From El Salvador To Iraq: Why All Of This Repression?
By Steven Jonas
06/28/05 "ICH" - - According to an article by Peter Maas entitled
Way of the Commandos" that appeared in The New York Times Magazine on May 1, 2005, US authorities in Iraq have organized an Iraqi "counter-insurgency" force that looks and acts much like the "counter-insurgency" force that the Reaganites organized in El Salvador in the 1980s. Funnily enough, it is made up of Sunni Moslems who were among Saddam Hussein's crack troops, going after other Sunni Moslems who may or may not have been in the same commands. However, money does buy loyalty, especially when there are not too many jobs to be had by ex-Saddamite soldiers.
The tactics? According to Maas very similar to those used in El Salvador: summary execution, torture, indefinite imprisonment without specific charges and certainly without trial, holding family members responsible, destroying homes, and so on and so forth. On whose watch was this effort organized? Why on none other than that of the third American Pro-Counsel in Iraq, John Negroponte. He just happened to be the US Ambassador in El Salvador when the "dirty war" against the "leftists" (which led to an estimated 70,000 deaths, mainly civilian) was being carried out there.
There was the scathing report from Human Rights Watch on the Abu Ghraib-GuantanamoAfghanistan-"secret locations" U.S. international gulag
), followed by the equally scathing report from Amnesty International
) that focused principally on Guantanamo Bay. The HRW report came out, to little notice in the US, just after most of the top chain-of-command officers connected with the Abu Ghraib horror had been exonerated by the Army. (The Amnesty report received much more attention, because, quite unusually for them, the White House with their attack dog Cheney leading the way, chose to respond to it.)
The one exception to the exoneration of the senior Abu Ghraib commanders was Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, the only female in the group, who got off sometime earlier with a relative slap on the wrist. Of course the top, top officials responsible for setting the overall policy, the current US Secretary of Defense and the Attorney General and the President who signed off on their directives, never even were investigated in this country. The Republican Congress is, after all, much too busy investigating the UN "oil-for-food scandal" and steroid use in Major League Baseball. (Talk about WMD, Weapons of Mass Distraction.) The Human Rights Witch report also appeared at the time a group of grunts directly involved with Abu Ghraib have confessed to or been convicted of participation in abuses. One wonders if some future Secretary or State will have on his/her resume participation in the cover-up, as did a recent occupant of the first in relation to the My Lai Massacre.
An outcry has occurred, even in major media sources in the US (see the Amnesty International website) over the Guantanamo Bay scandal of the denial of any rights at all to those prisoners held there (to say nothing of how they are being treated, starting with routine sensory deprivation (Newsday, June 15 2005, cover), many of whom seemed to have been rounded up randomly. In response, Sec. of Defense Himmler, I mean Rumsfeld, had this to say (News day, June 15, 2005, p. A5): "[The United States] does not want to be in the position of holding suspected terrorists any longer than is absolutely necessary. But as long as there remains a need to keep terrorists from striking again, a facility [Guantanamo] will continue to be needed.” You think that I am going over the top in using the words Rumsfeld and Himmler in the same sentence? It is just the term that the Nazis used as they rounded up political opponents from the git-go of their regime.
And why will Guantanamo Bay in particular be needed? Listen to Deputy Attorney General J. Michael Wiggins, who works for "The Geneva-Conventions-are-Quaint-and-We-Can-Just-Ignore-Them-Even-Though-They-Are-Part-of-the-Constitution" Attorney General Gonzalez: "It's our position that they [the prisoners at Guantanamo] can be held in perpetuity.” He makes this statement because, dear readers, under the U.S. equivalent of the German Nazi Enabling Act, the Patriot Act, it is all perfectly legal in these United States at this time. They can be held in perpetuity because the President has designated them as "terrorists.” Under the Patriot Act, which the President is so desperate to have made permanent, once that designation is made, persons held have no legal rights. That the Supreme Court said a year ago that they do is meaningless. The Georgites just ignore that ruling. But then again, doing such things is part of the Georgite definition of "freedom and democracy."
