Friday, March 03, 2006
U.S. sponsored DeathSquads In Iraq? John Negroponte and the "Salvador Option."
By Dahr Jamail
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Friday 03 March 2006
John Negroponte, the US National Intelligence Director, provided testimony on Tuesday at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on "global threats."
Negroponte, who was the US ambassador to Iraq from June 2004 to April 2005, was immediately promoted to his current position after his presence in Iraq. Ironically, he warned the committee on Tuesday, "If chaos were to descend upon Iraq or the forces of democracy were to be defeated in that country ... this would have implications for the rest of the Middle East region and, indeed, the world."
Warning of the outcome of a possible civil war in Iraq, Negroponte said sectarian civil war in Iraq would be a "serious setback" to the global war on terror. Note - he did not say it would be a "serious setback" to the Iraqi people, over 1,400 of whom have been slaughtered in sectarian violence touched off by the bombing of the Golden Mosque last week in Samarra.
No, the violence and instability in Iraq would be a "serious setback" to the global "war on terror."
But it's interesting for him to continue, "The consequences for the people of Iraq would be catastrophic," whilst feigning his concern. Because generating catastrophic consequences for civilian populations just happens to be his specialty.
If we briefly review the political history of John Negroponte, we find a man who has had a career bent toward generating civilian death and widespread human rights abuses, and promoting sectarian and ethnic violence.
Remember when Negroponte was the US ambassador to Honduras, from 1981 to 1985? While there he earned the distinction of being accused of widespread human rights violations by the Honduras Commission on Human Rights while he worked as "a tough cold warrior who enthusiastically carried out President Ronald Reagan's strategy," according to cables sent between Negroponte and Washington during his tenure there.
The human rights violations carried out by Negroponte were described as "systematic."
These violations Negroponte oversaw in Honduras were carried out by operatives trained by the CIA. Records document his "special intelligence units," better known as "death squads," comprised of CIA-trained Honduran armed units which kidnapped, tortured and killed hundreds of people. Victims also included US missionaries (similar to Christian Peacemaker Teams in Iraq) who happened to witness many of the atrocities.
Negroponte had full knowledge of these activities, while he made sure US military aid to Honduras increased from $4 million to $77.4 million a year during his tenure, and the tiny country became so jammed with US soldiers it was dubbed the "USS Honduras."
It is also important to remember that Negroponte oversaw construction of the air base where Nicaraguan Contras were trained by the US. This air base, El Aguacate, was also used as a secret detention and torture center during his time in Honduras.
While Negroponte was the US ambassador to Honduras, civilian deaths sky-rocketed into the tens of thousands. During his first full year, the local newspapers carried no less than 318 stories of extra-judicial attacks by the military.
He has been described as an "old fashioned imperialist" and got his start during the Vietnam War in the CIA's Phoenix program, which assassinated some 40,000 Vietnamese "subversives."
Negroponte's death squads used electric shock and suffocation devices in interrogations, kept their prisoners naked, and when a prisoner was no longer useful he was brutally executed.
Outraged at the human rights abuses by the Reagan-Bush administration, in 1984 Nicaragua took its case to the World Court in The Hague. The decision of the court was for the Reagan-Bush administration to terminate its "unlawful use of force" in international terrorism and pay substantial reparations to the victims. The White House responded by brushing off the court's findings and vetoed two UN Security Council resolutions that affirmed the judgment that all states must observe international law.
In the middle of Negroponte's tenure in Iraq, the Pentagon (read Donald Rumsfeld) openly considered using assassination and kidnapping teams there, led by the Special Forces.
Referred to not-so-subtly as "the Salvador option," the January 2005 rhetoric from the Pentagon publicized a proposal that would send Special Forces teams to "advise, support and possibly train" Iraqi "squads." Members of these squads would be hand-picked Kurdish Peshmerga militia and Shia Badr militiamen used to target Sunni resistance fighters and their sympathizers.
What better man to make this happen than John Negroponte? His experience made him the perfect guy for the job. What a nice coincidence that he just happened to be in Baghdad when the Pentagon/Rumsfeld were discussing "the Salvador option."
Fast forward to present day Iraq, which is a situation described by the Washington Post in this way: "Hundreds of unclaimed dead lay at the morgue at midday Monday - blood-caked men who had been shot, knifed, garroted or apparently suffocated by the plastic bags still over their heads. Many of the bodies were sprawled with their hands still bound."
The Independent newspaper from London recently reports that hundreds of Iraqis each month are tortured to death or executed by death squads working out of the Shia-run Ministry of Interior.
During the aforementioned committee hearing, Negroponte said that the US is concerned about the purchasing of arms by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Negroponte accused Chavez of using funds generated from the sale of oil to purchase weaponry, saying, "It's clear that he is spending hundreds of millions, if not more, for his very extravagant foreign policy at the expense of the impoverished Venezuelan population."
Coincidentally, on the exact same day he said this, the US State Department announced that the only new rebuilding money in its latest budget request for Iraq is for prisons.
With no other big building projects scheduled for Iraq in the next year, the State Department coordinator for Iraq is asking Congress for $100 million for prisons, while the Iraqi people languish with 3.2 hours of electricity daily in the average home, staggering unemployment and horrendous security, with most still dependent upon a monthly food ration.
