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January 09, 2005

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Well, we knew there was a reason Bush II re-employed the Iran-Contra alumni: so they could work the same magic in Iraq they worked in El Salvador and Nicaragua.

I wonder how many of Saddam's old henchpersons will wind up in US-approved death squads.

Death squads render the debate over torture moot, as death squads (really, why not call them by their real name: 'terrorists') don't even pretend to follow the GC, and are not bound by any military or other codes of justice.

With the US quickly moving to re-establish a Saddam-style despotism in Iraq, it becomes obvious Saddam would still be in power if he hadn't tried to assassinate Bush I. That's apparently the only reason Bush II went after him. It's the only one left standing, anyway.

I wonder, though, if by the time a report like this gets published in Newsweek if it not already too late to stop a program like this, since it is proabably already in some stage of implementation.
I agree 110% with your closing assessment: but, given the present Adminstration's record, despair entirely that anything short of (maybe) a full-scale, mass-marches-in-the-streets protest campaign could ever dissuade the Bush crew from any course of action re the Middle East, once they have set their minds on it.
Of course, this can (and no doubt will) be spun by the pro-Bush camp as "resolution" or "staying the course" or some such, with, naturally, swipes at any opposition to it as "soft on terrorism" , a la Rush Limbaugh's on-air savaging of opponents of Alberto Gonzales' torture memos as being "pro-enemy".
But you are right, hilzoy: the "Salvador Option" would (and will) disgrace any country that would employ it.
But then, this Administration seems to have expunged the very concept of "disgrace" out of its playbooks: what can you expect?

Oh, and how long do we think it will be before Tacitus or someone like him comes along to remind us that the Salvadorans and their paramilitaries were actively fighting "Communists", and so therefore any qulams about organizing terrorist "death squads" were/are utterly misplaced?

Some more background might as well get it all out upfront. Then there is this, the 1984 elections resulted in this history (according to State).

Roberto D’Aubuisson and other hard-line conservatives, including some members of the military, created the Nationalist Republican Alliance party (ARENA) in 1981. D’Aubuisson's electoral fortunes were diminished by credible reports that he was involved in organized political violence. ARENA almost won the election in 1984, with solid private sector and rural farmer support. By 1989, ARENA had attracted the support of business groups. Allegations of corruption by the ruling Christian Democratic party, poor relations with the private sector, and historically low prices for the nation’s main agricultural exports also contributed to ARENA victories in the 1988 legislative and 1989 presidential elections.

The successes of Alfredo Cristiani's 1989-94 administration in achieving a peace agreement to end the civil war and in improving the nation's economy helped ARENA--led by former San Salvador mayor Armando Calderon Sol--keep both the presidency and a working majority in the Legislative Assembly in the 1994 elections. ARENA's legislative position was weakened in the 1997 elections, but it recovered its strength, helped by divisions in the opposition, in time for another victory in the 1999 presidential race that brought President Francisco Guillermo Flores Perez to office. A young and serious leader, Flores concentrated on modernizing the economy and strengthening bilateral relations with the U.S. by becoming a committed partner in anti-terror efforts, sending troops to aid in the reconstruction of Iraq, and by playing a key role in negotiations for the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).

Taking advantage of both public apprehension of Flores’ policies and ARENA infighting, the chief opposition party, the Farabundo Marti Liberation Front (FMLN), was able to score a significant victory against ARENA in the March 2003 legislative and municipal elections. The FMLN won control over 31 seats in the 84-seat Legislative Assembly as well as a number of key mayorships including those in most major population centers. ARENA, with only 29 seats in the 84-seat Legislative Assembly, was forced to court the right-wing National Conciliation Party (PCN), with 14 seats, in order to form a majority voting bloc. However, in 2003 the PCN entered into a loose partnership with the FMLN, further limiting ARENA’s ability to maneuver in the legislature.

Despite these constraints, ARENA made a strong showing at the March 2004 presidential election, which was marked by an unprecedented 67% voter turnout. ARENA candidate Elias “Tony” Saca handily defeated the FMLN candidate and party head Schafik Handal, garnering 57.71% of the votes cast. Nevertheless, Saca faces a complex political environment.

Some of us think of El Salvador as a success having a favorable impact on democracy in the overall region.

I am interested in hearing about your plans for counter insurgency.

Oh, and how long do we think it will be before Tacitus or someone like him comes along to remind us that the Salvadorans and their paramilitaries were actively fighting "Communists", and so therefore any qulams about organizing terrorist "death squads" were/are utterly misplaced?

It was the 4th post, it would have been sooner but a number of people have complained about not having some cites and I wanted to correct that error right upfront.

