certainly, when Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands on April 2 1982 and caught Britain hopping on one foot. As a direct result three days later Lord Carrington resigned as Foreign Secretary, to the dismay and regret of some but not all. There was an outcry in Parliament. Eighteen years later, Lord Carrington has no regrets at his decision. 

“I took the view that it was the right thing to do. We were going to war, to a very difficult war a long way away, and there were obviously going to be recriminations about whose fault it was, about who was responsible and so on… I thought it was better to put a stop to the recriminations by resigning. Margaret Thatcher said she didn’t think it was necessary. I said I thought it was. There was not much discussion. I think she realised I’d made up my mind, and that was that.” 

In his memoirs, (Reflect on Things Past), published six years later, he wrote: “The anger of the British people and Parliament at the Argentine invasion of the Falklands was a righteous anger, and it was my duty and fate to assuage it; the rest was done by brave sailors, soldiers and airmen, too many of whom laid down not office but their lives.” 

Lord Carrington pooh-poohs any suggestion that his resignation was a matter of honour and that honour has largely gone out of the window in today’s political climate. “I don’t think one can say that resigning has gone out of fashion. It’s all a question of circumstances, and how a minister feels, and what the Prime Minister thinks. Anyway, let’s get off the resigning thing can we? It’s frightfully boring, don’t you think?” Carrington Picture 3

Lord Carrington is among a dying breed. An aristocrat who fought in World War Two who entered politics largely “because it is fun”. It is unlikely that anyone with an inherited title will ever hold high government office again. 

His family traces back to the 17th century. Descended from a draper in Nottingham, the inheritance is founded on banking. The family home was at Wycombe Abbey which is now a girls’ boarding school. 

Today Lord (Peter) and Lady (Iona) Carrington live in a magnificent manor house in a Buckinghamshire village which they have been renovating and improving since 1945, with a garden of 10 acres which has increased in size each year. “I do the designing, my wife is the plantswoman – she doesn’t really talk English, she talks Latin!” They employ three gardeners. I look up. “I haven’t got a Rolls Royce, or a racehorse, or a yacht. I just have a garden, which I love,” he explains. 

The Carringtons have six grand children and three great- grandchildren, aged six, four and two, whom he adores. 

“The four-year-old is so funny. At church the other Sunday he watched a parishioner go up to the lectern to read the Lesson and when he saw the huge bible he looked at his mother and exclaimed: “He’s not going to read all of it, is he?” 

Lord Carrington was 80 last June. He has survived cancer of the kidney and suffers from pancreatitis. But he remains sprightly. “I read somewhere the other day that some people my age, otherwise healthy, can’t get out of a chair without pushing up with their hands.” 

As if to emphasise the point, he positively leapt to his feet. “It’s all a question of what’s in the mind, isn’t it? My recipe is to ignore the advancing years.” 

We went out into the garden – surely one of the most beautiful in England – and Lord Carrington bent down to pick from a patch of Alpine strawberries. As he straightened up he chuckled and looked slightly shamefaced. “Perhaps the ground does get a bit further away each year,” he conceded.Carrington Picture 4


US Backed Terrorism In Croatia

"British and American special forces teams are working undercover in Kosovo with the rebel Kosovo Liberation Army to identify Serbian targets for Nato bombing raids.....It is the latest evidence of the growing co-operation between Nato and the KLA, a movement once denounced by the West's leaders as 'terrorists'...... The alliance is now quietly drafting the KLA into its war against Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian leader. It is even considering plans to train them and ease the arms embargo on Yugoslavia to supply them with weapons such as mortars and rocket-propelled grenades.... They are negotiating for a long-term training deal with Military and Professional Resources International, a mercenary company run by former American officers who operate with semi-official approval from the Pentagon and played a key role in building up Croatia's armed forces..."
SAS teams move in to help KLA 'rise from the ashes'
Sunday Telegraph, 18 April 1999

"... Now we have the full story of the secret alliance between the Pentagon and radical Islamist groups from the Middle East designed to assist the Bosnian Muslims... in flagrant violation of the UN security council arms embargo against all combatants in the former Yugoslavia. The result was a vast secret conduit of weapons smuggling though Croatia. This was arranged by the clandestine agencies of the US, Turkey and Iran, together with a range of radical Islamist groups, including Afghan mojahedin and the pro-Iranian Hizbullah...."
America used Islamists to arm the Bosnian Muslims
Guardian, 22 April 2002

