Murder Inc is back
Back in the saddle again
This was posted on Kos
‘The Salvador Option’
The Pentagon may put Special-Forces-led assassination or kidnapping teams in Iraq
By Michael Hirsh and John Barry
Updated: 5:33 p.m. ET Jan. 8, 2005
Jan. 8 - What to do about the deepening quagmire of Iraq? The Pentagon’s latest approach is being called "the Salvador option"—and the fact that it is being discussed at all is a measure of just how worried Donald Rumsfeld really is. "What everyone agrees is that we can’t just go on as we are," one senior military officer told NEWSWEEK. "We have to find a way to take the offensive against the insurgents. Right now, we are playing defense. And we are losing." Last November’s operation in Fallujah, most analysts agree, succeeded less in breaking "the back" of the insurgency—as Marine Gen. John Sattler optimistically declared at the time—than in spreading it out.
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.)
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.
The interim government of Prime Minister Ayad Allawi is said to be among the most forthright proponents of the Salvador option. Maj. Gen.Muhammad Abdallah al-Shahwani, director of Iraq’s National Intelligence Service, may have been laying the groundwork for the idea with a series of interviews during the past ten days. Shahwani told the London-based Arabic daily Al-Sharq al-Awsat that the insurgent leadership—he named three former senior figures in the Saddam regime, including Saddam Hussein’s half-brother—were essentially safe across the border in a Syrian sanctuary. "We are certain that they are in Syria and move easily between Syrian and Iraqi territories," he said, adding that efforts to extradite them "have not borne fruit so far."
Shahwani also said that the U.S. occupation has failed to crack the problem of broad support for the insurgency. The insurgents, he said, "are mostly in the Sunni areas where the population there, almost 200,000, is sympathetic to them." He said most Iraqi people do not actively support the insurgents or provide them with material or logistical help, but at the same time they won’t turn them in. One military source involved in the Pentagon debate agrees that this is the crux of the problem, and he suggests that new offensive operations are needed that would create a fear of aiding the insurgency. "The Sunni population is paying no price for the support it is giving to the terrorists," he said. "From their point of view, it is cost-free. We have to change that equation."
Pentagon sources emphasize there has been decision yet to launch the Salvador option. Last week, Rumsfeld decided to send a retired four-star general, Gary Luck, to Iraq on an open-ended mission to review the entire military strategy there. But with the U.S. Army strained to the breaking point, military strategists note that a dramatic new approach might be needed—perhaps one as potentially explosive as the Salvador option.
If the Kurds sign on to this, the Turks will set them up to be killed. If the Shia try it, the Shia members of the resistance will assassinate them and their families.
This is a the road to disaster. How can you scare a people already used to fear? The resistance has excellent intelligence. They have penetrated every unit established by the US. Shia officers are routinely assassinated by the resistance. This is the OAS option. The Organization Armee Secret was formed after the failed 1960 Putsch to attack both Gaullist forces and the FLN in Algeria. It was soundly defeated.
The Syrians would do what they did when their border guards were killed, kill the SF troopers and toss the bodies back. Last time, someone ambushed Task Force 20 on a Baghdad highway. Now, some say it was an accident, but they sure knew what cars to hit. What could the US do? The people behind this plan are 18 months too late. They don't know who the resistance is. How can they hunt them down. And if SCIRI signs on to this, Hakim and his cronies are dead men. Imagine Sadr forcing Sistani's hand on this, and hanging a few of these murderers in the main square of Sadr City.
People will not betray their cousins and tribesmen. I don't care how many families you murder. I think when we tried this in Fallujah, we started the never ending battle.
All death squads can do now is force even more people into the active resistance. This is not El Salvador where the guerrillas were as scary as the government.
If the US tries this, we will not be moaning about mercenaries being burned from bridges, but Haliburton cooks and engineers being tortured on the Internet. The resistance is in a position to exact a fearsome retribution for this kind of thing.
posted by Steve @ 1:08:00 AM