By indirection find direction out.– Shakespeare
For several years I've been writing about facts that point to a disturbing but inescapable conclusion: that the Bush Administration has been fomenting sectarian and political violence in Iraq by arming – and in some cases, creating – militias, factions, terrorist groups, death squads and overt and covert "security forces." [See Appendix below.] Based on reports taken from the publicly available sources, most often from Pentagon and White House officials, it is clear that over the course of the war, the groups thus supported and empowered by the Bush Administration have included practically every side in the kaleidoscopic conflict that has torn the conquered nation apart: Baathists, Shiites and Sunnis of various stripes, Kurds, tribes, spies, even a group of exiled Iranian cultists that Saddam Hussein had employed as brutal muscle in repressing his people.
The documentary evidence is there. And the intent of the Bush Administration in stimulating this horrific war of all-against-all seems clear: to "justify" the continuing presence of American troops and the resultant domination of the country. But of course, the actual motives behind this process are, ultimately, a matter of speculation for those outside the inner circle of the Washington warlords. We cannot delve into those dark hearts and clotted brains to speak with absolute certainty.
However, some confirmation of the conclusions drawn about the intent of the Administration's policy did emerge this week, and from an unlikely source: Bush's latest satrap in Baghdad, Ambassador Ryan Crocker.
In an interview with Reuters, Crocker was carrying water – or spears, as the case may be – for two major propaganda campaigns now being waged by his White House masters: first, the push to continue the escalation of the war in Iraq beyond the report on the "surge" that the White House itself will write in the name of its ballyhooed frontman, Gen. Davi d Petraeus; and second, the accelerating drive to lay the groundwork for a new war against Iran.
Crocker did not give away the Administration's game on "fueling violence in Iraq" directly, of course. Instead, in a remarkable bit of projection, Crocker gave one of the best, most succinct encapsulations of the Bush Administration's policy in Iraq that I've yet seen.
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Crocker has met his Iranian counterpart in Baghdad three times to discuss U.S. concerns that Iran is fuelling violence in Iraq, despite Tehran's public support for Iraq's government.This is of course precisely what the Bush Administration is doing in Iraq: "seeking a state that they can, by one means or another, control, weakened to the point that [Washington] can set its agenda." All the evidence – every bit of it – points to this conclusion. No other conclusion makes even a modicum of sense out of the policies pursued by Bush and his minions in Iraq. From the very beginning, these policies – not securing the capital (or the vast caches of arms that dotted the country), disbanding the army, outlawing and pauperizing the skilled professionals who had been forced to join the Baath Party in order to work, "losing" 190,000 weapons, arming and supporting sectarian factions at daggers drawn with one another, etc. – all seemed aimed at destabilizing Iraq, driving it into the ground, making it utterly dependent on the conquerors. In other words, doing exactly what Crocker now accuses of Iran of trying to do.
"Based on what I see on the ground, I think they are seeking a state that they can, by one means or another, control, weakened to the point that Tehran can set its agenda," he said.
Tehran was seeking "greater influence, greater pressure on the government", said the veteran diplomat, a fluent Arabic speaker who has spent most of his career in the Middle East.
But we musn't think that Crocker and his masters are being completely cynical in their mirror-image charges against Iran. For what we doubtless have here, in part, is a classic case of projection: attributing one's own psychologically unacceptable desires to someone else. This kind of projection is a hallmark of all tyrannical and authoritarian regimes. It is, in some ways, a form of self-hypnosis, whereby tyrants and their minions – and very often, the people they rule – transcend the reality of their policies and sugarcoat the cynical, bestial ambitions behind them with self-regarding fantasies. Or to resort to the vernacular, they begin to believe their own bullshit.
For example, Hitler doubtless believed that "the Jews" were trying to "destroy the German nation" – because that is what he wanted to do to the Jews. This fantasy projection allowed him to sugarcoat his bestial ambitions as a "defense of the Volk," a struggle for survival in which any measure whatsoever was justified. Stalin was able to convince himself that he (and by extention, the Revolution) was beset by vast conspiracies among his oldest and most faithful minions – conspiracies which "justified" far-reaching purges that destroyed multitudes – because he himself had spent a lifetime conducting such conspiracies. And he would have schemed and plotted to strike down the Boss and take his place; so he imputed his own bestial ambitions and devious practices to others. That's what he'd do; so obviously that's what they're doing. (And he might have been right, in a miniscule number of cases; he certainly wasn't surrounded by choirboys.)
Similarly, the Bushists believe Tehran is fomenting violence in order to dominate Iraq – because that's what the Bushists would do, and are doing, themselves. And perhaps they too are right, to some miniscule and as yet wholly unproven degree; after all, Middle Eastern governments aren't full of choirboys either. It would be incredible if Iran were not trying to make hay out of the Bush-created hell in Iraq. But they are almost certainly not acting out the Bushist fantasy – i.e., arming al Qaeda and other factions in an effort to weaken an Iraqi government which is already controlled by parties bound tightly to Tehran.
