Intel supremo: Iraq worse than Nam

One question that needs to be asked, is how much of the Iraqi bloodbath is due to the “Salvador option” strategem that Newsweek claimed Negroponte wanted to employ to quell the Sunni insurgency, using Shia militias. From AP, Dec. 1:

Spy Chief Cites Perils in Iraq
National Intelligence Director John Negroponte says Iraq is far more precarious than much of Vietnam was when he served as a U.S. diplomat there in the 1960s.

An expert on Vietnam and one-time adviser to former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Negroponte said he sees more differences than similarities between the two conflicts. In Vietnam, for example, there was a clear enemy, given Soviet support of the North Vietnamese.

Additionally, “in Vietnam, the cities were secure. The province capitals were secure. I walked around that country as an unarmed civilian for almost four years without ever having any serious brushes,” said Negroponte, who served in the U.S. Embassy in Saigon. “In Iraq, even the capital is highly insecure — perhaps one of the most insecure places in the country.”

Negroponte made the remarks in a wide-ranging interview that airs Sunday evening on C-SPAN’s “Q&A” program. A transcript was made available to The Associated Press.

Negroponte took over as the nation’s top intelligence official last year, assuming a post created to unify the 16 intelligence agencies. He indicated in the interview that he wants to stay on through the Bush administration. Many associates have expected Negroponte to return to his diplomatic roots, perhaps serving as deputy secretary of State, a position open since July.

His answer to the question — will he “stay with it for a while?” — didn’t completely close to door to a new assignment. “In my own mind at least, I visualize staying with it through the end of this administration and, then I think, probably that’ll be about the right time to pack it in,” he said.

Negroponte, who also is a former U.S. ambassador to Baghdad, said Iraqis must take more responsibility for their security and defense. The key, he said, is Baghdad, where the violence is greatest. His comments closely tracked the conclusions of an independent group led by former Secretary of State James Baker that is advising the administration as it redraws its Iraq policy.

“This has really got to become more and more of an Iraqi problem, and less and less of a U.S. one,” he said. “I would hope that our forces can take more of a support role and a training role, and fall more into the background rather than being in the lead in the months ahead.”

Negroponte said he wasn’t certain of the impact should an Iraq court follow through with its Nov. 5 sentence to hang former dictator Saddam Hussein for ordering the execution of nearly 150 Shiite Muslims. The sentence triggered an automatic appeal.

“There are a lot of the Iraqis that want some kind of closure in this situation,” Negroponte said. “There are probably also some insurgents, some Sunni extremist insurgents, who are fighting in the belief that — under the illusion that — they may be fighting to bring Mr. Saddam back to power, so it could have the effect of actually discouraging some of the Sunni extremists.”

Negroponte voiced one regret about the nine months he served as ambassador to Iraq: that the United States wasn’t able to convince Sunni politicians to scrap their boycott of the January 2005 elections. “I think that that was a real setback for the political process,” he said.


See our last post on Iraq.

  1. Excerpt: Morales on Negroponte, Iraq and Death squads
    From WW4 Report #108:


    On April 20, 2004, Bush nominated Negroponte as ambassador to Iraq, stating that, “he has done a really good job of speaking for the United States to the world about our intentions to spread freedom and peace.” Calling him “a man of enormous experience and skill” was all that our courageous Senators required in order to vote him in by 95-3 on May 6. He was sworn in on June 23.

    Negroponte’s US Embassy in Baghdad, housed in a palace that once belonged to Saddam Hussein, was and remains the largest embassy in the world, with a “diplomatic staff” of over 3,000. Opting for the kind of diplomacy he’s most familiar with, he immediately “shifted more than a $1 billion to build up the Iraqi Army,” diverting the funds “from reconstruction projects” to military and intelligence projects associated with “what intelligence officials describe as the largest C.I.A. station in the world.” (NYT , March 29, 2005)

    On Jan. 2, 2004, the Washington Post stated that a “major challenge” facing the diplomatic mission “will be sorting out the terms of the US military presence, which is expected to exceed 100,000 troops even after the occupation ends…” An un-named U.S. “official” stated that “we have to determine what command American troops will be under: Will it be part of some kind of multinational force, under the United Nations, under NATO? Or will they be relatively independent in an agreement with the Iraqi government? These are huge questions to be answered in a very short amount of time.” We can rest assured that John Negroponte, the enforcer, made the Iraqi government an offer they couldn’t refuse in favor of the “relatively independent” option.

    Shortly after taking up the position, Negroponte was asked about eyewitness statements that in late June 2004, Iraq’s interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi had, in a gesture of steadfast loyalty, personally executed up to six suspected insurgents in front of his US military bodyguards. While Allawi denies the accusation, Negroponte did not. In an e-mail to the Sydney Morning Herald, July 2004, he stated that “if we attempted to refute each [rumor], we would have no time for other business. As far as this embassy’s press office is concerned, this case is closed.”

    Sydney Morning Herald columnist Alan Ramsey wrote of Negroponte’s arrogant side-stepping. “Of course. One only has to consider Negroponte’s record as US ambassador in Honduras to know he is a loyal servant of Republican Washington who sees and knows nothing… This same man, with an embassy regime of more than 1,000 American foreign service officers, plus American advisers salted throughout Iraqi ministries, as well as 140,000 US military personnel, now has absolute covert power in Iraq. Of course, ‘the case is closed’.”

    By the first weeks of January 2005, Negroponte was said to be overseeing the formation of death squads in Iraq, prompting media reports about a “Salvador option.” MSNBC reported on Jan. 8, 2005 that the Pentagon was “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 US 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…”

    One Pentagon proposal would send Special Forces teams to advise, support and possibly train Iraqi death squads, most likely hand-picked Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and Shiite militiamen, to target Sunni insurgents and their sympathizers–even across the border into Syria, carrying out assassinations or so-called “snatch” operations, in which the targets are sent to secret facilities for interrogation.

    Major General Muhammad Abdallah al-Shahwani, director of Iraq’s National Intelligence Service, was quoted in a Jan. 8, 2005 Newsweek story on the “Salvador Option,” warning that the U.S. occupation has failed to crack the problem of broad support for the insurgency. The insurgents, he said, “are mostly in the Sunni areas where the population there, almost 200,000, is sympathetic to them.” He said most Iraqis do not actively support the insurgents or provide them with material or logistical help, but at the same time they won’t turn them in. One military source suggested that “new offensive operations” are needed that would create a fear of aiding the insurgency. “The Sunni population is paying no price for the support it is giving to the terrorists,” he said. “From their point of view, it is cost-free. We have to change that equation.”

    Threatening everyone in a village with torture and death, if the village is deemed a potential base insurgent operations can be a very effective technique, whether the perpetrators are the Nazi SS in occupied Czechoslovakia, the death squads in El Salvador, or whatever new force is invented in Iraq. This strategy of tactical terror aims to sever an insurgency from it’s potential base of support.

    At least one pro-occupation death squad is already in operation. On Jan. 11, 2004, just days after the Pentagon plans regarding possible “new offensive operations” were revealed, a new militant group, “Saraya Iraqna,” began offering big wads of American cash for insurgent scalps–up to $50,000, the Iraqi paper Al Ittihad reported. “Our activity will not be selective,” the group promised.