Leslie Feinberg / Workers World.org – 2007-10-01 23:08:52
(September 30, 2007) — As Democrats and Republicans debate about how to tinker with the number of GIs stationed in Iraq—whether to increase or decrease—neither big business party is “anti-war.” They may tactically differ on how best to expand the profits of imperialist finance capital, but both parties continue to fund war and occupation to achieve capitalist interests.
Sharp evidence of that “fact on the ground” is the blank check that politicians on both sides of the aisle in Congress continue to sign that bankrolls a growing, massive, private force of mercenaries. This shadow army flies under the radar of legislation, scrutiny, accountability and liability.
When the Pentagon unleashed its “shock and awe” invasion of Iraq in March 2003, it brought the biggest army of private contractors ever deployed in a war, according to political journalist Jeremy Scahill, who has researched and published in-depth articles about these corporate commando units.
With no domestic compulsory military conscription already in place, the State Department quietly put these tens of thousands of mercenaries on its contracted payroll to fight the decidedly unpopular war.
Tens of thousands of mercenaries have been deployed to Iraq from Blackwater and at least 25 other private military corporations, including DynCorp International and Triple Canopy. Some of these soldiers of fortune pull down as much as a thousand dollars a day.
In recent bloodshed in Baghdad’s Nisour Square, Blackwater commandos reportedly shot randomly into civilian cars, killing numerous Iraqis—including a driver, a passenger and her baby. The news created such boiling anger in the Iraqi population that the puppet government called for a halt to Blackwater operations in the country.
That ban only lasted four days, however, before the U.S. emperors who rule Iraq by force of arms overturned the suspension. And these private armies are immune from prosecution under any Iraqi laws, based on a decree by the first U.S. overlord in Iraq after the invasion, L. Paul Bremer.
Casualties among this foreign legion usually go unreported. But when, in March 2004, enraged Iraqis dragged the bodies of four dead Blackwater operatives through the streets of Fallujah in March 2004, Washington used the “Blackhawk Down” incident as a propagandistic cover for unleashing a bloody siege on the city.
Scahill noted that after the publicity when the four soldiers of fortune were killed, Blackwater’s CEO and co-founder Erik Prince “hired the Alexander Strategy Group, a PR firm with close ties to GOPers like [Tom] DeLay. By mid-November the company was reporting 600-percent growth. In February 2005 the company hired Ambassador Cofer Black, former coordinator for counter-terrorism at the State Department and former director of the CIA’s Counter-terrorism Center, as vice chairman.” (The Nation, Oct. 10, 2005)
The CEO and general counsel of Blackwater’s parent company, the Prince Group, is former Pentagon Inspector General Joseph Schmitz.
Privatizing Class Warfare
Capitalist use of private hired guns in carrying out class warfare is not new. The Pinkerton National Detective Agency was used as a vicious strikebreaking armed force against coal, iron, labor and lumber workers and farmers in the late 19th century. At its zenith, the number of Pinkerton agents outnumbered the standing army of the U.S.
The Department of Justice contracted Services from Pinkerton.
With the end of the “Cold War” period, when U.S. imperialism with a vast nuclear arsenal enjoyed military hegemony and worldwide capital expansion, the force of active duty U.S. military personnel dropped from 2 million to 1.4 million. As a result, Scahill wrote, a glut of retired officers flooded the private sector.
The “Rumsfeld Doctrine” gave the privatization of military contracting a shot in the arm. Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s strategy was to shrink the ground forces and beef up high-tech warfare.
Scahill described Rumsfeld’s speech to the Pentagon brass the day before 9/11. “That day, Rumsfeld announced a major initiative to streamline the use of the private sector in the waging of America’s wars and predicted his initiative would meet fierce resistance.” (The Guardian, Aug. 1)
It did. While Rumsfeld was a militarist, he was an obstacle to those who wanted more U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq. After he was pushed out, the Pentagon carried out the “surge” to try to win its imperial war. But now there are more troops than ever mired in the muck of occupation in Iraq, and fewer troop reserves on which to draw.
