Friday, July 17, 2009

"Cheney's Death Squads": Flawed Logic of Hit Squads, Torture and Drone Attacks : The Ends Do Not Justify The Means

American Hypocrisy
Update: 10:33 AM July 17,2009

"...Bush’s alleged plan for global hit teams also has similarities to “Operation Condor” in which South American right-wing military regimes in the 1970s sent assassins on cross-border operations to eliminate “subversives.”

Despite quiet support and encouragement for Latin American “death squads” through much of the 1970s and 1980s, the U.S. government presented itself as the standard-bearer for human rights and criticized American adversaries that engaged in extrajudicial killings, torture and arbitrary detentions...

...Bush’s rhetorical excesses had the predictable effect of turning loose a revenge-seeking and heavily armed U.S. military force on the Iraqi population...

...And, at least inside and near the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan, Bush’s “global war on terror” appears to have recreated what was known during the Vietnam War as Operation Phoenix, a program that assassinated Vietcong cadre, including suspected communist backers."

Above quotes from "Bush's Hit Teams" by Robert Parry ,July 15.


To begin here is Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks and his take on the revelations about Cheney's Death Squads the Bush Regime's policy on assassinations

Who Was on Cheney's Assassination List?
New revelations about the information the CIA withheld from Congress. Watch more at

Anyway in discussing tactics and strategies concerning the War on Terror we must keep in mind the larger picture as it is seen or defined by the American Government , its military, the US Media and a large segment of American society. This is not merely some little conflict over trivial matters but rather is in effect seen as "a cosmic battle".

The events of 9/11 have left deep psychological scars on the American psyche. Their sense of invulnerability was shattered in a matter of hours since it was live on television and it was impossible to just turn away or change the channel. The psychological effect I believe is akin to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder which creates a form of mental hyper-alertness, combined with the sense of impending doom and feelings of anxiety and fear combined with the desire to fight or flee. It could also be seen as a sort of psychotic break in which all one's old sense of self is seen as imperiled.

So America's place in the world its stature its role and the Mythos of America and even the American Dream to a certain extent for a period of time was even if momentarily destroyed. Some Americans we are told cocooned others wanted to fight but who do you fight when your enemy is a bunch of fervent fanatics who do not have a nation of their own but seem rather to live in the shadows etc.

Due to this deep psychological disturbance many Americans were or in some cases are unable to recognize the differences between a desire for "revenge" and "blood" and achieving goals such as "justice and security".This is after all in the American apocalyptic tradition of "a fight to the death", "a clash of civilizations", the American way of life versus any other way of life so it is a sort of Armageddon. Once the conflict is turned into this sort of mythical mentality in which Americans and others in the West see this as an Apocalyptic War there are "NO INNOCENTS". It is do or die kill or be killed -you are either with us or against us as Bush succinctly put it and one should remember that Bush and others have often used religious style of rhetoric and even quoting the Bible to justify their actions so none of the excesses we are now getting a glimpse at should not be a surprise. according to the Myth of American Exceptionalism or Delusion America is seen as "the last best hope" ( Star Wars / lord of the Rings/ The 300/Generation Kill) for Western Civilization or for "Christendom" or for "Freedom and Democracy" and of course the" Free Market Economy".

The US and the British media especially being complicit in this massacre in Fallujah and others did what they were told since even they felt that America had to take revenge on these "ungrateful people"(19th century old school: The White Man's Burden) that is the Iraqis. America and its allies had brought them "Freedom and Democracy " and these ingrates responded with violence. The Americans then and now even many so called American "liberals"( see Rachel Maddow, Hillary Clinton, Keith Olbermann, Chris Mathews etc.) are unable to see this from the point of view of the Iraqis which is that America was a foreign invader which without permission occupied their country while killing many innocent civilians and destroying the infrastructure of the country and its basic society.

In the debate over the so called Cheney or Bush Hit squads it is odd how the concern is more to do with certain legal and constitutional issues rather than focusing on the barbarity of such activities. It is one thing to kill an enemy in combat and another to just shoot them in the head or drop a bomb on their house or their village killing family, friends ,neighbors etc. who may have nothing to do with the activities of the persons who were the intended targets. So it comes down to the notion and I paraphrase " Kill Them All and let God sort out the innocent from the guilty"

The lack of media attention let alone outrage over the killing of unarmed individuals or groups or those who wanted to surrender is part of the sordid history of Bush's War on Terror which is most disturbing. When the Media accepts without question that the US military or CIA are justified in assassinating possible enemies of the US in contravention of International Law the Media becomes an enabler for this type of illegal & immoral activities. Sending in Drones to blow up a village because the US believes there are al Qaeda or Taliban or insurgents in the village meanwhile killing dozens or hundreds of innocent people is rather draconian & barbaric. In Iraq & Afghanistan over and over again we hear stories of the US forces destroying a village , a town or even cities ie Falujah without any regard for the innocent civilians caught in the crossfire.

