Friday, August 05, 2005

more piracy

This is mostly a placeholder.

A blog by the name of Organic Warfare has two recent entries on contemporary piracy and insurgency: Piracy in the Malacca Straits and Piracy and the Global Insurgency.

"Organic Warfare" states that "modern pirates are now using tactics similar to terrorism to capture ships and goods." By contrast, of course, I'd suggest that the relation is inverse: it is the terrorists who are the inheritors of piracy's historic tradition. Which does not preclude feedback and cross-contamination between the two forms of activity.

UPDATE: John Robb of Global Guerrillas (I'm not sure what the relation is between his two blogs) points to an article in the Sunday Herald on private navies, also in the Malacca Straits.

But as I point out in my comment on Robb's entry, the irony is that "private navies" are far from being "a radical new solution." After all, "privateers" were, precisely, private military forces that flourished before the nationalization of naval warfare. So from privateers to pirates, and back to privateers...


Jeremiah said...

Glad you liked it.

You may also be interested in an article I wrote about the origins of Machete 13 and their connection to Al Qaeda. They are not a gang at all but an insurgent group operating within the United States.

Shameless self-promotion.

Jon said...

No probs with the self-promotion. :) But I've just left comments on your Salvador posts: I agree with the broad brushstrokes of what you're saying, but with very few of the details. I'm afraid I concentrated on the disagreements rather than with my agreements (that happens), but in the spirit that I also think that it's worth pursuing the links or similarities between the so-called war on terror and other insurgencies, such as the Salvadoran case.

Jeremiah said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jeremiah said...


You might want to check your facts again. Unfortunately, I think the casualty figures are correct. Also, ARENA was in fact in existence before Mozote. To state that they were not in power at the time of the massacre isn't exactly correct because they were backed by powerful interests in the government as well as by landowners opposing land reforms.

To state that the United States tried to stop ARENA is also not correct, because we were funding and advising them from the getgo, and we formed, armed and funded Atlacatl Battallion which was very closely linked with ARENA.

I do wish I was wrong but I don't think I am. It was incorrect to state that ARENA formed Atlacatl when in fact, if anything the reverse was true. The junta (yes, I'm calling them a junta) arose out of the death squad and not vice versa.

[By the way, comments are closed on there now... people were abusing each other and I don't want that going on.]

Jon said...

On juntas... I don't know exactly what your point is, unless you simply want to suggest that ARENA were a nasty bunch, which is true enough but it seems unhelpful to be imprecise about what's meant by "junta" especially in that at one point (between 79 and 82) a junta did indeed govern Salvador.

ARENA didn't come to power until 1989. (Yes, it had been founded by the time of El Mozote, but only three months earlier.) Of course, D'Aubisson exerted tremendous power long before Christiani's accession to the presidency, but it's simplistic to blame everything on ARENA, or indeed on US backing.

ARENA didn't come to power until 1989 precisely because the US were trying (and failing) to shore up the Christian Democrats. And yes, at the same time, training up the Atlacatl etc., not least in the "School of the Americas," but that's a separate issue.

And the US didn't form, arm, and fund the Atlacatl, except indirectly; it trained its officers, notably Monterrosa, and probably advised them in the field, but again some precision is worthwhile here.

The Atlacatl was a batallion within the Salvadoran army, not the armed wing of ARENA, as you seem to be suggesting. Nor was the Atlacatl a death squad, although undoubtedly it supplied the personnel for death squads. Hence the relationship between the Salvadoran army (and batallions such as the Atlacatl) and death squads is more complicated than you're suggesting, too. The El Mozote massacre, for instance, wasn't the work of a death squad.

Meanwhile, I don't know where you're getting your figures. 75,000 is the standard estimate for the number of victims of the war between 1980 and 1991. I've certainly never seen an "official figure" of 100,000. I'd be pleased to have references that suggest otherwise.

But anyhow, yes, on the larger point that there is a fluid boundary between criminal violence and politically-motivated violence, I agree. I just think your errors of detail detract from this point.

Jeremiah said...


"The El Mozote massacre, for instance, wasn't the work of a death squad."

Yes, you're right, it was just the work of an armed body of masked gunmen who surrounded the town, herded the men and boys into a church which they then burned, and then raped the women before shooting them dead and burying the lot in mass graves.

To suggest that El Mozote wasn't the work of a death squads is ludicrous.

Your errors in detail and statistics as well as what appears to be a willful desire to misconstrue the situation into a more favorable light diminish whatever argument you may be trying to make.

If you're talking precision, you'd better make sure you're correct, and you need to make sure you have a complete understanding of the situation. The situation there was so complex that attempts to impose simplicity and precision upon it are likely to be erroneous.

You stated that Arena had not been formed at the time of the Mozote massacre, which was incorrect. You stated that the United States did not fund and arm Atlacatl, which was disingenuous. We pressed for their formation, we trained them to a high level of competency, and we provided advisers and field support personnel integrated with Atlacatl to an amount approximately 10% of the Atlacatl officer corps.

We provided direct and indirect monetary aid to the Salvadoran government. 33% of this aid went to counterinsurgency efforts.

After the Mozote massacre, we dramatically increased funding to an average of 100 million per year from 1984-1989.

But of course, we really agree here so arguing about statistics is pointless.

Jon said...

El Mozote wasn't the work of masked gunmen. It was the work of uniformed soldiers. See Mark Danner's report of Rufina Amaya's account. It is more comparable to My Lai than to a death squad operation. But you may have a different definition of "death squad" than I do.

I stand by what I've been saying. The only point where I was unsure was when I said parenthetically that I wasn't sure that ARENA had even been founded by the time of El Mozote. (I later checked and you were right that it had been, three months before.)

I'm not trying to "misconstrue the situation into a more favorable light." (To whom, anyhow?) Merely trying to be more precise. Yes of course the US poured money into counter-insurgency operations in El Salvador. I'm not trying to get the US off the hook. (Or the Salvadoran military, for that matter.)

But yes, we agree on the broad picture.

Anyhow, enough for the time being, except to ask you whether you have a reference for the figure that US advisors "provided advisers and field support personnel integrated with Atlacatl to an amount approximately 10% of the Atlacatl officer corps"? I've not read such a precise assessment anywhere that I can remember, but would be interested if you had a source.

Jeremiah said...

Our initial outlay of advisors and field support personnel was a 5 member advisory team attached to the general Salvadoran army. Some 45-50 more Special Forces trainer/advisors were sent to Salvador to train Atlacatl Battallion. An initial group of 500 Salvadoran officers which received training at Fort Benning in 1981. Since all of these officers were not assigned to Atlacatl, the ratio of US advisors to Salvadoran officers within Atlacatl was likely rather greater than 10%.

I wish I had time to find a specific site/cite for you, but I've got to go running. The facts are out there if you dig.