Media White Wash: U.S.-Backed "Dirty Brigade" Operating in Iraq

Anyone surprised? Aside, of course, from those who rely on the commercial media.

So, there is an "elite" group of commandos known by the Iraqi public as the "dirty brigade." Its commanders claim that the brigade is made up of soldiers embodying the height of professionalism, but they're perceived to be a hand-picked crew, outside the chain of command, that targets the Maliki regime's political enemies. They're trained and equipped by the U.S. 

The story should come as little surprise. During the 2004 campaign, conservatives in the U.S. talked a lot about deploying the "El Salvador model" in Iraq, and in 2007 Pentagon planners in fact acknowledged, as Reuters put it, "that the El Salvador model had influenced planning."

According to folks like Dick Cheney, El Salvador was a heroic struggle by a U.S.-backed government fighting "terrorists" who had killed 75,000 people. But as historian Mark Engler wrote:  

There is a serious problem with this story. The 75,000 people Cheney mentioned were indeed killed by terrorists, but not by the rebel FMLN forces that he intended to condemn. Rather, they were under assault from the very Salvadoran government that the Reagan administration was supporting and from its paramilitary death squads. With a list of opposition politicians having already been executed or exiled, the 1984 elections were little more than a farce designed to give democratic respectability to a regime that was perpetuating some of the worst human rights abuses in the hemisphere.

Again, the story itself shouldn't be a shocker for anyone who's followed the details of the U.S. occupation of Iraq. What I think is noteworthy is how the Ministry of Truth Associated Press (I know, I have to lay off the Orwell references) reported the story. The headline is: "Elite Iraqi troops in forefront after US pullback" -- they're "elite."

The lede:

As Iraqi security services prepare to take back their towns from the Americans on Tuesday, the sharpest arrow in their quiver is an elite, American-trained force with a reputation that leads many Iraqis to call it "the dirty brigade."

 So it has a reputation that leads "many Iraqis" to call it the "dirty brigade." That's followed by several graphs disputing the perceptions of those "many Iraqis" -- none of whom are quoted in the piece. The only Iraqi quoted is ... Kalib Shegati al-Kenani, the Iraqi Army general who heads the brigade.

Its real name is the Counter Terrorism Bureau, and its commander insists it's professional, nonsectarian and not dirty at all.

The only insight we get as to why the force is known as the dirty brigade is this:

Formed soon after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, the force became known as the "Dirty Brigade" because it was secretive and until recently operated outside the Iraqi chain of command, reporting directly to its U.S. handlers.

It was so little known that it even was rumored to be used against the Shiite-dominated government's opponents in the political mainstream -- a charge denied by the Iraqis and the Americans.

So, the reason it's known as the dirty brigade, according to the AP, is that it operated outside the chain of command and reported directly to the Americans. And then -- almost tacked on as an afterthought -- it was "even rumored" to be used against the government's political opponents.

But buried between the lines is some confirmation that those rumors are likely true:

They are thought to have been the main force that assisted the Americans during an offensive in Baghdad's Sadr City quarter last year to rout Shiite militias, and on operations targeting Sunni insurgents.

As Raed Jarrar and I wrote at the time, that "crackdown" was indeed targeted at Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki's political opponents:

Joshua Holland is an editor and senior writer at AlterNet.
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