Sunday, February 06, 2005

International law, and a Phoenix program for Iraq

I just lost a long transcription of an NPR story by Tom Gjelten on a conference on the role of Special Operations in Iraq. Rather than rewrite the whole thing, I'll just quickly summarize the two points, but I urge you to listen to the five minute report from Friday. The basic thrust, though, is that in a post-9/11 world, the U.S. wants to do be able to do publicly what it previously could only get away with through covert or clandestine means.

Most notably, Gjelten quotes a Pentagon official as promoting an interpretation of international law whereby the U.S. has the right to go into any country and snatch up terrorist targets, if that sovereign country is not acting responsibly.

Secondly, he quotes Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin (remember, the evangelical and intolerant extremist, to use William Arkin's characterization), as saying that the U.S. is already running a Phoenix-like program in Iraq. Boykin said "We doing what the Phoenix program was designed to do, without all of the secrecy." (This, I think, is the "Salvador option" in action.) That admission came right after a top counterterrorism guy at State (John Dinger) said it would be "very risky" to institute such a program, and could "create a worldwide blowback of bad publicity."


David said...

Well, I certainly can't claim absolute clarity.. I believe that elements of the Phoenix program were covert, if sourcewatch is to be believed. And presumably the U.S. used to take out terrorists in other countries in a covert fashion.

The disparity of focus of the two reports (Washington Post, and NPR) are striking.

David said...

Also, I don't think the Phoenix stuff Boykin's talking about here has nothing to do with Iran, but rather Iraq. Perhaps that's why it's not "covert".