Thursday, August 1, 2013

DCOTE: “Dirty Wars” Part Five [EDITED]

Part OnePart TwoPart ThreePart Four – Part Five. 
“There exists in our nation today a powerful and dangerous secret cult – the cult of intelligence. Its holy men are the clandestine professionals of the Central Intelligence Agency. Its patrons and protectors are the highest officials of the federal government. Its membership, extending far beyond governmental circles, reaches into the power centers of industry, commerce, finance, and labor. Its friends are many in the areas of important public influence – the academic world and the communications media. The cult of intelligence is a secret fraternity of the American political aristocracy. The purpose of the cult is to further the foreign policies of the U.S. government by covert and usually illegal means, while at the same time containing the spread of its avowed enemy, communism. Traditionally, the cult's hope has been to foster a world order in which America would reign supreme, the unchallenged international leader. Today, however, that dream stands tarnished by time and frequent failures. Thus, the cult's objectives are now less grandiose, but no less disturbing. It seeks largely to advance America's self-appointed role as the dominant arbiter of social, economic, and political change in the awakening regions of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. And its worldwide war against communism has to some extent been reduced to a covert struggle to maintain a self-serving stability in the Third World, using whatever clandestine methods are available.”
- Victor Marchetti, The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence. (Dell Publishing, 1975.)
Isabel Peron

Operation: Condor.

Between 1966 and 1973, the country of Argentina was undergoing a period of changes. It was the last to 'officially' fall into a dictatorship (although there had been temporary military juntas in the preceding 40 years). In 1973, the formerly ousted leader of the country and dictator Juan Peron returned from his exile. He would die a year later, to be replaced by his wife Isabel Peron.

Unholy Alliance, Peter Levenda describes Isabel Peron as “sympathetic to the Nazi cause, but a trifle insane. She surrounded herself with occultists, Rosicrucians, and other psychic sychophants...” (P. 297) The same year saw the emerging coalition of Operation: Condor begin to head towards its ultimate shape. Alliances were being cemented between both the various countries that had fallen into far-right dictatorships, as well as between various far-right paramilitary groups acting as participants in death squad activity across the South American continent. Incidentally, Isabel would later find herself being disposed from power by another military coup.

The BBC, writing on The Condor Years, says:
“Operation Condor was founded in secret and remained a mystery until after democracy had returned to South America.

According to documents later discovered in Paraguay, it was established at a military intelligence meeting in Chile on 25 November 1975 - Gen Pinochet's 60th birthday.

Delegates from five other countries were there: Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay.
Following that meeting, the military governments of those nations agreed to co-operate in sending teams into other countries to track, monitor and kill their political opponents.

A joint information centre was established at the headquarters of the Chilean secret police, the Dina, in Santiago.”

The coalition of far-right dictatorships saw, yet again, CIA backing for their operations. Indeed, there is evidence that plans for a Condor-style operation had been in discussion at the School of the Americas here on U.S. soil. Be that as it may, what the CIA is primarily documented as having done is helping set up communications networks across South America – and extending into Central America – which allowed the dictatorships to keep in contact. One such important information hub in this low-tech network was the Colonia Dignidad, covered in the last entry.

Here is Al Jazeera's
Inside Story coverage on Operation Condor, including a discussion with author and journalist John Dinges (author of the excellent The Condor Years), as well as one of the Southern Cone documentation project's major players:

Under the guise of “fighting leftists,” the dictatorships involved in
Operation: Condor thus erased distinctions between civilians and militants, and unleashed waves of state-sanctioned terrorism against their respective populaces. Given that Chile and other governments had already driven their radicals into exile, Condor's playbook involved kidnapping (much like the US policy of “extraordinary rendition” in our War on Terror), as well as assassination... Not to mention torture, rape, and a number of other human rights violations.

