The return of death squads

So many other blogs are covering this frightening story I wasn’t going to write it up. But Billmon has come out of hibernation to post about it, and it’s simply incredible. I want to love America, but sometimes it’s difficult.

The Discussion: 22 Comments

Richard – when I read this passage, it reminded me instantly of a book I once read (and owned) called Mirrors of War – published back in the 1980s. I first bought a copy back when I was a university student in the late 80s. This book, essentially, is a collection of poems and essays and testimonials written by the people of El Salvador, and one of them, a soldier who had been trained by American “experts” in the subtle arts of torture, explained how they would “pop out the eyes” of their victims using “spoons”. This correlates exactly with what is written in the testimonials you baked above.

As it reads: “One [Salvadoran] death squad member, when asked about the types of tortures used, replied: “Uh, well, the same things you did in Vietnam. We learned from you. We learned from you the means, like blowtorches in the armpits, shots in the balls. But for the “toughest ones” — that is, those who resist these other tortures — “we have to pop their eyes out with a spoon. You have to film it to believe it, but boy, they sure sing.”

This is the second source that I know of that talks about the popping out of eyes with spoons – a method taught to members of the Salvadorean death squads by American “experts”. Another method used, discussed in The Mirrors of War, was to strap victims, sometimes pregnant women even, to an aluminium sheet, which would be raised over a fire by wooden legs, so as to partially cook the victim alive. Once they were removed from the sheet, much of their skin would be torn from the face and bodies, left stuck to the sheet. Normally such victims would soon die anyway – but very painfully so.

According to the soldier interviewed, American soldiers, wearing green berets, were normally present during such torture sessions, not simply as passive observers, but as trainers.

If only more Americans were aware of what both their past and present governments have sanctioned and orchestrated, then maybe this kind of evil can be once and for all stopped.

Best regards,
Mark Anthony Jones

January 11, 2005 @ 8:34 pm | Comment

The book Mirrors of War: Literature and Revolution in El Salvador, incidentally, was translated by K Ellis, and was published in London by Zed Books back in 1985. In case anyone wants to track down a copy!

Richard – have you ever read Homer’s The Iliad? There is a vase (in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I believe – I have only seen photos of it though) that depicts a scene from the Trojan War where Achilles is thrusting his spear into the chest of the Queen of the Amazons, Penthesilea. The legend is that as Achilles killed her, their eyes met, and he fell in love with her. What he was doing, of course, was killing love. And once love was dead, there was never any hope of going back.

In The Odyssey, which is really a story about recovery from war, Odysseus goes down to the Underworld and meets Achilles and says, “You are the greatest of the Achaeans,” the hero of the Achaeans, and Achilles says, “I’d rather be up there as a slave, as a serf hacking at clods of earth than down here.”

There was an understanding in Homer that all of the myths and the glory that was so much a part of The Iliad was, in fact, after the war was over, bankrupt and empty. It’s why so much of the bombastic rhetoric surrounding the Iraqi invasion and occupation today, so much of the way US culture is now infected and destroyed – in wartime, we always destroy our own culture first before we go off and destroy the culture of the “other” – will be so forgettable and perhaps even embarrassing once the conflict, the occupation, is over.

War is like imbibing a drug I guess. Once that drug is kicked, once that war is over, many decisions that are made in warfare, not only what we do to others but also what we do to ourselves, are exposed for being not only morally wrong, but stupid.

The modern, industrial slaughter that characterises today’s conflicts only serve to highten the importance of the old myths of war, because the myths are always a lie – and are, of course, even more of a lie now that there is a very impersonal quality to war.

In the narratives that the corporate media help to spin out, heroes are created in every conflict covered. There is a need, a yearning for both tales of glory and heroism. So much of it is manufactured, as any combat veteran will tell you. Heroism at that particular moment never feels or looks quite like heroism as it is depicted in say, a Hollywood film. It certainly never looks like it is portrayed in the myth that’s spun out afterwards.

But once you’re in it, it very soon takes you over like a drug. War always creates a kind of moral perversion, and that’s why you see sexual perversion so interrelated with war – think of the Abu Ghraib torture photos for example!

Routine death becomes boring. It’s why in El Salvador genitals were stuffed in people’s faces – mutilation of the body as a trophy, as a kind of performance art. This is an inevitable consequence of war. As you fall deeper and deeper into that culture, and as it becomes harder and harder to exist outside of it, what you do is finally embrace your own annihilation, because like any addiction, it creates a kind of self-destruction. There is a search for that constant first high of war that you can never re-create in any other war.

I think this is what Susan Sontag was essentially getting at in her last published essay – her essay on the torture photos that came out of Iraq, out of Abu Ghraib.

Nothing that is happening now in Iraq is new – not for the US military anyway. In 1996 I visited the Museum of American War Crimes in Ho CHi Minh City. The photo that sticks in my mind the most vividly, is a photo showing an American soldier holding up the decapitated head of a Vietnamese farmer (freedom fighter/insurgent?) – as if it were a trophy to be proud of. What was most disturbing about the photo though, wasn’t the site of the decapitated head. It wasn’t the site of the blood that was dripping from it either. It was what was on the face of the American soldier who was holding it up: it was his big happy smile, that shone from ear to ear.

Mark Anthony Jones

January 12, 2005 @ 1:15 am | Comment

If the plan is to recruit bands of indigenous commandos (a la French Indochina), partisan harkis (French Algeria) or countergang (Kenya) units, then I applaud the effort as long overdue, but perhaps too late. Let me explain.

There is a death squad war already underway in Iraq, but it is coming from the Resistance. Heavy handed U.S. tactics are only driving more people into the arms of that resistance. It is time to try something else, and specialized hunter-killer teams are a legitimate response. If they can be successfully mounted, and there are conditions, U.S. special forces are the appropriate troops. There are, however, a few problems. One: U.S. forces have shown themselves undisciplined and overly legalistic in their approach to internal stability operations. Thus they have alienated many of the very people they need to recruit. If your are going to hunt down insurgents, you need to recruit former insurgents, both as operators and as intelligence sources. And while you can always buy a few, the numbers and quality you need can only come from convincing your former enemies either of the righteousness of your cause, or of the fact that it will ultimately prevail. Presently, it does not appear from the evening news that we are in a position to do either. Recruiting Kurds and Shiites for elite clandestine strike units does meet the indigenous advantage, but the intelligence needed to guide such operations can only come from captured menbers of the target groups themselves. That is unlikely to happen if they have been mistreated while in captivity, or their family members have been mistreated by U.S. forces. And here I don’t just mean mistreated in the physical abuse sense, but in the sense of Arab sensibilities as well. Disrespect in the Arab world is as deadly as physical mistreatment.

The damage may be already done, but for anyone interested in what it takes to operate within a moslem insurgent area, I recommend Jean Pouget’s “Bataillon R.A.S.”, an account of his time as a sector commander in Algeria, and Stuart Herrington’s “Silence was a Weapon”, recently re-published as “Stalking the Viet Cong”. Herrington, an accidental officer who entered Vietnam to “do his time”, ended up as a Phoenix advisor in Vietnam. For anyone who wants to know how the Phoenix program really operated, his down in the rice paddy account will open some eyes.

For Mark Anthony. Yes, BIRI Atlacatl was trained by U.S. Special Forces. No, U.S. government personnel did not give classes on spooning eyes out. (Not so sure about some of the American clowns who came through, though. Even “Soldier of Fortune” Magazine sent training teams, although their personnel tended to be more professional and concentrated on really important subjects as marksmanship, small unit tactics, and counterambush techniques.) Also, as a minor note, while the majority of personnel involved in training the ESAF were special forces, they did not wear berets while assigned to El Salvador in the 1980s. Rather, they wore the patrol cap. The “Mirrors of War” account sounds bogus to me, but again, there were cases of private clowns showing up (Mike Echannis in Nicaragua comes to mind) who often paraded around in various elite uniforms to back usually dubious claims. I will defer on any further comment as I am still working on my reply to the Pilger book.

January 12, 2005 @ 2:05 am | Comment

Richard: I just find out a big disadvantage of being an American.

When others feel the similar difficulty you feel, they have an alternative.

January 12, 2005 @ 3:22 am | Comment


I guess Billmon’s promise to end blogging came into direct conflict with his need to be “seen.”

Well, I guess we can be happy with the reprieve we had for 6 months. Well, 6 months on the Web, and that 1 LA Times article where he writes that he’s done with blogging.


January 12, 2005 @ 9:29 am | Comment

Jeremy, Billmon pops up from time to time when he feels really moved to write. And we are all the better off for it, as he is just about the moist eloquent blogger (or ex-blogger) out there.

As to the other comments, I’m gathering my thoughts and will try to reply soon.

January 12, 2005 @ 10:40 am | Comment

Richard – I am very much looking forward to reading your response to Lirelou’s comments on this thread, but you might like to hold off a little until I have had the chance to post mine, which I intend to do later today.

It will take me a few hours, I should think, because what he says is not only controversial, but in my opinion also quite preposterous, and it needs to be challenged seriously, and with all of the verbosity that my time today will permit.

Best regards,
Mark Anthony Jones

January 12, 2005 @ 5:52 pm | Comment

MAJ, go easy on the verbosity, please! Long comments will scare my readers away.

January 12, 2005 @ 6:25 pm | Comment

Dear Lt. Col. Shaun M. Darragh (aka Lirelou),

While I admire your bravery in daring to express such a controversial opinion regarding the preposed use of death squads in Iraq, or “specialised hunter-killer teams”, as you euphemistically prefer to call them, I’m afraid I must take issue with you on this, for I consider such a tactical response to be quite a preposterous one. I think that your arguments rest on very thin philosophical and moral grounds, though I shall reserve making a character judgement until you have had the chance to justify your views along these lines.

