Iraq, Negroponte Style
A few days ago in The Guardian, Naomi Klein made a strong case for suspecting that the abduction - and now, possibly, murder (according to "a statement on a site not often used by Iraqi militants") - of Italian anti-occupation relief workers Simona Pari and Simona Torretta was a covert action:
Nothing about this kidnapping fits the pattern of other abductions. Most are opportunistic attacks on treacherous stretches of road. Torretta and her colleagues were coldly hunted down in their home. And while mujahideen in Iraq scrupulously hide their identities, making sure to wrap their faces in scarves, these kidnappers were bare-faced and clean-shaven, some in business suits. One assailant was addressed by the others as "sir".
Most extraordinary was the size of the operation: rather than the usual three or four fighters, 20 armed men pulled up to the house in broad daylight, seemingly unconcerned about being caught. Only blocks from the heavily patrolled Green Zone, the whole operation went off with no interference from Iraqi police or US military - although Newsweek reported that "about 15 minutes afterwards, an American Humvee convoy passed hardly a block away".
And then there were the weapons. The attackers were armed with AK-47s, shotguns, pistols with silencers and stun guns - hardly the mujahideen's standard-issue rusty Kalashnikovs. Strangest of all is this detail: witnesses said that several attackers wore Iraqi National Guard uniforms and identified themselves as working for Ayad Allawi, the interim prime minister.
Western journalists are loath to talk about spies for fear of being labelled conspiracy theorists. But spies and covert operations are not a conspiracy in Iraq; they are a daily reality. According to CIA deputy director James L Pavitt, "Baghdad is home to the largest CIA station since the Vietnam war", with 500 to 600 agents on the ground. Allawi himself is a lifelong spook who has worked with MI6, the CIA and the mukhabarat, specialising in removing enemies of the regime.
[Relief organization] A Bridge to Baghdad has been unapologetic in its opposition to the occupation regime. During the siege of Falluja in April, it coordinated risky humanitarian missions. US forces had sealed the road to Falluja and banished the press as they prepared to punish the entire city for the gruesome killings of four Blackwater mercenaries. In August, when US marines laid siege to Najaf, A Bridge to Baghdad again went where the occupation forces wanted no witnesses. And the day before their kidnapping, Torretta and Pari told Kubaisi that they were planning yet another high-risk mission to Falluja.
There is also an important interview here with correspondent Jeremy Scahill, who assisted Klein on the story.
If the brutal targetting of leftist aid workers sounds strangely familiar, you must know your recent Central American history. To refresh your memory, I suggest reviewing the CV of the recently-appointed US Ambassador to Iraq, John Negroponte. Particular attention should be paid to the years 1981-85, when he served as Ambassador to Honduras.
Here's Ghali Hassan, writing in Counterpunch, June 4:
In Honduras the army intelligence unit, Battalion 3-16, was involved in kidnappings, rape, torture and killing of suspected dissidents. In 1995 Gary Cohn and Ginger Thompson of The Baltimore Sun unearthed massive and substantiated evidence from various sources pointing the finger at Mr. Negroponte's knowledge of the crimes. The reporters also found that hundreds of Hondurans "were kidnapped, tortured and killed in the 1980s by a secret army unit trained and supported by the CIA." Reliable evidence from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Honduras alleged that Negroponte oversaw the expansion of U.S training camp and military base on Honduran territory, where US-trained Contras terrorists, and where the military secretly detained, tortured and executed Honduran suspected dissidents.
For more information on the abduction of Simona Peri and Simona Torretta, as well as that of their Iraqi colleagues Ra'ad Ali Abdul Azziz and Mahnoaz Bassam, and actions to win their release, see the blog "Free Our Friends".