Sunday, October 31, 2004

Friendly militias redux

Back in August, I reported that Paul Wolfowitz “wants to build a ‘global anti-terrorist network of friendly militias,’ bypassing insufficiently pliable national militaries in favor of building up warlords and death squads and you’ve got to be fucking kidding.” He proposed this in testimony to the House Armed Services Committee, but no American newspaper reported it, no American politician that I know of denounced it.

So it’s going ahead. The U.S. Special Operations Command has gotten a slush fund of $25 million in a provision snuck into the most recent Pentagon authorization bill, which was signed Friday. The LA Times seems to be the only newspaper that has noticed, and mostly presents it as only an operational thing--“enabling America’s elite soldiers to buy off tribal leaders or arm local militias while pursuing Al Qaeda operatives and confronting other threats.” The paper ignores Wolfowitz’s more grandiose plans for a global network, indeed it is evidently unaware of them, not mentioning him or “friendly militias” in the story.

Congress does seem to have built in some safeguards, although the lack of public discussion of this move doesn’t suggest they’ll be exercising much in the way of oversight. At best, millions in bribes will be put in the hands of unsavory thugs, such as the Afghan warlords who sold their opponents to the CIA to be spirited away to Guantanamo, and the next generation of Chalabis. At worst, the money will build up forces that will destabilize nations, commit atrocities, or otherwise come back to bite us in the ass, like the aid given to mujahaddin in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

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