Global Pinkerton Force
Currently, the U.S. shells out $42 billion annually on private intelligence contractors, investigative blogger R.J. Hillhouse posted on her research website, TheSpyWhoBilledMe.com. That’s a helluva bump from $18 billion in 2000. Scahill reported that current spending is 70 percent of the U.S. intelligence budget.
Congressional sources estimate that the U.S. has coughed up at least $6 billion so far on private forces in Iraq.
The U.S. government contracts some 630 private companies to support the military occupation in Iraq.
Vice President Dick Cheney’s Halliburton, as well as KBR and Fluor and other contractors, hire personnel from a total of more than 100 countries to do tasks that range from the mundane, like laundry and cooking, to the dangerous, like driving supply convoys. An estimated 118,000 of the some 180,000 people contracted to do the dirty work of the occupation are Iraqis.
Naomi Klein, author of the soon-to-be-released book “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism,” explained, “Much as with so-called hollow corporations such as Nike, billions are spent on military technology and design in rich countries while the manual labor and sweat work of invasion and occupation is increasingly outsourced to contractors who compete with each other to fill the work order for the lowest price.”
But increasingly, Scahill stressed, private forces are being used in armed combat, interrogation of prisoners, intelligence operations and rendition flights. (Sept. 24)
He noted, “The precise number of mercenaries is unclear, but last year, a U.S. government report identified 48,000 employees of private military/security firms.” (The Guardian, Aug. 1)
Iraq War commander Gen. David Petraeus has publicly acknowledged that at times his bodyguards have been “secured by contract security.”
This Private Army Is being Globalized.
Blackwater’s private army operates in nine countries. Its forces have been “deployed in the oil-rich Caspian Sea region, setting up a ‘command and control’ center just miles from the Iranian border.” (The Guardian, Aug. 1)
The State Department hired DynCorp to train police in Afghanistan, and to protect the titular head of the country, Hamid Karzai.
DynCorp, whose profits doubled to more than $1.9 billion in 2005, is deployed in countries in Africa, in the Balkans, Bolivia and Colombia. U.S.-based private contractors garner almost half the $630 million in U.S. military “aid” to Colombia, and this foreign legion is on the ground in Somalia, Congo and Sudan. After the U.S. deposed and kidnapped elected Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1994, DynCorp trained the police there. (Sept. 24)
DynCorp “spotters” who “misidentified” a civilian flight over Peru in April 2001, which led to the deaths of a U.S. Baptist missionary and her infant, “were on the payroll of the CIA,” admitted Jonathan D. Tepperman, former deputy managing editor of “Foreign Affairs” magazine. (The New Republic, Nov. 18, 2002)
Within the U.S., DynCorp forces and heavily armed Blackwater commandos were sent into New Orleans by the federal government after Hurricane Katrina. Blackwater reportedly hauled in $240,000 a day for that operation. One Blackwater operative said he was deputized by the Louisiana governor. Another said, “We can make arrests and use lethal force if we deem it necessary.” (The Nation, Oct. 10, 2005)
New Orleans capitalist James Reiss, chair of New Orleans Regional Transit Authority, reportedly hired Israeli private commandos from the company ISI—Instinctive Shooting International—to stand guard over a wealthy gated neighborhood in New Orleans.
ISI describes its forces as veterans of Israeli military, police and intelligence operations. The firm brags on its website: “ISI is currently an approved vendor by the U.S. Government to supply Homeland Security services.”
Blackwater wants to start a new base near San Diego, by the border with Mexico.
So it isn’t enough to call for “U.S. troops home now.” The demand must be to stop U.S. finance capital’s wars on every front—at home and abroad. That can only be won by an independent movement conscious of the fact that the secret “Republican Guard” enjoys the financial backing of Democrats, too
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