Revelations of Iraqi torture centers continue. As John Burns reports, the Wolf Brigade of Shiite commandos have hung Sunnis from roof hooks, extracted their fingernails, applied electric shocks to their genitals and burned their bodies with lighted cigarettes. This has outraged American military officers and the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad. So we are told this morning on the front page of The New York Times.
How does that outrage square with the idea, posted here last week, of a “coming genocide of the Sunnis” to be conducted by “proxies for a U.S. regime secretly bent on mass murder”? Note this from the Washington Post on Monday: “Shiite political leaders say the U.S. military frequently visits the facilities and suggest that American authorities would know about any abuse.”
Well of course they knew, and of course they’re outraged. The principle job for the U.S. regime now is to create the appearance of non-involvement and even a show of resistance, especially with Iraqi elections coming up tomorrow.
But it’s theater — and the 11 o’clock number is “Khalilzad’s mission in Iraq,” which Jon Lee Anderson details in a lengthy profile in this week’s issue of The New Yorker. Too bad the article, “American Viceroy,” is not online. [It’s posted now, as of 12/19. — JH] Khalilzad is shown to be a master theatrician, a role player of consummate skill, and a backroom dealer par excellence.
Not to mention:
(1) he was central to shaping the original neocon policy of pre-emptive war;
(2) he is a disciple of Albert Wohlstetter, the University of Chicago military strategist who argued for U.S. world hegemony and paved Khalilzad’s way to Washington, and who, not incidentally, introduced arch-neocon Richard Perle (chairman of Rummy’s Defense Policy Board from 2001 to 2003) to arch-operator Ahmad Chalabi (responsible for steering the U.S. to the bogus WMD intelligence);
(3) he is an intimate of Condi, Wolfie and Cheney, and — not least — is credited with putting things in order in Afghanistan (except for minor details like guessing wrong about the Taliban).
The guy’s a piece of work.
Khalilzad called a news conference to denounce the torture centers and, as Burns reports, send a message that “the Americans, so long seen as patrons of the Shiites and Kurds … are determined to protect Sunni interests, too.” They will believe it at their peril.
Come back later. We’ll be adding more to this item.
— Tireless Staff of Thousands
Postscript One: The first rule of duplicity … misdirection.
How come Kahlilzad, himself a Muslim, didn’t exercise his outrage earlier? “For months,” Anderson writes, “there had been reports that newly formed interior-ministry brigades were carrying out death-squad-style operations in and around Baghdad.”
Commanding a paramilitary bureaucracy of 5,000 employees and contractors at the U.S. Embassy, Khalilzad is at “the true locus of power in Iraq,” we’re told. When a Sunni politician came to his office in the Green Zone and told him the Shiite militias “were a greater problem than the insurgency, Anderson describes how “Khalilzad raised his eyebrows with interest … acknowledged that militias were a problem.” But, hélas, he had another, more “immediate concern” (terrorists from Syria, who are actually a small fraction of the insurgents according to the U.S. military’s own estimate).
Uh, did we say Kahlilzad’s show of outrage was a well-planned, previously rehearsed piece of misdirection? When U.S. soldiers found the torture centers, “it was clear he had been prepared for the discovery and that he had worked out the steps of his response in advance,” Anderson writes. “The story looked like a disaster for the Bush Administration. … But Khalilzad wasn’t unduly concerned; instead he tried to spin the discovery as a good thing, because it would send a mesage to the Sunni community that the Americans were intervening on their behalf.”
Mirabile dictu. Just what Burns reported today, almost verbatim. (Anderson’s piece appeared on Monday.) Is it too obvious to point out, again, that the American military’s concern — and Kahlilzad’s outrage — came a tad late? “Zal makes it look like his suggestions are in the Iraqi interest,” Anderson quotes an Iraqi consultant to a senior politician. “All the major players like him,” and he “knows how to play his Muslim card.”
He’s also “very good about getting on the phone and threatening people,” according to an international official who recalled watching Kahlilzad play the “bad cop” in a good cop-bad cop negotiation. “He was comfortable with that kind of use of power.”
Postscript Two: The second rule of duplicity … see nothing.
The Wolf Brigade “was armed and financed under an $11 billion American program to develop new Iraqi security forces,” Burns reports. (Gee, why does this seem like Central America?)
The ambassador’s statement that the American command had decided to embed officers with Interior Ministry units [for oversight] suggested that the practice of having American officers attached to commando units like the Wolf Brigade, common when they were established over the last year, had fallen away as the buildup of Iraqi forces accelerated.
Uh-huh. It just happened to fall away. Sargent Schultz wasn’t around at all. I seeez nutzing!!!
Burns spills the beans (and good for him) at the end of his report. According to Sunni critics:
[U]niformed American officers and other Americans in plainclothes are an obtrusive presence in the Adnan Palace, the high-domed edifice in the Green Zone that was once a retreat for Saddam Hussein, and where most top Interior Ministry officials, including Mr. Jabr, the minister, now work.
General Thabit, founder of the Wolf Brigade, has an office along a corridor from Mr. Jabr’s, and American officers shuttle back and forth on the floor.
The Shias have got the training, equipment and funding they need. It looks like this is the first stage of a coming genocide. Now it’s time for an American “withdrawal” so the U.S. regime can claim innocence.
Postscript Three: The top story on the front page of The New York Times, “G.I.’s to Increase U.S. Supervision of Iraqi Police” (dateline Baghdad, Dec. 29, 2005), addresses the issues we have been discussing. “Here’s an excerpt,” William Osborne notes, “with the usual double talk”:
The increase is seen as a way to exert firmer control over the commando units, which are suspected of carrying out widespread atrocities against civilians in Sunni Arab neighborhoods. Human rights groups here say the units may be guilty of murdering and torturing hundreds, and possibly thousands, of Sunni Arab men of military age.
The conduct of the commandos has become a source of intense friction between the Shiite-led Iraqi government and American officials, who say the reports of the atrocities are jeopardizing the campaign to persuade Sunnis
to stop supporting the insurgency.
The plan to increase the number of American advisers is a significant departure from the overall American strategy of giving the Iraqis the lead role in fighting the insurgency. Indeed, the allegations of atrocities arose only after Americans began to give the Iraqi units more freedom to act on their own.
Even as he talked about the increase in advisers, the officer confirmed details of a shift to fewer American troops covering more Iraqi ground.
“In other words, the article presents talk of more U.S. supervision when, actually, general American participation is being reduced. Is this not what I have described — setting up a potential genocide while distancing ourselves and covering our tracks? It worked against the Mayans in Central America, and it will probably work in Iraq.”
See this from Der Spiegel Online:
In the history of Guatemala’s bloody 36 years of civil war from 1960 to 1996, the early 80s stand out as a period of particular viciousness. In what became known as “The Silent Holocaust,” the Guatemalan army methodically worked its way through the country’s Mayan communities, killing men, women and children. A total of 200,000 people died during the war, many thousands of them Mayan victims of genocide.