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Old 02-04-2005, 05:13 PM   #1
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The Pentagon and 'The Salvador Option'

Does this disgust and frighten you as much as it does me?...

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MSNBC.com

‘The Salvador Option’
The Pentagon may put Special-Forces-led assassination or kidnapping teams in Iraq
WEB EXCLUSIVE
By Michael Hirsh and John Barry
Newsweek
Updated: 8:59 p.m. ET Jan. 14, 2005

Jan. 8 - What to do about the deepening quagmire of Iraq? The Pentagon’s latest approach is being called "the Salvador option"—and the fact that it is being discussed at all is a measure of just how worried Donald Rumsfeld really is. "What everyone agrees is that we can’t just go on as we are," one senior military officer told NEWSWEEK. "We have to find a way to take the offensive against the insurgents. Right now, we are playing defense. And we are losing." Last November’s operation in Fallujah, most analysts agree, succeeded less in breaking "the back" of the insurgency—as Marine Gen. John Sattler optimistically declared at the time—than in spreading it out.

Now, NEWSWEEK has learned, the Pentagon is intensively debating an option that dates back to a still-secret strategy in the Reagan administration’s battle against the leftist guerrilla insurgency in El Salvador in the early 1980s. Then, faced with a losing war against Salvadoran rebels, the U.S. government funded or supported "nationalist" forces that allegedly included so-called death squads directed to hunt down and kill rebel leaders and sympathizers. Eventually the insurgency was quelled, and many U.S. conservatives consider the policy to have been a success—despite the deaths of innocent civilians and the subsequent Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages scandal. (Among the current administration officials who dealt with Central America back then is John Negroponte, who is today the U.S. ambassador to Iraq. Under Reagan, he was ambassador to Honduras. There is no evidence, however, that Negroponte knew anything about the Salvadoran death squads or the Iran-Contra scandal at the time. The Iraq ambassador, in a phone call to NEWSWEEK on Jan. 10, said he was not involved in military strategy in Iraq. He called the insertion of his name into this report "utterly gratuitous.")

Following that model, one Pentagon proposal would send Special Forces teams to advise, support and possibly train Iraqi squads, most likely hand-picked Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and Shiite militiamen, to target Sunni insurgents and their sympathizers, even across the border into Syria, according to military insiders familiar with the discussions. It remains unclear, however, whether this would be a policy of assassination or so-called "snatch" operations, in which the targets are sent to secret facilities for interrogation. The current thinking is that while U.S. Special Forces would lead operations in, say, Syria, activities inside Iraq itself would be carried out by Iraqi paramilitaries, officials tell NEWSWEEK.

Also being debated is which agency within the U.S. government—the Defense department or CIA—would take responsibility for such an operation. Rumsfeld’s Pentagon has aggressively sought to build up its own intelligence-gathering and clandestine capability with an operation run by Defense Undersecretary Stephen Cambone. But since the Abu Ghraib interrogations scandal, some military officials are ultra-wary of any operations that could run afoul of the ethics codified in the Uniform Code of Military Justice. That, they argue, is the reason why such covert operations have always been run by the CIA and authorized by a special presidential finding. (In "covert" activity, U.S. personnel operate under cover and the U.S. government will not confirm that it instigated or ordered them into action if they are captured or killed.)

Meanwhile, intensive discussions are taking place inside the Senate Intelligence Committee over the Defense department’s efforts to expand the involvement of U.S. Special Forces personnel in intelligence-gathering missions. Historically, Special Forces’ intelligence gathering has been limited to objectives directly related to upcoming military operations—"preparation of the battlefield," in military lingo. But, according to intelligence and defense officials, some Pentagon civilians for years have sought to expand the use of Special Forces for other intelligence missions.

Pentagon civilians and some Special Forces personnel believe CIA civilian managers have traditionally been too conservative in planning and executing the kind of undercover missions that Special Forces soldiers believe they can effectively conduct. CIA traditionalists are believed to be adamantly opposed to ceding any authority to the Pentagon. Until now, Pentagon proposals for a capability to send soldiers out on intelligence missions without direct CIA approval or participation have been shot down. But counter-terrorist strike squads, even operating covertly, could be deemed to fall within the Defense department’s orbit.

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.

With Mark Hosenball
EDITOR'S NOTE: This report, initially published on Jan. 8, was updated on Jan. 10 to include Negroponte's comments to NEWSWEEK.
And at a news conference on Jan. 11, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the idea of a Salvador option was "nonsense" and denied that U.S. Special Forces were going into Syria. But when asked whether such a policy was under consideration, he replied, "Why would I even talk about something like that?"
© 2005 Newsweek, Inc.

URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6802629/site/newsweek/
I already posted this link in another of my posts but it's an editorial relevant to this newsweek article..
http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exer...724CAA7484.htm
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Old 02-04-2005, 05:42 PM   #2
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Another op-ed on the possiblility of an Iraqi "Salvador Option"

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Death-Squad Democracy
Are there parallels between El Salvador in the ‘80s and Iraq today? Maybe. But the ‘lessons learned’ by Washington are the wrong ones
WEB-EXCLUSIVE COMMENTARY
By Christopher Dickey
Paris Bureau Chief, Middle East Regional Editor
Newsweek
Updated: 6:42 p.m. ET Jan. 11, 2005

Jan. 11 - Among the many tools used to build and defend pro-American democracies, murder is among the trickiest. But murder—yes, let’s insist on that word—is also quite common in the annals of nation-building, at least in my experience, and sometimes it’s been very effective. Now we hear that some of the Bush administration’s strategists are talking about what they call “The Salvador Option”, which seems to imply “death squads” (as the murderers were called in El Salvador and Guatemala) or “hit teams” (as they’ve been called in Israel).

Having watched the slaughter in El Salvador first hand during the early 1980s, having lost many friends and acquaintances to the butchers there—among them nuns, priests and an archbishop who will someday be sainted—and having been targeted myself, I have something of a personal interest in this notion. I’m not about to forget the bodies lying unclaimed in the streets, the families of the victims too afraid to pick them up lest they become targets as well. When I hear talk of a Salvador Option, I can’t help but think about El Playón, a wasteland of volcanic rock that was one of the killers’ favorite dumping grounds. I’ve never forgotten the sick-sweet stench of carnal refuse there, the mutilated corpses half-devoured by mongrels and buzzards, the hollow eyes of a human skull peering up through the loose-piled rocks, the hair fallen away from the bone like a gruesome halo.

Still, I’m prepared to admit that building friendly democracies sometimes has to be a cold-blooded business in the shadowland of moral grays that is the real world. The Reagan administration was just doing—or, more often, allowing to be done—whatever it took to defeat a largely Communist insurgency. I’m even prepared to believe that Arena, the political party founded by the late death squad leader, Roberto D’Aubuisson, has long since cleaned up its act. Salvadoran voters returned Arena to power last year for the third time since 1992. Its presidential candidate, Tony Saca, beat former guerrilla leader Shafik Handal by a landslide. Would El Playón’s voters have made a difference? Well, we’ll never know.

The question of the moment is not the state of play in El Salvador, however, it’s the disaster in Iraq. The Bush administration has a dismal record learning the wrong lessons from the wrong paradigms when it comes to Iraq. This was not the liberation of France, nor the occupation of Germany or Japan, and America’s war on terrorists is not the same as Israel’s war with the Palestinians. So, let’s take a real close look at what we’re talking about here when we discuss the Salvador Option.

For starters, what’s been written about the NEWSWEEK report by Michael Hirsh and John Barry goes far beyond what the story says. It doesn’t suggest for a minute, as the BBC reported, that the Pentagon is looking to create “paramilitary” death squads. It’s about the possible training of elite units to snatch or kill very specific insurgent leaders.

In fact, the policy could be a formalization of what's already taking place. “We are, of course, already targeting enemy cadres for elimination whether by capture or death in various places including Afghanistan and Iraq,” says Patrick Lang, former chief of Middle East analysis for the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency. According to Lang, so many people in the Special Operations Forces have been caught up in efforts to do just that, there’s actually a shortage of Green Berets to do what they’re most needed for: training regular Iraqi troops. “Surely,” says Lang, “no one except the Jihadis thinks that we should not be hunting enemy leaders and key personnel.”

But that’s not the problem, quite. What those of us in El Salvador learned was that American policy might call for surgical action, but once the local troops are involved, they’re as likely to use a chain-saw as a scalpel. And that, too, can serve American ends. In almost any counter-insurgency, the basic message the government or the occupiers tries to get across to the population is brutally simple: “We can protect you from the guerrillas, but the guerrillas can’t protect you from us, and you’ve got to choose sides.” Sometimes you can win the population’s hearts and minds; sometimes you just have to make them more frightened of you than they are of the insurgents.

“That was part of the thinking behind Fallujah,” says a well-informed Coalition official, referring to the ferocious offensive that re-took the city in November. “We have only one of the tools so far. That is, ‘You can’t protect your people from us.’ In Fallujah they had a little Salafi state. Well, that’s gone now.” The city remains in ruins; at least 50 American soldiers lost their lives, as well as hundreds, perhaps thousands of insurgents and civilians. It was a mighty tough lesson to teach. In terms of toe-to-toe urban combat, “that was the heaviest fighting the U.S. has been involved in since 1968,” says the same official. Yet the Americans have not managed to protect the Iraqi citizenry from terror and intimidation by the guerrillas. “That’s not something we’re good at,” says the official.

