Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Salvador Option, Journalist Killed, USSR, Ramadani, Monbiot


1) Although a month old now, this article analyzes what the US Embassy in Iraq (Negroponte's embassy) has done to try and cope with the insurgency. Check it out through the link -- which contains several more links in turn:

For Iraq, "The Salvador Option" Becomes Reality
by Max Fuller

2 june 2005



The following article examines evidence that the 'Salvador Option' for Iraq has been ongoing for some time and attempts to say what such an option will mean. It pays particular attention to the role of the Special Police Commandos, considering both the background of their US liaisons and their deployment in Iraq. The article also looks at the evidence for death-squad style massacres in Iraq and draws attention to the almost complete absence of investigation. As such, the article represents an initial effort to compile and examine some of these mass killings and is intended to spur others into further looking at the evidence. Finally, the article turns away from the notion that sectarianism is a sufficient explanation for the violence in Iraq, locating it structurally at the hands of the state as part of the ongoing economic subjugation of Iraq...

2) The below event is extremely suspicious, whereby a journalist is killed by a single shot to the head from a distance while at a checkpoint set up outside his house, after investigating stories related to the above posting:


Journalist killed after investigating US-backed death squads in Iraq

By James Cogan
1 July 2005

On June 24, Yasser Salihee, an Iraqi special correspondent for the news agency Knight Ridder, was killed by a single bullet to the head as he approached a checkpoint that had been thrown up near his home in western Baghdad by US and Iraqi troops. It is believed that the shot was fired by an American sniper. According to eyewitnesses, no warning shots were fired.

The US military has announced it is conducting an investigation into Salihee’s killing. Knight Ridder has already declared, however, that “there’s no reason to think that the shooting had anything to do with his reporting work”. In fact, his last assignment gives reason to suspect that it was.

Over the past month, Salihee had been gathering evidence that US-backed Iraqi forces have been carrying out extra-judicial killings of alleged members and supporters of the anti-occupation resistance. His investigation followed a feature in the New York Times magazine in May, detailing how the US military had modeled the Iraqi interior ministry police commandos, known as the Wolf Brigade, on the death squads unleashed in the 1980s to crush the left-wing insurgency in El Salvador.

The Wolf Brigade was recruited by US operatives and the US-installed interim government headed by Iyad Allawi during 2004. A majority of its officers and personnel served in Saddam Hussein’s special forces and Republican Guard—veterans of killings, torture and repression. The unit has been used against the resistance in rebellious cities such as Mosul and Samarra, and, over the past six weeks, has played a prominent role in the massive crackdown ordered by the Iraqi government in Baghdad codenamed “Operation Lightning”.

On June 27, Knight Ridder published the results of its inquiry in an article jointly written by Salihee and correspondent Tom Lasseter. The journalists “found more than 30 examples in less than a week” of corpses turning up in Baghdad morgues of people who were last seen being detained by the police commandos.

The men, according to the central Baghdad morgue director Faik Baqr, had “been killed in a methodical fashion”. The article reported: “Their hands had been tied or handcuffed behind their backs, their eyes were blindfolded and they appeared to have been tortured. In most cases, the dead men looked as if they’d been whipped with a cord, subjected to electric shocks or beaten with a blunt object and shot to death, often with single bullets to their heads.”

A grocer in west Baghdad told Salihee that he had been detained by police with a man named Anwar Jassim on May 13. “When we were in detention, they put blindfolds and handcuffs on us. On the second day the soldiers were saying ‘He’s dead’. Later we found out it was Anwar.” According to the medical reports at the Yarmuk morgue where police dumped his body, Jassim had a “bullet wound in the back of his head and cuts and bruises on his abdomen, back and neck.”

Police commandos reportedly told the morgue director to leave the corpse “so that dogs could eat it, because he’s terrorist and he deserves it”.

In a second case, a brigadier-general in the Iraqi interior ministry related that his brother had been detained during a raid on May 14, in a working class Sunni suburb in Baghdad’s west. His body was found the next day bearing signs of torture. Witnesses told the general that the abductors “came in white police Toyota Land Cruisers, wore police commando uniforms, flak vests and helmets” and were armed with 9mm Glock pistols.

Glock sidearms are used by many US law enforcement agencies and have been supplied to Iraqi security forces by the US military.

The article also cited a third case. The body of Saadi Khalif was brought to Yarmuk morgue by police commandos several days after he was taken from his home by police on June 10. Saadi’s brother told Knight Ridder: “The doctor told us he was choked and tortured before they shot him. He looked like he had been dragged by a car.”

