In Iraq, the death squads were in operation almost from the start. For example, one of the earliest reports about the American formation of “paramilitaries” and “commando squads” to “track down” insurgents came from the Washington Post in December 2003:

Two weeks ago, the U.S. occupation authority decided to form a paramilitary unit to track down insurgents. The unit, composed of Iraqi militiamen from the country’s five largest political parties, will work with U.S. Special Forces soldiers, and their operations will be overseen by U.S. military commanders. Since the summer, the CIA has recruited and trained some former Iraqi intelligence agents to help identify the insurgents…

An even earlier Post report, in August 2003, also noted the hiring of Baathist operatives to hunt “insurgents.” As I put it in the Moscow Times that month:

Here’s a headline you don’t see every day: “War Criminals Hire War Criminals to Hunt Down War Criminals.”

Perhaps that’s not the precise wording used by the Washington Post this week, but it is the absolute essence of its story about the Bush Regime’s new campaign to put Saddam’s murderous security forces on America’s payroll.

Yes, the sahibs in Bush’s Iraqi Raj are now doling out American tax dollars to hire the murderers of the infamous Mukhabarat and other agents of the Baathist Gestapo – perhaps hundreds of them. The logic, if that’s the word, seems to be that these bloodstained “insiders” will lead their new imperial masters to other bloodstained “insiders” responsible for bombing the UN headquarters in Baghdad – and killing another dozen American soldiers while Little George was playing with his putts during his month-long Texas siesta.

Naturally, the Iraqi people – even the Bush-appointed leaders of the Potemkin “Governing Council” – aren’t exactly overjoyed at seeing Saddam’s goons return, flush with American money and firepower. And they’re certainly not reassured by the fact that the Bushists have also re-opened Saddam’s most notorious prison, the dread Abu Ghraib, and are now, Mukhabarat-like, filling it with Iraqis – men, women and children as young as 11 – seized from their homes or plucked off the street to be held incommunicado, indefinitely, without due process, just like the old days. As The Times reports, weeping relatives who dare approach the gleaming American razor-wire in search of their “disappeared” loved ones are referred to a crude, hand-written sign pinned to a spike: “No visits are allowed, no information will be given and you must leave.” Perhaps an Iraqi Akhmatova will do justice to these scenes one day.

So here — in August 2003 — the leading newspaper in the nation’s capital is openly reporting that goon squads are being sent to take care of insurgents and “terrorists,” while the leading newspaper in the capital of America’s war ally, Britain, is openly reporting that the notorious Abu Ghraib prison is being glutted with new captives — including children — sealed off behind American razor wire. The seedbed of the whole panalopy of the horrors to come was already there, in the open, from the very beginning.

And so it went on. As I noted early last year:

As Sy Hersh has reported (“The Coming Wars,”
New Yorker, Jan. 24, 2005), after his re-election in 2004, George W.
Bush signed a series of secret presidential directives that authorized
the Pentagon to run virtually unrestricted covert operations, including
a reprise of the American-backed, American-trained death squads
employed by authoritarian regimes in Central and South America during
the Reagan Administration, where so many of the Bush faction cut their
teeth – and made their bones.

you remember the right-wing execution squads in El Salvador?” a former
high-level intelligence official said to Hersh. “We founded them and we
financed them. The objective now is to recruit locals in any area we
want. And we aren’t going to tell Congress about it.” A Pentagon
insider added: “We’re going to be riding with the bad boys.” Another
role model for the expanded dirty war cited by Pentagon sources, said
Hersh, was Britain’s brutal repression of the Mau Mau in Kenya during
the 1950s, when British forces set up concentration camps, created
their own terrorist groups to confuse and discredit the insurgency, and
killed thousands of innocent civilians in quashing the uprising.

formal greenlighting of the death-squad option built upon an already
securely-established base, part of a larger effort to turn the world
into a “global free-fire zone” for covert operatives, as one top
Pentagon official told Hersh. For example, in November 2002 a Pentagon plan to infiltrate terrorist groups and
“stimulate” them into action was uncovered by William Arkin, then
writing for the Los Angeles Times. The new unit, the “Proactive,
Pre-emptive Operations Group,” was described in the Pentagon documents
as “a super-Intelligence Support Activity” that brings “together CIA
and military covert action, information warfare, intelligence and cover
and deception.”

Later, in August 2004, then deputy Pentagon chief Paul Wolfowitz appeared before Congress to ask for $500 million to arm and train non-governmental “local militias” to
serve as U.S. proxies for “counter-insurgency and “counterterrorist”
operations in “ungoverned areas” and hot spots around the world, Agence
France Presse (and virtually no one else) reported at the time. These
hired paramilitaries were to be employed in what Wolfowitz called an
“arc of crisis” that just happened to stretch across the oil-bearing
lands and strategic pipeline routes of Central Asia, the Middle East,
Africa and South America…

Brazen daylight
raids by “men dressed in uniforms” of Iraqi police or Iraqi commandos
or other Iraqi security agencies swept up dozens of victims at a time.
For months, U.S. “advisers” to Iraqi security agencies – including
veterans of the original “Salvador Option” – insisted that these were
Sunni insurgents in stolen threads, although many of the victims were
Sunni civilians. Later, the line was changed: the chief culprits were
now “rogue elements” of the various sectarian militias that had
“infiltrated” Iraq’s institutions.

But as investigative reporter Max Fuller has pointed out in his detailed examination of
information buried in reams of mainstream news stories and public
Pentagon documents, the vast majority of atrocities then attributed to
“rogue” Shiite and Sunni militias were in fact the work of
government-controlled commandos and “special forces,” trained by
Americans, “advised” by Americans and run largely by former CIA assets.
As Fuller puts it: “If there are militias in the Ministry of Interior,
you can be sure that they are militias that stand to attention whenever
a U.S. colonel enters the room.”

…With the Anglo-American coalition so deeply embedded in dirty war – infiltrating terrorist groups, “stimulating” them into action,” protecting “crown jewel” double-agents no matter what the cost, “riding with the bad boys,” greenlighting the “Salvador Option” – it is simply impossible to determine the genuine origin of almost any particular terrorist outrage or death squad atrocity in Iraq. All of these operations take place in the shadow world, where terrorists are sometimes government operatives and vice versa, and where security agencies and terrorist groups interpenetrate in murky thickets of collusion and duplicity. This moral chaos leaves “a kind of blot/To mark the full-fraught man and best indued/With some suspicion,” as Shakespeare’s Henry V says.

Or as Blake put it:

The Human Dress is forged Iron
The Human Form a fiery Forge
The Human Face a Furnace Seal’d
The Human Heart its hungry Gorge

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