For now, allow me to point out what I see as being some of the major flaws in your arguments.

Firstly, you say that you “applaud the effort” to “recruit bands of indigenous commandos” to hunt down and to kill the Iraqi “insurgents” – just as the French tried to do in Indo-China, etc. You consider the use of such “hunter-killer” squads to be legitimate on the basis that (a) the Iraqi “insurgents” have themselves already engaged in launching a “death squad war” (hence, you condone the fighting of fire with fire), and (b), because you consider the US invasion and occupation of Iraq to be a legitimate one – you talk of the “righteousness” of the American “cause” in Iraq.

The use of death squads, as far as I am concerned, can never be legitimate. The real purpose of them is to commit widespread atrocities – against women and children, the young and the elderly, as well as against healthy adult men – with the blatant benefit, as Lt. Col Dave Grossman notes, “that it quite simply scares the hell out of people.” The problem that the French faced in Indo-China was pretty much the same problem that the Americans faced in Indo-China, which was the same problem that the US-backed National Guard in revolutionary El Salvador faced: the enemy could not easily be identified. Why? Because in each case the “opposition” was comprised of the majority of civilians, some of whom were prepared to resort to violence as a way of resistance. Faced with this type of situation, death squads are brought in, because wide scale terror, the “raw horror and savagery of those who murder and abuse cause people to flee, hide, and defend themselves feebly,” as Grossman quite rightly observes.

Jeff Cooper, writing from experience in criminology, comments on this tendency in civilian life. He writes: “Any man who is a man may not, in honour, submit to threats of violence. But many men who are not cowards are simply unprepared for the fact of human savagery….When they look right into the face of depravity or violence they are astonished and confounded.”

Death Squads, like the type used not only by the American-backed South during the Vietnam conflict, but also by the Vietcong, and death squads like the type used by the American-backed landed aristocracy in El Salvador, not only murdered many innocent civilians – I’m talking in the thousands, but they also routinely used torture. As I said, the idea of death squads is to instil into the general population so much “raw horror and savagery,” that they either give up, flee, or submit due to trauma. Pol Pot used the exact same methods, as did the Nazis.

Lirelou, you have to ask yourself this question: Are most Americans happy to politically support policies, carried out in their names and paid for with funds derived from their taxes, that condone rape, torture and murder? Are most Americans happy for their military to be used to train “others” to carry out such acts of violence against not only “insurgents” but also civilians? How can anybody tell the difference or distinguish between a civilian and an “insurgent” anyway? How many innocent people, right now as we speak, are sitting in cages at the Guantanamo Bay prison, who are innocent, and who have been there for years, without even having been charged for any offence? A good number of British citizens have only just been released from this prison, all of whom are now suffering from the psychological effects of having been tortured by Americans. One Australian has just been released too. He was never charged with an offence, yet he spent years in prison, and was routinely tortured.

You can imagine (or maybe you cannot imagine!) the kinds of horrors that are likely to be released by death squads that are comprised of tribal groups of already traumatised men.

What you are proposing Lirelou, when you “applaud the effort” to “recruit bands of indigenous commandos” who you later define as being “specialised hunter-killer teams”, is to organise and to train and to support “others” in carrying out America’s dirty work! It is, when it all boils down to it, as simple as that.

I doubt very much Lirelou, whether the United States has a legal right to financially support death squads, let alone support them by training them in the subtle arts of torture. Here is one of the definitions of torture contained in a convention to which the United States is a signatory: ”any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession.” (The definition comes from the 1984 Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Similar definitions have existed for some time in customary law and in treaties, starting with Article 3 – common to the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 – and many recent human rights conventions. The 1984 convention declares, ”No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.” And all covenants on torture specify that it includes treatment intended to humiliate the victim, like leaving prisoners naked in cells and corridors.

Associate United States Supreme Court Justice, Robert Jackson, was the chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg Tribunal. In his report to the State Department, Justice Jackson wrote: “No political or economic situation can justify” the crime of aggression. He also said: “If certain acts in violation of treaties are crimes they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them, and we are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us.”

Lirelou, the occupation of Iraq is now presented by the media as “a mess”: a blundering, incompetent American military up against Islamic fanatics. In truth, the occupation is a systematic, murderous assault on a civilian population by a corrupt American officer class, given license by its superiors in Washington. Last May, when the US Marines used battle tanks and helicopter gunships to attack the slums of Fallujah, they admitted killing 600 people, a figure far greater than the total number of civilians killed by the “insurgents”during the past year. The generals were candid; this futile slaughter was an act of revenge for the killing of three American mercenaries. Sixty years earlier, the SS Das Reich division killed 600 French civilians at Oradour-sur-Glane as revenge for the kidnapping of a German officer by the resistance. Is there a difference?

The second major flaw in your argument Lirelou, is that you assume that the United States has a right to be in Iraq. You buy into this argument that what America is doing is “righteous” in its cause. Once again, I must take issue with you on this.

So far, three reasons have been offered up by Bush and Blair for the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Firstly, we were told, Saddam Hussein had been responsible for September 11, and that his regime was actively supporting Al Queda. This, of course, is nonsense, as most informed and intelligent people knew right from the very outset. Iraq had absolutely nothing to do with September 11, and it has little to do with Al Queda. The attack on the World Trade towers was orchestrated by a certain group of Saudis, and there is strong empirical evidence to support this – evidence which surfaced within only days after the Twin Towers collapsed.

The second justification offered up for the invasion of Iraq was that it was harbouring weapons of “mass destruction” – another pathetic lie, which, once again, anybody with any intelligence could have seen through right from the very moment it was first touted from the pulpits of Washington.

Now that both of these justifications have collapsed, only the third one remains in use: namely, that the United States has “liberated” the people of Iraq from Suddam Hussein, and is now out to “help” the good people of Iraq to establish a wonderful and free democracy. Surely anyone with any intelligence can see this for what it really is!

I just cannot accept this view that the United States has invaded and is occupying Iraq for “noble” purposes – that they have a “righteous” cause, as you seem to claim Lirelou. Very few Iraqis will see it this way, and I can assure you, that most people throughout the rest of the world do not see it this way either. The attack on Iraq had been long planned. There just isn’t an excuse for it. Since George H.W. Bush failed to unseat Saddam in 1991, there’s been a longing among the extreme right in the United States to finish the job. The war on terrorism (fuelled by September 11) gave them that opportunity. The logic provided by Bush and Blair for this war of course, is convoluted and fraudulent.

The United States (with help from Britain and Australia) invaded Iraq so that it could further secure for the developed world the flow of oil from that country, and they wish to occupy it for quite some time so they can establish a system of government that they can be confident will protect their corporate interests. They are most definitely not out to introduce any real democracy to the people of Iraq. If they were, then they wouldn’t be trying to replace Saddam Hussein with somebody similar. The current regime in Washington also wants to make certain that all of the lucrative reconstruction deals that they have awarded (mostly to US companies), are actually going to be able to reach fruition. The invasion and occupation of Iraq is all about plunder. Nothing else. I see nothing “noble” or “righteous” in this Lirelou.

Even if the United States really did invade Iraq with such “noble” intentions as to introduce to them glorious “democracy” then so what? They nevertheless have no right to do so – legally, or morally. This idea that you can justify an invasion of another country as part of a civilising mission to introduce to them “democracy” is an outrageous one, and one which most of the world is quite rightly horrified by and concerned about. I have already mentioned elsewhere on this website just how stupid and unrealistic is the idea of being able to implant a Western-style parliamentary democracy by force into a developing country which has no history of such democratic traditions, and which for centuries, has been governed by a series of tribal clans based around religious and ethnic identities. The sheer arrogance of the Bush administration is both frightening and dangerous, as is their level of stupidity and ignorance.

This claim that the “noble” intention of the US is to set up free and democratic elections – well, that’s just a cruel farce. It was never an intention. Never. The pre-war memorandum to Tony Blair from senior UK government advisers, pointing out there was no certainty that any “replacement regime” in Iraq “will be any better” [than Saddam’s] (Observer, 19 Sept), provides in itself some empirical evidence that “democracy” was never an intention. Of course, Blair, like Bush, always publicly claimed otherwise. Blair, for example, claimed that the US-appointed Iraqi Government is “trying to create” [a] democratic [Iraq] that respects human rights.” The reality couldn’t be more different. As the journalist Jason Burke notes: “the lineaments of a new nation are emerging. Ironically, much of it looks like Saddam’s Iraq. The new police see their job as maintaining order – in a brutal, often lethal fashion – not protecting citizens against crime. The government has responded harshly to media criticism [and] Allawi has even created a secret intelligence service and talked of ‘emergency powers’ to counter violence.” As many have already noted, a process of re-Nazification is now taking place, and with the help of the US – all largely funded in fact, by the CIA.

According to Newsweek (7 June), “No one is better equipped [to use official powers to influence the planned elections] than Iraq’s US-appointed Prime Minister Ayad Allawi.” On 27 September, Time magazine reported the existence of “a secret ‘finding’ – proposing a covert CIA operation to aid candidates favoured by Washington.” Meanwhile the Economist (18 Sept) reports that the opposition groups that sided with the US before the war are discussing a so-called “monster consensus list” of candidates – an idea which “could create essentially a one-party election – look[ing] uncomfortably like the plebiscites choreographed to produce 98 percent majorities under Saddam Hussein.”

