By John Pilger 05/04/06 "ICH" — — The lifts in the New York Hilton played CNN on a small screen you could not avoid watching. Iraq was top of the news; pronouncements about a "civil war" and "sectarian violence" were repeated incessantly. It was as if the US invasion had never happened and the killing of tens of thousands of civilians by the Americans was a surreal fiction. The Iraqis were mindless Arabs, haunted by religion, ethnic strife and the need to blow themselves up. Unctuous puppet politicians were paraded with no hint that their exercise yard was inside an American fortress.

And when you left the lift, this followed you to your room, to the hotel gym, the airport, the next airport and the next country. Such is the power of America's corporate propaganda, which, as Edward Said pointed out in Culture and Imperialism , "penetrates electronically" with its equivalent of a party line…

Now that al-Zarqawi has been replaced by "sectarian violence" and "civil war", the big news is the attacks by Sunnis on Shia mosques and bazaars. The real news, which is not reported in the CNN "mainstream", is that the Salvador Option has been invoked in Iraq. This is the campaign of terror by death squads armed and trained by the US, which attack Sunnis and Shias alike. The goal is the incitement of a real civil war and the break-up of Iraq, the original war aim of Bush's administration. The ministry of the interior in Baghdad, which is run by the CIA, directs the principal death squads. Their members are not exclusively Shia, as the myth goes. The most brutal are the Sunni-led Special Police Commandos, headed by former senior officers in Saddam's Ba'ath Party. This unit was formed and trained by CIA "counter-insurgency" experts, including veterans of the CIA's terror operations in central America in the 1980s, notably El Salvador. In his new book, Empire's Workshop (Metropolitan Books), the American historian Greg Grandin describes the Salvador Option thus: "Once in office, [President] Reagan came down hard on central America, in effect letting his administration's most committed militarists set and execute policy. In El Salvador, they provided more than a million dollars a day to fund a lethal counter-insurgency campaign . . . All told, US allies in central America during Reagan's two terms killed over 300,000 people, tortured hundreds of thousands and drove millions into exile" …
According to the investigative writer Max Fuller (National Review Online), the key CIA manager of the interior ministry death squads "cut his teeth in Vietnam before moving on to direct the US military mission in El Salvador". Professor Grandin names another central America veteran whose job now is to "train a ruthless counter-insurgent force made up of ex-Ba'athist thugs". Another, says Fuller, is well-known for his "production of death lists". A secret militia run by the Americans is the Facilities Protection Service, which has been responsible for bombings. "The British and US Special Forces," concludes Fuller, "in conjunction with the [US-created] intelligence services at the Iraqi defence ministry, are fabricating insurgent bombings of Shias."

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In January 2005 Newsweek ran an article that revealed

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 sympathisers.

The word "allegedly" in this context covers a multitude of sins but an article published in the Covert Action Quarterly by David Kirsh reveals there is compelling evidence to show that the U.S. had been funding, training and organizing death squad activity in El Salvador for over 30 years.

 

 

…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.

That was then, but as Pilger reveals the option has been invoked in Iraq and one would have to be completely neo-liberally challenged to avoid reaching that conclusion.

Also being debated is which agency within the U.S. government—the Defense department or CIA—would take responsibility for such an operation. Rumsfeld’s Pentagon has aggressively sought to build up its own intelligence-gathering and clandestine capability with an operation run by Defense Undersecretary Stephen Cambone. But since the Abu Ghraib interrogations scandal, some military officials are ultra-wary of any operations that could run afoul of the ethics codified in the Uniform Code of Military Justice. That, they argue, is the reason why such covert operations have always been run by the CIA and authorized by a special presidential finding. (In "covert" activity, U.S. personnel operate under cover and the U.S. government will not confirm that it instigated or ordered them into action if they are captured or killed.)

 

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