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General News    H2'ed 6/26/15

State Capitalism on Behalf of Militarism

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Since 1945, the power, reach and ambition of multinational corporations have expanded, including encroachment into areas traditionally considered part of the public interest and outside of its domain.

More sophisticated, diversified and structured than historical mercenaries, Private Military Firms (PMF's) have proliferated since the collapse of the Cold War. These companies have participated in conflicts from the civil war in Sierra Leone to the Balkans conflict. They played an increasing role in the Iraq war, with Blackwater (now Academi) being the most controversial with the September 2007 killing of 17 civilians and the wounding of 20 more in Nisour Square in Baghdad. Just prior to those killings, a high level manager of the company reportedly issued a death threat to a State Department official who was in Iraq investigating the company's practices.

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A 2014 report issued by Remote Control Project in Britain found that the US Special Operations Command is outsourcing sensitive activities like flying drones, target acquisition oversight, communications, prisoner interrogations, translation of captured material and information management. The report raises concerns due to the challenges that remote warfare has in terms of accountability and oversight. The concern is compounded by the fact that the Obama administration has not decreased war and militarism but has increasingly reorganized it to be under the auspices of covert and special operations with a presence in nearly 70 percent of the world's nations at 134, up from around 60 nations at the end of the Bush II era. Funding for the Special Operations Command has risen from $2.3 billion in 2001 to a total of $10.4 billion in 2013.

In an investigative report on Obama's covert-special ops policy, Nick Turse detailed the administration's militaristic foreign policy:

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Although elected in 2008 by many who saw him as an antiwar candidate, President Obama has proved to be a decidedly hawkish commander-in-chief. While the Obama administration oversaw a US withdrawal from Iraq (negotiated by his predecessor), as well as a drawdown of US forces in Afghanistan (after a major military surge in that country), the president has presided over a ramping up of the US military presence in Africa, a reinvigoration of efforts in Latin America, and tough talk about a rebalancing or "pivot to Asia". The White House has also overseen an exponential expansion of America's drone war. While President Bush launched 51 such strikes, President Obama has presided over 330. Last year, alone, the US also engaged in combat operations in Afghanistan, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. Recent revelations from National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden have [also] demonstrated the tremendous breadth and global reach of US electronic surveillance during the Obama years.
An article in The Daily Beast revealed that many employees of these contractors expect new opportunities with Obama's long-term plan to fight ISIS in Iraq and Syria without "boots on the ground" by following his established pattern of using covert players to obscure the extent of U.S. involvement: "One U.S. military contractor working in Iraq who asked not to be named said, 'I can tell you the contractor-expat community is abuzz thinking this will lead to more work. We expect a much larger footprint than he is showing right now.'"

Then there are the more mundane support services for both overt and covert military operations provided by firms like KBR which provide ice delivery, trash disposal and portable toilet maintenance, among other services. These contractors and their sub-contractors, like Najilaa Catering Services International, have often performed poorly or committed outright fraud. But that usually doesn't stop them from continuing to procure contracts with the US government.

Najilaa, for instance, had been under fire for non-payment of bills and fraud in both Iraq and Kuwait prior to being signed on to provide food preparation services to USAID in Iraq in February of 2010. KBR has been plagued with continuing allegations of overcharging and poor service for more than 10 years. In 2011, KBR was hit with an $85 million verdict for exposing members of the Oregon Army National Guard to toxic chemicals while serving in Iraq.

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This kind of fraud and waste, however, is not unique to these relatively small players. It is indeed rampant among the top 5 defense contractors: Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrup Grumann, General Dynamics, and Raytheon, with 3 of these 5 also occupying the top slots in federal contractor misconduct.

According to the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), Lockheed Martin has more contracts with the federal government than any other company. It also has the most misconduct violations, ranging from age discrimination to contract fraud and unfair business practices, totaling over $600 million in fines, penalties and settlements.

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Natylie Baldwin Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Natylie Baldwin is co-author of Ukraine: Zbig's Grand Chessboard & How the West Was Checkmated, available from Tayen Lane Publishing. Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in various publications including Sun Monthly, Dissident Voice, (more...)
 

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