In an act of sheer revenge for the deaths of four US personnel in Fallujah the US military turned a once populous modern city into rubble . Before entering the city the US military bombarded the city with all of its modern day weaponry including White Phosphorous aka Napalm which was used to wantonly kill or maim the citizens who dared to remain in Fallujah or the poorest of the poor who had no where else to go. The US kept Human Rights groups & the International Committee of the Red Cross & the Red Crescent & the media out of Fallujah so there would be as little "blow back " as possible. Groups of civilians carrying white flags were gunned down women, children, old men it mattered little to the US military or the American citizenry in general as far as they were concerned all Iraqis were now the enemy.Unfortunately the insurgency grew in leaps and bounds after the Fallujah Massacre becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy as it were.

This lack of empathy is it seems to be a chronic psychological condition shared by a large segment of US society. We saw this in Vietnam in which Americans go on & on about the 54,000 Americans killed but rarely if ever talk about the 1-2 million Vietnamese killed as if their deaths were meaningless this was repeated in the "dirty Wars" in Latin America the Philippines and Indonesia etc. The lives of non-Americans are seen as expendable and as barely worth mentioning. It is then no wonder that the US is unable to focus on the deaths for instance in Burma under its Junta & authoritarian Regime where the Burmese government and its military are engaged in the same sort of "dirty war" that the US has become known for in Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, El Salvador , Nicaragua , Indonesia , Philippines etc.

It is odd that Obama speaks about the importance of empathy but even he seems rather cool and detached for example when it comes to permitting Drone attacks in Pakistan on weddings and funerals or Religious and community celebrations etc.. For awhile for me it was difficult to understand why the US military with all their High Tech gadgets kept mistakenly -they claimed bombing weddings and funerals or religious celebrations etc.

So let me offer one possible explanation of this phenomena which is that these weddings, funerals and religious celebrations are targeted quite purposefully and are not at all accidental But these family or community gatherings had as they say unintended consequences because they would attract family members & others who were now living elsewhere so this might include some relative who had joined al Qaeda, the Taliban or who had become an insurgent. Traditionally such family or community events are seen as a time where differences , old feuds, political even religious differences are put aside for those couple of days- it is a time for a ceasefire. Unfortunately the US forces and Nato forces do not recognize these events as being non-threatening and as a lull in the on-going fighting.

So in effect these Drone attacks are targeted assassinations with some regrettable consequences which is the murder of innocent civilians. The Americans used these tactics in Vietnam as they destroyed hundreds if not thousands of villages in their attempt at what they referred to as "Pacification". Once you have killed most of the people in a given area it might be a bit calm for awhile and therefore "pacified". But the Unintended Consequence of these actions is a rise in the so called "insurgency" in which ordinary civilians are angered and pissed off and so begin to fight against the Invading and occupying force.

The Rachel Maddow Show : Story on CIA Program and Cheney Not Adding Up-July 14

Maddow is correct in some of her analysis as usual but I was disturbed when she as others have done talked about the Drone attacks in Pakistan as if these acts were justifiable in order to take out al Qaeda leaders no matter how many innocent civilians were or are or will be killed. The Drone attacks are to many acts of Brutality and Barbarism which are not justified in the least.

Once again if she is actually defending these acts then she is applying the same sick logic as many in America have bought into in discussing "enhanced interrogation techniques" aka to the rest of the world "torture". It is they believe justifiable to torture if you can get reliable intel by this means . This the "torture" defenders say is especially true in the so called " ticking bomb scenario" as shown on the television program "24". Jack Bauer is a good American who does terrible things in defense of his country or his family or friends. The values he claims to be protecting he has tossed away by his very activities. He believes that the ends justify the means but this is Machiavellian nonsense.

Surely our society should have some ideals that aim just a little higher than this Neoconservative and Neoliberal bromide or sometimes referred to as Real Politic- meaning that the Rule of Law, Justice, Morality and ethics have no meaning in the real world all that matters is force and power . If Rachel Maddow and other American liberals believe this then what hope is there for America in the future if it is to be guided by its own self-interests and will make up the rules and even change them as it sees fit. It may be that Maddow was just stating the fact that the media does not even bother to report on the Drone attacks but I was unable to discern if she thought this was OK or not.

And here's some highlights from Robert Parry's detailed and insightful essay dealing with "Bush's Hit Teams" and America's sordid history of acting barbarically towards their real or perceived enemies. He captures the attitudes of American society and the Bush Regime since 9/11 but also the recurring War Fever and the desire not for justice but revenge in America's on going never ending Perpetual War between Good and Evil where it is believed that going to the "Darkside" is a necessity in order to prevail.

