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Echoes of El Salvador in US-Approved Death Squads

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PATRICK COCKBURN
Counterpunch
Oct 26, 2010

The Iraqi documents released by Wikileaks produce significantly more detail on US actions in the war in Iraq. The Pentagon will huff and puff with rage as it did over the Wikileaks release of US military documents about Afghanistan, when it took the contradictory position that there was little new in what has been leaked, but important sources of intelligence had somehow still been compromised.

The leaks are important because they prove much of what was previously only suspected but never admitted by the US army or explained in detail. It was obvious from 2004 that US forces almost always ignored cases of torture by Iraqi government forces, but this is now shown to have been official policy. Of particular interest to Iraqis, when Wikileaks releases the rest of its hoard of documents, will be to see if there is any sign of how far US forces were involved in death squad activities from 2004.

From the summer of 2004 Iraq slipped into a sectarian civil war of great ferocity as al-Qa’ida launched attacks on the Shia who increasingly dominated the government. From late in 2004 Interior Ministry troops trained by the Americans were taking part in savage raids on Sunni or suspected Baathist districts. People prominent in Saddam Hussein’s regime were arrested and disappeared for few days until their tortured bodies were dumped beside the roads.

Iraqi leaders whispered that the Americans were involved in the training of what were in fact death squads in official guise. It was said that US actions were modelled on counter-insurgency methods pioneered in El Salvador by US-trained Salvadoran government units.

It was no secret that torture of prisoners had become the norm in Iraqi government prisons as it established its own security services from 2004. Men who were clearly the victims of torture were often put on television where they would confess to murder, torture and rape. But after a time it was noticed that many of those whom they claimed to have killed were still alive.

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This article was posted: Tuesday, October 26, 2010 at 9:38 am





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