For some real retrospect… Reagan’s ‘Death Squad’ Tactics in Iraq

Official Washington has long ignored the genocide and terrorism that Ronald Reagan inflicted on Central America in the 1980s, making it easier to genuflect before the Republican presidential icon. That also helped Reagan’s “death squad” tactics resurface in Iraq last decade, as William Boardman reports…

…The hour-long film explores the arc of American counterinsurgency brutality from Vietnam to Iraq, with stops along the way in El Salvador and Nicaragua. James Steele is now a retired U.S. colonel who first served in Vietnam as a company commander in 1968-69. He later made his reputation as a military adviser in El Salvador, where he guided ruthless Salvadoran death squads in the 1980s.
When his country called again in 2003, he came out of retirement to train Iraqi police commandos in the bloodiest techniques of counterinsurgency that evolved into that country’s Shia-Sunni civil war that at its peak killed 3,000 people a month. Steele now lives in a gated golf community in Brian, Texas, and did not respond to requests for an interview for the documentary bearing his name.

News coverage of this documentary has been largely absent in mainstream media. The Guardian had a report, naturally, at the time of release and “Democracy Now” had a long segment on March 22 that includes an interview with veteran, award-winning reporter Maggie O’Kane, as well as several excerpts from the movie she directed. The documentary is available online at the Guardian and several other websites…

Ten years on… Syrian Rebel Faction Merges With al-Qaeda in Iraq

…Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), an official auxiliary of the parent al-Qaeda organization which was established to resist the US occupation of Iraq, has announced that it is formally merging with Jabhat al-Nusra.

Jabhat al-Nusra had been publicly endorsed by al-Qaeda officials repeatedly as the preferred Islamist faction in Syria’s ongoing rebellion. AQI says that the merged group will replace the name Islamic State of Iraq with Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.

It is time to declare to the Levant and to the world that the al-Nusra Front is simply a branch of the Islamic State of Iraq,” confirmed AQI leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Baghdadi went on to say other alliances were possible so long as the group agreed to similar harsh definitions of Sharia Law

Now, I was certainly surprised to see The Grey Lady publish this today…

Wider Use of Car Bombs Angers Both Sides in Syrian Conflict

…The attack, witnesses and the government authorities said, was the latest of dozens of car bombs to rip through Syrian business districts and neighborhoods during the country’s two-year war. It again turned a wary but busy downtown commercial area into a scene of terror and chaos. The Syrian government blamed its opponents for Monday’s attack and said it had killed at least 15 people and wounded at least 53.

The proliferation of car bombs across Syria has frightened and enraged many on both sides in this battle, government supporters and opponents alike. The use of these powerful and indiscriminate weapons — rejected by some rebel factions — has undermined support for the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad and left many Syrians angry at the government for failing to stop the bombings.

In Damascus, the Syrian capital, on Monday, some residents blamed the United States and its allies, which back the opposition, for the devastation…

“This is America, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia! They are funding those people to do those explosions!”

… In December 2011, when car bombs began hitting government security buildings — and killing civilians nearby — government supporters and opponents alike viewed the explosions as an ominous turn in the conflict.

Until then, the fighting had largely pitted rebels with small arms and roadside bombs against the army and security forces. But suddenly, the Syrian capital was witnessing scenes reminiscent of the Iraqi insurgency. Checkpoints and blast walls went up everywhere

…Now, the Nusra Front has become a major force on the battlefield, leading other rebel groups in more conventional fights. That poses a quandary for the United States, which supports the opposition but rejects the Nusra Front and accuses it of ties to Al Qaeda.

The bombs have killed Syrians of all sects and views

Now, in wrapping up, from the ‘Cradle of the Arab Spring’…

Tunisia Now Exporting “Jihadis”

…Families here told IPS that they have no way of contacting their sons once they leave — whether by choice or coercion they will never know — for the warring nation nearly 3,000 miles away. At most, family members receive an inaudible telephone call from Libya, where the soon-to-be militants are trained, the muffled voice on the other end of the line saying a quiet and final goodbye.

After that point, no news is good news. If they are contacted again, it will only be an anonymous caller announcing the death of a son, brother or husband, adding that the family should be proud of their martyred loved one…

…But beneath the moderate veneer, a strong ultra-conservative undercurrent remained, steered by Salafist-controlled mosques – like Fath, Ennassr, Ettadhamen, and the great mosque of Ben Arous located on the outskirts of Tunis – that are now serving as headquarters for the smuggling of fighters.

The imams of these mosques often hail from the Gulf and are skilled at convincing young men – who run the gamut from poor, uneducated Tunisians, to wealthy professionals — that they must “help their Syrian brothers” in the “jihad” against Assad.

Charity organisations like Karama wa Horrya, Arrahma, Horrya wa Insaf, which provide basic humanitarian assistance to the poor, also play a role in this network that gathers able-bodied Tunisians, transports them to Libya and then, after a brief stop in Turkey, sends them onwards to the frontlines of the Syrian war such as the north-western border with Lebanon, and the city of Aleppo.

Young fighters’ first point of contact in Syria is with the Jabhat al Nusra (meaning the ‘Support Front for the People of Syria’), considered the most aggressively militant arm of the FSA…

One final, must-read from Chris Hedges… When War Hawks Become Human Rights Officials…

Good Gawd, y’all…!

*gah*