Lirelou, you seem to think that the Iraqi resistance is not a legitimate one, that its cause is not righteous or justified. You imply this by advocating the use of “indigenous” death squads – justifying this on the basis that to counter the insurgency is in the interests of America’s “righteousness of cause”. Lirelou, can you imagine if Australia or American had been occupied by the Japanese during the Second World War, the kind of resistance there would have been, the kind of terror tactics that would have been employed? We’ve seen that all over the world. I think the situation in Iraq is so dire that unless the United States is defeated there that we’re likely to see an attack on Iran or Syria, and so I think what happens in Iraq now is incredibly important. It is important for the United States to be defeated in Iraq militarily and politically – and this, I know, is the outcome that most of the world is hoping for.

Let us consider who these “insurgents” really are. Are we talking about the remnants of the Baathist regime, or are we talking about foreign mujahadeen? Are we talking about anyone that’s prepared to pick up a gun or to set off a bomb? If we are talking about the latter, then how do you suppose these death squads to deal with such a reality? Should they murder people, civilians, in their thousands, like the US-backed death squads did in El Salvador? Surely you’re not that morally deprived, are you?

We should not, Lirelou, if we wish to remain logical and fair, employ a different standard of looking at what a resistance is in Iraq to anywhere else. The resistance to the US occupation, which is an ILLEGAL occupation, comprises of at least twelve groups. Some journalists in Iraq say there are as many as forty different groups. The US corporate media originally tried to tell the world that these “insurgents” were all Saddam remnants for a long time, and yet now that Saddam has been captured, the resistance has actually become intensified.

The truth is this: there are twelve groups (at least), they are all very different, there are groups within the Shia, but what they’re all united about, quite clearly, is getting rid of a foreign invader and occupier from their country.

Historically, be it in Algeria or in Vietnam, or France during the Second World War, it is going to be atrocious and bloody.

Now, Lirelou, are these resistance fighters all Baathists? The answer is NO! The Baathists make up only a small percentage of the insurgents. But for obvious reasons, the US and British governments like to present the insurgents as either “Saddam loyalists” or “foreign fighters”. However, since their assault on the vehemently anti-Saddam Sadrist movement last April, they have been forced to admit a third category: Sadrist “militiamen.” In fact, only about 2 percent of the total insurgency is made up of ex-Saddam loyalist. Only about 2 percent. That’s because most Baathist loyalists either have been, or are being, recruited by the current puppet with the help of CIA funding, to be the new Iraqi army/special forces.

The number of foreign fighters is also very small. In a September 26th TV interview, the head of US Central Command, Gen. John Abizaid, “estimated that the number of foreign fighters in Iraq was below 1000,” but of course the former deputy commander of coalition forces, for political reasons, put the number of insurgents at around 50,000 (Independent on Sunday, 3 Oct). Furthermore, much of the resistance appears to be actively hostile to Zarqawi and his followers – which also contradicts what the US press has been trying to claim.

This goes without saying really: for starters, the (Shi’ite) Sadrist movement regards Zarqawi’s Shi’itism as an“infidel ideology” and it is he who is suspected of being behind an August 2003 attack on a Shiite mosque in Najaf (Guardian, 23 Sept). The Kuwaiti daily al-Rai al-Aam last October reported that several of the Sunni resistance groups, commanding a total of 7,000 fighters across Iraq, “plan to unite under one umbrella and rein in sectarian attacks by Zarqawi’s followers.” (AFP, 4 Oct) “If Zarqawi does not abandon his plans to instigate a sectarian rift, the groups will force him to do so even if that requires taking up arms against him,” the paper quoted one of its sources as saying.

What the United States is doing right now, as I mentioned earlier, is retraining, or rather rehiring, 10,000 of Saddam Hussein’s most vicious security people. The CIA are training these people to actually put the finger on who the resistance are, so what you have going on in Iraq now is a kind of re-Nazification, the same sort of thing that went on in Germany after the Second World War. Noam Chomsky for one, has commented quite of a lot on this of late, and many others too, all of whom support this assertion with the weight of strong empirical evidence.

Many people might question the legitimacy of these resistance fighters to target young Iraqi men queuing up to join the Iraqi police. But once again, historically, all resistance movements have said if you’re going to collaborate, then you are a target.

Now of course, the killing of innocent people can’t be condoned under any circumstances, but in all resistances, it happens. And these young Iraqi men, who are out to join this Gestapo-like police force, are not really all that innocent are they? In fact, they are among some of the most vicious people one could hope never to encounter.

The United States has singled out all of Saddam Hussein’s top security and intelligence people. He ran one of the most effective security, yes, Gestapo, in the Middle East. They’ve taken them and these people are now training 10,000, paid for by the CIA, to effectively do for the Americans what they did for Saddam Hussein.

Now, am I saying that those Iraqi men, who line up outside of police stations looking to be recruited to get a job in what is clearly a dire economic climate, are legitimate targets? The answer is no, I’m not saying they are legitimate targets. But, to a resistance, they are legitimate targets, yes.

But the resistance is nevertheless a resistance which I think we all depend upon. If the rest of us watching this war, those of us who worry about what a rampant United States is going to do next – and we should all be worried about that (Americans especially) – then we need to ask ourselves, and millions of people all over the world have asked themselves – how can that be stopped?

Well, one place where it is going to be stopped, or at least entrapped, is, unfortunately, and I repeat unfortunately, in Iraq, because although Americans will be killed, most of the people killed are going to be Iraqis, and that is also what happened in Algeria and in Vietnam – especially in Vietnam.

O.K. I can already hear the protests of many! How can I possibly say, effectively, that the rest of the world now must depend upon a resistance which is prepared to send a truck bomb into the United Nations, which is prepared to bomb civilians who are celebrating on their holiest day in holy cities like Karbala, who is prepared to send suicide bombers to kill US soldiers while they’re sitting in a tent eating their lunch? How can I possibly take this line?

Well, look, let make one thing very clear here. I most certainly do not want to see American or British solders killed in Iraq. What happened to those soldiers in Mosul for example, while they were sitting in their tent eating their lunch, represents not only a terrible tragedy for those individuals, in that their lives have been sadly cut short, but of course it is also a terrible tragedy for their families and friends, and it is a terrible loss and tragedy for America; for the world even. But it is equally tragic when Iraqi civilians are blown to pieces by falling bombs while they are sitting in their homes, eating their meals. A few months ago, researchers writing for The Lancet (the world’s most prestigious medical journal) estimated that at around “100,000 Iraqi civilians” have died as a result of either US bombing or of having been caught up in the crossfire.

The litany above is truly awful and horrifying, yes. But you cannot fail to miss the source of all this violence. And the source of all this is the invasion and occupation itself, an unprovoked and illegal invasion and occupation, and a bloody one, by the US and Britain which has caused the deaths of, in the latest conservative estimate, of 100,000 Iraqi civilians – which is right now causing the deaths every month of an estimated 1,000 children from cluster bombs, which is causing the most pervasive contamination from a variety of toxic weapons such as depleted uranium – which will go on destroying people’s lives for generations to come.

This is the source – this is the main violence in Iraq. Surely nobody can seriously try to argue against that.
I mean, sure, there is all of this horrific violence that is occurring against anyone who is perceived to be in any way supporting the US occupation, but all of this violence is a reaction to the occupation. We need to look more at the source of all of this violence, and that, quite clearly, as I just said above, is the US invasion and occupation itself.

I’m not saying that two wrongs make a right. I’m not suggesting that anybody ought to rise to the call of a revengeful God. And I know what you might be thinking – that there are other forms of resistance. There is peaceful resistance, to start with. Mahatma Ghandi did not resort to bombing, right?

But tell me – how do you mount a peaceful resistance to an invading force, which Human Rights Watch a few months ago described as out of control, as rapacious, which has bought a kind of murderous street fighting, which killed, in their “Shock and Awe” up to 55,000 people? – and that occurred before the real occupation even began!

Robert Fisk, The Independent correspondent, claims that something like between 500 to 1,000 Iraqis are killed indirectly as a result of the American presence every week in that country.

Now, how can anybody say that they should all just sit down in the middle of the street and say to the Americans: “Sorry! But you must go. We don’t want you here anymore.”

At any rate, there are also a lot of people actually opposing the US occupation peacefully, but this is never reported. It is deliberately censored. If you follow the reports of many of the human rights observers in Baghdad, you will read that there is an enormous amount of peaceful resistance going on, but on the other side of the resistance – and it’s one resistance – there is also fire being fought with fire.

I’m not saying that I approve of this method of fighting fire with fire. Unlike you Lirelou, I do not “applaud” the use of “specialized hunter-killers” your euphemism for “death squads”. In fact, I can’t approve of, under any circumstances, the killing of innocent people.

But you have to understand why it happens.

American and British troops who are in the occupying forces, are for the resistance, legitimate targets (regardless of whether they are eating their lunch or not) because the American and British troops are illegally occupying their country. Any foreign occupier of a country, military occupier, be they Germans in France, Americans in Vietnam, the French in Algeria, wherever, the Americans in Latin America, I would have thought, from the point of view of the local people – be they Americans in America – if America had been invaded and occupied by the Japanese, then the occupying forces, from the point of view of the people of that country, are legitimate targets.

The simple truth Lirelou is this: that US and British troops are currently fighting a war against Iraqis resisting the military occupation of their country by forces that have killed thousands of Iraqi civilians and have no right to be there. Even many US soldiers serving in Iraq understand this. “I don’t begrudge them,” one Marine officer told the New York Times, about a mortar attack on a US base. “We’d do the same thing if some foreign dudes rolled into San Diego and set up shop.” (2 May). As another Marine infantryman explained to AP: “We shouldn’t be here. There was no reason for invading this country in the first place. We just came here and (angered people) and killed a lot of innocent people. I don’t enjoy killing women and children, it’s not my thing.” (AP, 22 Sept).

