The story began in April, 2003, in an ordinary press release from CSCDynCorp. The company proudly announced the award of a State Department contract worth up to $50 million in the first year. In return for this remarkable amount of money, CSCDyncorp was to provide 1,000 civilian advisors “to help the government of Iraq organize effective civilian Law enforcement, judicial, and correctional agencies.” These civilian advisors qualifications were extensive indeed, with years of law Enforcement experience, impeccable resumes and excellent health, among others. The ability to speak English was a requirement for applicants, but there was no mention of Arabic. Curious. It appears that they’re still hiring. As you go down the list of qualifications, CSCDyncorp lists one that is even more curious: “we are seeking applicants with two years experience in specialized skills.” For a contract length of one year, the pay for the top prospects is $153. 600.00.

As the Abu Ghraib abuse story broke in earnest, two Private Military Companies (PMC) came to the fore as well: Titan Corp and CACI International. Both companies provide private interrogators or linguists. Then another Press release caught my eye. It was issued by the CACI International back on February 2, 2004. It read in part: “CACI International announced today that CACI Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Dr. J.P. (Jack) London was selected by the Jerusalem Fund of Aish HaTorah to receive the distinguished Albert Einstein Technology Award…It was presented by Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz. and Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski at a ceremony held at the Jerusalem City Hall on January 14, 2004…”

Other than belated congratulations to Dr. London, so what? The Press Release gushed on: “The ceremony was part of the first annual Defense Aerospace Homeland Security Mission of Peace to Israel and Jordan…the purpose of the mission was to promote opportunities for strategic partnerships and joint ventures between US and Israeli defense and homeland security companies…CACI works directly with the US Department of Defense and the Intelligence community…demonstrating expertise in systems integration, secure network services, intelligence services…and knowledge management.”

Death Squads and counter-insurgency.

After the Fall of Baghdad, American officials claimed that hard-core cells of Baathists were behind the escalating guerrilla war against the coalition. De-Baathification was at the heart of the American strategy for stability in a post-Saddam Iraq, so clearly these people had to go, so much more if they were killing US troops. The Pentagon put together Task Force 121, recruiting from Delta Force, Navy Seals, and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operatives and their paramilitaries. Task Force 121 was to capture or assassinate Baathists insurgents. There were, however, several problems.

According to The New Yorker, one Pentagon official said: “The problem with the way the US has been fighting the Baathist leadership is we’ve got no intelligence, and we’re too squeamish to operate in this part of the world.” Another former intelligence officer asserted, “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.”

The US military first turned to an old enemy for help, Saddam Hussein’s infamous secret police, the Mukhabarat. The irony here is just as infamous, the Mukhabarat kept the former dictator in power, murdering tens of thousands of Iraqis over the years. The Sunday Times interviewed a ten-year veteran of the Mukhabarat, Mohammad Abdullah, who confirmed that he has been working for CIA since last May, for $700 dollars a month. He was quoted as saying that, “…dozens of former officers have already been recruited…they need us. The Mukkhabarat was one of the best security organizations in the world.”

What the former enemies could deliver was who, what, and where of those who were most likely to be actively engaged in resistance against the Americans. Task force 121 could therefore execute them or snatch them up for later interrogation.

In the best tradition of life in shadowy, double-cross, don’t trust anyone but the man with the money. Abdullah still confessed his loyalty to the fallen Hussein, but found it easy to accept his new reality: $700 a month in Baghdad, in cash, no doubt.

With former members of Saddam’s secret police now on the payroll, and task Force 121 organized, we turn out attention back to Israel.

Last winter, The Guardian printed a story disclosing that members of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) had sent “urban warfare specialists” to Fort Bragg, N.C., the home of US Special Forces. Special Forces are primarily known for its work in counter-insurgency. The story reported that Israeli advisers were helping US Special Forces in setting up “assassination squads” against guerrilla leaders. But a well-informed source in Washington went a step further: “Some Israelis went to Iraq as well, not to do training, but for providing consultations.” Other sources confirmed Israelis inside Iraq, but IDF officials would not confirm or deny saying: “Does it affect Iraq? It’s not in our interest or the Americans’ interest or anyone else’s interest to go into that. It would just fit in with jihadist prejudices.”