More on ARENA:

U.S. documents paint a vivid and disturbing picture of the roots of right-wing terrorism in El Salvador, of the role of ARENA in creating civilian paramilitary structures, and of the involvement of high-ranking members of the armed forces in death-squad activities. Although this report focuses on civilian death squads and in particular on the ARENA paramilitary structure, which worked in close coordination with the intelligence units of the security forces and the military, U.S. documents also suggest that throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s death squads were also being run out of the security and military forces.(2) These groups usually operated out of the S-2 intelligence units and frequently involved civilians in some capacity.(3) Although this report focuses on the role of the ultra-right and in particular the ARENA party in sponsoring violence in El Salvador, we do not wish to downplay the very important role of military institutions in death-squad activities. cite

Speaking of "death squads" and violence, Jes have you missed what has been going on in Iraq over the last sixty days.

And your solution is?

The primary difference is that the US was not engaged in full-scale military operations in El Salvador. Which made the act of training and supporting death squads to do the dirtiest of the dirty work we wanted done there appear all the more heinous. Given the tactics of the Iraqi insurgency, I suspect the US military is already fully engaged in assassinating, capturing and torturing any and all Iraqis they believe it in their military interest to assassinate, capture and torture. I would be very surprised to learn otherwise. This news story seems to only shed light on new and different operators, not on new and different operations.

The primary difference is that the US was not engaged in full-scale military operations in El Salvador. Which made the act of training and supporting death squads to do the dirtiest of the dirty work we wanted done there appear all the more heinous. Given the tactics of the Iraqi insurgency, I suspect the US military is already fully engaged in assassinating, capturing and torturing any and all Iraqis they believe it in their military interest to assassinate, capture and torture. I would be very surprised to learn otherwise. This news story seems to only shed light on new and different operators, not on new and different operations.

Your 'solution' is "Let's make it worse."

I wish we could chip in and buy those losers little red sports cars. Little red sports cars are much less destructive penile metaphors than barbarism-by-proxy.

And your solution is?

Why ask me? My solution would have been, if I were President of the US (which I'm not) and had decided to invade Iraq and put it under US occupation (which I like to think I wouldn't), to do it right, not to mess things up so completely and irretrievably.

I can't remember if you were around in November 2003, but here's some proposals I made back then.

Needless to say, throwing in death squads for Iraq can only make things in Iraq worse. But I've gone beyond the point where I expect George W. Bush to do anything else.

Well. This was, I suppose, predictable.

What Shi'ite militias? Presumably we're talking the Badr Brigades and not Moqtada Al-Sadr?

From further on in the Newsweek articles:

"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 no 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."

1. I hope no one is going to argue that Allawi's support for this shows that Iraqis support it. (To me it does more to delegitimize Allawi than to legitimize the plan). We are holding elections in a few weeks. They will be very, very, very flawed, but with all their flaws the Shi'ites and the Kurds are expected to turn out, and the winners will certainly represent the Kurdish and Shi'ite population of Iraq much better than the guy we hand-picked.

2. Shi'ite militias eh? The first one that came to mind was Moqtada Al Sadr's forces. Presumably we do not mean him, but since he's buddied up with Chalabi I suppose it's not totally impossible....I'm guessing it's the Badr Brigades they have in mind? I'm sure there are many groups I haven't heard of.

3. Tony Blair needs to fly to Washington right now, accompanied by British intelligence officials who have worked in Northern Ireland over the years, and do an intervention--teach the administration what works and what doesn't in trying to defeat a terrorist movement/insurgency. Obviously I am very very far from an expert in the area, but the experts I have encountered have said:

--the trick is to drive a wedge between the terrorists/insurgents and the civilian population that is passively supporting it. You generally do not do this by brutalizing or striking fear into the civilian population. Yes, intimidation works very well for Zarqawi and his thugs, but we are trying to built a stable, decent government and society. They are just trying to terrorize and destroy and destabilize. We could do that if we wanted to, but that is not our purpose, and it's unfortunately a lot easier to accomplish than our purpose.

--When you create or support a paramilitary or terrorist force, it will almost inevitably escape your control. It may even end up attacking you one day.

P.S. if you thought Kos hated Bush before....

P.P.S. Timmy: one of the worst mistakes you can make in evaluating politics is to conclude that if the present situation is good, everything that preceded it or arguably helped to contribute to it was therefore justified or desirable. Things are pretty good these days in Hungary, the Czech Republic, East Germany, Chile.... Does that say something good about Kadar, Husak, the Stasi or Pinochet?

The fact that a political party may have the same name does not prove all that much, either. A lot changes in 25 years. Lagos and Allende were members of the same Socialist party in Chile, but one did a reasonable job managing a market economy and one did not. Would you say that the way that Nelson Mandela's ANC brought a peaceful end to apartheid justified the atrocities that Winnie Mandela and some other members of the ANC committed? In Mozambique, Frelimo and Renamo fought a 16 year long civil war of untold brutality in which up 1 million people were killed. Now they compete in elections--flawed elections, but international observors have found them "basically free and fair", and Mozambique is at peace, its economy is growing, and it is one of the better-governed countries in Africa. I could go on.