An article in the British Financial Times on June 29 provided further evidence of police commando atrocities. Mustafa Mohammed Ali, from the western Baghdad suburb of Abu Ghraib, told the newspaper he was detained by the Wolf Brigade on May 22, during the build-up to Operation Lightning. He alleged that he was held for 26 days.

The article reported: “He spent the first day in a barbed wire enclosure with hundreds of other detainees, without food, water or toilet facilities... On the fourth day, the interrogations began. Mr Ali says Wolf Brigade commandos attached electrical wires to his ear and his genitals, and generated a current with a hand-cranked military telephone.”

According to the figures given to the Financial Times, only 22 of the 474 people seized from their homes during the Wolf Brigade sweep in the Abu Ghraib area are still being held. Those released allege they suffered systematic abuse. “Mass detentions and indiscriminate torture seem to be the main tools deployed to crush an insurgency that could last ‘five, six, eight, 10, 12 years’ according to Donald Rumsfeld, US defence secretary,” the newspaper commented.

In light of the evidence gathered by Salihee, significant discrepancies in the official figures for Operation Lightning in Baghdad raise further concerns about the fate of detainees. In early June, the Iraqi government reported that 1,200 had been detained. Just days later on June 6, this was revised downward to just 887, with no explanation. Some of the deaths referred to in the Knight Ridder article coincide with this period.

Suspicions of wholesale killings

The revelations about the conduct of the Wolf Brigade lend credibility to the claims made by Max Fuller, in a feature headlined “For Iraq, ‘The Salvador Option’ Becomes Reality” and published by the Centre for Research on Globalisation.

Over the past nine months, a terrifying new development in Iraq has been the discovery of dozens of bodies dumped in rubbish heaps, rivers or abandoned buildings. In most cases, the people had suffered torture and mutilation before being killed by a single shot to the head. The US military has consistently reported that the victims were members of the Iraqi army or police. The media has universally reported the mass killings as the work of anti-occupation terrorists.

Fuller noted, however: “What is particularly striking is that many of those killings have taken place since the police commandos became operationally active and often correspond with areas where they have been deployed.”

In Mosul, for example, dozens of men were detained by the commandos last November, as part of a US-led operation to bring the city back under occupation control. Over the following weeks, more than 150 tortured and executed bodies were found. In Samarra, dozens of bodies appeared in nearby Lake Thartar in the wake of operations by the commandos in that city.

From February through to late April, more than 100 bodies were recovered from the Tigris River south of Baghdad—one of the most rebellious areas of the country. The Iraqi government initially claimed they were villagers who had been kidnapped by insurgents in the village of Maidan. This has since been discredited. The victims are from a range of towns and villages, including Kut in the north and Basra in the south. Police in the area told the San Francisco Chronicle that many of the dead had been “motorists passing through the area when stopped by masked men bearing Kalashnikov rifles at impromptu checkpoints”.

Other killings have been discovered in Baquaba and the Syrian border town of Qaim in the aftermath of counter-insurgency operations by US forces and their Iraqi allies. Fuller also noted the suspicions surrounding the assassination of well over 200 university academics, most of whom were opponents of the US occupation of Iraq.

Dozens of bodies have been found over the past two months in Baghdad. In May, the Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS)—the main public Sunni organisation opposed to the occupation—directly accused the Wolf Brigade of having “arrested imams and the guardians of some mosques, tortured and killed them, and then got rid of their bodies in a garbage dump in Shaab district” of Baghdad. AMS secretary general Hareth al-Dhari declared at the time: “This is state terrorism by the Minister of the Interior.”

The very existence of the Wolf Brigade underscores the criminality of the US occupation and the utter fraud of the Bush administration claims to be bringing “liberation” and “democracy” to Iraq. Many of the commandos would have been involved in murder and torture on behalf of Saddam Hussein’s regime. The American military deliberately recruited them in order to make use of their experience in mass repression and has directly modeled their operations on those of right-wing death squads in Central America.

The main US advisor to the Wolf Brigade from the time of its formation until April 2005 was James Steele. Steele’s own biography, promoting him for the US lecture circuit, states that “he commanded the US military group in El Salvador during the height of the guerilla war” and “was credited with training and equipping what was acknowledged to be the best counter-terrorist force in the region”. In a 12-year campaign of murder and repression, the Salvadoran units, trained and advised by people like Steele, killed over 70,000 people.

