At the infamous School of the Americas, thousands of Latin American "special forces" were explicitly trained in torture techniques by US handlers. Many of those SOA graduates took their new training home to El Salvador, where they waged a war that killed an estimated 80,000 Salvadoran civilians. In Guatemala US-supported death squads murdered over 50,000 civilians suspected of holding sympathies with leftist rebels. The creation and patronage of locally trained militias to wreak havoc among subject populations in pursuit of American military objectives is a tactic that seems to have been adapted to the present day with great effect, most notably in Iraq.
A veteran of the US "dirty war" in El Salvador was reported to have been brought in to personally oversee Iraqi interrogation facilities. This program was condoned at the highest levels of the US military and utilized "all means of torture to make the detainee confess
using electricity, hanging him upside down, pulling out their nails". The alleged involvement of a senior participant of the American intervention in El Salvador is, indeed, particularly odious given the legacy of institutionalized torture and murder which characterized US military involvement in that country.
On a summer night 2008, armed paramilitaries broke into Hassan Mahsan's home in Baghdad's Sadr City district and put a gun to his young daughter's head. Demanding he reveal the location of a suspected insurgent, the men threatened to kill his daughter in front of the family before dragging Mahsan off for interrogation and telling his wife "he is finished". The paramilitaries were members of the Iraqi Special Operations Forces (ISOF), an elite counterterrorism force referred to as "the dirty brigade". Believed to be trained and guided by US military advisers at every level of its organizational hierarchy, the ISOF has been structured so as to place it outside the confines of normal oversight for such organizations. Operating today essentially as a private paramilitary force for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, the ISOF has also been described as a "local ally" of the US in the country, a euphemism for an asset utilized for covert special operations.
The same discredited US policies of that era are now being repeated within the Middle East and the wider Muslim world. The use of torture, the patronage of sectarian proxy forces, and the facilitation of widespread human rights abuses all characterize US policy in the "war on terror". Indeed, many of the same actors complicit in past crimes have returned to help develop and implement present US policy.
Today, Latin America and the Middle East are bound in blood by the experiences of American military intervention and covert warfare. The "dirty wars" of the recent past are playing out once again; time will tell what type of political alignment they will give rise to in response.