With this title an essay published by Counterpunch characterizes as striking the new transparency of the official public acknowledgement of a half-century- old, broad-based US targeted assassination program
that coincides with the unprecedented visibility of drone warfare in several areas of the planet.
The idea of the existence of a “kill list” at the highest level of US executive power has set off a firestorm of media coverage that indicates a significant concern even among sectors of the “invisible power”.
A Washington Post editorial noted that “No government has ever relied so extensively on the secret killing of individuals to advance the nation’s security goals.” The New York Times described Obama’s role as “without precedent in presidential history, of personally overseeing the shadow war …”
Former president James Carter insisted, in a recent op-ed column in the New York Times, “We don’t know how many hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed in these [drone] attacks, each one approved by the highest authorities in Washington. This would have been unthinkable in previous times.”
In fact, these long-distance homicides and selective assassinations with presidential approval have been going on covertly for at least half a century. The only novelty is the open nature of the latest, more publicized revelations about hit lists and assassinations with the use of drones. “Those who are mortified by the latest revelations of Obama’s hit lists have much to learn from a more comprehensive, historical perspective on US killing around the globe,” says Noble.
The author divides the analysis of the 50 years of massacres and targeted killings by the USA into three sections:
Section 1 describes the lethal history of the US Phoenix Program in Vietnam, the original source of subsequent US counter-terrorist tactics and strategies.
Section 2 revisits briefly the well-known history of US kill lists and assassinations in Latin American countries, followed by the somewhat less-well-known history of US kill lists and assassinations in
countries on other continents.
Section 3 traces the resurrection of Phoenix in Iraq and Afghanistan, and in a growing number of “countries we are not at war with.”
The US Phoenix program was a highly secret operation applied in 1967 by the CIA in Vietnam aimed at “neutralizing” the "Vietcong" infrastructure. This meant assassinating South Vietnamese civilians
suspected of supporting North Vietnamese or "Vietcong" fighters.
William Colby, CIA Director at the time, insisted in the 1971 Congressional Hearings that “the Phoenix program is not a program of assassination,” but he later conceded that Phoenix operations killed over 20,000 people between 1967 and 1972. The My Lai massacre, hardly an isolated incident, was itself a Phoenix operation.
With abundant data and arguments, Doug Noble describes the repercussions of this program in Latin America.
The US intelligence community adapted Phoenix to South America by commissioning the ultra secret Project X.
Phoenix methods and techniques were used in Operation Condor which was responsible for the assassination of several hundred thousand Latin American patriots. Criminal organizations in almost all the countries in the region served Phoenix for collection, exchange and storage of intelligence and collaborated in the repression of the struggle and ideals that stood against the hegemonic role of the USA in the continent.
During the Carter administration the USA suspended the application of Project X for alleged human rights violations, but the Reagan administration resumed it soon enough.
“The US drone killing program has come out of the closet. Those of us protesting US drones for years have correctly focused on the use of drones as illegal, immoral and strategically counterproductive. We
have abhorred the schizophrenic ease of remote killing, the uniquely frightening horror of a drone strike, and the unavoidable (even intentional) killing of countless civilian “terrorist suspects” in “signature strikes.” We have also warned of the proliferation of drones in countries around the globe and of their procurement by US police forces and border patrols, for surveillance and “non-lethal” targeting”, states Doug Noble, an activist against war who resides in Rochester.
The Phoenix Program has become global thus contributing to proclaim the United States of America as a real assassination nation.
A CubaNews translation.
Edited by Walter Lippmann.
* Manuel E. Yepe is a lawyer, economist and journalist. He is a professor at the Higher Institute of International Relations in Havana. He was Cuba's ambassador to Romania, general director of the Prensa Latina agency; vice president of the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television; founder and national director of the Technological Information System (TIPS) of the United Nations Program for Development in Cuba, and secretary of the Cuban Movement for the Peace and Sovereignty of the Peoples.
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