Lirelou, a few co-opted mullahs, a couple of hundred imported colonised exiles and a few thousand police do not stand a chance against the rising seething mass of Iraqis who see every violent act directly related to the presence of the US military command. All the US media propaganda directed at Iraqis does not change the absolute misery of their everyday lives, the humiliation of constant insults and threats pointed at them in the streets, in the markets and the arrogant forced submission of captured suspects hooded and shoved to the ground, a boot on their necks, a gun to their head, under the search lights of armoured vehicles and helicopters. These “visual aids”, routines of colonial rule, have unleashed even greater depths of hatred.

Deals will still be made but they will benefit only a few – there is no longer a central command to execute orders or execute disobedient subjects. There are traitors and informers, but they are known by their neighbours and colleagues and are dealt with in the context of the anti-colonial resistance.

There are no battlefronts either – it is everywhere! On highways the mines are there because they were put there and detonated by local commandos; there is no ‘Battle for Baghdad’ – there will be a thousand and one battles in Baghdad – in every road, alleyway, apartment block and market place. There is no elite family to target, no leader to kill to end the war; there are millions of families and thousands of leaders. This is another Vietnam.

The images that America’s corporate media displayed to the world of smiling Iraqis cheering them on with flowers throughout the early days of the occupation was a totally unconvincing piece of propaganda – a small minority only, who turned out to welcome on the arrival of US tanks, blown up and sensationalised to help legitimise the illegitimate.

In fact, few Iraqis welcomed the US military as “liberators” – most of those who did, were Kurds. The unprovoked and illegal invasion, and especially the ongoing occupation has, quite understandably, wounded the pride of most Iraqis. As one Iraqi woman recently said in an interview published in The Times of London: “We are under occupation. They bomb the mosques, they kill a huge number of people. There is no greater shame than to see your country being occupied.”

Lirelou, you are a Vietnam War vet. Surely you have learnt something of value from your experiences there? To those familiar with the CIA’s Phoenix assassination program in Vietnam, Latin America’s death squads or Israel’s official policy of targeted murders of Palestinian activists, the results are likely to look chillingly familiar – surely?!!! There is right now a reported $3 billion in new funds tucked away in the $87 billion Iraq appropriation that Congress approved of early last November, which will go towards the creation of a paramilitary unit manned by militiamen associated with former Iraqi exile groups. This is likely to lead to a wave of extrajudicial killings, not only of armed rebels but of nationalists, other opponents of the US occupation, and of course, of thousands of civilians.

Lirelou, in the words of Lt. Col. Dave Grossman (also a Vietnam Vet), “when you institute and execute a policy of atrocity, you and your society must live with what you have done….The psychological trauma of living with what one has done to one’s fellow man may represent the most significant toll taken by atrocity. Those who commit atrocity have made a Faustian bargain with evil. They have sold their conscience, their future, and their peace of mind for a brief, fleeting, self-destructive advantage.”

And organising somebody else, some “other” indigenous force, to carry out this dirty work for you, makes you just as guilty!

Shakespeare thought the same, and so I shall finish up by quoting for you his words of wisdom – a passage taken from King Henry V:

“If the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make; when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in a battle, shall join together at the latter day, and cry all ‘We died at such a place;’ some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle: for how can they charitably dispose of anything when blood is their argument! Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it.”

Best regards,
Mark Anthony Jones

January 12, 2005 @ 8:45 pm | Comment

Thanks for keeping your response brief, Mark. I’ll respond soon, probably in a separate post.

January 12, 2005 @ 8:48 pm | Comment

Sorry Richard – I didn’t actually see your last comment, your request to go easy on the verbosity, until after I had already posted my response above.

I did keep it reasonably brief though I think – there is so much more that needs to be said.

I look forward to reading your views on this issue of “death squads” and their supposed “legitimacy”.

Best regards,
Mark Anthony Jones

January 12, 2005 @ 8:56 pm | Comment

Dear Lirelou,

Just as an additional extra to further support what I was saying earlier, I just turned to the pages of both The Sydney Morning Herald and The Guardian of London, only to find that “the US investigators searching for Saddam Hussein’s alleged weapons of mass destruction have given up the hunt” and that they have finally concluded “that Saddam had destroyed his last weapons of mass destruction more than 10 years ago, and his capacity to build new ones had been dwindling for years by the time of the second Gulf war.”

Well – surprise surprise! As I said earlier, just aboput everybody that I know already knew that way before the invasion even took place!

Both Howard and Blair are now under even more pressure to admit that they lead their countries into a war based on what were clearly lies. In today’s Sydney Morning Herald, for example, it is reported that the Labour opposition Foreignh Afairs spokeperson, Mr Rudd, said “Mr Howard and Foreign Minister Alexander Downer had to admit that Australia was misled.” He notes that “nearly two years after the Howard government took Australia to war in Iraq we are now authoritatively told that the reason for going to war was simply not true.”

“But the arrogance of the Howard government is underlined by the fact that despite the Iraq Survey Group abandoning all hope of finding WMD, neither Mr Howard nor Mr Downer have had the decency to admit that Australia was misled on the reasons for going to war in the first place.”

A similar uproar is right now taking place in Britain.

And also, in today’s Guardian, is an interesting article which backs up what I was arguing earlier. Let me quote from it for you at length. It regards the up-coming Iraqi elections:

“….the elections are likely at best to be irrelevant, at worst to plunge Iraq deeper into the abyss. Both common sense and first principles dictate that no election in a country invaded and controlled by foreign troops can conceivably be regarded as free and fair. The poll due on January 30 is part of a process imposed by Bush’s proconsul Paul Bremer, transparently designed to entrench US plans for Iraq and the wider Middle East; all the main politicians and parties taking part owe their position and physical survival to US protection and power; and voting will take place in a country under martial law, where a full-scale guerrilla war is raging and whose heartlands are under daily bombardment.”

And: “….most crucially of all, whatever the turnout and relative votes for the different lists, the result cannot and will not reflect the popular will over the most important issue facing the country: the occupation. Opinion polls show most Iraqis want foreign troops to leave now. But none of those with a chance of being elected – all compromised by their links to the current administration – supports such a demand. Without foreign troops, they would fear for their own skins.”

As the author, Seumas Milne, then goes on to argue: “None of this should come as much of a shock. We are familiar with “managed” elections the world over. And phoney polls under foreign occupation have a long pedigree. Take the US client regime in South Vietnam, where fraudulent but contested elections were held from the 1950s to the 1970s, including at the height of the American war. Just as in Iraq, newspapers were suppressed and parties staged boycotts or were banned, while polling was often suspended in Vietcong-controlled areas – or alternatively the government won a miraculously high vote. Then there were Iraq’s own rigged elections under the British-installed regime before 1958: as in Iraq today, thousands of prisoners were held without trial, newspapers and parties were banned and torture was rampant. The credibility of Iraq’s January 30 poll is so flagrantly in doubt, it is no wonder that there is pressure both from within the US administration and prominent Iraqi politicians for a postponement. The danger is that the election won’t simply lack credibility, but could actually intensify Iraq’s crisis by fuelling sectarian divisions….”

Yes Lirelou, these elections differ little from those that were held by “the US client regime in South Vietnam, where fraudulent but contested elections were held from the 1950s to the 1970s, including at the height of the American war. Just as in Iraq, newspapers were suppressed and parties staged boycotts or were banned, while polling was often suspended in Vietcong-controlled areas – or alternatively the government won a miraculously high vote.”

You can, if you doubt the credibility of this interpretation, turn to both the Pentagon Papers and the Hearings before the US Senate Subcommittee (available online) if you want good, strong, empirical evidence!

Best regards again Lirelou,
Mark Anthony Jones

January 13, 2005 @ 12:13 am | Comment

Regarding the wearing of Green Berets!

Dear Lirelou,

Once again, you are wrong! US Special Forces operating in El Salvador did indeed wear green berets, and I have this from not one, but several sources. The book, Mirrors of War, is but one of these sources – and that was from a testimonial by a National Guard soldier who had been trained in the arts of torture by US Special Forces wearing, as he said, green berets.

No less than six Salvadoran military deserters have to date publicly acknowledged their participation in the death squads. Their stories are notable because they not only confirm suspicions that the death squads were made up of members of the Salvadoran military, but also because each one implicates US personnel in death squad activity.

Rene Hurtado for example, worked as an intelligence agent for the Treasury Police, one of the three Salvadoran paramilitary forces. After a falling out with an officer, he fled to Minnesota, took refuge with a Presbyterian Church congregation, and began describing the routine torture methods used by paramilitary forces. These included beatings, electric shock, suffocation, and mutilation. He described techniques such as tearing the skin from “interrogation” subjects, sticking needles into them, or beating them in such a manner that lasting internal injuries would be inflicted but without the tell-tale external marks. According to Hurtado, CIA employees and GREEN BERETS taught some of these torture techniques to the treasury police in Army staff headquarters. [Lirelou, if you weant to know the sources for this information, see: Minneapolis Star and Tribune, July 8, 1984. Also, Donald Duncan, “The New Legions” (New York: Random House, 1967), pp. 156-161; and “The Navy: Torture Camp,” Newsweek, March 22, 1976. And Allan Nairn, “Behind the Death Squads,” The Progressive, May 1984.]

Lirelou, General John Vessey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was particularly disturbed by the implication of the Green Berets in the training of El Salvadorean death squads in the arts of torture, that he consequently initiated an investigation. The investigator from the Army Criminal Investigation Division stated, “My job was to clear the Army’s name and I was going to do whatever [was] necessary to do that.” Hurtado refused to cooperate with the investigator on the advice of a member of Congress whom the church parishioners had called upon. When the investigator was told this by the minister, he responded, “Tell Mr. Hurtado that the Congressman has given him very costly advice. When I went to El Salvador to investigate his allegations, at the advice of the US Ambassador, I did not talk to members of the Salvadoran military. If I go again and talk to the military, we don’t know who will be hurt, do we?”

