Sunday, July 03, 2005

U.S. AND BRITISH FUNDING for the Iraqi police is being diverted to paramilitary death squads and torturers. Brad Plumer says, look on the bright side: This is helping us get out of Iraq sooner.

Seems that the paramilitary units are being trained well: networks of secret detention centers, torture, extra-legal executions, the works. I don't know if this stuff is "effective" or not, but I guess we can't have it both ways. If people really want the U.S. out of Iraq, and fast, then we're stuck with ramping up the "Salvadoran" option here. Draw down the troops, keep a few hundred Special Forces trainers behind to bolster these nascent Iraqi death squads, likely composed of Shiites and Kurds, and then sit back and watch the dirty war against the Sunni insurgents (and civilians caught in the crossfire) unfold. Of course, it seems like we'll get death squads whether or not we have 135,000 troops in Iraq, so maybe we should just start withdrawing now.

The key thing to note about El Salvador, I guess, is that technically the strategy worked—after a certain point, political violence did decrease each year and the human rights abuses eventually waned. It just came at a horrific cost ("We have to pop their eyes out with a spoon," etc.) There are also a few differences between the two countries: the Salvadoran insurgents lost a good deal of support after the Berlin wall came tumbling down, and the U.S. military had been in the country for over a decade. Plus the whole "ethnic conflict" bit makes Iraq a bit trickier. Still, I guess you could make the case that we could draw down sooner rather than later, and the country wouldn't fall apart, provided the new government was sufficiently brutal, and we offered the right sort of "support."

And what a coincidence. Alberto Gonzales made a surprise visit to Iraq today; but he was too polite to talk about torture or extrajudicial executions.

"US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales made a heavily guarded surprise visit to Iraq today, praising the Government's commitment to democracy in the face of sustained deadly attacks by insurgents.

Gonzales, on his first trip to Iraq, said he chose the weekend of the US Independence Day holiday to show support for US troops and Iraq's nascent Government.

"We are doing a lot to promote democracy and the rule of law," Gonzales said aboard an Air Force plane enroute to the Middle East.

Gonzales was meeting with US soldiers, Justice Department officials working in Iraq and his counterparts in the Iraqi Government.

The trip was a closely guarded secret, even at the Justice Department. A handful of senior department officials accompanied Gonzales.

More than 400 Justice Department employees and contractors are working to train Iraqi judges, prosecutors, police and prison guards. A separate unit is working with the Iraqi Tribunal preparing to try Saddam Hussein and other former Iraqi officials.

Yes, indeed. We're quite the experts on that kind of training.

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