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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 6/16/21

How private mercenary companies plan to wage war in a destabilized near-future U.S.

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What can we expect if the North American continent's choice between socialism and barbarism turns out to be the latter option? We can expect warfare within the major cities. We can expect humanitarian crises that force millions to become refugees, and to live within ever-expanding slum conditions. We can expect operations by corporate monopolies to profit from this death and destruction, cementing the dire circumstances that the vast majority of people live under.

In other words, without anti-colonial socialist revolution, the U.S. and likely Canada as well will become like the impoverished, violence-ridden countries they exploit. The U.S. military's predictions from recent years of multiplying unemployment, growing slums, deteriorating infrastructure, and failing electrical grids confirm that the technocrats of imperialism view such miseries as part of the cost of preserving capitalist interests amid the climate crisis. And the recommendations these technocrats have for heavily militarizing the destabilized zones show what we can expect our government to meet us with in our time of need: domestic military occupations that resemble Washington's sieges on countries like Iraq and Afghanistan.

What these technocrats must consider in this project to bring U.S. imperialism's wars home is that throughout the empire's foreign wars from these last two decades, official armed forces haven't been enough. The military has increasingly had to rely on paramilitarism, in the form of private mercenary contractor armies whose members get paid far more than U.S. soldiers do and who can act with more impunity than a soldier can. Trump's pardoning last year of the same mercenaries who once massacred defenseless Iraqi civilians has made these paramilitary forces more above the international war crimes laws than ever before. A precedent has been set for wanton murder not being punishable when mercenaries do it. When these mercenaries are inevitably unleashed upon U.S. citizens during the coming decades, these horrors from the so-called "War on Terror" are going to be replicated within our own communities.

To see what I mean by "inevitable" look at the columnist Eric London's summary of the 2016 U.S. Army War College document that lays out the plans for these domestic occupations:

The US Army War College article could serve as "Exhibit A" in a prosecution of leading military figures for war crimes. The article shows that US plans for invading, occupying and "pacifying" cities with tens of millions of residents are in advanced stages. In fact, the authors of this article consider such invasions "inescapable." No corner of the world is free from the threat of US invasion. The document lists several cities""including many in the United States""as hypothetical targets for invasion. Among those cities mentioned in the document are Mumbai, Beijing, Rome, London, Los Angeles, Abuja, Baltimore, San Salvador, Paris, Tokyo, Amsterdam, Dhaka, Nairobi, Delhi, Aleppo, Caracas, Rio de Janeiro, Frankfurt, Zurich, Hong Kong, Sao Paolo, Mexico City, Seoul, Manila, San Francisco, Tehran, Istanbul, Guangzhou-Foshan, Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Rangoon, Alexandria, Jakarta, Johannesburg, Shanghai, Kabul, Cairo, Riga, Tallinn, Vilnius and Mogadishu.

Of course, the U.S. isn't going to be able to invade places like Beijing or Tehran, as much as it wishes to. These and so many other locations are too well defended for a declining U.S. empire to be able to ever try to touch without creating unprecedented self-destructive blowback; the Pentagon even as much as admitted this in 2017, stating that U.S. global geopolitical influence is "collapsing." The solution it advocated for in the face of this was increased militarization of the places Washington still controls, implicitly including the lands within U.S. borders.

Which is where the mercenaries come in. If the military tries to occupy major U.S. cities, it will need both a series of reinforcements in addition to the official soldiers, and a layer of perceived lack of responsibility on the military's part for the atrocities that these reinforcements are going to commit. Bringing in the mercenary contractors would serve this purpose, as well as provide the private army industry with a profit boost. Blackwater was brought into New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, so there's no doubt that its modern incarnations will be utilized amid the domestic war zones that the military expects to be involved in.