And likewise: Carlos Antonio Gomez Montano, who was a paratrooper stationed at Ilopango Air Force Base, claimed to have seen eight Green Beret advisors watching two “torture classes” during which a seventeen-year-old boy and a thirteen-year-old girl were tortured. Montano claimed that his unit and the Green Berets were joined by Salvadoran Air Force Commander Rafael Bustillo and other Salvadoran officers during these two sessions in January 1981. A Salvadoran officer told the assembled soldiers, “[watching] will make you feel more like a man.” [This, Lirelou, was even reported in the New York Times by Raymond Bonner, “US Advisers saw ‘Torture Class,’ Salvadoran Says,” New York Times, January 11, 1982.]

Above are the accounts of some of the death squad deserters. Non-military sources have also reported participation of US personnel. For example, another (highly placed anonymous civilian) source maintained that Armed Forces General Staff Departments 2 and 5 (organized with help from US Army Colonel David Rodriguez, a Cuban-American) used tortures such as beating, burning and electric shock. [See: “Officials in El Salvador Linked to Death Squads,” Associated Press,
October 12, 1984.]

US involvement has also been asserted in sworn accounts by some victims of torture. Jose Ruben Carillo Cubas, a student, gave testimony that during his detention by the Long Distance Reconnaissance Patrol (PRAL) in 1986, a US Army Major tortured him by applying electric shocks to his back and ears. [See: “Torture in El Salvador,” CDHES (the Commission for Human Rights in El Salvador), September 1986. The PRAL has received assistance from CIA officer Felix Rodriguez, good friend of George Bush and Donald Gregg, Z Magazine, December 1989, p. 57.]

Various sources have also reported the use of US-manufactured torture equipment. Rene Hurtado, for example, explained, “there are some very sophisticated methods … of torture … [like the machine] that looks like a
radio, like a transformer; it’s about 15 centimetres across, with connecting wires. It says General Electric on it …”

Latin American army death squad chiefs got their basic training at the School of the Americas at Fort Gulick in the Panama Canal Zone, now moved to special forces headquarters at Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Navy SEALS ran torture camps in northwest Maine and near San Diego; and police torturers were trained at the International Police Academy in Washington. Latin American juntas had long practiced torture, of course. What the U.S. did was make it more “scientific,” calibrating just how much pain prisoners could stand, when to apply it, etc. Nazi SS men added their expertise: Walter Rauff played a key role in setting up General Augusto Pinochet’s secret police in Chile, the infamous DINA; Klaus Barbie provided similar services for Bolivian dictators. These fascist torturers and butchers were brought by the CIA’s “rat line” (in cooperation with the Vatican) to Latin America, where their services were enlisted in the so-called “war on communism.”

Officers of the El Salvadoran National Guard were definitely also trained in the U.S. In August 1986, CBS Television reported that three senior Guard officers who had been linked to right wing death squads, received training at a police academy in Phoenix.

A former member of the El Salvadoran National Guard, stated in a 1986 Thames Television documentary that “I belonged to a squad of twelve. We devoted ourselves to torture, and to finding people who we were told were guerillas. I was trained in Panama for nine months by the (unintelligible) of the U. S. for anti-guerrilla warfare. Part of the time we were instructed about torture.”

And let us consider the results of their training: according to Rev. Santiago, macabre scenes of this kind were not uncommon during the Reagan years:

“People are not just killed by death squads in El Salvador — they are decapitated and then their heads are placed on pikes and used to dot the landscape. Men are not just disemboweled by the Salvadoran Treasury Police; their severed genitalia are stuffed into their mouths. Salvadoran women are not just raped by the National Guard; their wombs are cut from their bodies and used to cover their faces. It is not enough to kill children; they are dragged over barbed wire until the flesh falls from their bones, while parents are forced to watch.”

Rev. Santiago goes on to point out that violence of this sort greatly increased when the Church began forming peasant associations and self-help groups in an attempt to organise the poor. The death squads responded by decimating, just as Archbishop Romero predicted, tens of thousands of civilians, and more than a million became refugees. This would have to be one of the most sordid episodes in US history — and it’s got a lot of competition.

In sum Lirelou, there is considerable evidence to support the claims that US Special Forces operating in El Salvador not only trained the National Guard in the scientific arts of torture, and were present during torture sessions, and even aided these, but thet they also, at times at least, wore green berets!!!! – just as they did in Vietnam, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and elsewhere…. Anyway, it hardly matters whether they wore green berets, “patrol caps” or NY Yankees baseball caps – the fact is, they were training death squads in the use of torture techniques.

Best regards,
Mark Anthony Jones

January 13, 2005 @ 1:57 am | Comment


I stand by my comment. But, for clarification, let me explain my criticism of American forces as being “overly legalistic” in their approach to internal stability operations. What I mean here is the use of hoods and flexicuffs on everyone they detain, as are used on common criminals. Perhaps a better term would have been “an overtly law-enforcement approach”. Terrorists and suspected terrorists deserve the law enforcement approach. Legitimate insurgents do not. They are best treated as captured POWs, but again, the U.S. Army has gotten pretty technical on that issue as well. I believe it is not in our best interests.

You read my post, but you either failed to understand it, or your own frame of reference overrode your understanding. I am not proposing death squads, which by the way, I do NOT accept were “CIA directed” in El Salvador. Sorry, the left has been beating on that for years, and it is fiction. The ugly reality was there, and it roots and perpetrators were wholly Salvadorean. My post should make it pretty clear that death squads do not meet the conditions for success required for the type of operations that I outlined.

Forget what you think you know of the Phoenix program. You have memorized the allegations, but you know absolutely nothing of the truth. It was not a “CIA directed assassination” program except in the minds of a few fat, overwieght clowns in safari suits who liked to impress the girls with their fabricated tales of derring do. It was a U.S. advised Vietnamese program whose “operators” were military men who took great personnel risks to build the rapport necessary with captured VC and NVA that led to the discovery of their base camps and supporting networks. Its goal was to arrest the infrastructure members so that they could be interrogated. Heavy handed methods were counter-productive, so don’t let the word “interrogate” set you off. Did people get tortured? They certainly did, but by ARVN military and police, and an occasional U.S. military clown totally unfamiliar with the reality of torture.

Torture makes people uncooperative, it makes them swear revenge. It clams them up on the information you want, or gets you anything they think you want to hear. It is the very least productive means of gaining intelligence, and it is the surest means of putting someone on your team who will be standing behind you some day with a loaded weapon. Anyone who was ever really involved in Phoenix at the PRU level will tell you that.

To understand what I said, you really need to drop a few erroneous paradigms. Righteous indignation is no substitute for reason.

I am not here to debate whether the resistance is “just” or not, or whether we should be there or not. From a U.S. perspective, we are already there, and we are not leaving soon. And a hell of a lot of very fine, young, patriotic human beings have died in some very bad causes. (Maybe you think the Waffen SS was composed of old politicians?) Notice that that statement cuts both ways? I do not accept that islamo-facism is a just cause, and however sorry this mess is, I do not see an American loss in Iraq as doing anything but furthering islamofacism.

p.s., your insistence on sharing what was privileged information has hampered my ability to agree with some very valid points you’ve made on my country’s political leadership.

very respectfully,


January 13, 2005 @ 2:06 am | Comment

Dear Lirelou,

Where shall I start? O.K. Let me begin by apologising for sharing what was apparently “privileged information” about your identity. I can assure you, that there was no malicious intent in doing so on my part, and in fact, I had no idea that this was considered by you to be “privileged information”. Why would I think this? Afterall, it was you who, on January 3rd, posted a comment in response to the “Blind Rage” debate (baked by Richard on December 30th), inviting readers to study your essay, “Courage and Cowardice in Dong Khe” – to be found at

Anybody who decided to do so would have thus learnt of your identity. Not only this, but anybody can click onto your email name, Lirelou, shown in red at the end of all your posts, and hence discover your name and email address. If they were to do a quick Google search, they would very quickly learn that you are a retired Lt. Col. of the US Special Forces. This is exactly how I learnt of your identity.

I really assumed, therefore, that you were comfortable with people knowing who you are.

As I said, I am sorry if my addressing you as Lt. Col. has in any way offended you. I did so as a sign of respect. There was nothing sinister in my intentions, I can assure you!

Lirelou, you say that I “either failed to understand” what you were initially saying in regards to your “applauding” the use of “hunter-killer teams”, or that my “own frame of reference overrode [my] understanding” of what you were trying to say. I certainly hope this is indeed the case. “I am not proposing death squads,” you say, “which by the way, I do NOT accept were ‘CIA directed’ in El Salvador.”

Firstly, if I have misunderstood you, I am sorry, but I really do think that you need to take some of the responsibility for that. Think about it: Richard had baked an article about how the US now plans to train Iraqi “death squads” – and the article he baked included information about the activities of the El Salvadorean death squads of the past, which had also been trained and financially backed by the US. I responded to this, simply by saying what a terrible mistake it would be to go down this path again, and then you responded by saying, quite explicitly, that “If the plan is to recruit bands of indigenous commandos (a la French Indochina), partisan harkis (French Algeria) or countergang (Kenya) units, then I applaud the effort as long overdue, but perhaps too late.”

And then you went on immediately to explain that “There is a death squad war already underway in Iraq, but it is coming from the Resistance,” and that it was therefore “time to try something else, and specialised hunter-killer teams are a legitimate response.”

So this sounded to bme that you were endorsing the use of death squads. It does sound like that. But O.K. So accept that I may have misunderstood you. What you are proposing is something a little bit different: but you are extremely vague on this. Just exactly what do you mean then, when you endorse the use of “indigenous hunter-killer teams”? What kind of powers should they have? You have yet to clearly explain this Lirelou.

