'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Monday, January 17, 2005

Riding with the Bad Boys 

One more thought on Seymour Hersh's latest that I haven't seen anyone else bring up ... Did anyone notice the extent to which it corroborates the allegations made in last week's most popular magazine article "The Salvador Option"? Here's the relevant passage from "The Coming Wars":

[According] to the Pentagon advisers, local citizens could be recruited and asked to join up with guerrillas or terrorists. This could potentially involve organizing and carrying out combat operations, or even terrorist activities. [...]

The new rules will enable the Special Forces community to set up what it calls “action teams” in the target countries overseas which can be used to find and eliminate terrorist organizations. “Do you remember the right-wing execution squads in El Salvador?” the former high-level intelligence official asked me, referring to the military-led gangs that committed atrocities in the early nineteen-eighties. “We founded them and we financed them,” he said. “The objective now is to recruit locals in any area we want. And we aren’t going to tell Congress about it.” A former military officer, who has knowledge of the Pentagon’s commando capabilities, said, “We’re going to be riding with the bad boys.”

The Newsweek article focused on the use of such techniques in Iraq but mentioned off-handedly the possibility of running operations across Iraq's borders. It documented the same de-emphasis of the CIA that Hersh described, the transfer of control over the sorts of activities normally associated with the intelligence community to the Pentagon, albeit with a more moderate tone than in Hersh's piece, claiming, for example,

Pentagon civilians and some Special Forces personnel believe CIA civilian managers have traditionally been too conservative in planning and executing the kind of undercover missions that Special Forces soldiers believe they can effectively conduct. CIA traditionalists are believed to be adamantly opposed to ceding any authority to the Pentagon.

When you add to this the fact that both "The Coming Wars" and "The Salvador Option" specifically state that the operations they are describing will be run at least in part by Undersecretary Stephen Cambone, it's pretty clear that both articles are discussing the exact same topic, the same discussion within the highest echelon of policy circles -- the difference is that Michael Hirsh and John Barry are still talking about something that might take place, while Seymour Hersh says that it already is.

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