No doubt one reason that Iran seeks to influence Iraq's government is because almost a million Iranians were killed in a savage war with Iraq which ended less than 20 years ago – a war in which the United States government (including many people now in power today) backed the Iraqi despot Saddam Hussein. Tehran would certainly like to see a friendly government in Baghdad, preferably one not backed up by the same nation that helped Iraq invade Iran. Neither of these objectives would be furthered by destabilizing the Iranian-linked parties already in charge in Iraq. But the Bush Administration can only see through the prism of their own ambitions: if they are fuelling violence in order to dominate a weak Iraq, why then, the Iranians must be doing so too.
Projection is one of the chief means by which we "justify" actions and desires that would otherwise be intolerable to our self-image. And the more exalted the self-image – indispensible leader of the world proletariat, mystical embodiment of the Volk, denizen of the "shining city on the hill," a divinely-blessed nation which has never and can never willingly do evil – then the more virulent the projection, and the more violent the policies based upon it. Even when these polices are indeed conceived in a wide-awake cynicism – "I want that power (that oil, that office, that money, that throne, etc.) and I'll do whatever I can to get it" – it is invariably overwhelmed by the fantasy-based "justifications" and projections required to keep a guilty psyche from disintegrating under the unbearable reality of what the person has done (or countenanced).
The Bushist use of torture is a similar case. As with aggressive war, you and I would view torture as an unmitigated evil, a thing of darkness that can only produce more evil. But to the Bushists (and their many bootlicking sycophants in the media, and their more nuanced apologists in the think-tank class), torture is a "necessary" evil, part of working "the dark side, if you will," as Dick Cheney said only days after 9/11. "Sure, we don't like it, but we've got to do it." In this, one can hear echoes of Heinrich Himmler's solicitude for the noble Nazi cadres who took upon themselves the heavy, secret burden of carrying out the unpleasant but "necessary" task of the Holocaust: working "the dark side, if you will," to protect national security.
The torture regimen set up by the Bush Administration – and approved by the president himself – is based to a great extent on techniques used by the KGB in its notorious dungeons such as the Lubyanka. But as many observers have pointed out, the KGB was not interested in producing actionable intelligence data but in eliciting confessions. Some have accused the Bush Administration of incompetence in setting up this KGB-USA system; it's "not working," the critics say, because it does not and cannot produce accurate intelligence. But of course, the system is working exactly as the Administration intended: it was set up in order to produce confessions that would conform to the Bush Faction's needs and projections. The truth or untruth of what they say is largely irrelevant; what matters is that they "confirm" the already-established scenario. This in turn "justifies" the torture that Bush and his minions greatly desire to inflict – for bestial reasons which they can never acknowledge, even to themselves. Or especially to themselves.
Yes, there are many realpolitik reasons for the Bush Regime's war crime in Iraq and its planned war crime for Iran. And there is much knowing cynicism, knowing lies, knowing hypocrisy, in the tactics that the Bushists use to advance their criminal agenda. But it is almost certain that when these wretched specimens look in the mirror, they see nothing but good people working hard to protect our national security (which they identify with their own narrow, elite interests) against evildoers bent on our destruction. They can no longer see the reality in the glass – the blood dribbling from their lips, the flecks of bomb-blown viscera spattered across their faces, the sunken eyes of men and women complicit in mass murder and epic rapine. They project their lost humanity into the mirror, and project their present abominations onto others.
In any case, beyond all psychological and metaphysical musings, we can take away this one, concrete, usuable rule of thumb: if you ever want to know what the Bush Regime is up to, just look at the accusations they level at their opponents, and there you will find your answer.
I covered some of the details of the Bush Administration's arming and support of violent groups in Iraq in Section III of this report, Ulster on the Euphrates: The Anglo-American Dirty War in Iraq, some of which is excerpted below:
As Sy Hersh has reported ("The Coming Wars," New Yorker, Jan. 24, 2005), after his re-election in 2004, George W. Bush signed a series of secret presidential directives that authorized the Pentagon to run virtually unrestricted covert operations, including a reprise of the American-backed, American-trained death squads employed by authoritarian regimes in Central and South America during the Reagan Administration, where so many of the Bush faction cut their teeth – and made their bones.
"Do you remember the right-wing execution squads in El Salvador?” a former high-level intelligence official said to Hersh. "We founded them and we financed them. The objective now is to recruit locals in any area we want. And we aren’t going to tell Congress about it." A Pentagon insider added: "We’re going to be riding with the bad boys." Another role model for the expanded dirty war cited by Pentagon sources, said Hersh, was Britain's brutal repression of the Mau Mau in Kenya during the 1950s, when British forces set up concentration camps, created their own terrorist groups to confuse and discredit the insurgency, and killed thousands of innocent civilians in quashing the uprising.