You say that “the use of hoods and flexicuffs” should not be used on everyone they detain, not on “common criminals” as such. You say that this type of treatment is O.K to use on “terrorists and suspected terrorists” but that “legitimate insurgents” are “best treated as captured POWs”. Now look Lirelou, be realistic for a minute will you. How are these “hunter-killer teams” supposed to recognise the difference between a real “terrorist” and a “legitimate insurgent”? What is the difference between the two? How are they each to be defined? And you is going to be invested with the authority to make these definitions? A “suspected terrorist” may turn out to be an innocent civilian who just happens to find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time – this has/is already happening in Iraq. People are being detained by the US in places like Abu Ghraib and in the Guantanamo Bay prison, and are routinely subject to torture, even though they have not been charged with any offence. They are denied all legal rights. Are you saying that it is legitimate for “suspected terrorists” to be treated using what you call “the law enforcement approach”. Just exactly what is the “law enforcement approach” anyway? Because to date, this approach has meant arresting people who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, throwing them into prison, torturing them, sometimes even to death, etc.

What you are endorsing will not work either. In practice, under civil war-like conditions, such “hunter-killer teams” are likely to live up to their terrible reputation of being “death squads”.

Let me move on to the next point: I never claimed that the El Salvadorean death squads were “CIA-directed”. Show me where I said that. What I did say, and I stand firmly on this, is that “there is considerable evidence to support the claims that US Special Forces operating in El Salvador not only trained the National Guard in the scientific arts of torture, and were present during torture sessions, and even aided these, and that they also, at times at least, wore green berets!” I pointed out too, that no less than six El Salvadorean military deserters “implicated US personnel in death squad activity.” This is quite different from saying that the CIA directed the activities of El Salvadorean death squads. I also argued that death squad members were trained not only by American “experts”, but that some were even trained on US soil.

In the case of Guatamala, which I also mentioned earlier in my last entry, even President Clinton, on March 10, 1999, was forced to issue an apology of sorts for America’s “support for military forces or intelligence units which engaged in violent and widespread repression” which Clinton acknowledged “was wrong.”

Clinton made this public apology (which was barely reported at all by the US media) after the United Nations’ independent Historical Clarification Commission issued a nine-volume report called Guatemala: Memory of Silence. Created as part of the 1996 peace accord that ended Guatemala’s civil war, the commission and its 272 staff members interviewed combatants on both sides of the conflict, gathered news reports and eyewitness accounts from across the country, and extensively examined declassified US government documents.

The result – The U.N. commission concluded that for decades the United States knowingly gave money, training, and other vital support to a military regime that committed atrocities as a matter of policy and even “acts of genocide” against the Mayan people.

It’s a common rationalisation that, in a civil war, both sides commit atrocities in roughly equal amounts. But the commission examined 42,275 separate human rights violations: torture, executions, systematic rape, and so on, including 626 documented incidents the commission could only describe as “massacres.” The final score: 93 percent were committed by US-supported government paramilitary forces; 3 percent were committed by rebels; and 4 percent cannot be attributed with certainty.

And worse, as Amnesty International and other independent observers have reported for years, the vast majority of victims were noncombatant civilians. Merely trying to form an opposition political party was reason enough to be killed. So was being a trade unionist, a student or professor, a journalist, a church official, a child or elderly person from the same village as a suspected rebel, a doctor who merely treated another victim, or even a widow of one of the disappeared simply asking for the body.

But most of the casualties were Mayan Indians. Since the rebels didn’t have the military strength to be able to hold cities, they hid in rural areas populated primarily by Mayans. So the Guatemalan government simply slaughtered entire villages, engaging in what the commission called “the massive extermination of defenseless Mayan communities.” Two hundred thousand people died. This sounds rather similar to what happened at Fallujah.

This is the kind of senseless barbarity that the world can expect to occur if the current US regime decides to go ahead and spend its allocated US$3 billion dollars on setting up “indigenous hunter-killer teams”. It happened in Nicaragua, it happened in El Salvador, and it will happen again in Iraq if people are apathetic enough to just sit back and allow it to happen.

The commission also concluded that massacres—which rose to the level of “genocide” during the Guatamalan civil war’s peak years in the early 1980s—were not random acts of field commanders beyond government control. The genocide was deliberate policy. And US support and training of the paramilitary was crucial, having “a significant bearing on human rights violations.”

In September 1996, the US Department of Defense admitted that manuals used until recently to train Latin American soldiers included numerous illegal practices, including summary execution. And in January 1997, two declassified CIA manuals on interrogation contained plain references to electrical and chemical torture.

In fact, one of the CIA manuals, prepared for its 1954 covert war in Guatemala, is a twenty-one page “Study of Assassination” which admits that murder “is not morally justifiable” while at the same time explains how to kill by whopping someone with “a hammer, axe, wrench, screwdriver, fire prod, kitchen knife, lamp stand, or anything hard, heavy and handy.”

O.K Lirelou. To be fair, you have now clarified your position on the use of torture, to some extent at least, by acknowledging that “torture makes people uncooperative, it makes them swear revenge. It clams them up on the information you want, or gets you anything they think you want to hear. It is the very least productive means of gaining intelligence, and it is the surest means of putting someone on your team who will be standing behind you some day with a loaded weapon.”

There is one last issue that I need to address. You say that you are not interested in debating whether or not the US should be in Iraq, or whether the resistance is just or not, which is fine, except that I think you really cannot avoid doing so, given that you are applauding the “long overdue, but perhaps too late” use of “indigenous hunter-killer teams.”

Before this decision can be “applauded” one must, quite logically I would think, need to ask a few basic questions: is the use of such means morally defensible? To answer this, one must FIRST ask whether the cause – whether the invasion and occupation itself – is morally defensible. If the answer is no, and I am certainly arguing that it is not defensible – both legally and morally – then one must consider a better, more appropriate alternative. Rather than spending (wasting) US$3 billion dollars of taxpayer funds on helping to establish and train these “hunter-killer” teams, perhaps a better alternative would be to simply end the occupation. A great number of lives would be spared that way!

I don’t think that any of my paradigms of thought need to be dropped here Lirelou. You might want to dismiss my arguments as being too self-righteous and over-emotional, but I think I am the one who is asking all the right questions here.

You seem to be also suggesting that to end the occupation now would open the way for a civil war of sorts, the most likely outcome of which would be the empowerment of a Taliban-like regime. You imply this, or at least hint at this, when you say: “I do not accept that Islamo-facism is a just cause, and however sorry this mess is, I do not see an American loss in Iraq as doing anything but furthering Islamofacism.”

Your point is a valid one, worthy of careful consideration, though I doubt whether this possibility justifies the continued occupation.

Best regards,
Mark Anthony Jones

January 13, 2005 @ 8:39 pm | Comment

I’ve heard these allegations before. I note that Hurtado did not provide any further information for follow-up. I am also aware of the political biases of the groups who “sponsored” these accusations. Being a serving special forces officer at the time, I knew a great many of the personnel we deployed to Central America. And on occasion I worked there myself. I also spent some time as an combat operations instructor within the School of the Americas, giving both tactical field and classroom training to Latin American personnel, primarily commando units, officer cadets, and company grade officers. During that time, I never saw any instruction given on “how to torture” prisoners, and in fact I occasionally instructed on POW handling myself. The standard “search, segregate, silence, and secure” methods common to all NATO armies. “Secure” by the way not only meant guarding the prisoner from escape, but ensuring that he was not subject to any mistreatment by friendly forces. As boring as that is, that is what we instructed.
The whole aim of the School of the Americas was to train Latin American forces in accordance with U.S. Army doctrine, not only to make them more effective, but inculcate the idea that the Army’s purpose is to serve the nation, and be subordinate to civilian control. Naive? Some of our Latin instructors thought so (In make-up, the School of the Americas was an international institution. Our deputy commander was a Peruvian, the head of the Combat Ops Dept was a Cuban-American Bay of Pigs veteran, my immediate boss was an Argentine Marine, and my fellow instructors included two Colombian Lanceros, an Ecuadorean Paramarine, a Bolivian “Condor”, and a Dominican paratrooper. The same mix could be found throughout the School.)
I digress, so I apologize. At no time did I or anyone I know ever instruct on “torture”. There was a military intelligence course that mirrored the standard U.S. Army Intel School. It taught standard stuff like “intelligence preparation of the battlefield” (Yawn)
Now, were Americans in El Salvador ever present during torture? And by “present” I mean exactly that. Not directing, not overseeing, but physically present at some time while torture was being conducted.
Since you “burned me”, let me just say “probably”. But if so, they were brought in by their counterparts, and the sole reason they remained with their counterparts during any such session was to able report the full details up their chain of command. How else would the U.S. Ambassador ever receive word of such practices? But again, this is pure speculation.
Did any U.S. Army personnel ever instruct Salvadoreans in torture? I feel absolutely positive that I can wholeheartedly say no! Given the politically charged atmosphere of the U.S. left in those days, it was a charge we fully expected. Something that the Embassy was fully aware of. And any lapses in personal or professional conduct could get you thrown out of country in a heartbeat, with dire consequences for any career.

Minor stuff. The School of the Americas was moved to Fort Benning, the Infantry School, not Fort Bragg. And the seemingly minor note on the beret? Hardly minor to me, because it casts doubts upon the witnesses’ credibility. Any prosecutor would tell you the same.

Ah, the old saw about personnel from death squads and military units who committed attrocities being “trained at the U.S. Army School of the Americas. I have no doubt that the “trained at USARSA” part is true. BUT, the idea that they did a course at the school ERGO the Americans trained them to torture does not gel with me.