In his speech on June 28, George Bush declared his administration was working with the Iraqi interior and defence ministries to “improve their capabilities to coordinate anti-terrorist operations” and “develop their command and control structures”. The evidence is beginning to emerge that this means paying and equipping former Baathist killers to terrorise, torture and murder Iraqis who are believed to have links to the popular resistance, which an unnamed US analyst estimated for the June 27 edition of Newsweek had “as many as 400,000 auxiliaries and support personnel”.

The killing of journalists seeking to document or expose allegations of state-organised murder has accompanied every dirty war against a civilian population. Since the US occupation of Iraq began, dozens of reporters, cameramen and other media workers have been killed by American-led forces in suspicious circumstances that were never independently investigated.

Two more Iraqi journalists have been killed in the days since Yasser Salihee’s death. On June 26, Maha Ibrahim, a news editor with a television station operated by the anti-occupation Iraqi Islamic Party, was shot dead when US troops opened fire on her car as she and her husband drove to work. Two days later, Ahmad Wail Bakri, a program director for Iraqi al-Sharqiya television was killed by American troops as he reportedly tried to drive around a traffic accident in Baghdad

3) While I'm not sure that the US is about to follow the path of the USSR due to invading Afghanistan and Iraq (Louisiana secession, anyone?), this analysis demonstrates some thought-provoking parallels, especially in terms of military reality. Remember, these interventions are only 2-3 years old yet. The US has just entered the tunnel of its own creation -- there is no end of the tunnel to give off light yet:


The December Decision
By Stirling Newberry
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Thursday 30 June 2005

On October 9th 2001, in the shadow of the 9/11 attacks and as part of the preparations for going to war in Afghanistan, a series of essays were prepared on previous involvements in that country. One of documents prepared, edited by Svetlana Savranskaya, was on the lessons of the Soviet invasion and occupation from 1979 until 1988. Afghanistan has a long history of foreign intervention, having been one of the key squares in the "Great Game" between Russia and England.

In dry national security prose, the report noted that "the last war of the Soviet Union created or aggravated the internal dynamics that eventually culminated in the dissolution of the country itself." This is, perhaps, too strong a phrasing, but it certainly didn't help. Moreover, the ease of the invasion and the failure of the occupation created certain sharp lessons for other powers that seek to impose their will by direct force.

The first lesson was the invasion itself: in the run-up to the invasion, the USSR General Staff objected to the small size of the force and the rather broad objectives. The USSR wanted to root out those who had crossed it and impose a Soviet-style government on Afghanistan, not merely fulfill some simple regime change or removal of particular leadership.

The second lesson followed from the first: the USSR had limited intelligence about the political make-up of the factions in Afghanistan, and they expected it to be like other poor peripheral countries, for example, Mongolia. This lack of clear information and willingness to "form a picture" were mistakes that compounded the lack of force commitment. The Soviet Union expected to be seen as liberators, or at least as an improvement, bringing with them technology, teaching and training. Instead they found that the populace rejected them as "infidels," and instead of being able to secure the cooperation of the local power centers, they found little immediate resistance, but also no reconciliation. Even their own friends on the ground were divided along ethnic and religious lines.

This much became clear rather early, and the military leadership pressed for either withdrawal of the "Limited Contingent" or some clearly defined goal or exit strategy. Neither was accomplished, because of the political centralization and rot within the Soviet Politburo itself. In 1985, the Politburo decided to decide, but it would wait until 13 November 1986, when there would be a full discussion of how to exit from Afghanistan. By this point, Gorbachev accuses their allies of "walking like a pretzel" - meaning weaving around every issue and being disingenuous - and warns that unless some important change of policy is undertaken, that Afghanistan will continue for another 20 or 30 years of fighting. It is now 20 years from the time of that meeting, and the fighting has continued, even if the USSR is now a motif for t-shirts, and not a government.

But it is Gromyko who argues for realpolitik in the meeting: that there are still political options, even though military ones have failed. He argues that an attempt to modernize Afghanistan is not realistic, that the USSR will have to accept Afghanistan as a neutral country, and he notes there is no internal support: the USSR has lost as many men from Afghanistan as it drafted. The politburo called for a hard exit date, a withdrawal of troops within two years. But it would not save the USSR or its political allies in Afghanistan.

By 1988, the Soviet military and political establishment were busy doing a post-mortem on Afghanistan. The political leadership agreed that going in had been a mistake, but argued that there had been repeated requests from a fellow Soviet bloc government - and thus a legitimate use of military power. The military assessment was far harsher and far more direct, as expressed in a CPSU letter of 10 May 1988.