Bush's formal greenlighting of the death-squad option built upon an already securely-established base, part of a larger effort to turn the world into a "global free-fire zone" for covert operatives, as one top Pentagon official told Hersh. For example, in November 2002 a Pentagon plan to infiltrate terrorist groups and "stimulate" them into action was uncovered by William Arkin, then writing for the Los Angeles Times. The new unit, the "Proactive, Pre-emptive Operations Group," was described in the Pentagon documents as "a super-Intelligence Support Activity" that brings "together CIA and military covert action, information warfare, intelligence and cover and deception."
Later, in August 2004, then deputy Pentagon chief Paul Wolfowitz appeared before Congress to ask for $500 million to arm and train non-governmental "local militias" to serve as U.S. proxies for "counter-insurgency and "counterterrorist" operations in "ungoverned areas" and hot spots around the world, Agence France Presse (and virtually no one else) reported at the time. These hired paramilitaries were to be employed in what Wolfowitz called an "arc of crisis" that just happened to stretch across the oil-bearing lands and strategic pipeline routes of Central Asia, the Middle East, Africa and South America.
By then, the Bush Administration had already begun laying the groundwork for an expanded covert war in the hot spot of Iraq. In November 2003, it created a "commando squad" drawn from the sectarian militias of five major Iraqi factions, as the Washington Post reported that year. Armed, funded and trained by the American occupation forces, and supplied with a "state-of-the-art command, control and communications center" from the Pentagon, the new Iraqi commandos were loosed on the then-nascent Iraqi insurgency – despite the very prescient fears of some U.S. officials "that various Sunni or Shiite factions could eventually use the service to secretly undermine their political competitors," as the Post noted.
And indeed, in early 2005 – not long after Bush's directives loosed the "Salvador Option" on Iraq – the tide of death-squad activity began its long and bloody rise to the tsunami-like levels we see today. Ironically, the first big spike of mass torture-murders, chiefly in Sunni areas at the time, coincided with "Operation Lightning," a much ballyhooed effort by American and Iraqi forces to "secure" Baghdad. The operation featured a mass influx of extra troops into the capital; dividing the city into manageable sectors, then working through them one by one; imposing hundreds of checkpoints to lock down all insurgent movements; and establishing a 24-hour presence of security and military forces in troubled neighborhoods, the Associated Press reported in May 2005. In other words, it was almost exactly the same plan now being offered as Bush's "New Way Forward," the controversial "surge."
But the "Lightning" fizzled in a matter of weeks, and the death squads grew even bolder. Brazen daylight raids by "men dressed in uniforms" of Iraqi police or Iraqi commandos or other Iraqi security agencies swept up dozens of victims at a time. For months, U.S. "advisers" to Iraqi security agencies – including veterans of the original "Salvador Option" – insisted that these were Sunni insurgents in stolen threads, although many of the victims were Sunni civilians. Later, the line was changed: the chief culprits were now "rogue elements" of the various sectarian militias that had "infiltrated" Iraq's institutions.
But as investigative reporter Max Fuller has pointed out in his detailed examination of information buried in reams of mainstream news stories and public Pentagon documents, the vast majority of atrocities then attributed to "rogue" Shiite and Sunni militias were in fact the work of government-controlled commandos and "special forces," trained by Americans, "advised" by Americans and run largely by former CIA assets. As Fuller puts it: "If there are militias in the Ministry of Interior, you can be sure that they are militias that stand to attention whenever a U.S. colonel enters the room." And perhaps a British lieutenant colonel as well
With the Anglo-American coalition so deeply embedded in dirty war – infiltrating terrorist groups, "stimulating" them into action," protecting "crown jewel" double-agents no matter what the cost, "riding with the bad boys," greenlighting the "Salvador Option" – it is simply impossible to determine the genuine origin of almost any particular terrorist outrage or death squad atrocity in Iraq. All of these operations take place in the shadow world, where terrorists are sometimes government operatives and vice versa, and where security agencies and terrorist groups interpenetrate in murky thickets of collusion and duplicity. This moral chaos leaves "a kind of blot/To mark the full-fraught man and best indued/With some suspicion," as Shakespeare's Henry V says.
What's more, the "intelligence" churned out by this system is inevitably tainted by the self-interest, mixed motives, fear and criminality of those who provide it. The ineffectiveness of this approach can be seen in the ever-increasing, many-sided civil war that is tearing Iraq apart. If these covert operations really are intended to quell the violence, they clearly have had the opposite effect. If they have some other intention, the pious defenders of civilization – who approve these activities with promotions, green lights and unlimited budgets – aren't telling.
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