Who got trained at the school was a matter for the countries to decide. Later, thanks to Human Rights groups, a watch list was placed into effect to screen out those associated with abuses. This would not have happened without their pressure, so one for them! The School also trained a few officers who later ended up guerrillas or rebels. Funny how they never get mentioned when the list of “infamy” comes up.

Reference Maine and California. Do not confuse SERE courses, which include physical mistreatment for psychologically conditioning U.S. elite military personnel, with “how to” courses for foreign students. The idea is to show U.S. personnel what they could be in for if captured in order to psychologically condition themselves to resist.

January 13, 2005 @ 9:46 pm | Comment

Dear Lirelou,

Look – with all due respect, and I sincerely do respect you – but you are, I’m afraid, getting way off the track here. Let us start looking at the bigger picture for once. You have not answered one single question that I asked of you – all you are prepared to give are retorts to what are really quite trivial details. Who really cares whether or not US Special Forces operating in El Salvador were wearing green berets or baseball caps? Does it really matter whether you personally ever knew anybody who instructed on the use of torture techniques or not? The point is, Bill Clinton, for example, yes, at the time the PRESIDENT of the United States of America, felt obliged, in 1999, to apologise publically to the people of South and Central America for crimes against humanity that were financed and politically and militarily supported by the United States Government, using taxpayer funds, and, I might add, without taxpayer consent.

This is what is important Lirelou. No president of the United States is going to apologise for these sorts of atrocities unless there was any real truth in it, right?

You want to believe that no US Special Forces personnel ever instructed El Salvadoreans in the use of torture, but I’m sorry Lirelou, but why should I or anybody else for that matter accept your “belief” over those of the six other Salvadorean military deserters who say otherwise? Or over human rights bodies like Amnesty International, or even over the President of the United States, who has apologised for such acts that occured at roughly the same time in other, nearby countries? Why should your word be taken over those El Salvadoreans who actually claim to have suffered such torture in the presence of Americans, or at the hands of Americans, over yours? Give me one good reason why your personal experiences outweigh or in any way invalidate the testimonies of all of these others? Note too, that no less than six people to date have, quite independently of each other, described those US Special Forces operating in El Salvador as trainers in torture techniques, as having worn green berets. The same applies to Nicaragua and Guatamala – where US Special Forces engaged in the training of torture, using real live human guinea pigs if you like, were described by these witnesses to have been waring green berets. Are all of these witnesses – from three different countries, all actinig independently of one another- are all of these people blind? Are they all lying? Are they all halucinating?

Maybe they are Lirelou? Or maybe you just can’t accept what you don’t want to believe? You didn;t want to believe that the CIA were in any way involved with the arrest and imprisonment of Nelson mandela either. Nor did you want to believe that the US State Department, successive US Administrations, and the CIA, were all financially, militarily and politically supporting the murderous and genocidal Pol Pot.

I am not suggesting that ALL US Special Forces personnel are evil, or that they have ALL committed such acts of “evil”, by training others how to torture. But there is, despite what you might like to think, a huge volume, an undeniable weight of evidence in fact, to support the claim that US Special Forces, both in and outside of the US proper, did indeed train paramilitary forces in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Chile and Guatamala in the arts of torture. Period. Even a US President has acknowledged this, publically even!

The whole reason why this was all kept a secret from the wider US public was because the vast, overwhelming majority of US citizens are decent, kind, moralistic people who would never tolerate such things being done in their name, using their money! This is also why the US State Department and various administrations have, in the past, all gone out of their way to hide from the public their support for Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein, South African apatheid, etc. Ad infinitum in fact. Because most sane, decent people would never tolerate such policies.

President Clinton, for all of his undeniable faults (and he has many! and I’m certainly no fan of his) at least had the decency to not only acknowledge all of this, but to even offer up an apology of sorts – and this alone, I have to say, makes him quite unique as far as US presidents are concerned, which is why I have more respect for him than any other post-WWII president – and I say this inspite of the fact that his administration too, has a pretty dismal record when it comes to respecting human rights!

You have yet to explain, clearly and unambiguously, the difference between “indigenous hunter-killer teams” and “death squads” of the type used in El Salvador, etc. And you have yet to address the issue of what consitutes a “terrorist” as opposed to a “legitimate insurgent”, nor have you answered the serious logistical question of how such “hunter-killer teams” (death squads) are supposed to determine the difference between the two, nor have you answered my questions as to “who” exactly should be invested with the moral and legal authority to determine such definitions, nor have you addressed the issue as to whether or not the financing and training of such “hunter-killer teams” is morally and legally justifiable, and whether or not such a policy would be more preferable (both legally and moralistically) to alternatives – like ending the occupation. You can’t tackle these very important questions until you at least address the issue of whether or not the invasion and occupation itself is justified, both legally and morally. You haven’t even managed to justify the morality and legality of how to manage the treatment of “suspected” terrorists! Don’t forget to bare in mind, when you answer all of these questions, what the legal position of the United States is, in terms of what international laws and conventions they have already signed and agreed to abide by, will you?

I’m waiting, very keenly I might add, for your response!

Best regards,
Mark Anthony Jones

January 14, 2005 @ 1:14 am | Comment

Dear Lirelou,

More more thing – specifically related to the issues of Special Forces operations in El Salvador. As you know doubt already know, each of the US military services has its own covert operations unit, sometimes called Special Operations, sometimes Special Operations Forces (SOF), and sometimes simply “Special Ops.”

Special Ops personnel are trained for making quick, destructive, secret, and illegal raids against selected targets. These are the people who perform the black bag jobs overseas for the CIA.

Performing secret acts of war was an integral part of the Reagan foreign policy, as I’m sure you must already know, just as it was in previous administrations. But under the Reagan Administration, Special Operations became a separate command, reporting directly to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Since that time, the use of Special Ops has continued. Headquartered in MacDill Air Force Base in Florida, the Special Operations Command employ 46,000 people and averaged 280 missions a week in 137 countries (Lirelou, my source for this is Tampa Tribune, March 1, 1996).

Special Ops. has its own helicopter unit: the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), formerly the 160th Task Force of the 101st Airborne Division at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky.

Special Ops can create task forces as they wish, picking and choosing from those with special skills required for the mission. The Special Ops commandos can come from any branch of the military; they can be Special Forces, GREEN BERETS (my emhasis) or Navy SEALS; they can be on active duty or on “retired” status in the military.

Lirelou, as you know doubt also already know, the “least understood and appreciated of the Special Ops missions are those of the civil affairs and psychological operations units.” These people “are mostly comprised of National Guardsmen and Army Reservists,” says the Army Times of January 8, 1996. There we have it, from an impeccable source: Special Ops commandos can be members of the National Guard or Reserves.

Those chosen for Special Ops junkets can be flown in and out of the mission site by the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) helicopter unit. That is, the 160th can fly ATF, FBI, or any other commandos at will.

Shortly after taking office in 1981, President Reagan used the “training” cover when he sent combat soldiers to El Salvador to shore up the military junta there. To allay fears about another Vietnam War, Reagan simply lied – he said that the soldiers were there to train the Salvadoran army, that he was limiting the number of Green Berets to 55, and that they were prohibited from entering a combat zone (see Robert Parry’s article “Lost History: Death, Lies and Bodywashing,” in The Consortium, May 27, 1996).

In fact, thousands of soldiers took full part in combat there. Twenty-one were killed in action. The Pentagon admitted the truth in May, 1996, when it honoured the dead soldiers and fifty others who took part in the illegal operation (Washington Post, May 6, 1996, Public Honors for Secret Combat).

Lirelou, it is important to know the mindset of commandos who go on secret and illegal missions. This can be discovered by looking at who they support and what they support.
New York Times reporter Raymond Bonner was sent to El Salvador in the early 1980s to cover the civil war, in which the US intervened on the side of the junta. Bonner interviewed junta head Jose Napoleon Duarte and asked why he had to fight guerrillas in his country. Duarte said:

“Fifty years of lies, fifty years of injustice, fifty years of frustration. This is a history of people starving to death, living in misery. For fifty years the same people had all the power, all the money, all the jobs, all the education, all the opportunities.”

Despite this clear statement about the nature of the war, the Reagan Administration illegally and covertly sent troops to assist the junta, on the basis that the guerrillas were “leftists.” It was to protect Duarte’s regime that these soldiers risked, and gave, their lives. And in May, 1996, the Pentagon awarded medals and called it patriotism.

The Salvadoran junta’s death squads routinely tortured and murdered civilians. In December, 1981, as Amnesty International and many others have already well documented. In the town of El Mozote, 700 to 1,000 people – mostly elderly, women and children, were massacred. Engaged in what the US military calls “Close Quarter Combat,” the Salvadoran forces butchered their victims face to face. People were hacked to death by machetes or beheaded. A child was thrown in the air and caught on a bayonet. Young girls were raped in an orgy before they were killed (see: William Blum, Killing Hope, pg. 359).

A few months later, the New York Times published an article written with the help of a deserter from the Salvadoran Army who described a class where severe methods of torture were demonstrated on teenage prisoners. He stated that eight US military advisers, apparently Green Berets, were present. “Watching will make you feel more like a man,” the trainer told the recruits (Killing Hope, pg. 359).

In 1989 a former Salvadoran Army commando told CBS evening news that he had belonged to an intelligence unit which functioned as a death squad, and that two US military advisers attached to the unit were aware of the assassinations, and supplied money to the unit to help maintain vehicles used for death squad operations (Killing Hope, pg. 359).

In all of these cases, the US personnel and commanders had to know the nature of the Salvadoran forces on whose side they were fighting. After all, they were “training” the killers.