"The US government’s favourite private security service has trained both sides in the latest ethnic flare-up in the Balkans. Only two years ago the rag-tag Kosovar Albanian rebels were taken in hand by the Virginia-based company of professional soldiers, Military Professional Resources Incorporated. An outfit of former US marines, helicopter pilots and special forces teams, MPRI’s missions for the US government have run from flying Colombian helicopter gunships to supplying weapons to the Croatian army...."
Private US firm training both sides in Balkans
The Scotsman, March 02, 2001

"Ceku officially remained in the Croatian army, in which he has been decorated, until the beginning of this year. As an ethnic Albanian, he has long had links to the KLA, however. Last month he was appointed head of the Kosovo Protection Corps (TMK), a lightly armed civilian force of 5,000 members created from the KLA, with the blessing of the Lieutenant-General Sir Mike Jackson.... Sources familiar with the investigation into Ceku said the most serious crimes with which he had been linked were committed in the so-called Medak pocket of Krajina in 1993..... American diplomats, who have been the most supportive of the creation of the TMK, have suggested any indictment of Ceku would most likely be 'sealed' and thereby kept out of the public domain.... Another diplomat said he believed Kfor, the Nato-led peacekeeping force, could not contemplate a public relations disaster with the Albanians by arresting Ceku."
Kosovo defence chief accused of war crimes
Sunday Times, 10 October 1999

"Ceku is the former Military Chief of Staff of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and the man handpicked by the US to head the KPC [Kosovo Protection Corps] .... Ceku [is] one of the top 'ethnic cleansers' in the Balkans, alongside Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic. Ceku refined his brutality as a general in the US-backed Croatian Army during the Balkan war and was trained by Military Professional Resources Inc., a private paramilitary firm founded in 1987 and based in Alexandria, Virginia with former high-ranking US generals and NATO officials on its board. These officers include the former Commanders in Chief of the US Army in Europe and US Central Command, the Supreme Allied Commander-Atlantic and the former US Representative to the NATO Military Committee. In 1994, armed with a contract authorized by the Clinton Administration, MPRI officially began to train Croatian forces. Just months after MPRI arrived on the scene, Croatian forces carried out the notorious Operation Storm. In a brutal four-day blitzkrieg in 1995, these forces expelled some 200,000 Serbs from the Krajina region of Croatia after their villages were mercilessly shelled. Jane's Defense Weekly reported that Ceku was 'one of the key planners' of the operation that the New York Times called 'the largest single 'ethnic cleansing' of the war'..."
Washington's Men In Kosovo
Common Dreams, 19 July 2000

"When the Croatian military, in a highly effective offensive called Operation Storm, captured the Serb-held Krajina enclave later that year, there were suspicions that MPRI instructors must have been directly involved. The operation played a key role in reversing the tide of war against the Serbs and, consistent with American policy, in bringing both sides to the negotiating table. But the same Croatian military was subsequently implicated in uprooting more than 150,000 Serbs from their homes.... critics charge that the help MPRI provided the Croatians may have allowed the U. S. to secretly influence events in the war while maintaining its neutral posture and without sending U. S. troops, advisors or trainers. 'MPRI had all these different meetings with top Croatian defense officials right before the offensive. It's inconceivable that they did not have some kind of impact,' said one military analyst who has followed the company's involvement in the Balkans. 'It was followed by massive ethnic cleansing. Now, had American troops been on the ground, we would have been held accountable for that. The fact that it was a private company made the connection a lot less clear.'..."
U.S. Companies Hired to Train Foreign Armies
Los Angeles Times, 14 April 2002

"In 1995, Gen.Ceku was a player in Operation Storm, a covert Clinton-backed and MPRI-trained Croatian military operation that ethnically cleansed 200,000 Serbs from their homes in Croatia, killing thousands of civilians. Since taking over the KLA, Ceku has purged all of its moderates."
Defang the KLA
WorldNetDaily, 11 June 1999

"United Nations sources have already revealed that Agim Ceku, the guerrillas' former commander, may be the subject of a secret 'sealed' indictment for his activities while fighting for the Croatian army against the Serbs.... The investigation could radically alter the international perception of the conflict, in which Albanians were seen as the largely innocent victims of Serbian aggression. After a year of growing concern about hundreds of revenge killings of Serbs by Albanians in the province, there are signs that the public relations pendulum may begin to swing the Serbs' way. The investigations by the International War Crimes Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia are among its most secretive, with officials fearing retaliation by the Albanians. 'The operations of the KLA clearly involved many activities we should scrutinise,' said one Hague official."
KLA faces trials for war crimes on Serbs
Sunday Times, 3 September 2000