The lessons the Soviet military drew were concise:

Insufficient intelligence;
The ability of small units to use terrain against large formations;
"Complete disregard" for the local populace and its reactions;
Failure to win the populace over to the regime;
Placing all reliance on a "military solution";
Long term combat operations degrading the military.
From the US side, the lessons to be drawn from the Soviet invasion were a complementary image: political failure combined with loss of control of the road network, which led to an increasing reliance on helicopters, which were vulnerable to anti-aircraft missiles.

And now we have reached that most dangerous of mileposts: the transportation network that the military relies on in Afghanistan and Iraq. Amateurs talk strategy, professionals talk logistics. Strategy is what you can do with what you can get there. The gem of the Cold War military system was not the fighter bombers, the aircraft carriers, or even the ICBM deterrent, instead it was the logistical network that allowed the US to project force farther and faster than any other nation, such that no nation felt itself too far out of American reach for too long.

The indications in the run-up to the invasion of Afghanistan were that American logistical capability was stretched, that there had been failures of new software and shortages of needed equipment. This failure becomes more visible with time: the lack of armored HumVees and flack jackets were the flesh wounds, caught by IED shrapnel. The loss of the ability to truck material and the reliance on rotary wing aircraft is a more dangerous failure, and a more militarily grievous loss, because it costs that which is very expensive to replace: pilots, specialists and commanding officers. The kind of people of which there is a limited supply, and which take years to fully replace.

It is this same attrition of valuable personnel which ended up being the death knell for Soviet occupation. It could no longer staff its chain of command, coordinate or control defense missions, nor could it reliably move people from one place to another. This undercut the political objectives of "national reconciliation," because reconciliation is dependent on a clear and imposing presence which cannot be delayed, denied or defeated.

The harsh conclusion is that the very documents being read in the Pentagon in the days after 9/11 provided clear warnings not to go into a nation without intelligence, not to go in with a "limited contingent," not to set large and sweeping goals of political transformation, and not to rely on an increasingly fragile military instrument to effect change. The Downing Street Memos show how, systematically, these points were ignored by key US envoys to Great Britain, and the final invasion of Iraq ended up looking like the invasion of Afghanistan by the USSR. That is, politically compelled for ideological reasons, but constrained by economic and military shortages.

With the crash of a Chinook troop transport helicopter, lost, in all probability, to hostile fire, the parallels between the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and the US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq should be held to closer parallel. Consider that, from the point of invasion to the 10 May letter, the Soviets had suffered, on average, 5 killed per day of involvement, and 13 wounded. The United States has suffered only 2.3 killed, but 16 wounded. In other words, the intensity of American combat in Iraq differs from the Soviet presence in Afghanistan only in that better American evacuation and medical technology, plus better armor, saves 3 people every day who otherwise would have died.

In short, the United States is fighting its own version of the war that, according to the the foreign policy intellectual establishment, either brought down or hastened the fall of the USSR. We have engaged in the same mistakes: the Downing Street Memos of March 2002 show a determination to invade but an admission that there is poor intelligence on troops, deployment of Weapons of Mass Destruction and the state of Saddam's air force. There is no mention made of non-conventional or guerrilla warfare, just as the planning documents of the Soviet invasion do not once mention the possibility of a resistence developing. There is a reliance on an outside trained elite that, it is admitted, has no credibility on the ground.

It was a Soviet politician who reminded his fellow politburo members that with each person's death and closing of the eyes, a unique world comes to an end. It might also be added that when a nation closes its eyes to the lessons of the past, it too sets itself on a course toward its own death, a journey to that country "from which no traveler returns."

Stirling Newberry is an internet business and strategy consultant, with experience in international telecom, consumer marketing, e-commerce and forensic database analysis. He has acted as an advisor to Democratic political campaigns and organizations and is the the co-founder, along with Christopher Lydon, Jay Rosen and Matt Stoller, of BopNews, as well as being the military affairs editor of The Agonist.

4) Why withdrawal is the right way to go:


A fiction as powerful as WMD

It is not withdrawal that threatens Iraq with civil war, but occupation

Sami Ramadani
Tuesday July 5, 2005
The Guardian

Most people in Britain want troops withdrawn from Iraq - and so do most Iraqis, according to opinion polls. Trade unions are calling for early withdrawal, as are some Labour MPs and the Liberal Democrats. But many well-intentioned people argue that the US-led occupation must end only when the country is stable. A swift withdrawal, they fear, would plunge the country into civil war.
In one sense this position is the same as that of Bush and Blair, who consistently say troops will not stay in Iraq "a moment longer than necessary" and will withdraw when asked to do so by a democratically chosen government. In reality, with over 200,000 foreign troops and auxiliaries in control of Iraq, even an elected government will owe its survival to the occupation.