Bush's Hit Teams by Robert Parry Consortium News, July 15, 2009

Despite the new controversy over whether a global CIA “hit team” ever went operational, there has been public evidence for years that the Bush administration approved “rules of engagement” that permitted executions and targeted killings of suspected insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In effect, President George W. Bush transformed elite units of the U.S. military – including Special Forces and highly trained sniper teams – into “death squads” with a license to kill unarmed targets on suspicion that they might be a threat to American occupying forces.

In the recent public debate over whether Bush also authorized the CIA to assemble teams of assassins to roam the world hunting al-Qaeda suspects, the U.S. news media has cited the distinction between such face-to-face executions and the CIA's use of remote-controlled Predator drones firing missiles to kill groups of suspected insurgents in or near the war zones.

However, the evidence is that the Bush administration also permitted U.S. military units to engage in close-quarter executions when encountering alleged insurgents, even if they were unarmed and presented no immediate threat to American or allied troops.

This reality surfaced in 2007 with the attempted prosecutions of several U.S. soldiers whose defense attorneys cited “rules of engagement” that permitted killing suspected insurgents.

(What is troubling is that much of the debate about these "Death Squads" & Rules of Engagement which allowed for the killing of unarmed individuals who were labeled as being "Enemy Combatants" & therefore a possible threat to US personnel GORD.)

... The troubling picture was that the U.S. chain of command, presumably up to President Bush, authorized loose “rules of engagement” that allowed targeted killings – as well as other objectionable tactics including arbitrary arrests and indefinite detentions, “enhanced interrogations” otherwise known as torture, kidnappings in third countries with “extraordinary renditions” to countries that torture, secret CIA prisons, and “reeducation camps” for younger detainees.

Typical of Washington politics, however, the loudest arguments have been over whether the Bush administration adequately notified Congress of covert aspects of these operations, including the reported CIA-assassination plan which allegedly was ordered kept hidden from the House and Senate intelligence oversight committees by Vice President Dick Cheney.

Some Republicans have said Democrats proved that they don’t have the toughness to defend U.S. national security by raising questions about the hit team, while pro-Democratic pundits note that the Bush administration apparently demonstrated its incompetence by failing to get the assassination program off the ground. In other words, the debate is centered on peripheral issues, not on the substance of extrajudicial murders.

and as the author points out the United States has had a sordid history of assassinations in Vietnam & in Latin America- Yet many in the US media act as if they know little or nothing about the dirty wars the Americans have fought ostensibly to fight the Evil of Communism- as the saying goes it makes little difference to the person being tortured or who is murdered whether the persons performing these actions represent Communism, Capitalism, totalitarianism or democracy. GORD.

A Sordid History

Like torture, assassinations and the use of other lethal force against unarmed suspects and civilians violates a variety of laws and has a notorious history in irregular warfare, both regarding cross-border murders and violent repression of an indigenous resistance in which guerrillas and their political supporters blend in with the local population.

And, at least inside and near the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan, Bush’s “global war on terror” appears to have recreated what was known during the Vietnam War as Operation Phoenix, a program that assassinated Vietcong cadre, including suspected communist backers.

Through a classified Pentagon training program known as “Project X,” the lessons of Operation Phoenix from the 1960s were passed on to Third World armies, especially in Latin America, giving a green light to some of the “dirty wars” that swept the region, causing tens of thousands of political murders, widespread use of torture, and secret detentions.

Bush’s alleged plan for global hit teams also has similarities to “Operation Condor” in which South American right-wing military regimes in the 1970s sent assassins on cross-border operations to eliminate “subversives.”

Despite quiet support and encouragement for Latin American “death squads” through much of the 1970s and 1980s, the U.S. government presented itself as the standard-bearer for human rights and criticized American adversaries that engaged in extrajudicial killings, torture and arbitrary detentions.

... The lack of high-level accountability appears to stem from the fact that the key instigators of both the illegal invasion of Iraq and the harsh tactics employed in the “global war on terror” were former President Bush, ex-Vice President Dick Cheney and other senior officials. President Barack Obama has made clear he doesn’t want Bush and his top aides punished.

Yet, not only did Bush order an aggressive war – what World War II’s Nuremberg Tribunal called “the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole” – but Bush pumped U.S. troops full of false propaganda by linking Iraq with the 9/11 attacks.

Bush’s subliminal connections between the Iraq War and 9/11 continued years after U.S. intelligence dismissed any linkage. For instance, on June 18, 2005, more than two years into the Iraq War, Bush justified the invasion by telling the American people that “we went to war because we were attacked” on 9/11.

Little wonder that a poll of 944 U.S. military personnel in Iraq – taken in January and February 2006 – found that 85 percent believed the U.S. mission in Iraq was mainly “to retaliate for Saddam’s role in the 9/11 attacks.” Seventy-seven percent said a chief war goal was “to stop Saddam from protecting al-Qaeda in Iraq.”

Bush’s rhetorical excesses had the predictable effect of turning loose a revenge-seeking and heavily armed U.S. military force on the Iraqi population.

and so it goes,

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