Here's another interview with John Dinges, this time with Democracy: Now:

By the end of the Condor years, it is estimated that at least 30,000 deaths or forced disappearances had happened. (This is probably a LOW estimate.) In the above interview, John Dinges goes on to say (with relation between Argentina “wiping out” what were called “terrorists” and our own War on Terror):
I was writing chapter one when 9/11 happened, and as I finished the book, and I actually end with a reference to 9/11. And I said this is not something we are condemned to repeat... I thought we had learned the lesson: that we don't imitate the methods of your enemies or those who had been shown to be human rights criminals. Unfortunately, we crossed that line, I think, many times. The current discussion on drones, I think, is very frightening. Because I am having a hard time distinguishing between what they did with Operation: Condor – low tech – and what a drone does. Because a drone is basically going into someone else's country... you track someone down, and you kill them.”
This factor is perhaps best shown in the assassination of Orlando Letelier in Washington, DC by forces sent by the Condor alliance. On September 21, 1976, Letelier was killed by a car-bomb along with his US assistant, Ronni Moffitt. The Letelier car-bomb alerted the FBI to the presence of Condor's operatives (who had even sought to kill folks in Rome, although that particular plan failed) and the CIA's involvement in the whole fiasco.

Over the following 20 to 30 years, discoveries of the true horror of Condor and those involved began to reach news media outlets, and a veritable army of Judges began uncovering the truth of what had happened in South America.

A School for Assassins

The missing piece of the puzzle – regarding the US involvement in all these dealings and our fifty year torture justifications – came for me while watching a PBS documentary entitled
The School of Assassins. It followed the story of Father Roy Bourgeois, and how his looking into murders of priests in Guatemala (and later, the rape and murder of Nuns) brought the School of the Americas to light. Unfortunately, that documentary is not online (it is, however, available on Hulu Plus for paid subscribers). However, there are interviews with Father Bourgeois online such as this one:

In 1961, the School of the Americas began offering “educational” courses for US allied nations and their military personnel designed to teach “anti-communist counterinsurgency training.” As more and more attention was brought by Father Bourgeois' acts of civil disobedieance, it was also discovered that the School had been teaching those military officers that attended it on how to torture individuals. The KUBARK interrogation manuals, discussed repeatedly in these entries, were found in the Chilean DINA from the Condor years, and there has been a lot of testimony from various soldiers that the School of the Americas was where they began to learn the dark science of torture.

In fact, when considered alongside our actions as a nation in the War on Terror and what we had pushed for in South and Central America. To quote the above link:
A lack of distinction between civilian movements and armed rebellion. Perhaps the most persistent and nefarious aspect of the manuals is the lack of distinction between legitimate political and civic opposition and armed rebellion. The “Counterintelligence” manual, for example, defines as potential counterintelligence targets “local or national political party teams, or parties that have goals, beliefs or ideologies contrary or in opposition to the National Government,” or “teams or hostile organizations whose objective is to create dissension or cause restlessness among the civilian population in the area of operations.” (p. 228) This manual recommends that the army create a “black list” of “persons whose capture and detention are of foremost importance to the armed forces” (p. 225), which should include not only “enemy agents” but also “subversive persons,” “political leaders known or suspected as hostile toward the Armed Forces or the political interests of the National Government,” and “collaborators and sympathizers of the enemy,” known or suspect.


One of the most pernicious passages, in “Combat Intelligence,” lists various indicators of guerilla presence. “Indicators of an imminent attack by guerillas” include demonstrations by minority groups, civilians including children who don't want to associate with U.S. troops or their own country's troops, celebration of national or religious festivals, or the presence of strangers.* “Indicators of control by guerillas” over a certain civilian population include the refusal to provide intelligence to government forces or the construction of new houses. Indications that insurgents are conducting psychological operations include accusations of government corruption, circulating petitions, attempts to discredit the government or armed forces, calling government leaders U.S. puppets, urging youth to avoid the draft, demonstrations or strikes, or accusations of police or army brutality. Thus any expression of criticism of the government, armed forces or U.S. troops or any other expression of popular discontent is cited as a possible indicator of guerilla activity.*
While we may play coy games about how much, precisely, the US government knew about the Condor operations, this leaves absolutely no doubt regarding our hand in encouraging some of the atrocities committed by the dictatorships involved. This also raises extremely troubling prospects about the current War on Terror and how we are identifying “militants” and “insurgents.”

