“Successive imperialist powers have shown that the bottom line in combating the hopes and dreams of ordinary people is to resort to spreading terror through the application of extreme violence.” Max Fuller; “For Iraq, the ‘El Salvador Option’ becomes Reality”

By Mike Whitney ICH 6/9/06

George Bush is right; Iraq is “the central battlefield in the global war on terror”. Regrettably, it is United States that is the main sponsor and supporter of that terror in the form of American-trained death squads. Death squad activity in Iraq now accounts for more than 1,000 casualties per month. The Baghdad morgue has become a conveyor-belt for American-generated carnage.

Up to now, the US involvement in the killing has been effectively concealed by the mainstream media. Apart from infrequent reports on the internet, there is little information connecting the burgeoning death toll to America’s counterinsurgency operations.

That changed on May 4, 2006 when Congressman Dennis Kucinich gave a speech on the floor of the House which linked the Bush administration to the death squad’s in Iraq. Reading from a long list of newspaper articles he had compiled, Kucinich provided a detailed account of America’s disturbing undercover war. Naturally, his speech was shunned by the major media and consigned to the memory hole. It outlines the extent of America’s complicity in the ongoing slaughter and asks us to question whether any additional involvement can be morally justified.

Kucinich’s speech was framed in the context of 2 letters which he delivered to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and President George Bush. His comments are entered below:

April 5, 2006
Dear Secretary Rumsfeld:

“I am writing to request a copy of all records pertaining to Pentagon plans to use U.S. Special Forces to advise, support and train Iraqi assassination and kidnapping teams.

“On January 8, 2005, Newsweek magazine first published a report that the Pentagon had a proposal to train elite Iraqi squads to quell the growing Sunni insurgency. The proposal has been called the “Salvador Option,” which references the U.S. military assistance program, initiated under the Carter Administration and subsequently pursued by the Reagan Administration, that funded and supported “nationalist” paramilitary forces who hunted down and assassinated rebel leaders and their supporters in El Salvador. This program in El Salvador was highly controversial and received much public backlash in the U.S., as tens of thousands of innocent civilians were assassinated and “disappeared,” including notable members of the Catholic Church, Archbishop Oscar Romero and the four American churchwomen. According to the Newsweek report, Pentagon conservatives wanted to resurrect the Salvadoran program in Iraq because they believed that despite the incredible cost in human lives and human rights, it was successful in eradicating guerrillas.

“Mr. Secretary, at a news conference on January 11, 2005, you publicly stated that the idea of a Salvador option was “nonsense.” Yet mounting evidence suggests that the U.S. has in fact funded and trained Iraqi assassination and kidnapping teams and these teams are now operating with horrific success across Iraq.

“We know that the Pentagon received funding for training Iraqi paramilitaries. About one year before the Newsweek report on the “Salvador Option,” it was reported in the American Prospect magazine on January 1, 2004 that part of $3 billion of the $87 billion Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill to fund operations in Iraq, signed into law on November 6, 2003, was designated for the creation of a paramilitary unit manned by militiamen associated with former Iraqi exile groups. According to the Prospect article, experts predicted that creation of this paramilitary unit would “lead to a wave of extrajudicial killings, not only of armed rebels but of nationalists, other opponents of the U.S. occupation and thousands of civilian Baathists.” The article further described how the bulk of the $3 billion program, disguised as an Air Force classified program, would be used to “support U.S. efforts to create a lethal, and revenge-minded Iraqi security force.” According to one of the article’s sources, John Pike, an expert of classified military budgets at www.globalsecurity.org. “the big money would be for standing up an Iraqi secret police to liquidate the resistance.”

