Death Squads Redux

Meet the new regime, same as the old regime. Back in January I blogged about the Pentagon musing about employing the “Salvador Option” in Iraq. Just to refresh, though.

Now, NEWSWEEK has learned, the Pentagon is intensively debating an option that dates back to a still-secret strategy in the Reagan administration’s battle against the leftist guerrilla insurgency in El Salvador in the early 1980s. Then, faced with a losing war against Salvadoran rebels, the U.S. government funded or supported “nationalist” forces that allegedly included so-called death squads directed to hunt down and kill rebel leaders and sympathizers. Eventually the insurgency was quelled, and many U.S. conservatives consider the policy to have been a success—despite the deaths of innocent civilians and the subsequent Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages scandal. (Among the current administration officials who dealt with Central America back then is John Negroponte, who is today the U.S. ambassador to Iraq. Under Reagan, he was ambassador to Honduras. There is no evidence, however, that Negroponte knew anything about the Salvadoran death squads or the Iran-Contra scandal at the time. The Iraq ambassador, in a phone call to NEWSWEEK on Jan. 10, said he was not involved in military strategy in Iraq. He called the insertion of his name into this report “utterly gratuitous.”)

Following that model, one Pentagon proposal would send Special Forces teams to advise, support and possibly train Iraqi squads, most likely hand-picked Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and Shiite militiamen, to target Sunni insurgents and their sympathizers, even across the border into Syria, according to military insiders familiar with the discussions. It remains unclear, however, whether this would be a policy of assassination or so-called “snatch” operations, in which the targets are sent to secret facilities for interrogation. The current thinking is that while U.S. Special Forces would lead operations in, say, Syria, activities inside Iraq itself would be carried out by Iraqi paramilitaries, officials tell NEWSWEEK.

Now fast forward to November. The year isn’t over yet, but the “Salvador Option” may well be in full swing, if there’s anything to the Sunni accusations about apparently U.S.-backed Shiite death squads in Iraq.

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As the American military pushes the largely Shiite Iraqi security services into a larger role in combating the insurgency, evidence has begun to mount suggesting that the Iraqi forces are carrying out executions in predominantly Sunni neighborhoods.

Hundreds of accounts of killings and abductions have emerged in recent weeks, most of them brought forward by Sunni civilians, who claim that their relatives have been taken away by Iraqi men in uniform without warrant or explanation.

Some Sunni men have been found dead in ditches and fields, with bullet holes in their temples, acid burns on their skin, and holes in their bodies apparently made by electric drills. Many have simply vanished.

Some of the young men have turned up alive in prison. In a secret bunker discovered earlier this month in an Interior Ministry building in Baghdad, American and Iraqi officials acknowledged that some of the mostly Sunni inmates appeared to have been tortured.

If that sounds familiar it’s because you’ve heard it before, just this week (as previously posted) we heard from Riverbend and Salam Pax about the very same bunkers and “torture houses.” We heard from our hand-picked Saddam replacement that things are just as bad and even worse than when Saddam was in power. If you haven’t seen the pictures the dead bodies of Sunni men, with marks from electric drills, I have one for you, and there’s more where that one came from. Lots more.

And there’s a “trophy” video (Not Safe For Work, by the way) you should probably see. It’s war porn of the “snuff” variety (is there another kind?) depicting defense contractors opening fire on Iraqi civilians.

A “trophy” video appearing to show security guards in Baghdad randomly shooting Iraqi civilians has sparked two investigations after it was posted on the internet, the Sunday Telegraph can reveal.

The video has sparked concern that private security companies, which are not subject to any form of regulation either in Britain or in Iraq, could be responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocent Iraqis.

The video, which first appeared on a website that has been linked unofficially to Aegis Defence Services, contained four separate clips, in which security guards open fire with automatic rifles at civilian cars. All of the shooting incidents apparently took place on “route Irish”, a road that links the airport to Baghdad.

So, taking this recent news in the context of the Pentagon’s musings from earlier this year, is it safe to say everything in Iraq is going according to plan. Right?

(Hat-tips to Andymatic & War and Piece.)

About Terrance

Black. Gay. Father. Buddhist. Vegetarian. Liberal.
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