Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Afghanistan's Operation Phoenix
By Stephen Lendman
ccun.org, June 20, 2009
On June 15, AP reported that "Gen. Stanley McChrystal, a
four-star American general with a long history in special operations, took
charge of US and NATO troops in Afghanistan (today), a change in command
the Pentagon hopes will turn the tide in an increasingly violent
McChrystal is a hired gun, an assassin, a man
known for committing war crime atrocities as head of the Pentagon's
infamous Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) - established in 1980 and
comprised of the Army's Delta Force and Navy Seals, de facto death squads
writer Seymour Hersh described post-9/11 as an "executive assassination
wing" operating out of Dick Cheney's office.
A 2006 Newsweek
profile called JSOC "part of what Vice President Dick Cheney was referring
to when he said America would have to 'work on the dark side' after 9/11."
It called McChrystal then "an affable but tough Army Ranger" with no
elaboration of his "dark side" mission.
In his May 17 article
titled "Obama's Animal Farm: Bigger, Bloodier Wars Equal Peace and
Justice," James Petras called him a "notorious psychopath" in describing
him this way:
His rise through the ranks was "marked by his
central role in directing special operations teams engaged in
extrajudicial assassinations, systematic torture, bombing of civilian
communities and search and destroy missions. He is the very embodiment of
the brutality and gore that accompanies military-driven empire building."
His resume shows contempt for human life and the rule of law - a
depravity Conrad described in his classic work, "Heart of Darkness:" the
notion of "exterminat(ing) all the brutes" to civilize them, and removing
lesser people to colonize and dominate them by devising battle plans
amounting to genocide.
In June 2001, McChrystal became Chief of
Staff, XVIII Airborne Corp. After the Afghanistan invasion, he was
appointed Chief of Staff, Combined Joint Task Force 180, Operation
Enduring Freedom. In September 2003, he was Commanding General, Joint
Special Operations Command (JSOC). In February 2006, he became Commander,
Joint Special Operations - Command/Commander, Joint Special Operations
Command Forward, United States Special Operations, then in August 2008
General Director, the Joint Staff until his current appointment as US/NATO
Detailed information of his role in these
capacities is classified and unacknowledged, but Human Rights Watch (HRW)
revealed some of what he directed in its July 22, 2006 report titled "No
Blood, No Foul" - meaning short of drawing blood, all abuses were
acceptable and wouldn't result in investigations or prosecution.
HRW reported soldiers' firsthand accounts of detainee abuse by Task Force
20/121/6-26/145 at Baghdad's Camp Nama (an acronym for Nasty-Ass Military
Area) and elsewhere in Iraq.
JSOC's assignment was (and still is)
to capture or kill "high-value" combatants, including Saddam Hussein, Abu
Musab Al-Zarqawi, and many hundreds of Iraqis targeted in sweeping capture
and extermination missions that include lots of collateral killings and
Through most of 2003 and 2004, detainees were held at
interrogation facilities like Camp Nama at Baghdad International Airport
(BIAP). With good reason, it was off-limits to the ICRC and most US
military personnel. In summer 2004, it was moved to a new location near
Balad and also had facilities in Fallujah, Ramadi and Kirkuk.
personnel and former detainees reported torture and abuse as common
practice, including beatings, confinement in shipping containers for
24 hours in extreme heat, exposure to extreme cold, death threats,
humiliation, psychological stress, and much more.
Perry (a pseudonym he requested to avoid recrimination) was a Camp Nama
special interrogator during the first half of 2004. He said task force
members were military special forces and CIA personnel, none of whom
revealed ranks or last names to maintain secrecy.
interrogation rooms were used, the harshest called the "black room" where
everything was black with speakers in the corners and on the ceiling. A
table and chairs were in one corner for a boom box and computer.
Detainees were stripped naked and subjected to stress standing, sleep
deprivation, loud noise, strobe lights, beatings, dousing with cold water,
and other abuses.
Harshness levels were less severe in other
rooms, the "soft room" being least extreme and used for cooperating
detainees. However, throughout interrogations, they were shifted from one
room to another, but those put in the "black room" were considered the
Treatment authorization in writing or by computer
came from the camp's command structure - signed by "whoever was in charge
at the time" reporting to McChrystal or one of his subordinates.
Sergeant Perry saw him visit Camp Nama several times, and said its
commanding officer told interrogators that the White House or Donald
Rumsfeld were briefed on the information they obtained. He also learned
that the facility was "completely closed off" and secret, and that ICRC,
other investigators, and the Army's Criminal Investigation Command (CID)
were forbidden access to it.
In March 2006, The New York Times
published a feature article based on interviews with over a dozen US
personnel who served at Camp Nama or were familiar with its operations.
Their accounts corroborated Perry's and included details of other abuses.
Much of the same information came out about torture at Guantanamo and
other overseas US prisons, including Camp Cropper, Iraq (near Baghdad
Airport) now expanded to hold up to 2000 detainees.
hundreds of "credible allegations of serious mistreatment and torture (as)
standard operation procedure" at locations throughout Iraq involving
special forces, CIA, and others. Its report is based on firsthand accounts
from three locations between 2003 - 2005 when McChrystal was in charge of
On March 31, 2009 on Democracy Now, Seymour Hersh
said US forces conducted assassinations in a dozen or more countries,
including in Latin and Central America. "And it's been going on and on and
on," he said. George Bush "authorized these kinds of actions in the Middle
East" and elsewhere...." Now Obama's doing the same thing.
the idea that the American president would think he has the constitutional
power or the legal right to tell soldiers....to go out and find people
based on lists and execute them is just amazing to me...."
his tenure, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld gave the Special Operations Command
(SOCOM) authority to carry out killings anywhere on the globe. Hersh said
"it operates out of Florida, and it involves a lot of wings." One is "the
Joint Special Op - JSOC. It's a special (Navy Seals and Delta Force)
unit....black units, the commando units....And they promote from within.