His remarks were echoed by a senior U.S. embassy officer, who said the Americans just can’t begin to out-intimidate the guerrillas. “It’s a lesson we can’t teach,” says the embassy official. “We’re not capable of that.” Grabbing here and there for analogies, this guy started talking about what the late Syrian President Hafez Assad did to Sunni fundamentalists holed up in the city of Hama in 1982. Assad flattened a large section of the town. “Short of ‘Hama rules,’” the official asked rhetorically, “what do you do?”

In Iraq, in fact, as in many other places where the United States has tried to train ethical armies to fight dirty wars, the Iraqi troops are tacitly expected to do what American troops won’t. A fundamental purpose of the upcoming elections on January 30 is to create democratic legitimacy for whatever extreme measures the newly organized military decides to take.

Because we’re talking about the supposed Salvador Option, I figured I’d get back in touch with Joaquín Villalobos, El Salvador’s most brilliant guerrilla leader. Now at Oxford, he favored the Iraq war in 2003, but is dumbfounded by the direction the conflict has taken. Villalobos was dryly analytical, as ever. “The problem of repression and its possible effectiveness corresponds to five basic elements: proportionality, the scope of the conflict, time, a context that favors a multiplier effect or not, and the ability to control what you’re doing.” If so, a helluva lot more fine tuning is needed than we’re likely to see in Iraq any time soon. “If the generals think that with the hatred against the United States that exists in the region, with the divisions in Iraqi society, with Syria, Iran and others around, starting a dirty war is something that will give them an edge, they are totally and absolutely lost and desperate,” says Villalobos. “Invading Iraq without a post-war plan created chaos, subsequent mistakes converted the chaos into organized resistance, and if they keep blundering ahead blindly, they’ll convert the resistance into a real civil war.”

A U.S. official in Baghdad agrees. “We’re bleeding from so many self-inflicted wounds,” he told me the other day. The Salvador Option would be just one more.


© 2005 Newsweek, Inc.

URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6814001/site/newsweek/
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Old 02-04-2005, 05:52 PM   #3
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Kill the bad guys. I like it. Outsource the job of killing the bad guys to the Iraqis so our soldiers don't have to die. I like it even more.
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Old 02-26-2005, 04:56 AM   #4
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you really believe that US only kills the bad guys dont you?

and you also seem to believe that getting your dirty work done by someone else is something to be proud of.

deploying death squads in syria? OF COURSE US government would never do such things. have they ever done anything even remotely reminiscent of this in the past? they are innocent, as always.

funny, wasnt lebanon's ex prime minister assasinated recently? and they blamed the whole thing on syria? i see a strange pattern here?
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Old 02-26-2005, 05:19 AM   #5
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Of course, it must have been the USA who killed a politician who was beneficial to them by virtue of being against Syria so that it could be blamed on the Syrians and justify a new war, they probably had the Mossad do it as well ~ it is so convoluted it must be right
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Old 02-26-2005, 05:30 AM   #6
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i didnt draw that conclusion. i just connected the dots.
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Old 02-28-2005, 12:13 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally posted by all_i_want
you really believe that US only kills the bad guys dont you?

and you also seem to believe that getting your dirty work done by someone else is something to be proud of.

deploying death squads in syria? OF COURSE US government would never do such things. have they ever done anything even remotely reminiscent of this in the past? they are innocent, as always.

funny, wasnt lebanon's ex prime minister assasinated recently? and they blamed the whole thing on syria? i see a strange pattern here?
I'm not 100% sure, but, yes, mostly bad guys. Insurgents in Iraq? bad guys. What would you call them, freedom fighters? They're fighting against freedom. Call them Baathist dictatorship fighters or Islamofascist fighters, that's more accurate.

Also there seems to be a very selective use of "connecting the dots" here

P.S. sorry BVS, i gotta go to bed is that OK w/U?
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Old 02-28-2005, 12:22 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by drhark

P.S. sorry BVS, i gotta go to bed is that OK w/U?
WTF? I love being brought into threads that I haven't even taken part in.
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Old 02-28-2005, 12:26 AM   #9
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I just know you hate it when I post & run.
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Old 02-28-2005, 12:39 AM   #10
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Whatever...I had nothing to do with this thread and would appreciate it if you left me out of it.
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