John Pilger on Iraq: the Salvador Option


Richard Moore

     "The American public is being prepared. If the attack on Iran
     does come, there will be no warning, no declaration of war,
     no truth."


John Pilger detects the Salvador Option

John Pilger
Monday 8th May 2006

The lifts in the New York Hilton played CNN on a small screen you 
could not avoid watching. Iraq was top of the news; pronouncements 
about a "civil war" and "sectarian violence" were repeated 
incessantly. It was as if the US invasion had never happened and the 
killing of tens of thousands of civilians by the Americans was a 
surreal fiction. The Iraqis were mindless Arabs, haunted by religion, 
ethnic strife and the need to blow themselves up. Unctuous puppet 
politicians were paraded with no hint that their exercise yard was 
inside an American fortress.

And when you left the lift, this followed you to your room, to the 
hotel gym, the airport, the next airport and the next country. Such 
is the power of America's corporate propaganda, which, as Edward Said 
pointed out in Culture and Imperialism, "penetrates electronically" 
with its equivalent of a party line.

The party line changed the other day. For almost three years it was 
that al-Qaeda was the driving force behind the "insurgency", led by 
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a bloodthirsty Jordanian who was clearly being 
groomed for the kind of infamy Saddam Hussein enjoys. It mattered not 
that al-Zarqawi had never been seen alive and that only a fraction of 
the "insurgents" followed al-Qaeda. For the Americans, Zarqawi's role 
was to distract attention from the thing that almost all Iraqis 
oppose: the brutal Anglo-American occupation of their country.

Now that al-Zarqawi has been replaced by "sectarian violence" and 
"civil war", the big news is the attacks by Sunnis on Shia mosques 
and bazaars. The real news, which is not reported in the CNN 
"mainstream", is that the Salvador Option has been invoked in Iraq. 
This is the campaign of terror by death squads armed and trained by 
the US, which attack Sunnis and Shias alike. The goal is the 
incitement of a real civil war and the break-up of Iraq, the original 
war aim of Bush's administration. The ministry of the interior in 
Baghdad, which is run by the CIA, directs the principal death squads. 
Their members are not exclusively Shia, as the myth goes. The most 
brutal are the Sunni-led Special Police Commandos, headed by former 
senior officers in Saddam's Ba'ath Party. This unit was formed and 
trained by CIA "counter-insurgency" experts, including veterans of 
the CIA's terror operations in central America in the 1980s, notably 
El Salvador. In his new book, Empire's Workshop (Metropolitan Books), 
the American historian Greg Grandin describes the Salvador Option 
thus: "Once in office, [President] Reagan came down hard on central 
America, in effect letting his administration's most committed 
militarists set and execute policy. In El Salvador, they provided 
more than a million dollars a day to fund a lethal counter-insurgency 
campaign . . . All told, US allies in central America during Reagan's 
two terms killed over 300,000 people, tortured hundreds of thousands 
and drove millions into exile."

Although the Reagan administration spawned the current Bushites, or 
"neo-cons", the pattern was set earlier. In Vietnam, death squads 
trained, armed and directed by the CIA murdered up to 50,000 people 
in Operation Phoenix. In the mid-1960s in Indonesia CIA officers 
compiled "death lists" for General Suharto's killing spree during his 
seizure of power. After the 2003 invasion, it was only a matter of 
time before this venerable "policy" was applied in Iraq.

According to the investigative writer Max Fuller (National Review 
Online), the key CIA manager of the interior ministry death squads 
"cut his teeth in Vietnam before moving on to direct the US military 
mission in El Salvador". Professor Grandin names another central 
America veteran whose job now is to "train a ruthless 
counter-insurgent force made up of ex-Ba'athist thugs". Another, says 
Fuller, is well-known for his "production of death lists". A secret 
militia run by the Americans is the Facilities Protection Service, 
which has been responsible for bombings. "The British and US Special 
Forces," concludes Fuller, "in conjunction with the [US-created] 
intelligence services at the Iraqi defence ministry, are fabricating 
insurgent bombings of Shias."

On 16 March, Reuters reported the arrest of an American "security 
contractor" who was found with weapons and explosives in his car. 
Last year, two Britons disguised as Arabs were caught with a car full 
of weapons and explosives; British forces bulldozed the Basra prison 
to rescue them. The Boston Globe recently reported: "The FBI's 
counter-terrorism unit has launched a broad investigation of US-based 
theft rings after discovering that some of the vehicles used in 
deadly car bombings in Iraq, including attacks that killed US troops 
and Iraqi civilians, were probably stolen

in the United States, according to senior government officials."

As I say, all this has been tried before - just as the preparation of 
the American public for an atrocious attack on Iran is similar to the 
WMD fabrications in Iraq. If that attack comes, there will be no 
warning, no declaration of war, no truth. Imprisoned in the Hilton 
lift, staring at CNN, my fellow passengers could be excused for not 
making sense of the Middle East, or Latin America, or anywhere. They 
are isolated. Nothing is explained. Congress is silent. The Democrats 
are moribund. And the freest media on earth insult the public every 
day. As Voltaire put it: "Those who can make you believe absurdities 
can make you commit atrocities."

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