An American Export: Terrorism

by lizard

American foreign policy continues to include the use of terrorism as a tactic to achieve its objectives on the global stage.

The dirty wars fought in latin America during the 70’s and 80’s—wars that put presidents in jail for their role—are being currently tried in a court in Argentina:

A Buenos Aires courthouse heard charges against 25 defendants accused of human rights abuses during the operation, which saw brutal dictatorships in the Southern Cone collude to kill an estimated 80,000 people in the 1970s and 1980s.

Among them were Jorge Videla, 87, and Reynaldo Bignone, 85, former de facto presidents during Argentina’s 1976-1983 military rule.

They are already serving life sentences for their role in the regime’s Dirty War against subversion.

America’s role in these wars is no secret. Operation Condor, for example, provided latin American death squads with weapons and US training, which they then used to terrorize civilian populations in order to suppress leftist movements from spreading.

American leaders who perpetuated these campaigns of terror were never held accountable, so instead of facing prison sentences for the evil utilized during this time period, the use of terrorism has become an established method of counter-insurgency.

Thanks in large part to Bradley Manning and wikileaks, the Guardian has exposed how one man—James Steele—was allowed to take his experiences in latin America to Iraq, where he trained Shia militias and helped them establish torture centers to fight the Sunni insurgency:

The Pentagon sent a US veteran of the “dirty wars” in Central America to oversee sectarian police commando units in Iraq that set up secret detention and torture centres to get information from insurgents. These units conducted some of the worst acts of torture during the US occupation and accelerated the country’s descent into full-scale civil war.

Colonel James Steele was a 58-year-old retired special forces veteran when he was nominated by Donald Rumsfeld to help organise the paramilitaries in an attempt to quell a Sunni insurgency, an investigation by the Guardian and BBC Arabic shows.

After the Pentagon lifted a ban on Shia militias joining the security forces, the special police commando (SPC) membership was increasingly drawn from violent Shia groups such as the Badr brigades.

A second special adviser, retired Colonel James H Coffman, worked alongside Steele in detention centres that were set up with millions of dollars of US funding.

Coffman reported directly to General David Petraeus, sent to Iraq in June 2004 to organise and train the new Iraqi security forces. Steele, who was in Iraq from 2003 to 2005, and returned to the country in 2006, reported directly to Rumsfeld.

The allegations, made by US and Iraqi witnesses in the Guardian/BBC documentary, implicate US advisers for the first time in the human rights abuses committed by the commandos. It is also the first time that Petraeus – who last November was forced to resign as director of the CIA after a sex scandal – has been linked through an adviser to this abuse.

There is an hour long video that goes into much greater detail, and it’s something everyone should take the time to watch.

Failure to understand how America has used terrorism in the past ensures it will continue to happen. And it does continue to happen.

In Syria, instead of empowering the Assad regime to kill its own people, American policy has been investing in the insurgency. It doesn’t seem to matter that the Syrian insurgency includes foreign jihadists who have no qualms about killing civilians in suicide bomb attacks. To get rid of Assad, the ends justify the means, and the means is supporting insurgent terrorism to destabilize the state.

One of the big challenges for the US has been establishing credible opposition leaders, but it appears they now have their man—Ghassan Hitto:

Ghassan Hitto, who was has been elected by Syria’s National Coalition to serve as the first prime minister of the country’s opposition, is a business executive who has lived in the US for decades.

Hitto’s election took place on March 18 in Turkey, which has been instrumental in backing Syria’s armed opposition.

Until last year, Hitto was a senior IT executive at a technology communications firm in Texas, with a role in local civic life, but largely focused on his job of more than a decade.

He has worked for high-tech and telecommunications companies for 25 years, 16 of which he spent in executive management roles.

But in November he abruptly quit his job “to join the ranks of the Syrian revolution”.

Not surprisingly, Hitto’s “election” has not unified the disparate factions of the Syrian opposition:

A dozen members of the Syrian opposition have frozen their membership of the rebel council that earlier this week picked Ghassan Hitto, a Syrian-born naturalized American, as an interim prime minister for rebel-held territory in the country.

The walkout underscores the monumental task facing the 50-year-old former IT executive in trying to unite the fractious rebels who for two years have battled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a civil war that has become more desperate and brutal with each passing day.

As the war in Syria rages on, the red line Obama established may have been crossed:

With the United Nations preparing to investigate claims of a chemical weapons attack in northern Syria this week, the question of whether chemical weapons were used overshadows the lingering nuance of who may have used them.

It’s not a small distinction. President Barack Obama has long said that Syrian government deployment of its substantial stores of chemical agents, including the nerve gases Sarin and VX, would cross a “red line,” and possibly lead to military measures. The administration has also warned that failing to secure the chemicals, and letting them fall into the hands of rebels or other non-state fighters in the two-year civil war, may also prompt an American response.

It doesn’t appear to matter which side may have used chemical agents; either way, the US can now claim the need to secure the chemical weapons.

To make America’s exporting of terrorism palatable to Americans, imposing regime change on Syria, like Libya, is framed as a humanitarian intervention. Anyone who believes that is being suckered by western propaganda.

America’s foreign policy is never about protecting civilians. It’s about power projection and resource competition. And when it comes to achieving its objectives, the ends always justify the means.

  1. Bravo. I commend everyone with the courage to write of such things, for so few really want to hear truth. You packed a lot of info in this one. I’m sure you’ve heard of the term blowback, coined by the CIA. We are just beginning to see the effects from our country’s exploitation. We are in a position to be a beacon in the face of great darkness, but if we continue on this path we will be nothing more to the rest of the world than a den of thieves. Good write.

  2. In addition to “power projection and resource competition” there is the small matter of vast networks of self-serving contractors, bureaucrats and politicians dependent on “defense”/military appropriations for everything from weapons systems to surveilance programs to posturing for votes and campaign funds.

    I believe, given the outcome in Iraq re: oil reserves going to China and other non-NATO bidders, the independent utility of U.S. weapons production and global distribution of related capital, hardware, personnel, and information is difficult to overstate.

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