Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Basic cable again calls




While they addressed reality, others furthered lies.  Take Susan Glazer and Foreign Policy.  They're a little late for an Iraq roundtable, aren't they? 

And I'd say that even if Saturday morning hadn't found this community again doing an Iraq Roundtable:

"Iraq Roundtable," "Iraq roundtable,"  "Talking Iraq roundtable," "The roundtable on Iraq." "a roundtable on iraq," "Iraq," "Roundtable on Iraq,"  "A roundtable on Iraq,"  "The Iraq Roundtable," "The Iraq Roundtable,"  "The Iraq Roundtable," "Iraq Roundtable," "Talking Iraq Roundtable," "Talking Iraq" and "THIS JUST IN! IRAQ!"

To be clear, Foreign Policy's roundtable, that garbage, isn't about Iraq, it's about counter-insurgency.  I find it interesting, for example, that the Washington Post allows Greg Jaffe to participate in that.  Greg's supposed to be a reporter for the Washington Post.  As such he has to report on various things.  I don't see how his embrace of counter-insurgency can be seen as neutral.  The whole thing is an infomercial for counter-insurgency.  That's war on a native population, for those who don't know.  They try to pretty it up and distance it from the blood and bones, but that is what counter-insurgency is.  And with the exception of Eliot Cohen, they're all a bunch of liars.

I'm not a fan of Cohen's and honestly didn't expect honesty from him, but he's the only one who was willing to drop the airy pose and talk about what counter-insurgency really is:

The first thing is just to remind us all, counterinsurgency is a kind of military operation. There's an American style to counterinsurgency; there was a German style to counterinsurgency; there's a Soviet or Russian style to counterinsurgency. It's just a kind of operation that militaries do, and I think particularly in the popular discussion there's this tendency to call counterinsurgency the kind of stuff that's in the manual.
[. . .]
And finally, having played a very modest role in helping get the COIN manual launched, I've got two big reservations about it. Actually three. One is a technical one, which is it underestimated the killing part of counterinsurgency and particularly what Stan McChrystal and his merry men were doing [with special operations]. I think that is a large part of our counterinsurgency success. We killed a lot of the people who needed to be killed, or captured them, and that's not something you want to talk about. You'd rather talk about building power plants and stuff, but the killing part was really important, and I think we have to wrestle with that one because it's obviously problematic.

Cohen doesn't lie, he doesn't try to pretty it up.  He's detailing counter-insurgency.  It's worth remembering the 2007 saw counter-insurgency especially take root in Iraq.  Cohen joins the administration in March 2007 (as Condi's advisor and in April becomes Counselor to the State Department).  Cohen's words are what they're all signing off on -- Greg Jaffe included.  I disagree strongly with Cohen about counter-insurgency being something of value.  But I will give him credit for being honest about what it actually is: "We killed a lot of the people who needed to be killed, or captured them, and that's not something you want to talk about."

Not many do.  In our roundtable, I noted Stan's "What the US government did in Iraq" and asked him if he wanted to talk about it and the response he makes is that he just wants to be on the record as opposed to counter-insurgency because so few people will take a stand.  He is so right.  This week's Law and Disorder Radio,  an hour long program that airs Monday mornings at 9:00 a.m. EST on WBAI and around the country throughout the week, hosted by attorneys Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights), the topic of counter-insurgency was addressed with journalist Patrick Farrelly who was part of the  BBC Arabic and the Guardian newspaper investigative team behind the recent documentary entitled James Steele: America's Mystery Man In Iraq

Patrick Farrelly:  I think we have to go back to Iraq in 2004.  The Bush administration -- it was becoming very, very clear to them that the projections they had made about how they'd be welcomed in Iraq were just not true, the insurgency was growing at this extraordinary rate, more and more American soldiers were being killed and it looked like the insurgency was at that point, in the spring of 2004, just getting off the ground. So they really needed something.  They needed a new strategy.  They were stuck in a situation where, while they had a lot of troops on the ground, they really had very few people who actually spoke Arabic and there were very few people who actually knew anything about the insurgency.  So this is where they turned to, initially, actually, General [David] Petraeus because the one thing that we've got to remember about General Petreaus -- I know that in the press and among the think tanks in Washington, he is seen as the scholar warrior, but in essence, David Petraeus' position in the US military is as a guy who is a big, big advocate of counter-insurgency.  It was at this point that Rumsfeld called upon him to go back into Iraq and to organize the training of a pretty massive police force in Iraq.  And he went there and straight away he saw the opportunities in terms of counter-insurgency because he saw this massive force that they could actually use to fight the insurgency.  He hooked up with two people there.  One was a gay -- both Special Forces veterans -- one was a guy called Colonel James Coughman and the other, more importantly, is a guy called Colonel James Steele.  Steele's a fascinating character because he had been involved in the Vietnam War where, of course, counter-insurgency had a major, major outing.  It's reputation in the US military at that stage was not very good in terms of the experience in Vietnam.  He then emerges again in El Salvador in the 1980s as head of the MIll Group.

Michael Ratner: The Mill Group is what?

Patrick Farrelly:  Is a bunch of US military advisers who were essentially training elements of what we might call the Steele Salvadorian security forces to fight the FMLN [Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front] to fight the guerrillas.  I mean, we all know what happened there.  Enormous amounts of people were killed by these people, enormous amounts of people were tortured. But Colonel James Steele was the guy who was in charge of the American advisers who are training these people and also directing these forces.  So while most people would have viewed what happened in El Salvador as a human rights disaster, within the annals of American military history it was seen as a very, very successful counter-insurgency adventure.