In recent years, this dystopian possibility has been seeing increasing indications of coming true. During the Standing Rock demonstrations, the mercenary company TigerSwan was hired to create its own intelligence center so that it could infiltrate and surveil the protest encampments. Then last year, the mercenary company Atlas Aegis was sued for hiring personnel to monitor polling places during the election. Also last year, Blackwater founder Erik Prince hired ex-spies to infiltrate anti-Trump groups, hinting at the role that Prince's ongoing mercenary project is taking on within the country's internal political policing projects. And now, as described by Amelia Pollard of The American Prospect, a rising presence of private mercenaries within South Africa and other countries is creating a precedent for private paramilitarism to become normalized in U.S. policing:

Picture the omnipresence of the NYPD in Midtown Manhattan. Patrol cars and officers are stationed on nearly every street. They are so present that New Yorkers often have the feeling they could yell "Help!" and a police officer would come running, on the scene in moments. Now, to grasp the ubiquity of private security in the city centers of Cape Town or Johannesburg, replace every one of those NYPD officers with privately hired security guards in official-looking uniforms and vehicles, some even heavily armed. On an average day, a resident in one of these urban centers encounters dozens of private security officers, while the public police remain generally absent. South Africa is no isolated exception. Private security is becoming the worldwide norm, covering everything from mercenary armies to armed guards for the world's corporations and elites.

Indeed, the globe's biggest corporations are turning to private mercenaries to an unprecedented degree. So much so that when the mercenaries descend upon the U.S population, they'll likely first come in the form of hired armies for Silicon Valley companies or oil executives. As Sean McFate of National Defense University Press has described, even socialist China is allowing its companies to wield these types of armies, so it's only a matter of time before they get incorporated into the U.S. plutocracy to a massive extent:

Multinational corporations are the biggest new clients of mercenaries, especially the extractive industries. Companies working in dangerous places are tired of relying on corrupt or inept security forces provided to them by host governments, and they are turning to private force. For example, mining giant Freeport-McMoRan employed Triple Canopy to protect its vast mine in Papua, Indonesia, where there is an insurgency. The China National Petroleum Corporation contracts DeWe Security to safeguard its assets in the middle of South Sudan's civil war. Someday ExxonMobil or Google may hire an army, too.

The fact that Biden is now underhandedly facilitating the further rise of private mercenaries by privatizing the Afghanistan War, with companies like Triple Canopy filling the armed forces vacuum from his supposed troop pullout, shows how close we are to having mercenaries act as a domestic occupying force. When the U.S. experiences countrywide power grid failures, climate refugee crises that force millions of citizens in the country's southern half to flee, and pandemics created by global warming that will be even worse than Covid-19, we're going to see a desperate U.S. capitalist ruling class carry out a long-anticipated vision of internalized imperialist wars and occupations.

In Jeremy Scahill's 2007 book Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, the president of the Center for Constitutional Rights Michael Ratner is quoted as anticipating just such a scenario taking place:

The increasing use of contractors, private forces or as some would say 'mercenaries' makes wars easier to begin and to fight""it just takes money and not the citizenry. To the extent a population is called upon to go to war, there is resistance, a necessary resistance to prevent wars of self-aggrandizement, foolish wars and in the case of the United States, hegemonic imperialist wars. Private forces are almost a necessity for a United States bent on maintaining its declining empire. Think about Rome and its increasing need for mercenaries. Likewise, here at home in the United States. Controlling an angry, abused population with a police force bound to obey the Constitution can be difficult""private forces can solve this 'problem.'

The U.S. military is going to experience a lot of weakening events during these next several decades: loss of American financial hegemony that forces global American military personnel to retreat, loss of coastal bases due to sea level rise, growing factionalism within the armed forces due to the growth of radicalized QAnon-type people within the armed forces, potential defections among armed service members due to the atrocities they'll be asked to commit against the people in their own communities. Importing the mercenaries will be a way for the empire to sustain a reliable force for waging internal class war in the face of these destabilizing events.

However, when the time comes for these mercenaries to try to defend the forces of capital from a class uprising, their relative neglect for training may be the mistake that brings about the demise of the entire capitalist-colonialist-imperialist order. As one Quora answerer has observed, "The US military and the best of the Western militaries or the ROK train nonstop. To use a Covey phrase, they are always trying to 'sharpen the saw.' That is absolutely not true of mercenaries. In fact, for many of them, their last training might have been a decade ago." The ability of these mercenaries to kill with relative impunity may put them at an advantage compared to regular soldiers during the coming domestic confrontation, but this may not make up for their hubristic failure to adequately prepare themselves for combat.

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Rainer Shea is writing articles that counter the propaganda of the capitalist/imperialist power establishment, and that help move us towards a socialist revolution. Donate to me on Patreon here:

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