FROM LIBERTY UNDERGROUND
"The results of Salvadoran military training [by the U.S] are graphically described by Daniel Santiago, a Catholic priest working in El Salvador. He tells of a peasant woman who returned home one day to find her three children, her mother and her sister sitting around a table, each with its own decapitated head placed carefully on the table in front of the body, the hands arranged on top 'as if each body was stroking its own head.' The assassins, from the Salvadoran National Guard, had found it hard to keep the head of an 18-month-old baby in place, so they nailed the hands onto it. A large plastic bowl filled with blood was tastefully displayed in the center of the table. According to Rev. Santiago, macabre scenes of this kind aren't uncommon. 'People are not just killed by death squads in El Salvador--they are decapitated and then their heads are placed on pikes and used to dot the landscape. Men are not just disemboweled by the Salvadoran Treasury Police; their severed genitalia are stuffed into their mouths. Salvadoran women are not just raped by the National Guard; their wombs are cut from their bodies and used to cover their faces. It is not enough to kill children; they are dragged over barbed wire until the flesh falls from their bodies, while parents are forced to watch.' Rev. Santiago goes on to point out that violence of this sort greatly increased when the Church began forming peasant associations and self-help groups in an attempt to organize the poor. By and large, our approach in El Salvador has been successful."
By Robert Parry
George W. Bush has transformed elite units of the U.S. military - including Special Forces and highly trained sniper teams - into "death squads" with a license to kill unarmed targets on the suspicion that they are a threat to American military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to evidence from recent court cases.
Though this reality has been the subject of whispers within the U.S. intelligence community for several years, it has now emerged into public view with two attempted prosecutions of American soldiers whose defense attorneys cited "rules of engagement" that permit the killing of suspected insurgents.
One case involved Army sniper Jorge G. Sandoval Jr. who was acquitted by a U.S. military court in Baghdad on Sept. 28 in the murders of two unarmed Iraqi men - one on April 27 and the other on May 11 - because the jury accepted defense arguments that the killings were within the approved rules.
The Sandoval case also revealed a classified program in which the Pentagon's Asymmetric Warfare Group encouraged U.S. military snipers in Iraq to drop "bait" - such as electrical cords and ammunition - and then shoot Iraqis who pick up the items, according to evidence in the Sandoval case. [Washington Post, Sept. 24, 2007]
(Sandoval was convicted of a lesser charge of planting a coil of copper wire on one of the slain Iraqis. He was sentenced to five months in prison and a reduction in rank but will be eligible to rejoin his unit in as few as 44 days.)
The other recent case of authorized murder of an insurgent suspect surfaced at a military court hearing at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in mid-September. Two U.S. Special Forces soldiers took part in the execution of an Afghani who was suspected of leading an insurgent group.
Though the Afghani, identified as Nawab Buntangyar, responded to questions and offered no resistance when encountered on Oct. 13, 2006, he was shot dead by Master Sgt. Troy Anderson on orders from his superior officer, Capt. Dave Staffel.
According to evidence at the Fort Bragg proceedings, an earlier Army investigation had cleared the two soldiers because they had been operating under "rules of engagement" that empowered them to kill individuals who have been designated "enemy combatants," even if the targets were unarmed and presented no visible threat.
Yet, whatever the higher-ups approve as "rules of engagement," the practice of murdering unarmed suspects remains a violation of the laws of war and - theoretically at least - would open up the offending country's chain of command to war-crimes charges.
The troubling picture is that the U.S. chain of command, presumably up to President Bush, has authorized loose "rules of engagement" that allow targeted killings - as well as other objectionable tactics including arbitrary arrests, "enhanced interrogations," kidnappings in third countries with "extraordinary renditions" to countries that torture, secret CIA prisons, detentions without trial, and "reeducation camps" for younger detainees.
The U.S. counterinsurgency and security operations in Iraq and Afghanistan also have been augmented by heavily armed mercenaries, such as the Blackwater "security contractors" who operate outside the law and were accused by Iraqi authorities of killing at least 11 Iraqi civilians in a shooting incident on Sept. 16.
The use of lethal force against unarmed suspects and civilians has a notorious history in irregular warfare especially when an occupying army finds itself confronting an indigenous resistance in which guerrillas and their political supporters blend in with the local population.
In effect, Bush's "global war on terror" appears to have reestablished what was known during the Vietnam War as Operation Phoenix, a program that assassinated Vietcong cadre, including suspected communist political allies.