There’s no business like war business…

hessian.jpg To have half of your army be contractors, I don’t know that there’s a precedent for that…. Maybe the precedent was the British and the Hessians in the American Revolution. Maybe that’s the last time and needless to say, they lost. But I’m thinking that there’s no democratic control and there’s no intention to have democratic control here. – Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-OH

There are 160,000 troops stationed in Iraq.

There are 200,000 contractors serving various military functions there.

Some of these contractors perform mundane tasks such as meal preparation and laundry. Halliburton’s infamous “commercials” showcased their involvement in these service tasks.

But many – perhaps too many at this point – are involved in dangerous activities such as ferrying vehicles through insurgent controlled territories. And others, such as the notorious Blackwater and the (evidently) incompetent USIS, have access to high powered weaponry – which they have (allegedly) sold on the black market or used for target practice on Iraqi civilians.

And how are these contractors controlled?

They’re not:

I think it’s extraordinarily dangerous when a nation begins to outsource its monopoly on the use of force and the use of violence in support of its foreign policy or national security objectives. – Former Ambassador Joe Wilson

So what’s the motivation for having so many contractors doing dangerous paramilitary work – besides the obvious desire of the Bush administration to enrich its cronies?

The increasing use of contractors, private forces or as some would say ‘mercenaries’ makes wars easier to begin and to fight – it just takes money and not the citizenry…. To the extent a population is called upon to go to war, there is resistance, a necessary resistance to prevent wars of self-aggrandizement, foolish wars and in the case of the United States, hegemonic imperialist wars. Private forces are almost a necessity for a United States bent on retaining its declining empire. Think about Rome and its increasing need for mercenaries. – Michael Ratner, Center for Constitutional Rights

The advantages for the Bush administration are obvious. Contractors can operate in ways for which the military would be liable to prosecution. While dozens of US soldiers have been court-martialed for exceeding acceptable limits in their use of force, NO contractors have been charged for any such criminal activity – including the aforementioned contractors who used Iraqi civilians for target practice. While over 1,000 contractors have been killed in Iraq, their deaths do not have to be reported as casualties.

In a sense, then, these contractors represent almost perfectly the weltenschauung of the Bush administration – especially of the war’s chief architects, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney:

The most worrying aspect is that these forces are outside parliamentary control. They come from all over and they are answerable to no one except a very narrow group of people (emphasis mine) and they come from countries whose governments may not even know in detail that they have actually been contracted as a private army into a war zone…. – Hans von Sponeck, U.N. diplomat

As Jeremy Scahill, author of Blackwater: The World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army reports:

The Iraq war has ushered in a new system. Wealthy nations can recruit the world’s poor, from countries that have no direct stake in the conflict, and use them as cannon fodder to conquer weaker nations. This allows the conquering power to hold down domestic casualties — the single-greatest impediment to waging wars like the one in Iraq…. In many ways, it is the same corporate model of relying on cheap labor in destitute nations to staff their uber-profitable operations. The giant multinationals also argue they are helping the economy by hiring locals, even if it’s at starvation wages.

And as Naomi Klein, author of the upcoming The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism observes, “Donald Rumsfeld’s masterstroke, and his most enduring legacy, was to bring the corporate branding revolution of the 1990s into the heart of the most powerful military in the world….”

There are obvious long term effects that this shifting of the conduct of war from government run – and, therefore, answerable to citizens – armies to private armies of mercenaries disguised as contractors who answer only to a power elite who write their checks:

It raises very important issues about state and about the very power of state. The one thing the people think of as being in the purview of the government — wholly run and owned by — is the use of military power…. Suddenly you’ve got a for-profit corporation going around the world that is more powerful than states, can effect regime [change] possibly where they may want to go, that seems to have all the support that it needs from this administration that is also pretty adventurous around the world and operating under the cover of darkness. It raises questions about democracies, about states, about who influences policy around the globe, about relationships among some countries. Maybe it’s their goal to render state coalitions like NATO irrelevant in the future, that they’ll be the ones and open to the highest bidder. Who really does determine war and peace around the world? – Rep. Pat Scharansky, D-IL….

Who indeed? I think we can all make an educated, if deeply troubling, guess….

23 replies »

  1. Big business runs the US (and the world). After all, corporations and gov’t are merely quid-pro-quo whorehouses sold to the highest bidder. When the gov’t needs illegal wire-taps, Verizon and Sprint allow them secret rooms to listen in on calls. When Haliburton (and KBR) need more revenue, the gov’t hands out no-bid contracts. When the gov’t dislikes literature, Amazon and Wikipedia ban the book “America Deceived”. We The People had our gov’t sold out from beneath us.
    Final link (before Google Books caves to pressure and drops the title):

  2. If only it was only profit that these folk were after.

    One thing Scahill and others have pointed out is that these private Armies have more than just profits, but are building private armies in support of totalitarian antifreedom/antidemocratic religion as well.

    A religion with a declared agenda of death for all they regard as evil, from gays, to other religions, to spirited children, among their long list of death penalty offenses. Many even the Taliban only gave beatings for.

    Al Queda has no mechanized divisions, no air force, no American beachhead, and few if any fifth columnists out in the populace.

    Blackwater with other Dominionists has all these things.

  3. Long live Major General Smedley Butler’s immortal words….
    <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smedley_Butler War is a Racket.

  4. DomPierre-
    If only they had followed up on the attempted Coup that Butler exposed and hanged the traitors involved, many bad things since could have not have happened.

    The HUAC would not have been subverted, thus no Red Scare, The Harriman brothers would not have controlled State and CIA so no overthrow of Mossadec, no Vietnam War. With Prescot Bush hanged, no Bush CIA, neither son or grandson as President. Much of the Funding of all this also gone with the Wall Street Mob.

    The Racket that Butler was talking about was more than the odd corrupt deal to support bananas, or sugar plantations, but the very Nazi, Fascist menace that he was yelling about till his death.

  5. “Mercenaries and auxiliaries are useless and dangerous; and if one holds his state based on these arms, he will stand neither firm nor safe; for they are disunited, ambitious and without discipline, unfaithful, valiant before friends, cowardly before enemies; they have neither the fear of God nor fidelity to men, and destruction is deferred only so long as the attack is; for in peace one is robbed by them, and in war by the enemy.”

    Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince, Chapter XII

  6. We don’t do enough hangings of traitors. There’s enough in the current lineup we’d need to order more rope.

    If you read Kitty Kelley’s book “The Family”, you’d find that GHW Bush (41) crashed 2-3 airplanes during WWII, and some with the crew, even though GHWB bailed out.

    I was also reading China Matters about Herbert Hoover and you find he wasn’t the dopey Elmer Fudd character people think of him as, and he’s more like Bush 43 and the country is in the same situation. I posted it in the Jenna post.

  7. Blackwater scares the hell out of me! These guys even have their own air base in New Jersey! These guys are “mercenaries and their
    loyalty is to a dollar bill. They are not governed by military laws like
    the GI’s – so, who knows what they do?
    Maybe you need to start thinking more about getting out that old deer rifle and those age faded cammies and talking to those militia
    I am troubled. I see martial law and a suspension of the Constitution
    occurring. Americans need to stand ready to oppose tyranny.

    This is patriotism…………..

  8. Sarge, Blackwater scares the hell out of every sane person…. I hear you, and you know what I mean….

    DomPierre, I’m familiar with Kelley’s book. And I agree, Hoover was no dummy – he just had a different agenda – maybe one that correlated to the one FreeDem speaks to in his post….

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