Sep 10, 2007

Nation Shaping Then, Now, and Maybe Iran - COIN's Pointy IOs

I remembered this:

No one knows whether or not an Operation Iranian Freedom is in the cards. A good deal of focus is already being placed on military planning. But it is also worth asking what America is doing to prepare for the trove of documents and other media that a newly liberated Iran could produce.

... when I chanced upon this:

Their methods had echoes of the Gestapo: kidnapping at night by state officials who offered no evidence of identity. Recently declassified secret documents reveal how at the end of the second world war an elite British unit abducted hundreds of German scientists and technicians and put them to work at government ministries and private firms in the UK.

The programme was designed to loot the defeated country's intellectual assets, impeding its ability to compete while giving a boost to British business.

In a related programme, German businessmen are alleged to have been forced to travel to post-war Britain to be questioned by their commercial rivals, and were interned if they refused to reveal trade secrets.

The economic warfare programmes are detailed in batches of Foreign Office files, marked "Top Secret", many of which lay unseen at the National Archives at Kew until discovered by the Guardian.

While it has long been known that German scientists and technicians worked in the US and Britain after the war, it has generally been assumed they were all volunteers, lured by the promise of good pay and accommodation. However, the declassified papers make clear that for more than two years after the cessation of hostilities the British authorities were subjecting them to a programme of "enforced evacuation".

The records show that abductions in the British-controlled zone of post-war Germany were carried out on the orders of an organisation called the British Intelligence Objectives Sub-Committee, or Bios. This committee was answerable to the cabinet and made up of representatives of the armed forces and Whitehall departments, including the Board of Trade and Ministry of Supply, as well as MI16 - the War Office's department of scientific intelligence.

The other organisation was the Field Information Agency (Technical), or Fiat, which had been established during the war as a joint Anglo-American military intelligence unit, and which earmarked scientists for "enforced evacuation" from the US and French zones, and Berlin.

Responsibility for seizing the scientists fell to a unique British army unit known as T-Force. Formed shortly after D Day, this lightly armed and highly-mobile force had raced ahead of allied troops at the end of the war, seizing objects which had a scientific or intelligence value before they could be sabotaged by retreating Germans, or captured by the Soviet Union.

After the war some officers and men from T-Force were formed into the Enemy Personnel Exploitation Section, which would escort the Bios and Fiat investigators and then take away the scientists and technicians wanted for interrogation.

Scientists were not the sole targets. The papers disclose brief details about Operation Bottleneck, which aimed to extract business information. In January 1947 Erich Klabunde, head of the German journalists' union, complained about how this was being achieved. A British official in Hamburg reported to headquarters that Klabunde told a public meeting: "An English manufacturer would name his German counterpart and competitor and 'invite' him to England (whether the man comes voluntarily or not is questionable). They then discuss business and the German is gently persuaded to reveal secrets of his trade. When he refuses, he is kept in polite internment until he gets so tired of not being allowed to return to his family that he tells the Englishman what he wants to know. Thus for about £6 a day the English businessman gains the deepest secrets of Germany's economic life."

The rationale for this had been set out by Herbert Morrison, lord president of the council, who told the prime minister, Clement Attlee: "It is most important at this formative stage to start shaping the German economy in the way which will best assist our own economic plans and will run the least risk of it developing into an unnecessarily awkward competitor."

...and went completely off topic revisiting thoughts, trends and topics the scattered likes of this:

The Iraq war came in two phases. The first phase is complete: the destruction of the existing state. The second phase consists of building a new state tied to our interests and smashing dissenting sectors of society. Openly, this involves applying the same sort of economic shock therapy applied to Eastern Europe. Covertly, it entails degrees of intimidating, kidnapping and killing a plethora of opposition voices. (*Covert operations can rarely achieve an important objective alone. At best, a covert operation can win time, forestall a coup, or otherwise create favorable conditions which will make it possible to use overt means to finally achieve an important objective. - From the Report of the Covert Operations Study Group. Dec 1, 1968. (Secret) *h/t Effwit)

The long unfolding pattern of academics assassinated in Iraq appears to lend some credence to claims that a campaign exists and is being conducted to erase a key section of the secular middle class in Iraq — a group that has largely resisted the US occupation of Iraq and refused to be co-opted by the so-called “political process”. Academics are not the only ones being killed: 311 teachers killed the past 4 months, 182 pilots, 416 senior military officers killed in the first 3 months of 2006. 20.000 people kidnapped since the beginning of 2006.

Some commentators claim that the assassination campaign of academics is part of a so-called civil war between Sunni and Shia. That’s it’s the ignorant Islamist Shia who receives direct orders from Iran to kill intellectual Sunni’s, and that it is unfortunately beyond the control of the US now. And thus the occupying forces should remain in Iraq to restore law and order. Another smokescreen is the claim that most of the assassinations are carried out by criminal gangs, who first kidnap their victims, and then a ransom is paid. And after that either they are assassinated, and if not, they flee the country.

Perhaps some context is in order:

What we might very well be witnessing is the result of a carefully planned campaign to liquidate key Iraqis who oppose the occupation, the so-called “Salvador option”. In fact, since 1945, we have developed counterinsurgency policies based much upon the model of the Third Reich's suppression of partisan insurgents that emphasized placing the civilian population under strict control and using terror to make the population afraid to support or collaborate with insurgents.

Patrick Lang, former chief of Middle East analysis for the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency said: “What those of us in El Salvador learned was that American policy might call for surgical action, but once the local troops are involved, they’re as likely to use a chain-saw as a scalpel. And that, too, can serve American ends."