In 2004, they begin training Iraqi forces.  In 2006 they want to bring in Sunnis to fight Sunnis.  Though they announce the Sahwa many times, it does not take off immediately.

Once it does, questions are asked about why the US is paying them -- Senator Barbara Boxer argues that if this is for protection then the Iraqi government should be paying for it.  But the US government used taxpayer dollars to take counter-insurgency to a new level in Iraq.  That period is the ethnic cleansing period.

The press likes to call it 'civil war.'  That term implies that Iraq rose up against Iraq and eliminates any outside, foreign actors.

It was ethnic cleansing.

Why didn't the US leave after Saddam Hussein was toppled?  Or after he was executed?

Because that wasn't the end.  The end was installing a government that they deemed friendly (a puppet government) and this gets to the heart of counter-insurgency.  It's not benevolent, it's not anthropology -- though anthropologists have disgraced themselves by taking part in it.  It is choosing sides.  It is saying, "This is the side that we will rise up and this is the side we will demonize."  The US couldn't leave because there was still work to be done.

Kieren Kelly (BRussels Tribune) feels that the documentary left a great deal out and this is from his essay and critique:

Death squads, by nature, are not a military tactic whatever their “counterinsurgency” or “counterterror” pretensions. Indeed, to the best of my knowledge, it is a universal trait for death squad programmes to seek to conflate combatant targets with non-combatant. This is not restricted to death squad activity itself, but it part of the belligerent political discourse of the putative counterinsurgent regime. During the Cold War, the enemies were the “communists” and deliberate efforts were made to create the impression that the ideological identification was equivalent to combatant status, at least in as much as legitimising killing. The same applies to the uses of the terms “Islamist” and “militant”. Part of this process is to divide the world up into two camps – as Bush Jr said “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists”.
But Bush wasn't stating anything new. Early in the Cold War, in Guatemala the motto was “'For liberation or against it.' From this Manichean vision sprung the paranoid anti-communist taxonomy that added to the list of enemies not only communists, but 'philocommunists,' 'crypto-communists,' 'castro-communists,' 'archi-communists,' 'pro-communists,' and finally the 'useful fools.'”13 In 1962, the US Joint Chiefs of Staff defined “insurgency” as any illegal form of opposition to regime rule, thus including passive resistance, joining banned unions or strikes, or anything else deemed illegal by a given regime. At this time they openly embraced terror tactics, such as those conducted by death squads, as “counterterror”.14 In South Vietnam, before there was any armed insurgency, the Diem regime conducted an horrific terror (seemingly forgotten to history) thought to have cost 75,000 lives.15 Mobile guillotines traveled the countryside to execute those denounced as communists and the campaign came to a head in 1959 with the notorious Decree 10/59 under which all forms of political opposition were made treason and any act of sabotage was punishable by death. Local officials could label anyone they wished “communist” and thus secure summary sentences of death or life imprisonment.16 Then, the US deliberately created the term Viet Cong, to conflate political dissent with combatant status, and then, when their own personnel began to reinterpret VC as referring solely to combatants, the US military then came up with another term – 'Viet Cong infrastructure'. Prados defines them as “a shadowy network of Viet Cong village authorities, informers, tax collectors, propaganda teams, officials of community groups, and the like, who collectively came to be called the Viet Cong Infrastructure (VCI).” “Sympathizers” were also counted.17 It was the “VCI” that were the main supposed targets of the “Phoenix Programme” - the US run dedicated death squad programme. Those targeted were usually tortured and/or killed,18 so the programme was a war crime in any respect, but when it was expanded throughout South Viet Nam, it was run in such a way that the vast majority of victims were not in any manner involved with the NLF. Instead of using specific intelligence to target people with at least some known connection to the NLF, lists of names were coerced from detainees physically. Cash incentives were also offered for informers, while President Thieu used the programme to kill political rivals.19 “Neutralizations” resulting from the programme were about 20,000 each year. In 1969, out of a US figure of 19,534 “neutralizations” less than 150 were believed to be senior NLF cadres and only 1 (one) had been specifically targeted.20
In Argentina most victims were not guerillas but union leaders, young students, journalists, pacifists, nuns, priests and friends of such people. 21% of victims were students; 10.7% were professionals and 5.7% were teachers or professors. 10% were Jews who were tortured in specific anti-Semitic ways. CIA noted at the time the use of “torture, battlefield 'justice,' a fuzzing of the distinction between active guerilla and civilian supporter...arbitrary arrest... death 'squads'....” Generals increasingly come to understand the threats as being Peronism and unionism. “One Argentine general is quoted as having said that 'in order to save 20 million Argentines from socialism, it may be necessary to sacrifice 50,000 lives.'”21 General Jorge Rafael Videla defined his “enemy” in the following terms: “a terrorist is not only someone with a weapon or a bomb, but anyone who spreads ideas which are contrary to our western and Christian civilization.”22

It's about killing.  It's playing God and deciding who will live and who will die, who will rise and who will fall while pretending that you're letting Iraqis determine their own fate.  Not unlike in 2010, when Iraqis went to the voting centers and made their voice clear only to be overridden by the US White House which insisted that Nouri al-Maliki would have a second term as prime minister even though his State of Law came in second.  To do that, the White House had to find a way around the Constitution.  So they came up with The Erbil Agreement.  Considering all the trouble that's led to, some might argue forcing Iraqis at gunpoint might have been kinder.  Of course, the humane and adult thing to do is to let a people exercise self-determination.  But whether it's a Democrat in the White House or a Republican, they always think they know better than anyone else what should be done.  That's why they are so very wrong, so very often.


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