Posted at Le Big Orange, already off the recommended list and gone…

AP News is carrying a story (here on Yahoo): Iraq Death Squad Claims Being Investigated

BAGHDAD, Iraq –     Iraq’s Interior Ministry has launched an investigation into claims that a police death squad has been operating in the country, a top official said Thursday…

The bodies of Sunni Arabs, bound and gagged and shot in the head, have been turning up in Baghdad for months, fueling allegations of sectarian killings, which Sunni Arab leaders say are often carried out by Shiites in army or police uniforms…

“Since a very long time, we have been talking about such violations and we have been telling the Interior Ministry officials that there are squads that raid houses and arrest people who are found later executed in different parts of the capital,” said party member Nasser al-Ani…”

But not 13 months ago there were stories saying that Americans were planning a “Salvador Option” (The Pentagon may put Special-Forces-led assassination or kidnapping teams in Iraq)

And now this. I’m shocked — shocked! — that this could be happening. (HINT: not)

Nuns pray over the bodies of four American sisters killed by the military in El Salvador in 1980

From last year’s Newsweek article on “The Salvador Option”

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

Now, NEWSWEEK has learned, the Pentagon is intensively debating an option that dates back to a still-secret strategy in the Reagan administration’s battle against the leftist guerrilla insurgency in El Salvador in the early 1980s. Then, faced with a losing war against Salvadoran rebels, the U.S. government funded or supported “nationalist” forces that allegedly included so-called death squads directed to hunt down and kill rebel leaders and sympathizers…

That’s from the commies over at Newsweek. Of course they deny Negroponte knew anything about death squads.

Alternet reported it a little differently: The Death Squad Option

And during the recent Vice Presidential debates, Vice President Dick Cheney stated, “Twenty years ago we had a similar situation in El Salvador. We had a guerilla insurgency that controlled roughly a third of the country, 75,000 people dead. And we held free elections … And today El Salvador is a whale of a lot better because we held free elections.” According to a 1993 U.N.-sponsored truth commission, however, up to “90 percent of the atrocities in the conflict “were committed by the U.S.-sponsored army and its surrogates, “with the rebels responsible for 5 percent and the remaining 5 percent undetermined.” These death squads “abducted members of the civilian population and of rebel groups. They tortured their hostages, were responsible for their disappearance and usually executed them.”

John Negroponte, the current U.S. ambassador in Baghdad, is no stranger to death squads. In the 1980s, Negroponte served as the U.S. ambassador to Honduras. At the time, he was cozy with the chief of the Honduran national police force, Gen. Gustavo Alvarez Martinez, who also ran the infamous Battalion 316 death squad. Battalion 316 “kidnapped, tortured and murdered more than 100 people between 1981 and 1984.” According to Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, “Negroponte publicly adopted a see-no-evil attitude to this army death squad.”

President Bush also appointed neocon Elliot Abrams to be his senior adviser on the Middle East. Abrams was also a staunch supporter of the Salvador Option in the 1980s: when newspapers “reported that a U.S.-trained military unit had massacred hundreds of villagers in the tiny Salvadoran hamlet of El Mozote, Abrams told Congress the story was nothing but communist propaganda.” When confronted with the United Nations report that the vast majority of “atrocities in El Salvador’s civil war were committed by Reagan-assisted death squads,” Abrams’s response: “The administration’s record on El Salvador is one of fabulous achievements.” Abrams was convicted of lying to Congress about Iran-Contra in 1987 – he was pardoned by George H.W. Bush in 1992.

From The Nation

“El Salvador: Work of Thirty Photographers” takes on new meaning in the shadow of the US war in Iraq. Newsweek reported in January that the Pentagon was considering a “Salvador option” in Iraq, in which Special Forces teams “would advise, support and possibly train Iraqi squads…to target Sunni insurgents and their sympathizers.” The US public has largely forgotten the Salvador conflict, but it appears that the Pentagon has not.

Etienne Montes, National Policeman using ice-cream vendor as a shield during skirmish with demonstrators, San Salvador, 1979-83

Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business.

 — Michael Ledeen, holder of the Freedom Chair at the American Enterprise Institute (one of the much promoted and rewarded Iran-contra types!)

So let’s not let it go down the memory hole now that death squads are turning up in Baghdad doing exactly what the leaked Pentagon plans had them doing, and just by coincidence the administration is peppered with veterans of America’s dirty wars in Latin America. If it walks like a duck…

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