By any standard, the ongoing American occupation of
The same is true of
And yet, it now appears as if the
According to press accounts, the Pentagon is considering the organisation, training and equipping of so-called death squads, teams of Iraqi assassins who would be used to infiltrate and eliminate the leadership of the Iraqi resistance.
Called the Salvador Option, in reference to similar US-backed death squads that terrorised the population of
Perhaps it is a sign of the desperation felt inside the Pentagon, or an underscoring of the ideological perversity of those in charge, that the
The Salvador Option would not be the first embrace of assassination as a tool of occupation undertaken by the
In the months following Paul Bremer’s taking over of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in June 2003, the streets of
Among the more effective and brutal of these units were those drawn from the Badr Brigade, the armed militia of the Shia political party known as the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in
Although not publicly acknowledged, the role played by the various anti-Saddam militias in confronting the residual elements of Saddam’s former ruling Baath Party offered a glimpse into what was, and is, an unspoken element of the
SCIRI’s efforts to exterminate Baath Party remnants still loyal to Saddam Hussein, or who stand accused of committing crimes against SCIRI or its sympathisers, attracted the attention of the “black” side of the CPA-run de-Baathification efforts – covert operations run by the CIA and elite Special Operations units of the
Of all the various players in this deadly game, the Badr militia stood out as the most willing and able to take the fight to the Baathist holdouts.
Tipped off by the CPA’s covert operatives, the Badr assassination squads killed dozens of Baathists in and around
But the assassination of former Baathists did nothing to pacify
The ongoing resistance to the American occupation of
While the Americans and their SCIRI allies focused on bringing to heel former Baathists, the resistance morphed into a genuine grassroots national liberation movement where strategic planning may very well be the product of former Baathists, but the day-to-day tactical decisions are more likely to be made by tribal shaikhs and local clerics.
The increasing success of the resistance was attributed in part to the failure of the CPA-ordered de-Baathification policy. In an effort to reverse this trend, Bremer rescinded his de-Baathification programme, and ordered the Badr assassination squads to stand down.
This change of policy direction could not change the reality on the ground in
The Sunni-based resistance, having been targeted by the Badr assassins, struck back with a vengeance.
In a campaign of targeted assassinations using car bombs and ambushes, the resistance has engaged in its own campaign of terror against the Shia, viewed by the Sunni fighters as being little more than collaborators of the American occupation.
Having started the game of politically motivated assassination, the
The Salvador Option fails on a number of levels. First and foremost is the moral and ethical one.
While it is difficult at times to understand and comprehend, let alone justify, the tactics used by the Iraqi resistance, history has shown that the tools of remote ambush, instead of a direct assassination, have always been used by freedom fighters when confronting an illegitimate foreign occupier who possesses overwhelming conventional military superiority.
As such, history celebrates the resistance of the French and the Russians when occupied by the Germans during the second world war, the Chinese resistance to Japanese occupation during that same time, or even the decades-long national liberation movement in Vietnam which defeated not only the French and the Americans, but also the illegitimate government these two occupiers attempted to impose on the people of South Vietnam.
History, on the other hand, treats harshly the occupying power which resorts to the use of the tools of terror to subdue an occupied people. Thus, while it is fine for a French resistance fighter to blow up a German troop train, it is not acceptable for the Germans to burn a French village in retaliation.
History will eventually depict as legitimate the efforts of the Iraqi resistance to destabilise and defeat the American occupation forces and their imposed Iraqi collaborationist government.
And history will condemn the immorality of the American occupation, which has debased the values and ideals of the American people by legitimising torture, rape and murder as a means of furthering an illegal war of aggression.
Ethics aside, the Salvador Option will fail simply because it cannot succeed. In an effort to confront a Sunni-based resistance, the Pentagon proposes that special assassination squads be recruited from the ranks of “loyal” Kurds and Shia.
In the 30 years of Saddam’s rule, the Baathist government and its security organs were very successful in infiltrating the ranks of Kurdish and Shia opposition movements.
The Shia and Kurds, on the other hand, have no history of being able to do the same to the Sunni. If anything has emerged as the undisputable truth in post-invasion
If implemented, the Salvador Option will serve as the impetus for all-out civil war. In the same manner that the CPA-backed assassination of Baathists prompted the restructuring and strengthening of the Sunni-led resistance, any effort by US-backed Kurdish and Shia assassination teams to target Sunni resistance leaders will remove all impediments for a general outbreak of ethnic and religious warfare in Iraq.
It is hard as an American to support the failure of American military operations in
As an American, I have hoped that there was a way for
Faced with our inability to come to grips with a popular-based resistance that has grown exponentially over the past year, the best the American policy planners can come up with is to embrace our own form of terrorism, supporting death squads we cannot control and which will only further debase the moral foundation of our nation while slaughtering even more Iraqis.
As an American, I hope and pray that common sense and basic morality prevail in
Scott Ritter was a senior UN arms inspector in