Xanax nails it, I think. The policy seems a refinement of Iraqization, rather than something completely new (or completely Reagan- or Nixon-esque). Employing motivated Kurds and Shiites is probably an effort to inject some self-interest into the local counter-insurgency (a trait mostly missing if press reports of skedaddling Iraqi troops are accurate).

It seems to me that the primary differences between El Salvador and Iraq include

(a) that El Salvador is just next door (effectively), and well within what we've always our sphere of absolute interest, and
(b) had at its back the fear of communism/the Sovs, who actually could present a credible existential threat to the US.

I'm very much against the death squads in Nicaragua and El Salvador, but you could make much more credible arguments for the necessity of them then and there, than you can in Iraq. Here it's largely just so we can get some good PR, and claim to have "won" the war (b/c otherwise maybe the other half of America wakes up and realizes that they voted for a moron, both std. and moral).

Cripes.

I suspect the US military is already fully engaged in assassinating, capturing and torturing any and all Iraqis they believe it in their military interest to assassinate, capture and torture.

Well I suspect the Us military is already fully engaged (well it is a war, wouldn't make much sense to be disengaged) in capturing (killing if necessary, especially if they shoot back) and aggressively interrogating those individuals who are actively engaged in the killing of Iraqi civilians, Americans and others.

What troubles me, is your struggle with that effort xanax.

Thanks Jes, for your efforts.

Very interesting cites, Timmy, and I followed and read both your links: the first was a condensed recent-history of El Salvador which fundamentally blamed US meddling and US support for repressive governments there as the source of most of the country's travails (quite rightly, IMO, but there you are) - the second link, to Thomas Pickering's 1984 speech seems to be concerned as much with Nicaragua than El Salvador - and your DoS cite is a good recap of recent Salvadoran politics (and, yes, it is MUCH better to read about elections than bloodshed and massacres) - but WHAT, if anything, do these cites have to do with the issue of "death squads" - and in particular, the wisdom/morality/efficacy of US support for such structures, in "insurgency" situations -whether in Central America, Iraq, or elsewhere?

I'd be interested to hear what Juan Cole thinks of this (though I bet I could predict it.) I'd be even more interested in hearing what the various Iraqi bloggers thing of this (especially Zeyad; he's my favorite--one of the best journalists in the blogsophere IMO.)

Timmy: one of the worst mistakes you can make in evaluating politics is to conclude that if the present situation is good, everything that preceded it or arguably helped to contribute to it was therefore justified or desirable.

Katherine, I prefer to let history speak for itself, hence the long comment. Not my usual style.

A linear analysis has its weaknesses and its strength, as does comparative analysis, hilzoy's effort. But the constant refrain is to do something about the security situation in Iraq. A plan is produced, an active counterinsurgency, and bickering follows which is no surprise. An active plan to go after those who are killing Iraqi civilians, Americans and others, only one question why so long in the making (other than the training of Iraqi troops is now completed). I understand that effort may include to eliminate safe havens in Iran and Syria.

The trick here Katherine is to allow Iraqis the freedom to vote and run a government without the fear of being murdered in the streets or getting blown up.

Timmy: as I said in the post, there's a difference between (a) our carrying out a policy of assassination and (b) our training people who are not under our control to do it. And there's a further difference between training members of the Iraqi armed forces, and training members of factional paramilitary groups. Even if I grant, for the sake of argument, most of what you've said, it doesn't begin to show that it would be a good idea to train other people to carry out assassinations, let alone members of factional groups in an incipient civil war.

Besides, what Katherine said.

Timmy: It might be to your advantage to think before you type. In the very quote you cite you'll notice I said "any and all Iraqis"... not just the ones shooting back.

For the record, I have opposed this war from day one. I believed then, and continue to believe, that absent Saddam and his henchmen, full-scale civil war in Iraq is inevitable. We may be able to delay it but our best military efforts will not prevent it.

kinda TtwD vs the liberal universe lately here...

... which may lead to an atmosphere conducive to food-fighty comments:

"It might be to your advantage to think before you type."

Even if I grant, for the sake of argument, most of what you've said, it doesn't begin to show that it would be a good idea to train other people to carry out assassinations, let alone members of factional groups in an incipient civil war

hilzoy, I agree, (except it isn't an incipient civil war yet, the Shia, and the Kurds for that matter, have shown great patience both with the Sunni and their neighbors--Iran and Syria). I believe that is about to come to an end in the article you mentioned.

We have had "death squads" in Iraq for sometime, we've allowed the Iranians and Syrians to train and fund them and now it is time to close them down which is the plan you detailed.

As I said to Katherine, apparently the training of sound Iraqi troops is just about complete.

