15 May 2007

Our Mercenaries

There are 145,000 active duty American troops currently serving in Iraq. There are nearly as many - at least 126,000 - private military contrators on the U.S.payroll there as well. That is simply stunning. I have posted before on mercenaries, how various artists depict them, and how the Bush adminstration uses them. Here at The Nation is a video of testimony that journalist Jeremy Scahill (Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army) gave on this topic last week before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense. You can find the text of his remarks there too. As Scahill makes clear, not only are such mercenaries extremely costly, but they operate outside the rule of law, almost wholly circumvent legislative oversight, and subvert the morale of uniformed personnel. That is quite a trifecta we're getting for our tax dollars!
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P.S.: You may consider Scahill too much of a pinko since he writes for The Nation if so, try: Peter Singer. Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry. (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2003) and “Out Sourcing War” Foreign Affairs (March 2005). Here is the abstract for the latter article, published in the house journal of the hardly pink Council on Foreign Relations:

"Private companies are becoming significant players in conflicts around the world, supplying not merely the goods but also the services of war. Although recent well-publicized incidents from Abu Ghraib to Zimbabwe have shone unaccustomed light on this new force in warfare, private military firms remain a poorly understood - and often unacknowledged - phenomenon. Mystery, myth, and conspiracy theory surround them, leaving policymakers and the public in positions of dangerous ignorance. Many key questions remain unanswered, including, What is the industry and where did it come from? What is its role in the US' largest current overseas venture, Iraq? What are the broader implications of that role? And how should policymakers respond? Only by developing a better understanding of this burgeoning industry can governments hope to get a proper hold on this newly powerful force in foreign policy. If they fail, the consequences for policy and democracy could be deeply destructive."

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5 Comments:

Blogger stanco said...

These mercs are not just deployed overseas- they were very much on the scene post Katrina, every bit as unaccountable on home turf!

15 May, 2007 22:08  
Anonymous Drew said...

The difference between the two is that Singer reports the facts, while Scahill freely mixes fact with half-truth, rumor, myth, and wishful thinking in order to fuel his hate stew. Take a good look at what Singer or Nic Bicanic have to say about Scahill--if you're interested in reality, that is.

16 May, 2007 06:01  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...

Drew, I've not been able to find Singer or Bicanic saying anything about Scahill. Singer is an academic, Bicanic a film maker (the reviews of his documentary on this suggest he is not terribly critical)and Scahill a journalist. Perhaps the different genres accounts for their differences? Moreover, I think Scahill is interested in the background of some of the higher-ups in the PMC companies (like the religious zealot who is head of Balckwater) which may be more speculative than Singer, for instance, is willing to be. In any case, Singer is pretty clear that we don't know enough about these companies and that they do operate in a "grey" area outside of standard channels of law and accountability. Jim

16 May, 2007 11:07  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...

Stan, Scahill is among the reporters who discovered the Blackwater types racing around New Orleans. I think the private security industry is in fact going to be more prevalent in the US soon too. JJ

16 May, 2007 11:08  
Blogger stanco said...

Check out how Robert (Iraq For Sale) Greenwald is so hypocritically attacked for being a "war profiteer" by Rep. Kingston
as he testifies before Congress along with Scahill...

http://www.robertgreenwald.org/2007/05/whoa_attacked_in_congress_video.php

16 May, 2007 13:56  

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