The Buzz on this has been increasing in the past few days. Here's an item from Kevin Drum:
It looks like everyone is now reporting that Iraq's security forces have been heavily infiltrated by Shiite "death squads" that are carrying out hundreds of executions in predominantly Sunni neighborhoods. The New York Times version of this story is here. A longer and more detailed Los Angeles Times story is here. Here's an excerpt from the LAT story by Solomon Moore:
An Aug. 18 police operations report addressed to Interior Minister Bayan Jabr, who has ties to the [Shiite] Badr militia, listed the names of 14 Sunni Arab men arrested during a predawn sweep in the Baghdad neighborhood of Iskaan.
Six weeks later, their bodies were discovered near the Iranian border, badly decomposed. All of the corpses showed signs of torture, and each still wore handcuffs and had been shot three times in the back of the head, Baghdad morgue officials said.
A Western diplomat in Baghdad who spoke on condition of anonymity said that "we hear repeated stories" of police raids on houses and indiscriminate arrests of Iraqi civilians — many of them Sunni Arab Muslims.
"And they disappear, but the bodies show up maybe two or three governorates away," the diplomat said.
As you may recall, Knight Ridder's Tom Lasseter reported the same thing over a month ago, suggesting that crack units within the Iraqi army have essentially become Shiite militias that take orders from local Shiite clerics. In other words, "infiltrated" probably isn't really the right word. It's been the plan all along.
And here's a bit from War and Piece:
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. Eventually the insurgency was quelled, and many U.S. conservatives consider the policy to have been a success—despite the deaths of innocent civilians and the subsequent Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages scandal. (Among the current administration officials who dealt with Central America back then is John Negroponte, who is today the U.S. ambassador to Iraq. Under Reagan, he was ambassador to Honduras. There is no evidence, however, that Negroponte knew anything about the Salvadoran death squads or the Iran-Contra scandal at the time. The Iraq ambassador, in a phone call to NEWSWEEK on Jan. 10, said he was not involved in military strategy in Iraq. He called the insertion of his name into this report "utterly gratuitous.")
Following that model, one Pentagon proposal would send Special Forces teams to advise, support and possibly train Iraqi squads, most likely hand-picked Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and Shiite militiamen, to target Sunni insurgents and their sympathizers, even across the border into Syria, according to military insiders familiar with the discussions. It remains unclear, however, whether this would be a policy of assassination or so-called "snatch" operations, in which the targets are sent to secret facilities for interrogation. The current thinking is that while U.S. Special Forces would lead operations in, say, Syria, activities inside Iraq itself would be carried out by Iraqi paramilitaries, officials tell NEWSWEEK.
Also being debated is which agency within the U.S. government—the Defense department or CIA—would take responsibility for such an operation. Rumsfeld’s Pentagon has aggressively sought to build up its own intelligence-gathering and clandestine capability with an operation run by Defense Undersecretary Stephen Cambone. But since the Abu Ghraib interrogations scandal, some military officials are ultra-wary of any operations that could run afoul of the ethics codified in the Uniform Code of Military Justice. That, they argue, is the reason why such covert operations have always been run by the CIA and authorized by a special presidential finding. ...
So the US is no hapless bystander to the Shiite death squads we are seeing, but they are the product of deliberate Pentagon policy? Is Cambone going to be hauled before Congress or what? Talk about missing the black helicopter crowd. One cannot but long for justice for these guys. Could some forward looking European nation please arrest them next time they stop over, just to give them a scare? A little Pinochet-like unpleasant episode, if not a full fledged trial? Doesn't this country deserve to know what is being done in our name? If these guys believe in what they're doing, if they believe it's in the interest of US national security, why don't they have the courage to admit it openly? Why are they trying to organize Shiite death squads in secret? Because it would be bad for the US to be seen to be behind this policy? Or they are concerned about their own legal vulnerability?
Alas, this is not particularly surprising. In fact, it was in the news almost a year ago. I noted the reports on it almost a year ago on my old blog.
Every day, I think that we've reach the utter nadir of the depravity that this administration is willing to engage in, and yet every day, another story emerges demonstrating that, no matter how bad I think Bush and friends are, it turns out that they're worse.