Mercifully, the first thing may not even be real news. Newsweek reports the Pentagon considering sponsoring death squads in Iraq.
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. Eventually the insurgency was quelled, and many U.S. conservatives consider the policy to have been a success --- despite the deaths of innocent civilians ...David Adesnik at OxBlog argues convincingly and at length that the Newsweek story misunderstands the El Salvador story and is fishy all around. Gregory Djerejian agrees that the story is almost certainly bogus ... but there's something in there that still makes me queasy. He quotes Rumsfeld's lame denials of the story and looks at them closely.
Read Rumsfeld's jocular musings above again. It's the same breezy, press-baiting, cocksure crapola. He could have shot down the story --- decisively --- with purpose and gravitas. Instead, in the course of a single minute or so, he manages to do the following: 1) tell the assorted press corps he hasn't even read the Newsweek article ... 2) ... his denials are not as firm and authoritative as, say, those that would have been forthcoming from real pros like Frank Carlucci or Cap Weinberger; and 3) by stating that the "Pentagon doesn't do things like are described in the reporting on the story [emphasis added]" he likely keeps the story alive by causing people to wonder if the CIA is spearheading the effort instead (from the Newsweek article: "Also being debated is which agency within the U.S. government --- the Defense department or CIA --- would take responsibility for such an operation.").
Djerejian calls this a sign of Rumsfeld's incompetence, which is true.
But it also reminds me of something from Christopher Hitchens' overheated anti-Clinton tract Nobody Left to Lie To. Hitchens observed how telling it was that, in the face of the endless "scandals" manufactured by the VRWC, when there was sex in the mix the Clinton folks always responded as if the allegations might be true. (That there was a VRWC manufacturing bogus scandals on a frequent and regular basis is a problem that HItch does not address, but that's a topic for another day.) In a similar way, I read Rumsfeld as hedging when he speaks in Djerejian's quote. Death squads? I would know if we were talking about that. But it does sound plausible, so I don't want to say anything that will put me in trouble if it turns out to be true after all.
Which is itself an indictment, of a lesser sort. Mark A. R. Kleiman reminds us why.
Death squad activity is terrorism. Its purpose is never merely the assassination or kidnapping of a small number of leaders, but always the cowing of entire populations.Death squads sponsored by the US should never be a plausible story.
This case is no different. Note the language carefully ...
Meanwhile, as we hear more and more about American practice of torture, it becomes clear that it reflects a systemic problem in our military thinking. As Digby describes ...
They [Rumsfeld et al] decided that they would guage success or failure --- certainly they would report to the White House success or failure --- based upon the sheer numbers of raids, arrests, interrogations, reports, confessions and breakdowns achieved, regardless of whether any of it resulted in good intel or enhanced security anywhere.... and he goes on to point out how counterproductive this is ...
This was the only metric they could conceive of and in order to get those numbers up they had to detain large numbers of innocent people and torture them for false information to fill the endless reports of success on the ground in Afghanistan, Gitmo and Iraq. They could hoist up a huge pile of paper in a meeting with their president and say, "look at how much intelligence we're getting. We're really getting somewhere"
Since we kidnapped these innocent men and threw them into a hellish gulag they have, unsurprisingly, become radicalized.... and then lays down the mighty rant.
Yes, they hate us. The ones who have been locked up and the ones who haven't. And it's you and me and your kids who they hate now, not just the leadership or the troops. They hate us personally. And they hate us because we don't seem too worked up about this disgusting breach of human rights. In fact, a majority apparently think it's just dandy, including the most powerful leaders in the land who continue to support the war criminals who concieved this disasterous blunder, even this week elevating one of them to the highest law enforcement office in the land.
So let's have another lecture on morality and values. I really need to hear one. Let's hear some more talk about how liberals are leading this country down the path to perdition with our lack of restraint and our inability to draw lines between right and wrong and good and evil. I need to bask in the glow of republican righteousness and beg for forgiveness for sinfully indulging gays in their quest to form families and cleanse myself of the shame of forgiving a man for committing adultery. God help me, I need some moral clarity and I need it damned quickly because I'm really wondering just who in the hell is evil in this war on terror and who isn't. It's getting hard to tell the difference here. It's getting really hard.In a world where I'm posting links to Djerejian's roundup of the latest informartion about American torture, that's a rant well-deserved.
If you only follow one of my links from this post, make it the Digby one; you should really see the cartoon.