In almost any counter-insurgency, the basic message the government or the occupiers tries to get across to the population is brutally simple: We can protect you from the guerrillas, but the guerrillas can’t protect you from us, and you’ve got to choose sides. Sometimes you can win the population’s hearts and minds; sometimes you just have to make them more frightened of you than they are of the insurgents. And for this aim we use the likes of the Wolf Brigade, the Scorpions Brigade, the Lions Brigade, the Peshmerga’s and the “security forces” of the Ministry of Interior.

On January 1 2004, Robert Dreyfuss stated that: “part of a secret $3 billion in new funds—tucked away in the $87 billion Iraq appropriation that Congress approved in early November 2003 — will go toward the creation of a paramilitary unit manned by militiamen associated with former Iraqi exile groups. Experts say it could lead to a wave of extra-judicial killings, not only of armed rebels but of nationalists, other opponents of the U.S. occupation and thousands of civilian Baathists—up to 120,000 of the estimated 2.5 million former Baath Party members in Iraq. “They’re clearly cooking up joint teams to do Phoenix-like things, like they did in Vietnam,” said Vincent Cannistraro, former CIA chief of counter terrorism.

“The big money would be for standing up an Iraqi secret police to liquidate the resistance,” said John Pike, an expert of sorts on classified military budgets at “And it has to be politically loyal to the United States. It’s also channeling money into the creation of an Iraqi secret police staffed mainly by gunmen associated with members of the puppet Iraqi Governing Council. Those militiamen are linked to Ahmad Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress, the Kurdish peshmerga forces and Shiite paramilitary units, especially those of the Iran-backed Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq. Technically illegal, these armed forces have been tolerated, even encouraged, by the Pentagon.”

Soon after this money entered Iraq, the consequences of this secret operation became clear. According to an article published in New York Times Magazine, in September 2004, Counselor to the US Ambassador for Iraqi Security Forces James Steele was assigned to work with a new elite Iraqi counter-insurgency unit known as the Special Police Commandos, formed under the operational control of Iraq’s Interior Ministry.

Not few of the same men in charge of training El Salvador's counter-insurgency forces during its civil war are advisors to Iraqi security forces.

Max Fuller
, a journalist specializing in Latin-America, has investigated this matter. He writes: “From 1984 to 1986 then Col. Steele had led the US Military Advisory Group in El Salvador, where he was responsible for developing special operating forces at brigade level during the height of the conflict. These forces, composed of the most brutal soldiers available, replicated the kind of small-unit operations with which Steele was familiar from his service in Vietnam. Rather than focusing on seizing terrain, their role was to attack ‘insurgent’ leadership, their supporters, sources of supply and base camps. In military circles it was the use of such tactics that made the difference in ultimately defeating the guerrillas; for others, such as the Catholic priest Daniel Santiago, the presence of people like Steele contributed to another sort of difference:”

“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 bones, while parents are forced to watch.”

In the context of Iraq where good information is extremely scarce, disinformation and black propaganda are endemic and independent journalists and monitors are deliberately eliminated, it is vital to be able to model the situation in order to understand it and, hopefully, be effective. There are two principle dimensions to such modeling. In the first, Iraq has frequently been compared to Vietnam. The similarity is that the US has well over 100,000 soldiers on the ground. However, the analogy is misleading in that in Iraq conflict with a populous enemy state, as North Vietnam was, ended quickly.

As a model, El Salvador is not wholly accurate either. In El Salvador US advisors were few in number and prohibited from taking part in combat. Nevertheless, it is towards this model that the US is attempting to move, hoping to farm out the business of occupation to Iraqi auxiliaries. But, in many ways it is contemporary Colombia that offers the closest analogy: not for the disposition of US forces, but because here the same process of asset-stripping is both deeply entrenched and ongoing.

It is here that is to be found that clearest pattern for the assaults on academics, independent trade unionists and peasant organizations that will increasingly characterize Iraq for those prepared to look beyond the fireworks. This is the second dimension that any model must address, but in essence the pattern is repeated time after time in most every counter-insurgency war.

In Iraq, the Salvador Option may mean returning home to find your entire family seated at the table with their own severed heads served to them and a bowl of blood for relish. IO's too can have their fair share of pointy glory. In fact, maybe it's when they're pointy that they prove most effective in dealing with alien cultured folks. Some say music is the universal language that best bridges cultural divides. I beg to differ. I'll go with pure horror any ol' day, even in the land of Babel.

I recently saw a new face of COIN on The Daily Show. COIN was now main stream laughing matter.

Wow. "You've come a long way baby"


steve said...

I am reminded of this:

Meatball One said...

Neat! Thanks.

And Hey, that's much more in line with the post's opening quote from the Weekly Standard article - not that I was trying to draw any parallels in the first place. In fact, ask me today and I'll have no idea how I meandered so off course and ended up at The Daily Show.

Again, thanks Steve

Meatball One said...

PS, I post-linked the post with the link you provided. I tagged it on to the first excerpted article's tail. Kind of cheaty-ish of moi, but wtf - my intent is nuttin' aber sterling.

theBhc said...


Nice bit. Really. I also recall the first mention of the Salvadoran option in Iraq, I thought, uh, oh. Here we go....

The whole thing has the look of The Shock Doctrine written all over it. Indeed, it has right from the start.

As far as Nagl on TDS, yeah, I thought that was odd,rather ... interesting. In fact, I'm working up a post about how it is that our vaunted military is winding up on comedy shows. Stay tuned.

Meatball One said...

Looking forward to reading that piece,thebhc