According to Newsweek, the Pentagon is considering using what it calls “the Salvador option” in Iraq:
What to do about the deepening quagmire of Iraq? The Pentagon’s latest approach is being called “the Salvador option” and the fact that it is being discussed at all is a measure of just how worried Donald Rumsfeld really is. “What everyone agrees is that we can’t just go on as we are,” one senior military officer told NEWSWEEK. “We have to find a way to take the offensive against the insurgents. Right now, we are playing defense. And we are losing.” Last November’s operation in Fallujah, most analysts agree, succeeded less in breaking “the back” of the insurgency as Marine Gen. John Sattler optimistically declared at the time than in spreading it out.
Now, NEWSWEEK has learned, the Pentagon is intensively debating an option that dates back to a still-secret strategy in the Reagan administration’s battle against the leftist guerrilla insurgency in El Salvador in the early 1980s. Then, faced with a losing war against Salvadoran rebels, the U.S. government funded or supported “nationalist” forces that allegedly included so-called death squads directed to hunt down and kill rebel leaders and sympathizers. Eventually the insurgency was quelled, and many U.S. conservatives consider the policy to have been a success despite the deaths of innocent civilians and the subsequent Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages scandal. (Among the current administration officials who dealt with Central America back then is John Negroponte, who is today the U.S. ambassador to Iraq. Under Reagan, he was ambassador to Honduras.)
. . .
Shahwani also said that the U.S. occupation has failed to crack the problem of broad support for the insurgency. The insurgents, he said, “are mostly in the Sunni areas where the population there, almost 200,000, is sympathetic to them.” He said most Iraqi people do not actively support the insurgents or provide them with material or logistical help, but at the same time they won’t turn them in. One military source involved in the Pentagon debate agrees that this is the crux of the problem, and he suggests that new offensive operations are needed that would create a fear of aiding the insurgency. “The Sunni population is paying no price for the support it is giving to the terrorists,” he said. “From their point of view, it is cost-free. We have to change that equation.”
And there’s the key: the Sunni population is paying no price, and we have to change that equation. In el Salvador, changing that equation meant throwing our support behind death squads guilty of torture, massacres and “disappearances” arming them, training them, politely overlooking the slaughter of tens of thousands of civilians. (Not to mention four American nuns and six Jesuit priests. There’s a good rundown of those years here for anyone who needs a refresher course.)
“Salvador option.” Jesus Christ, what’s a satirist to do when reality itself plays out like a ham-fisted satire?
Update: a response to the predictable right-wing wankery.