News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: MercenariesUSA Inc.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

MercenariesUSA Inc.

I must admit that I missed the President's State of the Union Speech (SOUS), so I also missed the following little tidbit that's also seemingly left unnoted by Leiter and Pilger. ...

Brian Pilger (via Leiter) rightly remarks on the reference to a form of civilian conscription being proposed by Bush. Pilger quotes the following from the SOUS:

A second task we can take on together is to design and establish a volunteer Civilian Reserve Corps. Such a corps would function much like our military reserve. It would ease the burden on the Armed Forces by allowing us to hire civilians with critical skills to serve on missions abroad when America needs them.
No doubt Pilger is right to highlight his reading of this segment. On the other hand, I wonder whether there's not something like a ticking bomb in those words that Pilger misses; specifically, changes to laws that cover the use of private soldiers abroad, also known as mercenaries.

I do not know what restrictions there are on using mercenaries in other countries by the US, but there is no doubt that private soldiers are being used extensively in Iraq. According to the Washington Post, there are about 100,000 mercenaries in Iraq (h/t Lenin's Tomb):
There are about 100,000 government contractors operating in Iraq, not counting subcontractors, a total that is approaching the size of the U.S. military force there, according to the military's first census of the growing population of civilians operating in the battlefield.

The survey finding, which includes Americans, Iraqis and third-party nationals hired by companies operating under U.S. government contracts, is significantly higher and wider in scope than the Pentagon's only previous estimate, which said there were 25,000 security contractors in the country.

It is also 10 times the estimated number of contractors that deployed during the Persian Gulf War in 1991, reflecting the Pentagon's growing post-Cold War reliance on contractors for such jobs as providing security, interrogating prisoners, cooking meals, fixing equipment and constructing bases that were once reserved for soldiers.
Certainly, not all of these "contractors" are engaged in lethal activities. Yet, there's also no doubt that many are--in either direct military action or in security and intelligence operations.

As Democracy Now points out, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld made privatizing the military a top priority. Jeremy Scahill says:
Now, what’s interesting, Amy, is that two years ago Erik Prince, the head of Blackwater USA, was speaking at a military conference. He only comes out of his headquarters to speak in front of military audiences. He does not speak in front of civilians. He's on panels with top brass and others. He’s very secretive. He gave a major address in which he called for the creation of what he called a "contractor brigade." And I actually -- I can read you what he said. He said -- this is two years ago, before Bush called for his civilian reserve corps. Erik Prince, head of Blackwater USA: "There’s consternation in the [Pentagon] about increasing the permanent size of the Army. We want to add 30,000 people." And they talked about costs of anywhere from $3.6 billion to $4 billion to do that. Well, by my math, that comes out to about $135,000 per soldier. And then, Prince added, "We could do it certainly cheaper."
You don't have to be a trained textualist to see how closely this guy's words--spoken two years ago--mirror those of the President's, as expressed several months later in the SOUS.

Blackwater is the largest of those private army outfits vying for work in Iraq and now--according to Democracy Now--the Sudan. They even showed up in New Orleans carrying weapons and with orders to use deadly force when needed.

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