It was a reflection of Iraqi popular hatred of the occupation that 82 of the national assembly's 275 members signed a petition calling for a speedy withdrawal, after the prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, appeared to be breaking his election promise to insist on a scheduled pullout. Jaafari went on to renege in the most humiliating fashion, standing next to George Bush at the White House as the US president declared: "I told the prime minister that there will be no scheduled withdrawal."

It would be wrong to dismiss the fears of those who argue for "withdrawal but not now" just because it is also the position of Bush and Blair. But those who are genuinely concerned about withdrawal should examine the facts on the ground before giving support to continued occupation.

Some pro-war commentators warned early on that the country would be blighted by sectarian violence: oppressed Shias would take revenge on Sunnis; Kurds would avenge Saddam's rule by killing Arabs; and the Christian community would be liquidated.

What actually happened confounded such expectations. Within two weeks of the fall of Baghdad, millions converged on Karbala chanting "La Amreeka, la Saddam" (No to America, no to Saddam). For months, Baghdad, Basra and Najaf were awash with united anti-occupation marches whose main slogan was "La Sunna, la Shia; hatha al-watan menbi'a" (no Sunni, no Shia, this homeland we shall not sell).

Such responses were predictable given Iraq's history of anti-sectarianism. But the war leaders reacted by destroying the foundations of the state and following the old colonial policy of divide and rule, imposing a sectarian model on every institution they set up, including arrangements for the January election.

When it became clear that the poorest areas of Baghdad and the south were even more hostile to the occupation than the so-called Sunni towns - answering the Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's call to arms - Bush and Blair tried to defeat the resistance piecemeal, under the guise of fighting foreign terrorists. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was promoted to replace Saddam as the bogeyman in chief, to encourage sectarian tension and isolate the resistance.

This propaganda has been more successful abroad than in Iraq. Indeed, Iraqis habitually blame the occupation for all acts of terrorism, not what is fondly referred to as al-muqawama al-sharifa (the honourable resistance). But in Britain and the US many people feel ambivalent or antagonistic towards the mainstream popular resistance.

The occupation's sectarian discourse has acquired a hold as powerful as the WMD fiction that prepared the public for war. Iraqis are portrayed as a people who can't wait to kill each other once left to their own devices. In fact, the occupation is the main architect of institutionalised sectarian and ethnic divisions; its removal would act as a catalyst for Iraqis to resolve some of their differences politically. Only a few days ago the national assembly members who had signed the anti-occupation statement met representatives of the Foundation Congress (a group of 60 religious and secular organisations) and the al-Sadr movement and issued a joint call for the rapid withdrawal of the occupation forces according to an internationally guaranteed timetable.

There is now broad agreement in Iraq to build a non-sectarian, democratic Iraq that guarantees Kurdish national rights. The occupation is making the achievement of these goals more difficult.

Every day the occupation increases tension and makes people's lives worse, fuelling the violence. Creating a client regime in Baghdad, backed by permanent bases, is the route that US strategists followed in Vietnam. As in Vietnam, popular resistance in Iraq and the wider Middle East will not go away but will grow stronger, until it eventually unites to force a US-British withdrawal.

How many more Iraqis, Americans and Britons have to die before Bush and Blair admit the occupation is the problem and not part of any democratic solution in Iraq?

· Sami Ramadani, a political refugee from Saddam Hussein's regime, is a senior lecturer at London Metropolitan University.

5) Monbiot op-ed, always worth a read:


Africa's new best friends

The US and Britain are putting the multinational corporations that created poverty in charge of its relief

George Monbiot
Tuesday July 5, 2005
The Guardian

I began to realise how much trouble we were in when Hilary Benn, the secretary of state for international development, announced that he would be joining the Make Poverty History march on Saturday. What would he be chanting, I wondered? "Down with me and all I stand for"?

Benn is the man in charge of using British aid to persuade African countries to privatise public services; wasn't the march supposed to be a protest against policies like his? But its aims were either expressed or interpreted so loosely that anyone could join. This was its strength and its weakness. The Daily Mail ran pictures of Gordon Brown and Bob Geldof on its front page, with the headline "Let's Roll", showing that nothing either Live 8 or Make Poverty History has done so far represents a threat to power....

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