The CIA: Keepers of the Hit Lists – “War Crimes as Policy” [CounterPunch]

by DOUGLAS VALENTINE and NICOLAS J.S. DAVIES

June 2, 2013

In February the Guardian and BBC Arabic unveiled a documentary exploring the role of retired Colonel James Steele in the recruitment, training and initial deployments of the CIA advised and funded Special Police Commandos in Iraq.

The documentary tells how the Commandos tortured and murdered tens of thousands of Iraqi men and boys. But the Commandos were only one of America’s many weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Along with US military forces – which murdered indiscriminately – and various CIA funded death squads – which murdered selectively – and the CIA’s rampaging palace guard – the 5,000 man strong Iraq Special Operations Forces – the Commandos were part of a genocidal campaign that killed about 10% of the Sunni Arabs of Iraq by 2008, and drove about half of all Sunnis from their homes.

Including economic sanctions, and a 50 year history of sabotage and subversion, America and its Iraqi collaborators visited far more death and destruction on Iraq than Saddam Hussein and his regime.

For the last few weeks, American pundits have been cataloguing the horrors. They tell how the Bush and Obama regimes, united in the unstated policy of war crimes, probably murdered more than a million Iraqis, displaced around five million, and imprisoned and tortured hundreds of thousands without trial.

A few have further explained that the dictatorial administrative detention laws, torture, and executions that characterize the occupation are still in place under Prime Minister Maliki. The prime minister’s office, notably, is where the CIA’s Counter-Terrorism Bureau is currently ensconced.

All of this meets the definition of genocide in the Genocide Convention, and violates multiple articles of the Geneva Conventions, which guarantee protection to civilians in time of war. But the responsible Americans have gone unpunished for their war crimes, not least of which was falsifying intelligence about Iraq’s non-existent weapon of mass destruction as a pretext for the invasion. British legal advisors repeatedly warned their government that invading Iraq would be a crime of aggression, which they called “one of the most serious offenses under international law.”

For anyone familiar with the CIA, this was predictable. But the US Government, through secrecy and censorship, destroyed much of the hard evidence of its war crimes, making it harder to prove. And the media is content to revise history and focus public attention on front men like Steele, rather than the institutions – in particular the CIA – for whom they work.

History, however, provides contextual evidence that what happened in Iraq amounts to a policy of carefully planned war crimes. Indeed, the CIA modeled the Iraqi Special Police Commandos on the Special Police forces it organized and funded in Vietnam. In November 2000, Counterpunch published an article describing how Congressman Rob Simmons, while serving as a CIA officer in Vietnam, created the Special Intelligence Force Unit (SIFU) on which the Iraqi Special Police Commandos are very likely modeled. This is only one of many historical examples of the CIA’s modus operandi.

There are other examples. As we were reminded by the Guardian, Steele headed the U.S. Military Advisor Group in El Salvador (1984-1986), where US advised units were responsible for thousands of cases of torture and extra-judicial killing. They operated in rural and urban areas, but wherever they operated, they were directed against anyone opposing US policy – usually leftists.

The CIA’s death squads in El Salvador were periodically moved from one administrative cover to another to confuse investigators. The CIA played this shell game with its Special Police Commandos in Iraq as well, rebranding them as the “National Police” following the exposure of one of their torture centers in November 2005. In its finest Madison Avenue marketing traditions, the CIA renamed the Commandos’ predatory Wolf Brigade as the “Freedom Brigade”.

In Vietnam, the CIA built an archipelago of secret torture centers to process the hundreds of thousands of detainees kidnapped by its mercenary army of “counter-terror” death squads. All around the world, CIA officers and their Special Forces lackeys teach torture techniques and design the torture centers, often hidden at military posts. This is well known.

Major Joe Blair, the Director of Instruction at the School of the Americas (1986-9), described the training the U.S. gave to Latin American officers as follows: “The doctrine that was taught was that if you want information you use physical abuse…false imprisonment…threats to family members… and killing. If you can’t get the information you want, if you can’t get that person to shut up or to stop what they’re doing, you simply assassinate them, and you assassinate them with one of your death squads.”

In 2000, the School of the Americas was rebranded as “WHINSIC”, but, as Blair testified at a trial of SOA Watch protesters in 2002, “There are no substantive changes besides the name. They teach the identical courses that I taught, and changed the course names and use the same manuals.”

General Paul Gorman, who commanded U.S. forces in Central America in the mid-1980′s, defined this type of warfare based on war crimes as “a form of warfare repugnant to Americans, a conflict which involves innocents, in which non-combatant casualties may be an explicit object.”‘

Another problem, apart from historical amnesia, is that each war crime is viewed as an isolated incident, and when the dots are connected, the focus is on some shadowy character like Steele. The Guardian made an attempt to connect Steele to Petraeus and Rumsfeld, which again, is commendable. But the fact is that the entire National Security State has been designed and staffed with right-wing ideologues who support the unstated US policy of war crimes for profit.

We know who these security ideologues are. The problem is, they regularly have lunch with the reporters we trust [sic] to nail them to the wall…

Full article link: http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/05/31/war-crimes-as-policy-2/

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