Forgive me, rilkefan, if my comments seemed "food-fighty." I do hold however that citing something to support and argument contradicted or unsupported by the cite shows a lack of thought. I could be wrong.

kinda TtwD vs the liberal universe lately here...

Everybody has been very nice, no one has called me a "freeper" and the conversation has been reasonably substantial. I've even had a nice give and take with Katherine, who previously said she would never talk to me again.

And nobody has brought up "Posting Rules", thus everything is just fine.

Timmy: you write: "The trick here Katherine is to allow Iraqis the freedom to vote and run a government without the fear of being murdered in the streets or getting blown up." First, note that if this policy is now being debated, it is unlikely to have much effect before the elections. I'm not sure, therefore, why this point of yours is relevant to the discussion at hand.

Second, if we're concerned with freeing Iraqis from "the fear of being murdered in the streets" in general, training death squads seems like an odd way to go about it.

Third, as I said, this is not (just) about whether it's a good idea to engage in a policy of assassination. It's about whether we want to enable other people, who are not subject to our control, to carry out that policy at their discretion.

Just to be absolutely clear: different policies require different levels of care in targeting. Suppose you want, say, to vaccinate a given group of people against the measles, and it's hard to figure out who those people are. You might quite legitimately say: well, I'll vaccinate a whole lot of people, and hope that in so doing I'll manage to vaccinate most of my target group. After all, being vaccinated doesn't harm anyone, and it's cheap, so why not?

A policy of assassinations seems to me to be almost as far on the other side of the spectrum as you can get. If it's OK at all, it's only OK when you are virtually certain you've got the right person in your sights. The kind of 'aim at random and hope for the best' targeting that can be quite appropriate in vaccination campaigns is completely wrong here, both on moral and prudential grounds.

What we are discussing is a policy that not only (a) enables assassination and kidnapping, but also (b) gives up control of targeting to people who may or may not have interests that align with ours, and (c) are likely participants in a civil war that seems increasingly likely. Defending (a) is not enough to show that this policy is a good idea; you need to defend (b) and (c) as well. And why you see the need to do this is beyond me.

I could be wrong.

It happens to everybody once in a while, especially when engaged with the VRWC. :)

What we are discussing is a policy that not only (a) enables assassination and kidnapping,

I'm discussing an active counter insurgency program which utilizes Iraqi troops to target terrorists, who have been engaged in killing civilians.

but also (b) gives up control of targeting to people who may or may not have interests that align with ours, and

The Iraqis are ultimately going to be responsible for its own security, a very difficult task given regional Sunni opposition and direct support from Iran and Syria.

(c) are likely participants in a civil war that seems increasingly likely.

You seemed surprised by the increase in violence. That other nations are deathly afraid of Iraq becoming a democratic Republic. The shift of power to the Shia, because they are sixty percent of the country apparently troubles you. What did you expect. But the Sunnis haven't risen up yet and I doubt if they will.

Defending (a) is not enough to show that this policy is a good idea; you need to defend (b) and (c) as well. And why you see the need to do this is beyond me.

Linear analysis has its limitation and is depended on the correlation of the X and Y drivers. Why I need to do this, simply so that you will reconsider and maybe understand what is in play geopolitically speaking. I prefer smaller conflicts to larger ones, simply less bloodshed.

BTW, to clear up a misunderstanding: here is what worries me about this proposal. It is NOT that Iraqi troops would be fighting the insurgency. It is that from the sound of it, these groups would be accountable to no one. It sounds like they would operate in secret. It sounds like they would not be subject to the U.S. code of military justice, any other U.S. laws, or any laws at all. It is not clear at all under whose orders they would operate, or what would happen if they disobeyed their orders or brutalized civilians. It sounds like they would operate without the full consent of, and perhaps even the full knowledge of, any elected Iraqi government.

Violence unconstrained by law or discipline leads to atrocities. There are so many examples of this, in so many times and so many places--too many for me to list. If you don't believe it it's because you choose not to believe it.

One of the most common kinds of atrocities is threatening civilians with violence--not because they belong to the enemy forces or even because they aid the enemy forces, but because they are not actively fighting on your side. That's why tone of the most worrisome part of the Newsweek article is the juxtaposition of these quotations:

"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."

They're not necessarily suggesting a policy of going to civilians & saying "turn in the insurgents or we'll know you're one of them and you'll be punished just like them." But they seem to be flirting with the idea. It could just be the Newsweek reporters' error, but I don't think it is. And the Pentagon doesn't have to make that their policy for it to happen on the ground--they only have to look the other way or be unable to stop it.

Not trying to call out anyone above, just in favor of balanced discussion and curious where the other conservative voices have gone.

It is NOT that Iraqi troops would be fighting the insurgency. It is that from the sound of it, these groups would be accountable to no one.

They would be accountable to the Iraqi Government.

It sounds like they would operate in secret.

Well yes, in order that their families are not targeted.