"Americans in military uniform, operating from a cream-colored trailer near the runway, directed the GNAT-750 drone to photograph Serb troop positions and weapons emplacements. The images were transmitted back to base, analyzed and then passed on to the Pentagon. According to top Croat intelligence officials, copies were also sent to the headquarters of the Croatian general in command of 'Operation Storm.'... Now the successful CIA operation is about to become defense exhibit A in a war-crimes case at The Hague tribunal. Last month prosecutors announced the indictment of General Gotovina for atrocities committed during and after Operation Storm, including the murder of 150 Krajina Serbs, the forced displacement of as many as 200,000 others and the torching of thousands of homes.... Now a NEWSWEEK investigation has shown that U.S. intelligence cooperation with Croatia went far deeper than Washington has ever acknowledged. According to Miro Tudjman, son of the late president Franjo Tudjman and head of the Croatian counterpart to the CIA in the mid-1990s, the United States provided encryption gear to each of Croatia's regular Army brigades. He says the CIA also spent at least $10 million on Croatian listening posts to intercept telephone calls in Bosnia and Serbia. 'All our [electronic] intelligence in Croatia went online in real time to the National Security Agency inWashington,' says Tudjman. 'We had a de facto partnership.' American officials familiar with intelligence issues confirm that the CIA operated drones from a base near Zadar on the Adriatic coast, during and after Operation Storm... And the country's former intelligence chiefs have decided to speak out about their ties to the United States as a way of vouching for Gotovina's innocence. 'I always said that the only people in Croatia who know everything are the Americans,' says Markica Rebic, the former head of military intelligence. When Gotovina stands trial, some of those Americans may be asked to testify about their country's role in an ugly conflict."
What Did the CIA Know?
NEWSWEEK, 21 August 2001

"The Croatian World Congress sent a letter last week demanding that Carla Del Ponte, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), open a criminal investigation into Mr. Clinton and other top officials of his administration [including current Director of the CIA George Tenet] for 'aiding and abetting indicted Croatian Gen. Ante Gotovina in a 1995 Croatian military operation known as ´Operation Storm.´... Secretly supported by the Clinton administration, Croatian forces launched a massive three-day military offensive - known as 'Operation Storm' - on Aug. 4, 1995, in which Croatia recovered territories occupied by rebel Serbs following Zagreb´s drive for independence from Yugoslavia in 1991.... The Croatian World Congress said the U.S. administration gave the green light for the operation and provided diplomatic and political support for it."
Balkans tribunal turns to Clinton
Washington Times, July 08, 2002

"The complaint filed today [by the Croatian World Congress] alleges that the US officials aided Gen. Gotovina and the Croatian Army ('HV') in Operation Storm by violating a UN arms embargo and allowing Croatia to obtain weapons...US officials established a CIA base inside of Gen. Gotovina's military base which provided the US officials with real-time video footage of events transpiring on the ground during Operation Storm (and thus imputing to them knowledge of events on the ground), but also from which they could provide such intelligence data to General Gotovina to assist him in conducting Operation Storm.  If General Gotovina carried out a pre-planned campaign to deport 150,000 to 200,000 Croatian Serb civilians, then the CIA base was not only used to provide knowledge to US officials of such a plan and course of conduct on the part of General Gotovina, but was also used to assist General Gotovina in achieving the goals of his alleged plan.  The US officials gave the green light for the Operation and provided diplomatic and political support for it.  The US officials at all times had the ability to halt the military operation.  Accordingly, the US officials named in the complaint should be indicted for having aided and abetted General Gotovina."
Croatian World Congress, Press Release, 4 July 2002

"Continuing Bush Administration efforts to exempt US personnel from ICC jurisdiction are nothing less than an attempt by America to hold itself above the law, critics say.... It's unlikely that UN security troops will be marching a handcuffed ex-President out of his Harlem offices any time soon. The Hague prosecutor's office simply filed the complaint without comment."
Disorder in the Court
Airforce Magazine Online, October 2002

"President Mesic of Croatia is promising that his Government will co-operate fully in trials of Croatians accused of atrocities during its independence war.... The country’s relations with Europe have also become stronger in recent years, as evidence of alleged American involvement in the ruthless campaign to drive Serbs from the region has begun to emerge.... 200,000 Serbs [were] driven from the Krajina region during the 1995 Croatian offensive.... Croatia, however, cannot arrest the most wanted Croatian, General Ante Gotovina, because he is hiding in neighbouring Bosnia.... Another major obstacle is American concern that if General Gotovina is arrested he may carry out a threat to disclose the previously unknown extent of US covert involvement in the Krajina offensive...."
Croatia in pledge to help war crime trials
London Times, 14 June 2003