It's a unit that has its own promotion structure. And one of the
elements....about getting ahead....is the number of kills you have,"
especially high-value targets. Cheney was deeply involved. Robert Gates
likely is now.
Targeting goes on in a lot of countries besides
Iraq and Afghanistan, including Colombia, Eritrea, Madagascar, Kenya, or
anywhere to "kill people who are believed....to be Al Qaeda....Al
Qaeda-linked or anti-American" - fictitious outside enemies without which
Obama's wars can't continue nor could they under George Bush..
his book "America's War on Terrorism," Michel Chossudovsky uncovered
evidence that Al Qaeda was a CIA creation from the Soviet-Afghan 1980s
war, and in the 1990s Washington "consciously supported Osama bin Laden,
while at the same time placing him on the FBI's 'most wanted list' as the
World's foremost terrorist."
He remains so today, even though
David Ray Griffin's new book ("Osama Bin Laden: Dead or Alive?") provides
convincing evidence that he died in late 2001, a conclusion many US
counterterrorism experts support and believe his conveniently timed video
messages are fakes.
Capturing or Killing Bin Laden
January 2009 CBS television interview, Obama suggested that he's dead by
saying "whether he is technically alive or not, he is so pinned down that
he cannot function. My preference (is) to capture of kill him. But if we
have so tightened the noose that he's in a cave somewhere and can't even
communicate with his operatives, then we will meet our goal of protecting
Nonetheless, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs
responded to the latest purported bin Laden statement that it's
"consistent with messages we've seen in the past from al Qaeda threatening
the US and other countries that are involved in counterterrorism efforts."
So it's no surprise that top administration orders reach field
commanders like McChrystal to capture or kill the usual suspects. From
known reports about him, he carries them out with relish.
Obama administration gave him carte blanche authority to choose his staff
for their assigned mission - expand the Af-Pak war with more troops,
funding, stepped up counterinsurgency, targeted killings, and secret drone
and other attacks against any targets he chooses in either country. He'll
also have more political control, possibly with a Washington-appointed
civilian authority to run the Afghanistan government day to day, making
Hamid Karzai more of a figurehead than currently.
Obama's war aims
to pacify the country and Afghan/Pakistan border areas through scorched
earth terror, targeted assassinations, and as much mass killing as it
takes to prevail. McChrystal has the job, a man one observer said "comes
from a world where killing by any means is the norm and a blanket of
government secrecy provides the necessary protection." All the greater
with Obama's endorsement.
Former 82nd Airborne Division commander
General David Rodriquez, Defense Secretary Gates' top military aide, will
be his deputy. Gates praised McChrystal for his "unique skill set in
counterinsurgency" and said the mission of both men and their team
"requires new thinking and new approaches by our military leaders."
Clearly implied are the Special Ops skills they possess in what an unnamed
Defense Department official called "unconventional warfare....to track and
These tactics kill many hundreds, displace
hundreds of thousands, and enrage civilians on both sides of the Af-Pak
border. Yet pursuing them is Obama's top war strategy priority that may
include Iraq as violence there heats up.
From 1968 - 1973, the CIA ran or was involved in the Phoenix Program with
US Special Forces and its own Military Assistance Command Vietnam-Special
Operations Group (MACV-SOG) involving covert missions to crush the
National Liberation Front (NLF resistance called the Viet Cong or VC). One
person involved called the operation a "depersonalized murder program" to
remove opposition and terrorize the population into submission.
In 1975, Counterspy magazine said it was "the most indiscriminate and
massive program of political murder since the Nazi death camps of world
war two." It even targeted certain US military personnel considered
security risks and members of the South Vietnamese government.
simple terms, the program conducted mass killings and seizures of
suspected NLF members and collaborators with special emphasis on
high-value targets - by some estimates around 80,000 or more before it
Wayne Cooper was a Foreign Service officer at the time. He
spent 18 months in Vietnam, most of it as a Phoenix advisor at Cantho in
the Mekong Delta. He called the operation a "disreputable, CIA-inspired
effort, often deplored as a bloody-handed assassination program (and) a
In the mid-1960s, it began as a CIA "Counter Terror (CT)
program "never recognized by the South Vietnamese government." It
"recruited, organized, supplied and directly paid CT teams whose function
was to use Vietcong techniques, kidnappings and intimidation - against the
By 1968, the program was expanded and called
Intelligence Coordination and Exploitation (ICEX), then Phoenix. From
General William Westmoreland and "Ambassador-for-pacification Robert Komer"
on down, "neutralizing" the VC was top priority.
took charge. A Civil Operations and Rural Development Support (CORDS)
organization was established, under which Phoenix was run. Cooper cited
numerous problems for its failure and criticized experts sifting through
them to get it right next time. He called the program a "gimmick" unable
to "compensate for South Vietnam's" popular opposition to the war and
concluded that no counterinsurgency can succeed under those circumstances.
Certainly not in Afghanistan and Iraq, two countries historically
opposed to foreign occupations with a record of brave resistance to end
them. They represent what the CIA called Vietnam during that earlier era -
"the grand illusion of the American cause;" the latest Washington
misadventures no matter how long they go on, whatever amounts are spent on
them, or how much mass killing and destruction persist under any command.
America hasn't won a war (or fought a legal one) since WW II, something
Obama might consider as he plans his next move.
is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He
lives in Chicago and can be reached at
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The
Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Monday - Friday at
10:00AM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished
guests on world and national issues. All programs are archived for easy