It sounds like they would not be subject to the U.S. code of military justice, any other U.S. laws, or any laws at all.

I hope not, but they would be subject to Iraqi law.

It is not clear at all under whose orders they would operate, or what would happen if they disobeyed their orders or brutalized civilians.

The Government of Iraq and the related laws.

It sounds like they would operate without the full consent of, and perhaps even the full knowledge of, any elected Iraqi government.

I hope not, civilian control is of paramount importance.

Not trying to call out anyone above, just in favor of balanced discussion and curious where the other conservative voices have gone.

Watching the football game would be my guess.

Timmy--
1. re the 3:11 post--I hope you're right, but you simply don't know that and can't know that. (I don't know for sure either of course--hence all the "sounds like" & "not clear"--but I think my fears are alot more realistic than your hopes.)
2. J-E-T-S.

curious where the other conservative voices have gone

Watching the football game would be my guess.

Or, given the bankruptcy of the Salvador Option as policy, lack the stomach for this argument.

Katherine,

1. I hope I'm right to and you maybe right about your fears. But I don't think your fears, as detailed, are realistic, simply reflecting the military is not yet an institution in Iraq.

2. Broncos, (listening to the game, as I do some work on trusts) 14 pts in the 2nd half can they keep it up. Ugly first half. Colts just scored.

rilkefan: kinda TtwD vs the liberal universe lately here...

Perhaps he deserves his own poem...

Manning: 26-32, 435 yds
4 TDs, 1 INT
1 Rush, 1 yd, 1 TD

Geez, 26-32, that's probably not bad with no coverage at all.


243: Someone else will have to write "The Ballad of Timmy's Flying Doghouse" - "John Thullen's Garage" was all the light verse I had in me on a rainy SF Bay weekend.

El Salvador, hell! Does nobody remember what the result of our training and equipping the Afghan Mujhadeen ultimately led to?

BTW, Kevin Drum has a pretty neat takedown of InstaCracker's latest attempt at blog triumphalism

That we're considering the 'Salvador Option' is a pretty good telltale the Pentagon considers Iraq a lost cause.

That aside, we've seen this movie before. It doesn't work and it ends up biting us in the future.

It doesn't work and it ends up biting us in the future

So you've been to El Salvador, wait that doesn't work out.

So you have never been to El Salvador but heard stories.

Actually, Timmy, I've been to El Salvador. And pretty much all of Central and South America. Even lived a couple years in South America.

But as other commenters (notably, She Who Would Have Me Banned) have ably pointed out, present stable conditions do not vindicate past atrocities. Seriously, trying to suggest the actions of D'Aubuisson (aka 'Major Soplete' or 'Major Blowtorch)somehow brought stability to El Salvador is ridiculous.

Once more, let's review the changing rationales for invading Iraq. First, it was WMD and ties to Al Qaeda. That didn't pan out, so the new, improved rationale was to bring democracy to Iraq to serve as some sort of osmosis base from which the ME would be infused with democracy. Well, that's not going so hot and we're considering the introduction of death squads.

Wait; if Timmy's arguing the El Salvador death squads were a good thing, doesn't that kind of destroy his argument at (January 9, 2005 03:11 PM) where he argues that the planned Iraq death squads won't be run in the least like the El Salvador death squads?

Death squads and paramilitary groups were responsible for the systematic secret murder, torture and "disappearance" of suspected government opponents during the 1980s and early 1990s and benefitted from total impunity. There was the hope that they would be held accountable and cease to exist as a result of the 1992 Peace Accords and corresponding commitments by the Salvadorean authorities and support of the international community to improve the human rights situation. There was, in fact, a gleam of hope after the end of the war when there was a significant decrease in the number of serious human rights violations, particularly "disappearances". But death threats by clandestine groups against political and other activists persisted, and sporadic killings and attempted assassinations bearing the hallmarks of death squads were carried out after the signing of the accords.cite

if Timmy's arguing the El Salvador death squads were a good thing

1. As if, but maybe you can point out where I made that comment.

2. El Salvador was a success.

3. In 1992, was anyone hoping the leftists would be held accountable.

4. There are "death squads" in Iraq, funded and trained in Iran and Syria. Do we get to hold either (Syria or Iran) responsible? When is the trial?

if Timmy's arguing the El Salvador death squads were a good thing

1. As if, but maybe you can point out where I made that comment.

Well, Timmy, how about saying the following? "I agree that training Iraqi militia to act as death squads, as reported by Newsweek, is a very bad idea, and should be condemned if actually implemented." Otherwise the vector of your comments looks like you are cheerleading the idea.

2. El Salvador was a success.

Allegedly because of death squads? Or was this remark just a non sequitur?


