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Argument: The history of the US arming rebels is grim

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Max Fisher. "In Arming Libyan Rebels, the U.S. Would Follow an Old, Dark Path." The Atlantic. March 25th, 2011: "The U.S. has a long, complicated, and dark history of arming rebel groups around the world. Our support for the anti-communist militias in Argentina and Honduras led us to directly train some of the fighters that later evolved into outright death squads. Nixon-era CIA operations in Chile helped Augusto Pinochet's takeover by military coup, which later ended with Pinochet's arrest as a war criminal for the mass murder and torture. The Nicaraguan contras, whom we armed in the 1980s to terrorize the Marxist government, instead terrorized civilians, whom they tortured and killed in large numbers. The U.S.'s support for the rise of the Khmer Rouge, remembered for their genocide of nearly 2 million Cambodians, is more ambiguous and complicated. At the very least, they enjoyed tacit U.S. tolerance as long as they fought Communist Vietnam. The cycle is a familiar one: rather than commit American lives to a murky and uncertain conflict, the White House asks the CIA to find or create local proxies that can do the fighting for us. We invariably find the most skilled fighters, the most ruthless killers, who can best challenge or outright topple whatever regime -- often communist, usually despotic and deserving of ouster -- has earned American ire. But the conflict often escalates and turns for the worse. Our killers turn out to be even more brutal than their killers, or maybe they're not as unified as we thought and turn against one another, or they end up targeting civilians as well as enemy fighters."

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