I was holding out hope the kidnappers were merely criminal idiots who figured an American, a Briton and two Canadians were the local equivalent of a winning lottery ticket. Unfortunately, a recent story in the Salt Lake Tribune points to something much darker......
Christian Peacemaker members, including some of those who have been taken captive, had been investigating abuses at the hands of special police and military groups months before the Nov. 15 discovery of 173 detainees in the basement of an Interior Ministry building. American soldiers who liberated the prisoners said some appeared to have been tortured by their Iraqi government captors.
That's putting it mildly. The BBC report was particularly gruesome.
The "special police and military groups" they are referring to are really death squads. I realize in Iraq everyone is a death squad. But I'm talking good old-fashioned CIA trained "paramilitary" groups, straight out of the Casey playbook. In the past year, the U.S. military has helped build up the commandos under guidance from James Steele, a former Army Special Forces officer who led U.S. counterinsurgency efforts in El Salvador in the 1980s. Salvadoran paramilitary units trained by Steele's team were accused of a pattern of atrocities.
Apparently, now there is nothing "para" about these newly minted death squads. These are fully equipped commando units. The most widely known is called the "Wolf Brigade," although there are others called "Lion",Scorpion", "Snake", etc. Some Iraqis accuse the Wolf Brigade of targeting Palestinian refugees in Iraq, using torture to extract confessions from prisoners, and slaying at least six Sunni clerics.
The more I look into this, the more convinced I am these guys are not being held by al Qaeda jihadists, or even plain criminals. I think they are being held by people trying to cover up the death squad activities. That might explain the preposterous charge that Tom Fox(US), Norman Kember(UK), James Loney(CAN), or Harmeet Sooden (CAN)are spies.
Unfortunately, that is exactly the same story that Yasser Salihee was working on before he was killed in June. He was killed by an American sniper at a newly erected checkpoint near his home in Baghdad. His final story was published posthumously a couple of days later.
The fact that people are openly talking about the "Salvador Option" as a way to handle an insurgency only increases the likelihood of this scenario. Apparently, the current thinking in the administration is that approach "worked" in El Salvador... so it will probably work here. I guess I shouldn't be shocked. We all know what happened the last time the US military confronted an insurgency where Negroponte was in charge. It was no coincidence that Honduras left the "coalition of the willing" the same day he set up shop in Baghdad.
Speaking of the administration...they have been oddly silent. Canada's Prime Minister has issued a public statement. Britain's Foreign Secretary has repeatedly said they were ready to hear what the captors had to say. Bush answered a question about it and said "we don't pay ransom" for hostages. End of discussion. You would think he might be making hay out of the fact that these are Christians being held by fanatical jihadists. You might think Fox et al would be giving this a little bit of coverage if only to promote the "Attack on Christmas" merchandise they are hawking. Talk about the dog that didn't bark.
Since this began, everyone's efforts have been focused on getting Muslims to plead for the release of the hostages because everyone assumed these were Islamic jihadists. That might have been a head fake. If the kidnappers are related to death squads, then the folks in the Green Zone have more control over these guys than all the Sunni clerics in the world. If that's true, I think the more coverage this gets, the more likely the hostages will survive past Thursday. If you think support for the war is low now... imagine how low it will go if it turned out that a US trained death squad slaughtered a bunch of Christian peacemakers.
Note: I am reposting this for higher visibility at the request of most people who left comments earlier today. If you agree this is important, please recommend.