Timmy:
1. As if, but maybe you can point out where I made that comment.
If your comments about El Salvador (especially your comments about ARENA, the party that fronted the terrorist network of death squads, at January 9, 2005 01:27 PM) were not intended to indicate that you thought the El Salvador death squads were a good thing, I have obviously thoroughly misunderstood you. My apologies. Perhaps you'd explain more clearly what you do mean - for example, when you say:

2. El Salvador was a success.

Since El Salvador was blogged about in Hilzoy's post specifically in the context of the death squads, fronted by ARENA, funded and trained by the US government, and you say you don't mean to say that the death squads were a good thing, but nevertheless, you are arguing that "El Salvador was a success" - so what do you mean?

3. In 1992, was anyone hoping the leftists would be held accountable.

Just the "leftists"? You see, according to the 1993 Truth Commission, they were responsible for (at most) 10% of the atrocities. The army and its death squads were responsible for at least 90%. Why focus so narrowly on a group that was responsible for so much fewer atrocities than the army - which has never been "held accountable" at all?

The 1984 elections in El Salvador “were little more than a farce designed to give democratic respectability to a regime that was perpetuating some of the worst human rights abuses in the hemisphere”, wrote Mark Engler of Foreign Policy in Focus. Those who seized power in El Salvador with the help of uncle Reagan have murdered more than 75,000 people. In 1993, the UN Truth Commission report found that the army and its death squads committed 90% of the atrocities in the conflict. Among their heinous crimes were the 1989 murder of six Jesuit priests, and the slaughter of hundreds of villagers. The rebels, led by the FMNL party were responsible for 5 %, and the other 5% remained unknown, said the report. cite

4. There are "death squads" in Iraq, funded and trained in Iran and Syria. Do we get to hold either (Syria or Iran) responsible? When is the trial?

Is your argument that the US occupation should use identical methods? That if the opposition are using death squads, it's okay for the US to do it? If not, why bring it up?

2. El Salvador was a success.

How do you define 'success?'

Well... there were at least 4 more job openings for nuns, as I recall.

If your comments about El Salvador (especially your comments about ARENA.........

verbatim from State, although I have been impressed how the El Salvadorian people have gone to the polls.

Since El Salvador was blogged about in Hilzoy's post........

I just wanted the full story including how the people of El Salvador have embrassed democracy.

Just the "leftists"?

Just the right?

Is your argument that the US occupation should use identical methods?....

Have you been drinking, seriously. Then you ought to read the article, because the concern is about what the Iraqis will do. You will have to point out where anyone has suggest that the US deploy "death squads".


I define success, as a democratic Republic in both Iraq and El Salvador, JFTR.

There is nothing new to this approach in Iraq, its just a further escalation of an already failed and by now morally bankrupt policy, so all the highminded handwringing, while commendable, borders on naiveté.

There is danger in using one ethnic minority against another. As I understand it, the plan is to use Kurds and possibly Shia miltias against Sunnis and to do this by way of secret kidnappings and torture sessions, targetting whoever the death squads decide to target, which, if El Salvador is anything to go by, will mean women and children since the men are too hard to catch.
This isn't going to help if the long term goal is a peaceful unified democratic country. This is a great plan if the goal is to create generations of ethnic strife. Remember, the Kurds, Shia, and Sunis have to live together. How can it possibly be smart to play one group off against another, particularly through the vicious indescriminate violence of death squads?
And how ironic that the very people who say we had to fight the Evil Dicator because he kidnapped and tortured people are now in favor of training one ethnic group to kidnap and torture members of another group.

I guess Vietnam meme has failed to stick and now we have to try something else...

smlook,

You don't get it! We should only fight unconventional forces with a conventional military!

Not a bad time to remind everyonewhat the Salvadorian people went through to vote, can't let too much revisionist history tar what the Salvadorians did.

Conditions were horrible when Salvadorans went to the polls on March 28, 1982. The country was in the midst of a civil war that would take 75,000 lives. An insurgent army controlled about a third of the nation's territory. Just before election day, the insurgents stepped up their terror campaign. They attacked the National Palace, staged highway assaults that cut the nation in two and blew up schools that were to be polling places.

Yet voters came out in the hundreds of thousands. In some towns, they had to duck beneath sniper fire to get to the polls. In San Salvador, a bomb went off near a line of people waiting outside a polling station. The people scattered, then the line reformed. "This nation may be falling apart," one voter told The Christian Science Monitor, "but by voting we may help to hold it together."

Conditions were scarcely better in 1984, when Salvadorans got to vote again. Nearly a fifth of the municipalities were not able to participate in the elections because they were under guerrilla control. The insurgents mined the roads to cut off bus service to 40 percent of the country. Twenty bombs were planted around the town of San Miguel. Once again, people voted with the sound of howitzers in the background.

Yet these elections proved how resilient democracy is, how even in the most chaotic circumstances, meaningful elections can be held.


Well, we knew there was a reason Bush II re-employed the Iran-Contra alumni: so they could work the same magic in Iraq they worked in El Salvador and Nicaragua.