Meanwhile John Pace, the Human Rights Chief for the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq until last month, recently stated that he believes the US has violated the Geneva Conventions in Iraq and is fueling the violence via raiding Iraqi homes and detaining thousands of innocent Iraqis. Pace estimates that between 80-90% of Iraqi detainees are innocent.
During an interview on Democracy Now!, when asked to described the role of the militias in Iraq, Pace said "they first started as a kind of militia, sort of organized armed groups, which were the military wing of various factions. And they have - they had a considerable role to play in the [security] vacuum that was created by the invasion."
He went on to describe their actions: "So you have these militias now with police gear and under police insignia basically carrying out an agenda which really is not in the interest of the country as a whole. They have roadblocks in Baghdad and other areas, they would kidnap other people. They have been very closely linked with numerous mass executions ..."
Pace, when asked if there were death squads in Iraq, replied, "I would say yes, there are death squads," and "my observations would confirm that at least at a certain point last year and in 2005, we saw numerous instances where the behavior of death squads was very similar, uncannily similar to that we had observed in other countries, including El Salvador."
What we're witnessing in Iraq now with these death squads and escalating sectarian violence is the product of policies implemented by Negroponte when he was the US Ambassador in Iraq.
But let us remove the covert operations factor for a moment.
For over a year now, Shia death squads have been killing Sunni en masse.
Thus, at first glance, the bombing of the Golden Mosque last week as Sunni retaliation makes sense.
However, what doesn't make sense is the immediate showing of solidarity between Shia and Sunni clerics following the bombing.
Let us now reinsert the covert operations factor into this equation.
Along with the showing of religious solidarity, there is widespread belief by Shiite religious clerics both in and outside Iraq, as well as belief in the Arab media, that US covert operations were behind the bombing:
* Shiite Cleric Muqtada Al Sadr blamed the United States occupation for the current violence. He recently stated, "My message to the Iraqi people is to stand united and bonded, and not to fall into the Western trap. The West is trying to divide the Iraqi people. As God is my witness, I hereby demand an immediate and unconditional withdrawal of the occupation forces from Iraq."
* In another interview, Sadr stated, "We say that the occupiers are responsible for such crisis [Golden Mosque bombing] ... there is only one enemy. The occupier."
* Adel Abdul Mehdi, the Iraqi Vice President, held the American Ambassador [Zalmay Khalilzad] responsible for the bombing of the Golden Mosque, "especially since occupation forces did not comply with curfew orders imposed by the Iraqi government."
He added, "Evidence indicates that the occupation may be trying to undermine and weaken the Iraqi government."
* At a major demonstration in Beirut, prominent Lebanese Shiite cleric and Secretary General of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, said America and Israel are to blame for the sectarian divisions in Iraq, claiming that the violence will offer further justifications for maintaining the occupation of Iraq.
* According to the Saudi-based Arab News editorial, a civil-war scenario may serve the interests of the Bush administration: "This may in the end be what Washington wants, because if Iraq plunges into chaos, it could be the Bush ticket out of the Iraq debacle, albeit paid for in rivers of Iraqi blood as well the utter humiliation of the president's administration and its neo-con agenda."
* Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran, urged Iraqi Shia not to seek revenge against Sunni Muslims, saying there were definite plots "to force the Shia to attack the mosques and other properties respected by the Sunni," and blamed the intelligence services of the US and Israel for being responsible for the bombing of the Golden Mosque.
* Hoseyn Shari'atmadarit wrote in the Keyhan newspaper of Iran on February 25 of several instances of documented covert operations carried out by occupation forces in Iraq, including: "In Shahrivar two British intelligence officers were arrested [in September 2005] at an inspection post while carrying a considerable amount of explosives, detonators and other equipment necessary to build a bomb. This event certainly shows the direct involvement of the English intelligence service in the bombings in Iraq ... The commander of the English military deployed in Basra [then] issued an order to attack the police centre and release two English saboteurs."
In the recent committee meeting, Negroponte told US senators he was seeing progress in Iraq. He said, "And if we continue to make that kind of progress, yes, we can win in Iraq."
Evidently the kind of progress John Negroponte sees in Iraq is not the kind that benefits the Iraqi people. Because the only progress in Iraq, apart from building prisons, is for the situation to continue growing progressively worse by deepening sectarian divides, despite the best efforts of religious leaders to create peace and unity.
Would civil war in Iraq be a "serious setback" for John Negroponte? Because the sectarian violence happening in Iraq right now is already a "serious setback" for the Iraqi people.
Thus, does Negroponte really care if there is civil war? Does he really concern himself with the wellbeing of the Iraqi people? Or is his main concern creating the catastrophe which keeps them divided?
Weary of the overall failure of the US media to accurately report on the realities of the war in Iraq for the Iraqi people and US soldiers, Dahr Jamail went to Iraq to report on the war himself. Dahr has spent a total of 8 months in occupied Iraq as one of only a few independent US journalists in the country. To read more of his reporting from Iraq go to www.dahrjamailiraq.com.