Thursday, January 12, 2006

Corporate Soldiers

Soldiers for hire have been a part of our history for thousands of years but never has the use of "mercenaries" been so utilized or accepted as they are now. There is an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 private security personnel employed by private contractors in Iraq which represents about 15% of the total U.S. presence. These Private Military Companies have contracts with corporations, diplomats, and journalists and they have zero accountability to the U.S. military and do not have to abide by the local laws. These for-hire soldiers are commonly refered to as "shooters" by the civilians they escort away from the safe zones. Some of the people employed by these PMCs can earn as much as $1,000 per day. The numbers of these privatized soldiers has increased dramatically since the end of the Cold War. However not all of these Private Military Companies supply just "shooters", but some support weapon systems, technical assistance, and logistic support. It has become the norm that these contractors accompany the military into combat zones. They have basically become a necessity for war and their numbers are steadily growing.

There seems to be a problem with this military outsourcing as far as the accountability of these corporate soldiers, the chain of command when utilized in the same warzone as the U.S. military, and their mission effectiveness. The high level of unaccountability is atrocious and I understand we're talking about a warzone but these are outsourced private contractors who seemingly don't bear any accountability of the welfare of their employees or any wrong doing their employees may be involved with. The use of these contractors raises some disturbing questions in regard to the growing reliance on civilians in military training and operations, as well as their presence in privatized international security missions and peacekeeping operations. The employees are operating within the same warzone as the military under the same risks, yet there is little to no coordination when it comes to sharing intelligence other than the buddy to buddy system. Many of these people are ex-military and usually special forces trained and they tend to have friends within the U.S. military with whom they share knowledge. This seems to be the biggest source of intelligence.

There is an extraordinary PBS Frontline documentary about this new privatized army entitled Private Warriors. What I found interesting in the documentary was the fact Halliburton's affiliates were busy building base camps even before the U.S. had decided to go to war. Now isn't that interesting? And Camp Anaconda aka Camp KBR (Kellog, Brown, & Root, a Halliburton affiliate) is one extraordinary installation which seems to go completely overboard in my opinion. We've certainly come a long way since my days in uniform!

Just how did we evolve into the accepted and wide-spread use of a privatized military force and is this just a glimpse of the future. Will we one day see the government outsource the use of force to the corporate soldiers? Can the private military companies be a legitimate international entity within modern conflicts? It all sounds a little absurd to me but that's what really bothers me! In the past, the things I found absurd have been the very things which have become the norm. This war on terrorism has definitely created jobs and opportunities but the sad thing about the war on terrorism is the fact it has created these opportunities which support a war machine! A machine which must be constantly maintained through questionable corporate/government contracts and fueled by the need for more war! The sale of weapons and high-tech military equipment increased to a yearly figure of $37 billion dollars in 2004 which was the highest level since 2000. The U.S. is the largest exporter of military weapons and equipment with Lockheed Martin and Boeing holding top spot.
Despite having some of the world's strongest laws regulating the arms trade, almost half of these weapons went to countries plagued with ongoing conflict and governed by undemocratic regimes with poor human rights records.

We sell these weapons to poor countries which are already in cultural turmoil and then we supply training for their military forces. The U.S. trains approximately 100,000 foreign soldiers annually. According to this special report, the State Department's 2002 Human Rights Report cited 51 of the countries, (38%) which received training, for their poor human rights records. So we supply them weapons, and then train them in their use so that down the road we can legitimately wage war on them because of their un-democratic and inhumane practices. The machine has to be fed and it is a self-serving entity and we have to wean the people away from this pseudo-economy before it becomes habitual!

The war machine of the future seems to be destined to be fueled by global capitalism and the need for more and larger profits. I remember when mercenaries were frowned upon by society as merely being profiteering opportunists with no allegiance for a cause. I guess once the mercenaries are incorporated, renamed, and structured under a capitalist agenda similar to a consulting firm, it justifies the existence and use of such soldiers of fortune? We've come a long way in building our civilization haven't we? And these privatized security/military corporations not only are involved in international issues but there has been an increase in their use in the U.S. in lockouts and union busting at Coca Cola. With the increase in, and the acceptance of, these corporate armies, we may just witness a New Face of Unionbusting. Striking workers at Visteon Corporation were confronted by security guards employed by Huffmaster Security, as were members of the American Flint Glass Worker Union. Another example would be Vance who has a history of violent worker repression here in the U.S. Now they are also in Iraq supplying fully armed guards for Siemens and General Electric. These hired "private security" or "private military" have been used since the early days of union organizing as far back as the 1800s. And they were used for strike breaking and even murder in order to keep the unions from gaining a stronghold. Pinkerton National Detective Agency was one of the first utilized by union-busting companies.
Pinkerton National Detective Agency in thwarting organizing drives, creating divisions in union ranks, and undermining community support for unionization and industrial action. Undercover agents used a variety of methods to achieve these ends. One was infiltrating the union ranks. They took jobs on the shop floor of thousands of American companies in order to spy on workers, to gauge union sympathies and to identify union activists. Their findings were reported to company managers and owners who would use the information to construct strategies to avoid unionization. These operatives were also remarkably successful in penetrating union leadership roles.

What we should pay close attention to whether we're talking about a security or military functioning style of privatized guards, is the fact through history they have always been the corporate's army used only to gain more corporate profits. They have never been worried about human rights, morality, or justice, and by relying on corporations to supply private armies in warzones or in peace keeping roles, we open the door for even more injustice through the hands of corporate profiteering.

A very extensive list of Private Military Companies and Privitized Military Firms, as well as reports and commentaries on them, can be found at Topsy.org and Sourcewatch maintains a contractors list for the reconstruction of Iraq. Hmmm...I was shocked and awed that I couldn't find one which was named GUNS 'R' US

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