Just for the record, Iran-Contra played no role in El Salvador, notwithstanding Newsweek's comment.

Well first the Broncos broke my heart, then the Packers. And isn't that Randy Moss a turd? (Can I say turd here?) So what are you guys talking about today. Ahhh, Newsweek. People still read that? Conventional wisdom says that for a weekly magazine, they seem to be less accurate and more biased than most dailies. Oh well. What I read from the excerpts has me confused. What does Iran-Contra have to do with it? And why shouldn't we. Aren't we operating with more and more local intel? Wasn't that how we found Saddaam? Wouldn't it be far easier to infiltrate local loyalists into Baathist land and cap a terrorist leader or two? And comparing tactics is one thing, comparing the two conflicts is another. El Salvador was about a band of rag tag rebels. Iraq has Iran and Syria and at issue is a good measure of the worlds Islamic extremists naturally attracted to Iraq flypaper. Hopefully we're in the middle of sending our Iraqi friends into those countries to gather human intel and waste a few of their murderous occupants along the way. And while reading around a bit we're reminded that Salvadorians braved extremely dangerous conditions to vote, as will the Iraqis.

Everybody has been very nice, no one has called me a "freeper" and the conversation has been reasonably substantial. I've even had a nice give and take with Katherine, who previously said she would never talk to me again.

See what a few cites can do?

Just for the record, Iran-Contra played no role in El Salvador, notwithstanding Newsweek's comment.

Pointing you to my Washington Monthly link above.

In fact, the Reagan administration believed from the beginning that Nicaragua was supporting the Salvadoran rebels, and this was one of their reasons for opposing the Sandinistas in the first place. What's more, contra-resupply efforts were based at Ilopango air base in El Salvador, a fact that became public after Eugene Hasenfus' flight from Ilopango was shot down in 1986. The government denied that it was involved, of course, but Hasenfus and Ilopango — which was a center of U.S. support for both the Salvadoran government and the Nicaraguan contras — were nonetheless the early sparks that set the Iran-Contra investigation in motion in the first place.

El Salvador was a key part of Reagan's obsession with Central America and was also a key part of the Iran-Contra investigation. The editors at Newsweek, many of whom were probably covering this story when it happened, are undoubtedly well aware of this. Would-be media critics ought to be aware of it too.

Nicaragua was supporting the Salvadorian Marxists. One might posture that when the Contras weakened Danny Ortega's thugs, Danny abandoned the Salvadorian Marxists. But the Contras were all about Danny's relationship with the Soviets which was extensive and Reagan believed had to be stopped.

Nice diversion, Timmy. We really must award you the yellow jersey in the Tour de Flection.

Nice diversion, no actually just a little bit of history. Danny was hip deep with both the Soviets and El Salvadorian Marxists. Look it up.

Reagan was focused on the Soviets and constrained by the Democrats,

What about this paragraph from the article:

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."

Is this "terrorizing" the Sunni population, as Mark Kleinman suggests?

Is this "terrorizing" the Sunni population or is this putting an end to the terrorizing of the people of Iraq.

Isn't the first rule of beating a rebellion "don't arm a group of people who might just turn out to be next year's problem?"

Rebellion, did I miss something?

Oh, by the way, did you spot the 200K figure? That's not anti-Bush leftists, that's from the head of the Iraqi Intelligence Services, an estimated number of the actual amount of insurgents.

That's just under 1% of the population. That's more troops than the coalition has in Iraq. I'm all for trying new things, but the last thing we need to do is pit more ethnic groups against each other. We need to look long and hard and say, if the insurgents outnumber our troops and they're practising guerilla warfare and the population is on their side, how will death squads help?

1) we're not just taking out isolated people, 200K is a lot of people to systematically kill on an individual level.

2) we're visible, they're hidden, and there's more of them. The only way to beat that is a crackdown, but a crackdown will turn more and more people away from seeing the US as benevolent.

3) as to whether assassinations of terrorist leaders will engender support from the population, see Israel/Palestine.

Last question. Has it occurred to you that the reason we might be so pessimistic about the war is not because we're blinded by hatred of Bush, but that it's a genuinely bad situation?

Insurgency, rebellion. Pretty much the same thing. Either way, you're the authority there and people with guns want you to stop being the authority there.

But isn't that to talk about the least important part of what I asked? I mean, kudos for the dodge, but what about the question.

Our Death Squads are already there. We're just arguing syntax. What do you want to call it? Are we arresting criminals? Are we shooting soldiers? Are we assassinating politicians? All that may be okay. We're killing insurgents. What's that - a Sunni? Someone who doesn't want us there? Enemies of the US?

What do we have to do to become death squads for you people? You are the same people who boldly argued the Cheney-Scalia duck hunting triste did indeed have the "appearance" of a conflict. What does he have to do to have an actual conflict of interest? Carry a suitcase of cash?

