July 03, 2005

Death Squads

El Salvador, here we come:
British and American aid intended for Iraq's hard-pressed police service is being diverted to paramilitary commando units accused of widespread human rights abuses, including torture and extra-judicial killings, The Observer can reveal. Iraqi Police Service officers said that ammunition, weapons and vehicles earmarked for the IPS are being taken by shock troops at the forefront of Iraq's new dirty counter-insurgency war.
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".

Update: Ah, here we go.
-- Brad Plumer 4:21 PM || ||