Moral Outrage
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The Very Dark Side of U.S. Military History, Part 2

Under the pioneering strategies of the CIA‘s Maj. Gen. Edward G. Lansdale, psy-war was a new spin to the old game of breaking the will of a target population. The idea was to analyze the psychological weaknesses of a people and develop “themes” that could induce actions favorable to those carrying out the operation.

Following the Philippine model, next the Vietnamese were crowded into “strategic hamlets”; “free-fire zones” were declared with homes and crops destroyed; and the Phoenix program eliminated thousands of suspected Viet Cong cadre. During the Vietnam War Americans watched TV footage of U.S. troops torching villages and forced distraught old women to leave ancestral homes, and the bombing of children with napalm.

By the mid-1960s, some of the U.S. counterinsurgency lessons had reached Indonesia, too. The covert U.S. aid and training was mostly innocuous-sounding “civic action,” which is generally thought to mean building roads, staffing health clinics and performing other “hearts-and-minds” activities with civilians. But “civic action” also provided cover in Indonesia, as in the Philippines and Vietnam, for psy-war.

To counter Indonesia’s powerful Communist Party, known as the PKI, the army organized the slaughter of tens of thousands of men, women and children. So many bodies were dumped into the rivers of East Java that they ran red with blood. In a classic psy-war tactic, the bloated carcasses also served as a political warning to villages down river.

Classic psy-war and pacification strategies were then followed to the hilt in East Timor. The Indonesians put on display corpses and the heads of their victims. Timorese also were herded into government-controlled camps before permanent relocation in “resettlement villages” far from their original homes.

President Ronald Reagan also added an important new component to the mix. Recognizing how graphic images and honest reporting from the war zone had undercut public support for the counterinsurgency in Vietnam, Reagan authorized an aggressive domestic “public diplomacy” operation which practiced what was called “perception management” — in effect, intimidating journalists to ensure that only sanitized information would reach the American people.

Some Reagan operatives were not shy about their defense of political terror as a necessity of the Cold War. Neil Livingstone, a counter-terrorism consultant to the National Security Council, called death squads “an extremely effective tool, however odious, in combating terrorism and revolutionary challenges.”

The dark side of U.S. security policy is thrown into the light by unauthorized leaks, such as the photos of abused detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq or by revelations about waterboarding and other torture authorized by George W. Bush’s White House as part of the “war on terror.”

Only then does the public get a glimpse of the grim reality, the bloody and brutal tactics that have been deemed “necessary” for more than two centuries in the defense of the purported “national interests.”

[Read full article at Consortium News]

 

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2 Responses to “The Very Dark Side of U.S. Military History, Part 2”

  1. There are two sides to all these issues and both were nnnnecessary in part.1. So that we could save more lives preferrably Our Own. 2. So we could demoralize the enemy. MAKING IT TO our advantage to be where we were.


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