In an interview with Democracy: Now, journalist Jane Mayer (author of The Dark Side), says:
AMY GOODMAN: Jane Mayer, you also report that back in 2002, the CIA warned that up to a third of the prisoners at Guantanamo may have been imprisoned by mistake.
JANE MAYER: Isn’t that — to me, this is one of the amazing anecdotes in this book. It’s not the ACLU. It’s not, you know, some kind of outside human rights group. It’s the CIA that warned the government. They sent — the CIA sent a particular expert down to Guantanamo in the summer of 2002 to figure out what’s going on. Why are we not getting better intelligence out of these detainees down in Guantanamo? And he was an Arab speaker and an expert in Islamic fundamentalism.
He interviewed a number of the detainees in Guantanamo, and he came back saying, “Bad news. The reason we’re not getting better intelligence, part of the reasoning anyway, is that about a third of the people are innocent.” From what he could tell, they were just mistakes. They were locked up — you know, they were just brought in by —- herded in by mistake. And -—
AMY GOODMAN: Mistake, like, for example, bounty hunters.
JANE MAYER: Right, sure. Bounty hunters who were — you know, and people who were put — there were people put in to — because of personal grudges. There was one — one detainee was there because he had been a teacher of somebody and given them a bad grade, and the person that he’d flunked pointed him out as a terrorist, and he was rounded up.
So there were all kinds of stories, but — and it’s not to say, you know, that there aren’t people down there who are probably serious suspects. It’s just that they mix them all in together, which was a consequence of when they got rid of the Geneva Conventions, they got rid of the screening process. And so, there was — it’s just kind of collective guilt instead of individual guilt. They didn’t give people a chance to say whether they were innocent or not.
We have been acting, since 9/11, that all of this was “somehow new”. Our torture programs were supposedly “new” (Dick Cheney was one of the few people in the Bush administration who kept the KUBARK manuals after they were “officially” dispensed with following huge criticism of the School of the Americas in the late 1990s). Our black sites and the methodology for them is supposedly “new.”

But in fact, the major change is that we began to instigate these actions of our own accord as a nation. Beforehand we had encouraged other countries to do our dirty work. Now we have our own spooks do it.

In 2007, the School for the Americas was almost shut down... But lacked something like six of the necessary votes to do so. Subsequently, it still operates today as WHINSEC.


I find all of the above – everything I've put down in these entries – to be immensely troubling. Just thinking about how to try and write about these pieces over the last few weeks has been profoundly troubling.

Because sitting at the heart of all these recent Dark Corners of the Earth entries have been interlinked by the common appearance of counter-intelligence and counter-insurgency projects encouraged or directly brought about by our own Government. In the 1970s, when revelations were made about the various intelligence and counterintelligence programs running in the US, a pissed-off Senator named Frank Church led Senate committees looking into how the rights of Americans had been influenced.

Today, it isn't even really something we want to discuss. Following 9/11, there has been an endless expanse of such programs with absolutely no oversight into protecting our constitution rights. Our activities in other countries are, quite frankly, often very illegal.

Saying these things, I want you to understand, does not make me a “Democrat.” I am as shocked by the Obama administration as I was by the previous one. This isn't meant to be “left vs. right” rhetoric. What we've been up to is wrong, and Obama is as culpable as his direct predecessors. We can now add an army of Robot Death Warriors (i.e. drones) to the list of the US tech arsenal. And our use of them is as troubling as our use of torture for information, and our position of indefinite detainment.

The fact of the matter is that if the prisoners who don't belong at Gitmo and were tortured were released tomorrow, the American people would be confronted with what can only be a continuation of sheer horror and terror on a mass scale and forced to decide if their elected officials ought to be put on trial for war crimes. For this reason, I strongly suspect, we - as a nation - will do our very best to keep everyone in that shithole. Even if they didn't belong there in the first place.

I also see no end in sight to the policy of using torture to elicit information... Even if the information which is recovered is, in a word, not useful at all and brought about more to end the person's pain rather than their actually being a militant.

And that is very fucking troubling, indeed.

Be seeing you,

* Italix mine.

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