This piece by former US Marine and former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter in an article at Al Jazeera's Web site has an important addition to the story of the "Salvador option," the report that Rumsfeld's Pentagon is considering setting up assassination squads in Iraq to terrorize the population.
The Salvador option by Scott Ritter, Al-Jazeera 01/20/05.
The Salvador Option would not be the first embrace of assassination as a tool of occupation undertaken by the United States in Iraq.
In the months following Paul Bremer's taking over of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in June 2003, the streets of Baghdad crawled with scores of assassination squads.
Among the more effective and brutal of these units were those drawn from the Badr Brigade, the armed militia of the Shia political party known as the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, or SCIRI.
Although not publicly acknowledged, the role played by the various anti-Saddam militias in confronting the residual elements of Saddam's former ruling Baath Party offered a glimpse into what was, and is, an unspoken element of the US policy regarding de-Baathification - let the Iraqis do the dirty work.
SCIRI's efforts to exterminate Baath Party remnants still loyal to Saddam Hussein, or who stand accused of committing crimes against SCIRI or its sympathisers, attracted the attention of the "black" side of the CPA-run de-Baathification efforts – covert operations run by the CIA and elite Special Operations units of the United States military.
Of all the various players in this deadly game, the Badr militia stood out as the most willing and able to take the fight to the Baathist holdouts.
Tipped off by the CPA's covert operatives, the Badr assassination squads killed dozens of Baathists in and around Baghdad.
But the assassination of former Baathists did nothing to pacify Iraq.
I'm not entirely comfortable with some of the phrasing in other parts of Ritter's article. I'm guessing that he feels more than a little resentment over the intense criticism he received when he argued that prewar claims of Iraqi WMDs were much overblown.
Now we know he was right. Or, more precisely, his worst-case estimate of possible Iraqi stockpiles, while far lower and more careful than those manufactured by the Bush administration, also turned out to be too high. But his prewar argument that Iraqi WMDs were no significant threat to the United States has been validated.
So far as I'm aware, Ritter's record on making factual claims like this has been good. So until I have reason to think otherwise, I put a lot of credibility in what he says, even if I don't always like the way he phrases some of it.