And just last week, The Globe and Mail ran a story quoting Eugene Bird, a former American diplomat who stated: “We know that the Israeli intelligence was operating in Baghdad after the war was over. The question should be, ’were there any foreign interrogators among those that were recommending very, very, bad treatment for the (Abu Ghraib) prisoners?’” It should be noted that Bird has strong ties to the Palestinian cause. It also should be noted that a pro-Israeli lobby protested the item, forcing a “clarification” and, “..noting that there was no evidence that Israeli complicity existed.”

Another Israeli military intelligence officer summed up the lessons taught: “How to do targeted killing, which is very relevant to the success of the War (in Iraq), and what the United States is going to have to do.” The Americans were being told to duplicate the work of Israeli Army commando units called “Mist’aravim.” These units operate undercover inside the Gaza strip and the west bank, killing Hamas leaders or potential suicide bombers.

The Special Forces operation is known as preemptive man hunting. But some planners inside the pentagon fear such an operation might have turned into a modern day Phoenix Operation. From 1968 to 1972, the operation was designed to capture or kill Vietnamese sympathetic to the Viet Cong, and Viet Cong leaders themselves. The US claimed more than 20,000 killed out of the more than 60,000 captured. South Vietnamese officials numbered more than 40,000 executions. Those tortured for information remain unknown. Phoenix did work, up to a level. However, William Colby, who took over the running of Phoenix in 1968 admitted that “a lot of things were done that should not have been done.”

Death Squads became notorious once again during the 60’s and 70’s. Officers from various Central American banana republics, engaged with “leftists guerrillas’, were trained at the infamous School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia. “Leftist guerrillas” included innocent men, women, children, labor leaders, priests, nuns, journalists, and anyone who was opposed to the notion of mass murder.

Both programs did eventually come out from under the government rocks where they were hiding. But the Pentagon may have found a way around unwanted curiosity. Private Military Companies are hired by the Pentagon, and remain unaccountable to the Congress. CACA International and Titan are only two of the dozens of corporations providing the thousands of private military contractors (individual mercenaries) working inside Iraq. What better way to conceal their presence, activities and mission than through the murky world of the modern day mercenary? It may be, and probably is, that Jack London of CACI is unaware just who some of the people CACI hires actually are. If the Mossad (Israeli Intelligence) wants to conduct Death Squad activity inside Baghdad with its US Allies, what better cover than a private military company?

Last September, The Independent’s Middle East correspondent claimed that 1,000 Iraqi civilians were dying each week, because of widespread lawlessness, or by military action. In such a climate, covert action assassination teams could work unimpeded.

General Taguba’s report talks about “Other Government Agencies (OGA’s) transporting “Ghost Prisoners.” One scenario is CIA agents bundling Iraqis fingered By Saddam’s former secret police, then snatched up by PMC death squads composed of Mossad agents and Task Force 121 operatives and then turned over for interrogation. Reads like a cheap spy novel. But Operation Phoenix was not cheap. And it was not a novel. It happened and may be happening again.

And there are at least 9,000 Iraqi in the hands of the coalition, some of the more high value targets (insurgents) are located in secret prisons so sensitive that no one knows where they are.

Remember those private Israeli contractors and Israeli homeland security types rubbing elbows with CACI International in Tel Aviv just four months ago? One is tempted to call them for a comment. But I’m sure one would not be forthcoming. As the Israeli commando said above: “Its not in anyone’s interests to go into that…” By Grady Hawkins

(editor’s note: sources for the following are extensive, they include: The New Yorker, LA Times, Time Magazine, The Guardian, The (UK) Independent, WSW website, CACI, DynCorp. Army Magazine, and others)

Thirty-six years ago, a counter-insurgency operation, code named Phoenix, began operating in Viet Nam. Targeted kidnappings, torturing suspects, and extra-judicial killings were employed against a terrorized Vietnamese population, the objective being to secure intelligence concerning the identities of unknown enemies. It has been born again in the middle- east, and once again it hides behind a fog of war generated by taxpayer money and hidden by the pentagon.