By the way, the whole library records thing and the Patriot Act is a smokescreen. The Georgites just gave Republicans in Congress something to hide behind, to "compromise on.” The real stuff in the Act is the destruction of the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments by the President, acting on his own authority.
Why, then, is all of this going on? Why is torture being developed to a fine art among US forces? Why is the US involved in organizing and supporting death squads once again? Does it have anything to do with fighting terrorism, a worthy fight indeed? Well, there does not seem to be any evidence of that. Other countries, like Spain, are reeling in terrorists without resorting to these kinds of tactics. As for death squads, they may have worked well, after the 70,000 deaths, primarily against civilians in El Salvador. However, in Iraq, against other former Saddamite thugs, when most of the non-Kurdish people of the country just want the U.S. to leave, could the Death Squad strategy be useful? Not likely.
My guess is that there is a long-range plan in operation here. I think that the neo-reactionaries/theocratic fascists know what they are doing. The bulk of the Georgite program for constant war abroad, destruction of all government at home except for the instruments of repression and support of corporate power, and religious oppression at home is being kept secret from the American people. They could hardly win elections on their real platform. However, as their program becomes more and more obvious, opposition and then resistance to it, even given the totally gutless DLC-dominated Democratic Party, is going to become more widespread.
Eventually they are going to have to employ some very violent, very vicious tactics at home to suppress it. What is going on here, against a group of poor Muslims, some of whom may have been terrorists (who could be dealt with, of course, by the conventional US civilian anti military justice systems which provide legal rights), but many of whom simply seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time? In my view, strategy development, technique perfection, target practice, facilities design experiments, and training for personnel, for what they will eventually turn on us here, on a much larger scale. There is simply no other explanation for what the Georgites are doing.
The Patriot Act has given them the legal tools to do this, as I have said more than once in this space. The attack on the independent judiciary, led by the likes of DeLay, Frist, and their close comrades-in-arms like James Dobson and Pat Robertson, becomes stronger every day. A recent Act of Congress has given the Secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, unprecedented and totally unconstitutional powers to violate Federal statutes in a whole variety of areas from the awarding of contracts to voiding child labor and civil rights laws pertaining to his responsibilities, on his own volition. And so, prepare for Georgite violence.
To undertake that kind of violence you have to have the systems and personnel in place, ready and able to carry it out. Ergo, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, "detention in perpetuity" (without charges, without access to legal counselor the courts), and the Iraqi Death Squads. In addition, who is running the "intelligence" side of the operation? None other than John Negroponte of El Salvador and Iraqi Death Squad fame, who now just happens to be the top dog for all US intelligence forces, domestic and foreign.
I must say that I think that the charge that the presently foreign U.S. international prison system for people held in this manner constitutes a "gulag" is totally unfair. "Concentration camps" would be a much more accurate description. In pre-war Nazi Germany the concentration camps were set up (starting on the night of January 30, 1933 just after Hitler had become Chancellor, even before the passage of the Enabling Act) precisely to imprison "terrorists" (as the Nazis called them in the beginning) in perpetuity, without legal rights. The Nazis used the concentration camp system, on German territory, to spread their terror and consolidate their power, long before they added the Death Camp (mainly outside of Germany) and Slate labor (both inside and outside of Germany) features to it.
It is so ironic. In the Time magazine article on the new Star Wars movie, it says, "Under Darth Sidious, the Sith Empire will shred and swallow up the fragile Republic .... Over the galaxy, the silence of repression will fall.” Why is it that we are so good at talking about repression when it is in the past or in the movies, but not when it is staring us in the face?
Steven Jonas: In addition to his profession in political science, Steven also have a full-time job as a Professor of Preventive Medicine at the Stony Brook University School of Medicine. email <
Copyright: Steven Jonas
(In accordance with Title 17
U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to
those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the
included information for research and educational purposes.
Information Clearing House has no affiliation whatsoever with the
originator of this article nor is Information Clearing House
endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)