26 July 2006

Blackwater: Inside America's Private Army

An in-depth series on private military companies.
The trend toward privatizing military tasks has extended to the guys with the weapons. It's estimated that 180 security companies now operate in Iraq alone, with nearly 50,000 workers toting guns, according to government counts.

A host of factors set this stage: a shrinking military, a lingering cold sweat from 9/11, a growing distaste for the bloody sacrifice of America's sons and daughters in uniform. click here

But privatization has created a new set of unnerving realities: massive firepower falling outside the military chain of command. Companies making huge profits from war. Billions of taxpayer dollars fueling those profits.

Since 2000, Blackwater alone has claimed more than half a billion dollars in federal contracts - most of it no-bid. And that's just what shows up in public records. The nature of the industry ensures considerable privacy. Contracts are often classified, clients confidential, compounds off-limits.

In addition to the obvious issues with reliance upon mercenary forces, there are many other concerns:

  • "Blue on white violence". — U.S. troops firing on contractors, contractors firing on U.S. troops. Contractors operate independently of the military chain of command.

  • "Rules-free zone" for contractors. — No requirements that contractors obey human rights laws and operate in a culture of impunity, according to Amnesty International. Some of the interrogators accused of Abu Ghraib abuses were private contractors, none of which were punished.

  • Government ill-equipped to guard against fraud, waste and abuse. Oversight capability lacking or non-existent.

  • PMC snipers on domestic soil, shooting at Americans, shielded from murder charges. — In the Katrina aftermath, for example, PMC forces were brought in, and given authority to use lethal force.


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