“We know that some of the Pentagon’s Iraq experts were involved in the Reagan Administration’s paramilitary program in El Salvador. Colonel James Steele, Counselor to the U.S. Ambassador for Iraqi Security Forces, formerly led the U.S. Military Advisory Group in El Salvador from 1984-1986, where he developed special operating forces at brigade level during the height of the conflict. The role of these forces in El Salvador was to attack “insurgent” leadership, their supporters, sources of supply, and base camps. Currently Colonel Steele has been assigned to work with the new elite Iraqi counter-insurgency unit known as the Special Police Commandos, operating under Iraq’s Interior Ministry. Director of National Intelligence, John Negroponte, was U.S. Ambassador to Iraq from June 2004 to April 2005. From 1981 to 1985, he was ambassador to Honduras where he played a key role in coordinating U.S. covert aid to the Contras, anti-Sandinista militias who targeted civilians in Nicaragua. Additionally, he oversaw the U.S. backing of a military death squad in Honduras, Battalion 3-16, which specialized in torture and assassination. The U.S. had similar programs of supporting paramilitary groups set up Nicaragua and Honduras as its program in El Salvador. In a Democracy Now interview on January 10, 2005, Allan Nairn, who broke the story about U.S. support of death squads in El Salvador, suspected that Ambassador Negroponte would most likely be involved in the economic side of U.S. support to death squads in Iraq.

“We know that a wave of abductions and executions, in the style of the death squads of El Salvador, and with ties to an official government sponsor, and to the U.S., has hit Iraq. News reports over the past 10 months strongly suggest that the U.S. has trained and supported highly organized Iraqi commando brigades, and that some of those brigades have operated as death squads, abducting and assassinating thousands of Iraqis. Some news highlights: – May 1, 2005 — Los Angeles Times reports that the U.S. is providing technical and logistical support to the Maghawir (Fearless Warrior) brigades, the Interior Ministry’s special commandos, according to Major General Rasheed Flayih Mohammed. Iraqi authorities plan to increase deployment of the 12,000-strong Maghawir (Fearless Warrior) brigades, which are composed of well-trained veterans who have worked closely with U.S. forces in Najaf, Fallujah and Mosul and include the Wolf, Scorpion, Tiger and Thunder brigades. – May 16-20, 2005 — Los Angeles Times and New York Times reveal discovery of 46 bodies, all Iraqi men abducted and slain execution-style, in various locations: floating in the Tigris, dumped in ditches and garbage-strewn lots, and buried at a poultry farm. – June 15, 2005 — Washington Post reports that U.S. forces had knowledge of secret and illegal abductions of hundreds of minority Arabs in Kirkuk. The abductions were by forces led by Kurdish political parties and backed by the U.S. military. – June 20, 2005 — Los Angeles Times reports that Saad Sultan, of Iraq Human Rights Ministry said that police and security forces attached to the Iraqi Interior Ministry, thousands of whom have been trained by American instructors, are responsible for abusing up to 60% of estimated 12,000 detainees in prison and military compounds. He says the units have used tactics reminiscent of Saddam’s secret intelligence squads. – July 3, 2005 — Reuters News reports that the government of Iraq publicly acknowledged that the new security forces were using torture. Article further says that accounts are common of people being seized by armed men in the uniforms of the police, army or special units like Baghdad’s Wolf Brigade police commandos, and then disappearing without trace or being found dead. – July 28, 2005 — Los Angeles Times reports that members of a California Army National Guard company, the Alpha Company, who were implicated in a detainee abuse scandal, trained and conducted joint operations with the Wolf Brigade, a commando unit criticized for human rights abuses. In an online Alpha Company newsletter, Captain Haviland wrote, “We have assigned 2nd Platoon to help them transition, and install some of our ‘Killer Company’ aggressive tactical spirit in them.” The article further states that despite the Wolf Brigade’s controversial reputation for human rights violations, it is regarded as the gold standard for Iraqi security forces by U.S. military officials. – August 31, 2005 — BBC reports that on the night of August 24, a large force of the Volcano Brigade raided homes in Al-Hurriyah city in the Baghdad, kidnapping and then executing 76 citizens. The victims were all shot in the head after their hands and feet had been tied up. They suffered the harshest forms of torture, deformation and burning. – November 16, 2005 — Reuters News reports the discovery of 173 malnourished men, some of whom were tortured, imprisoned in a secret jail run by Shi’ite militias tied to the Interior Ministry. – November 17, 2005 — Newsday reports that in the past year, the U.S. military has helped build up Iraqi commandos under guidance from James Steele, a former Army Special Forces officer who led U.S. counterinsurgency efforts in El Salvador in the 1980s. The brigades built up over the past year include the Lion Brigade, Scorpion Brigade and Volcano Brigade. – February 15, 2006 — Associated Press reports that the Interior Ministry has launched a probe into death squad allegations. – February 19, 2006 — BBC reveals that morgues in Baghdad receive dozens of bodies picked up daily from rivers, sewage plants, waste burial sites, farms and desert areas. Most of the bodies are handcuffed and blindfolded civilians with a bullet or more in the forehead, indicating that they were executed. The handcuffs used on the victims are like those used by the Iraqi police. – February 26, 2006 — The Independent reports that outgoing United Nations’ human rights chief in Iraq, John Pace, revealed that hundreds of Iraqis are being tortured to death or summarily executed every month in Baghdad alone by the death squads working from the Ministry of Interior. He said that up to three-quarters of the corpses stacked in the Baghdad mortuary show evidence of gunshot wounds to the head or injuries caused by drill-bits or burning cigarettes. – March 9, 2006 — Los Angeles Times reports that Iraqi police officers who worked at the Interior Ministry’s illegal prison had received American training, and that U.S. trainers have also given extensive support to 27 brigades of heavily armed commandos accused of a series of abuses, including the death of 14 Sunni Arabs who were locked in an airtight van last summer. – March 10, 2006 — Sidney Morning Herald reports that men wearing the uniforms of U.S.-trained security forces, which are controlled by the Interior Ministry, abducted 50 people in a daylight raid on a security agency. Masked men who are driving what appear to be new government-owned vehicles are carrying out many of the raids. – March 27, 2006 — The Independent reports that while U.S. authorities have begun criticizing the Iraqi government over the “death squads,” many of the paramilitary groups accused of the abuse, such as the Wolf Brigade, the Scorpion Brigade and the Special Police Commandos were set up with the help of the American military. Furthermore, the militiamen were provided with U.S. advisers some of whom were veterans of Latin American counter-insurgency which also had led to allegations of death squads at the time.