Anyways most of the US is okay with it, as long as you call them "freedom fighters" or something. They're also in favor of investing their Social Security money in personal accounts, but against divesting Social Security money in private accounts. So Rummy will attack the words "death squad" and the messenger in his charming way, and the point will be lost.

zauberberg
My recommended weapon here at ObWi is not the blunderbuss, but the scalpel. I completely understand how you feel, though.

Timmy: I just wanted the full story including how the people of El Salvador have embrassed democracy.

Do you feel that the death squads encouraged the people of El Salvador to embrace democracy?

Since you failed to respond to this in any coherent way, let me repeat it:
3. In 1992, was anyone hoping the leftists would be held accountable.

Just the "leftists"? You see, according to the 1993 Truth Commission, they were responsible for (at most) 10% of the atrocities. The army and its death squads were responsible for at least 90%. Why focus so narrowly on a group that was responsible for so much fewer atrocities than the army - which has never been "held accountable" at all?

Your response was "just the right"? My point is - you were focussing exclusively on a group responsible for 5-10% of the atrocities in El Salvador. Here we are discussing the death squads, fronted by ARENA, and you appear to really not want to discuss them. I'm not sure why. Can you explain?

Then you ought to read the article, because the concern is about what the Iraqis will do. You will have to point out where anyone has suggest that the US deploy "death squads".

The suggestion is that the US advise, support, "possibly train" Iraqi death squads, yes. Read the article. "Special Forces teams to advise, support and possibly train Iraqi squads". You seemed to be defending this by claiming that Syria and Iran are doing the same thing. If that wasn't your intent, what did you mean?

I understand our founding fathers admired death squads and predicted that democracies are healthy that grow in such soil.

Look at Syria and Iran and Egypt...death squads have really spread the seeds of federalism.


When Hussein gassed the Kurds, wasn't that JUST genocide by anti-Soviet/communist death squads.

ALL of the Kurdish groups were Leftists (not one pro-market party among them) and took aid from the Soviets, thus our wink-wink when he gassed them.

Did'nt Timmy scream from the top of his lungs that the American military was going to make right all of the sins of the cold war support for Hussein?

Iraq: Quicksand & Blood

By Robert Parry | 12.26.03

George W. Bush and his top advisers learned little from the Vietnam debacle of the ‘60s, since most avoided service in the war. But many top Bush aides played key roles in the repression of leftist peasant uprisings in Central America in the ‘80s, a set of lessons the Bush administration is now trying to apply to the violent resistance in Iraq.

The key counterinsurgency lesson from Central America was that the U.S. government can defeat guerrilla movements if it is willing to back a local power structure, no matter how repulsive, and if Washington is ready to tolerate gross human rights abuses. In Central America in the ‘80s, those tactics included genocide against hundreds of Mayan villages in Guatemala’s highlands and the torture, rape and murder of thousands of young political activists throughout the region.

More:

Iraq: Quicksand & Blood

Timmy you are the classic right-wing nihilist...only the leverage of power your political party positions itself can determine your morals and ethics.

God bless, kid.

For the record, Stratfor has apparently declared the war in Iraq to be lost and are recommending a more-or-less immediate of withdrawal of American troops. Make of that what you will.

Another discussion of the Salvador option.

Timmy: Thanks to a comment by Randy Paul at another blog, I can direct you to a far more accurate account of the 1982 elections in El Salvador, by someone who was there -- Marc Cooper.

In reference to training these folks and then having it come back to "bite" us: There was an AP story in the Richmond Times Dispatch (VA) on Al-Zarqawi today, "Al-Zarqawi's ideaology recalled," in which they tried to provide some background information on him. This was a hard-copy, and I could not find it on their website to provide a link. However, I was interested to note:

"Al-Zarqawi embraced religion when he was in his early 20s and, like other Arab men with religious fervor, traveled to Afghanistan a few times between 1991 and 1995 to fight alongside U.S.-backed Afghans battling Soviet occupiers."

Looks like we might be getting "bit" right now!

1. Equipping and training death squads is horrific, sordid and beneath debate.
2. As noted above, it won't be the first time for our government.
In that context, I want to make sure my favorite candidate for foreign policy sociopath of the month is mentioned: Elliot Abrams. Unctuously sincere, underhandedly fanatical, and utterly unremorseful, Mr. Abrams doesn't justify the suffering of innocent men, women and children who are victims of rape, murder, and torture caused by his operations. He simply declares the success of his initiatives and denies any unpleasantness ever existed. Banished from the court of Bush I, his rehabilitation under Bush II marks increasing desperation of the administration on Iraq.

The good news: Surely his reintroduction indicates that the supply of capable people willing to plan and carry out large scale atrocities is small.

A real "big picture" kind of guy, don't forget the name: Elliot Abrams.

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Whatnot


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