Back in May, 2005, I linked a story in ZMag that stated:
According to a report by the Wall Street Journal from February 16, numerous “pop-up militias” thousands strong are proliferating in Iraq. Not only are many of these shadowy militias linked to Iraqi politicians, but the Pentagon is arming, training, and funding them for use in counter-insurgency operations. Most disturbing, one militia in particular–the “Special Police Commandos”–is being used extensively and has been singled out by a U.S. general for conducting death squad strikes known as the “Salvador option.”
In November of 2005, Nicholas Davies of ZMag sourced this to Newsweek (Peter Maass of NYT Mag was also important in uncovering the story), and identified the US officers in charge as Col. Daniel Steele and former DEA officer Steven Casteel, and noted that:
On September 8, 2005 the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq issued a human rights report, stating that the governing institutions created by the United States in Iraq are engaged in an organized campaign of detention, torture, and extrajudicial execution, directed primarily at Iraqis who practice the Sunni form of Islam.
The Guardian and BBC have at last discovered the story, and have fleshed out some of the details of how it operated, particularly the point that it was directed by General Petraeus through a subordinate, Colonel James Coffman. Mona Mahmoud, Maggie O’Kane, Chavala Madlena, and Teresa Smith, The Guardian:
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….
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.
Most importantly, the BBC turned it into a 51 minute video that you can watch at the Mahmoud et al. article, so maybe it will finally register on public consciousness.
By the way, Steele was apparently Oliver North’s operations guy. Also, Maggie O’Kane directly credits Wikileaks for making the report possible.
The US ran death squads in Vietnam. The US ran death squads in Central America. The US ran death squads in Iraq. The US, I believe, is running death squads even now. There’s enough on the record to convene a war crimes court on Donald Rumsfeld.