Mr. Secretary, in light of this evidence of U.S. support for and the existence of death squads in Iraq, what is the basis for your January 11, 2005 statement, that the idea of a Salvador option in Iraq is “nonsense”? I request a copy of all records pertaining to Pentagon plans to use U.S. Special Forces to advise, support and train Iraqi assassination and kidnapping teams. I look forward to receiving your response.”

Sincerely, Dennis J. Kucinich, Member of Congress

Kucinich’s speech gives us a much better idea of what is really going on in Iraq. He exposes the US as the driving force behind the paramilitary units that are currently torturing and killing vast numbers of Iraqi civilians. The entire operation has been set into motion by American intelligence agencies with the intention of inciting sectarian violence and thrusting the country towards partition.

The appearance of Colonel James Steele, as counselor for the Iraqi Security Forces, should remove any doubt about the real nature of America’s involvement. Steele’s ”stock and trade” is the “spreading terror through the application of extreme violence”; Max Fuller’s apt description of US counterinsurgency campaigns in Latin America. Steele was clearly enlisted to train others in the techniques of guerilla warfare and spread mayhem throughout the country.

Kucinch’s claims are particularly illuminating in relation to the recent killing of terror-mastermind Abu Musab al Zarqawi. Zarqawi was the Pentagon’s “psy-ops invention” who was created to rationalize the steady deterioration of Iraqi society. By connecting the Bush administration to the death squads the entire foundation for the war on terror begins to crumble. As Kucinich points out, the main proponent of terrorist activity in Iraq is the United States not Islamic extremists. American death squads are getting away with murder, and they are doing so with complete impunity.