In Guatemala, the US sent troops and money to squash resistance to the repressive ruling oligarchy. Several Americans were also tortured at the hands of the Guatemalan military. One such person was Sister Dianna Ortiz, a nun. Sister Ortiz “related how, in 1989, she was kidnapped, burned with cigarettes, raped repeatedly, and lowered into a pit full of corpses and rats. A fair-skinned man who spoke with an American accent seemed to be in charge, she said.” (Killing Hope, pg. 239).

In 1975 the public got a glimpse of the secret training delivered to commandos when a Navy psychologist, Lt. Comdr. Thomas Narut, spoke to the London Times during a NATO conference in Oslo on “Dimensions of Stress and Anxiety.” The conversation took place just after the Senate Intelligence Committee had reprimanded the CIA for plotting a number of political assassinations around the world.

Narut said that Naval Intelligence had taken convicted murderers from military prisons and conditioned them as assassins, and then placed them in US embassies around the world. He also explained that he had worked with “combat readiness units” which included men being trained for commando-type operations. These, Narut said, were “hit men and assassins” (Narut’s words) made ready to kill in selected countries should the need arise.

The potential assassins were identified by evidence of past violence or by psychological tests such as the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory. Once identified, training of the assassins was accomplished by audio-visual presentations. The prospective commandos were “desensitised ” to mayhem by being shown films of people being killed or injured in a number of different ways. At first the films would show only mild forms of bloodshed. As the men became acclimatised to the scene of carnage, they would see progressively more violent scenes. The assassin candidates, Narut explained, would eventually be able to disassociate even the goriest scenes from any feelings of repugnance they might have had at first.

At first the men might be shown a film of an African youth being crudely circumcised by tribe members with a blunt knife and no anesthetic. Afterwards the trainee would be asked about inconsequential details of the episode – such as the motif on the handle of the knife used to cut the foreskin.

Next the commando trainees were shown a film of a man in a sawmill, where planks were sliced from huge logs. In the operation of the saw the man slipped and cut off his fingers. As the films progressed in gruesomeness, the reactions of the trainees were measured by sensing devices: heartbeat, breathing rate, and brain waves were recorded. If the physiological responses, which might have been great in the beginning, slowed down and resumed normal patterns as the more bloodthirsty scenes were viewed, the candidates were judged to have completed this stage of conditioning.

The final stage of conditioning was the indoctrination of the future commandos to think of their potential enemies as inferior forms of life. By this stage the commandos would already have been selected for assignment to particular countries. They would be shown films and given lectures which portrayed the customs and culture of the people in a disparaging manner. The people of those countries were presented as enemies of the United States.

It took only a couple of weeks to program the susceptible candidates by this process. Those who did not do well in the conditioning were dropped out of the program and reassigned to other duties. Dr. Narut said he did not have the necessary “need to know” where his trainees were assigned, but did say that his busiest time was when a large group of men went through such training towards the end of 1973, at the time of the Yom Kippur War. (This account is based on Operation Mind Control, by Walter H. Bowart, pgs. 161-166.)

The secret commandos, of course, try to surround their activities in strictest secrecy. Their presence is known to the people whom they are about to kill; the secrecy is aimed at keeping the news of their activities secret from the American public.

The secrets are maintained by official lying. We have already seen that for years the Reagan Administration said the Green Berets were training the Salvadoran army, while in fact 5,000 combat troops has been committed to shore up the junta, and 21 died while doing so.

The Washington Post, May 6, 1996 described the lengths to which the US went to preserve the secret of its combat role in El Salvador: ” . . . a US colonel, videotaped by a TV crew carrying an M-16 rifle in El Salvador in 1982, was whisked out of the country before too many questions could be asked.”

When New York Times correspondent Raymond Bonner spotted a US military advisor on patrol with a Salvadoran army unit, Green Berets quickly lined up the Salvadoran soldiers and gave them false affidavits to sign, declaring that no American was with them. (Robert Parry’s article in the May 27, 1996 edition of The Consortium).

When an assistant secretary for defense was asked about the activities of the Special Operations helicopter unit in El Salvador (then the 160th Task Force of the 101st Airborne, out of Ft. Campbell, Kentucky), he said “to my knowledge the unit has never been deployed to Central America.” At the time the troops were being secretly deployed, the Boland Amendment to the War Powers Act prohibited such intervention. On April 14, 1983, President Reagan on April 14, 1983: “Anything that we are doing in that area is simply trying to interdict the supply lines which are supplying the guerrillas in El Salvador.” (Frank Greve & Ellen Warren: “Secret US Unit in War Zone, Next-of-kin Say,” Philadelphia Inquirer, December 16-17, 1984)

Special Operations personnel often wear civilian clothing while on secret missions. When members of the secret Army helicopter unit (then the 160th Task Force of the 101 Airborne Division), performed missions in Central America in the 1980s, the pilots knew that if they were shot down the US government would deny them. So the members of the 160th would routinely wear civilian clothing. And, even in the United States, “every time they got off the helicopter, they had to get off in civilian clothes,” recalled a brother of a Special Operations helicopter pilot man killed in a Chinook crash in July, 1983 (Philadelphia Inquirer, December 16, 1984, cited above).

Lawrence “Larry” Freeman, a member of Army Special Ops on “retired” status, was killed in Somalia in 1992 while on assignment for the CIA. Freeman and three of his Army Special Ops companions were riding in his Isuzu Trooper when it ran over a land mine. His three companions were crippled in the explosion. Freeman is still identified by the Pentagon as a government civilian, and his three companions are identified as State Department security officers, according to Insight January 25, 1196. “Secrecy Shrouds Spy Deaths,” Insight Magazine, January 25, 1996.)

Perhaps, Lirelou, it is now time to mention that “retired” military officers, unless they resign or are kicked out of the service to which they belong, are in the military until they die. They are either on “active” or “retired” status. Therefore, “retired” military people are said to receive “retried” pay, not a pension. They are still on the military payroll, just in a “retired” category at lower rate of pay.

Therefore “retired” military are still “military” in a very real sense.

When journalists or others reveal Special Ops secret and illegal combat roles, they are routinely discredited. Journalist Robert Parry covered events in El Salvador in the 1980s, and had a chance to see the government’s operation at close quarters. Parry says the strategy for discrediting honest journalists, such as Raymond Bonner of the New York Times who wrote about the El Mozote massacre, was always an important part of US strategy for keeping secret the reality on the battlefield. After Bonner exposed the El Mozote massacre in 1981, he was targeted by right-wing “watchdog” groups, such as Reed Irvine’s Accuracy in Media and The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page. Assistant secretaries of state Thomas Enders and Elliott Abrams disputed Bonner’s stories during Congressional testimony, saying the massacre never occurred.

The Reagan Administration then allegedly put pressure on Bonners’ employer, Abe Rosenthal of the New York Times. Bonner was eventually recalled from El Salvador and assigned to the business desk at the New York Times. When Robert Parry was in El Salvador in the fall of 1982, two senior US officials boasted about the embassy’s success in discrediting Bonner and orchestrating his departure, he said.

So you see Lirelou, just because you personally are not aware of any members of Special Forces who participated in the training of El Salvadorean National Guardsman, doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen. And too many witnesses, from three different countries, and all independently of one another, have claimed that these members of Special Forces were wearing green berets – too many to be so cavalierly disgraded.

Regards again,
Mark Anthony Jones

January 14, 2005 @ 2:16 am | Comment

Sorry Lirelou – just one more thing, which I think is worth mentioning at this stage. I hope you are correct when you say that no US military personnel ever trained El Salvadorean paramilitary forces in the arts of torture. I really do hope that you are correct. But there is too much evidence to suggest otherwise.

And at any rate, my main point, what is central to my arguments – both in relation to El Salvador and to present day Iraq – is that the US Government, in both cases, were/are fully aware of the atrocities that such paramilitary groups were/are carrying out against civilian populations, and yet still, secretly, they support/ed these organisations – financially, as well as politically. And, so it would seem if we accept the evidence, also in terms of training – including training in the arts of torture. Even if you are correct in saying that no US military personnel took part in the training of torture techniques, this does not, in any way, take away the fact that the US government has blood on its hands! And a hell of a lot of it.

Getting others to do your dirty work for you does not absolve you of any of the responsibility – most people, I think, would agree with this principle.

This is the crux of my argument.

Mark Anthony Jones

January 14, 2005 @ 3:10 am | Comment


I was away for sometime. Sorry for not getting back with you. About Sino-Vietnam border war in 1979, I agree with you, the justification of war on the basis of punishing an aggressor is legally and morally weak unless with UN backing. In the case of war in 1979, the other justifications China brought up against Vietnam was its treatment of ethic Chinese and Chinese citizens in Vietnam, properties confisticated, driven out of their homes. Waves of Chinese was driven out. There were reports of border clashes as well. On the ground of self-defence, I think China has a case.

As Iraq is concerned, there is no good way out. The only thing to do is to minimize the damage done. My proposal would be to pull US troops out, to send in troops from Arab/Muslim countries (let Iraqis decide which country they want) with US financing. I know it’s impossible, but that’s the best I can think of.

January 14, 2005 @ 11:35 am | Comment

Hey guys and gals:
Intensity is not = to thinking.
Humanity suffers. Each of us.
Delirium breathes through pronouncements, allegations,
and argumentation.
Perhaps, only thus, perhaps people awake.
then convulsively quietly wounds heal. Only perhaps.
Do what is necessary each day.
Plenty of blame surrounds us all.
Think of children and grand children.
Keep working.
And writing.
I will keep reading.

March 18, 2005 @ 12:15 am | Comment

mans inhumanity to man knows no bounds. as long as there are men and guns,there will be war,they have no trouble justifying it, women and children will continue to suffer,die,be raped tortured, but hey, boys will be boys…how sad

June 18, 2006 @ 1:37 am | Comment

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.