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The major media outlets have ignored the CIA’s on-going strategy of mass assassinations as one of the main weapons in Bush’s burgeoning global war of terror. This is why it came as something of a shock to highbrows and media elites when Seymour Hersh, in a recent article for The New Yorker, revealed the existence of what he wrongfully referred to as "a new Special Forces operation" that is intended to assassinate the people comprising "the broad middle of the Ba’athist underground."
This is a half-truth at best. To begin with, this is a CIA assassination program, not a Special Forces program; and while Hersh is correct when he says the targets are members of the outlawed Ba’ath Party, he tactfully skirts the fact that this assassination program is illegal because it targets civilians not soldiers. Americans have denied these Iraqui civilians due process in their own country. Based on the word of a single anonymous informant, Ba’ath Party members who have never harmed a single American can be detained indefinitely, tortured until they rat out some colleagres, or become a double agent, or they can be assassinated along with their family, friends and neighbors.
And not just Ba’ath Party members, but anyone who gets their name on the CIA’s blacklist of political and ideological enemies.
Preemptive Manhunting: The New Phoenix Program
The CIA has concocted various euphemisms for its long-standing policy of assassinating civilians whose ideas and political beliefs it hates. In a 24 July 2003 article for CounterPunch titled Nation of Assassins, I listed some of them: "targetted kill" being the most popular, along with neutralize and "executive action". I’ve been waiting for the new euphemism with which the media will assuage the public and now we have it from disinformation specialist Seymour Hersh: "Preemptive Manhunting."
Preemptive Manhunting is the new name for assassination and, according to Hersh (quoting one of his usual anonymous sources), the rationale for resorting to this immoral and illegal measure is that "The only way we can win is to go unconventional. We’re going to have to play their game. Guerrilla versus guerrilla. Terrorism versus terrorism. We’ve got to scare the Iraqis into submission."
This is a textbook description of "selective terrorism" as the ultimate form of psychological warfare, and Hersh is correct in describing Preemptive Manhunting as the rebirth of the CIA’s Phoenix Program in South Vietnam.
For those who are unaware of it, a typical Phoenix Program operation occurred in February 1968, when former Senator Bob Kerrey (now added to the 9/11 Investigation team) led a seven-member Navy SEAL team into Thanh Phong village and murdered more than a dozen women and children–a war crime for which Kerry received a Bronze Star. That’s right–Kerrey lied when he got back to camp and reported that he and his boys had killed 21 Viet Cong guerrillas. We can expect a lot of this in Iraq, Afghanistan, and any other place Bush sends the CIA to terrorize the civilian populoation into submission.
In Vietnam, Kerrey & Company were supposedly after the local Communist Party District Chief. Like the Ba’ath Party in Iraq, the Communist Party was outlawed in South Vietnan, thus providing the CIA with the pretext it needed to kill its members. A Vietnamese informant provioded the intelligence that Kerrey based his mission on, and, in Iraq, the CIA’s Phoenix assassination teams will rely on paid, anonymous Iraqi informants to identify which Ba’ath Party members will be murdered along with all their family, friends, and neighbors. And anyone else the CIA wants killed.
That’s right–terrorizing the people into submission is the point of Preemptive Manhunting, just as it was the point of the CIA’s Phoenix Program. As in Kerrey’s operation in Thanh Phong, that means killing anyone in any way related to the target. Hundreds of My Lai massacres occurred in South Vietnam in the name of Phoenix, and starting in Afghanistan and Iraq, the CIA will perpetrate a hundred times that many massacres around the world, in the name of George Bush, Ariel Sharon, and the Judaeo-Christian God.
One final note. Hersh mentions that Israel is guiding the CIA’s Phoenix Program in Iraq, and as everyone knows, the Israelis are the world’s masters of assassination and terrorizing an entire people into submission. What Hersh doesn’t mention is that the blanket of censorship that prevents the American media from criticizing Israel for its war crimes has now been cast over Bush and the CIA, and all the people they use to conquer foreigns nations and assassinate people who never did any American any harm–until the Americans invaded their country.
Compare America’s conquest of Iraq with Israeli’s conquest of Palestine, and you begin to understand. In each case the stragey is massive war crimes on the one hand, and targetted kills of inspirational leaders on the other. This devastating one-two punch is easier through the complicity of the corporate media.
In this respect both Hersh and The New Yorker serve as essential instruments of the Big Lie that makes Preemptive Manhunting popular and thus possible. His story in The New Yorker was no mistake, but merely a part of the psychological warfare campaign being waged by the Bush regime to subdue the resistance of the American public to this awful war.
DOUGLAS VALENTINE is the author of The Hotel Tacloban, The Phoenix Program, and TDY. His fourth book, The Strength of the Wolf: The Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 1930-1968, will be published in May 2004. His latest article, "Whose Homeland Security", appeared in the July 2003 issue of Penthouse Magazine.