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Mercs in a Corporate World

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It is clearly time that folks woke up regarding military contractors. If you missed Bill Moyers interview with Jeremy Scahill, I strongly encourage you to watch it. It is online in two parts on Moyers website at PBS. Scahill has written extensively on Blackwater - most recently publishing Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army.

In the interview, Scahill rightly points out that the Bush administration did not start the privatization (corporatization) of the military. Further, that while Cheney went to a highly profitable CEO position at Halliburton, it was under Clinton that the Halliburton contracting mushroomed:

But let's, let's remember here we're talking about Blackwater right now because we have a Republican administration. For so many years, we had a Republican dominated Congress. Blackwater is certainly the beneficiary of the-- the Republican monopoly in government. But this system has been bi-partisan for a very long time. When Hillary Clinton's husband was in the White House, he was an aggressive supporter of the privatization of the war machine. Bill Clinton used mercenary forces in the Balkans. Who do we think gave Dick Cheney's company all of those contracts during the Nineties? We talk about Halliburton. It was Clinton. It was the Clinton administration. And and, Blackwater may be a-- an extraordinary Republican company. But they're gonna be around when there's a Democrat in office.


These so-called "peace and security" corporations are doing more than making a fat profit out of the contracting from the "war on terrorism." These billions are being used to expand their infrastructure and reach. Some, like Blackwater, now have full scale private militaries which are larger than some nation's militaries. So these companies may be hired by a government - or by another corporation - as a military force. In other words, what has been created, and what is rapidly growing, are standing corporate armies. That should make people across the political spectrum very nervous.

There are three books that I encourage everyone to read:
Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army;
Outsourced;
The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.

Scahill is not the only one writing about Blackwater and corporate militaries. Naomi Klein discusses them in relationship to disaster capitalism in her book "Shock Doctrine." R. J. Hillhouse talks about them (fictionally) in "Outsourced." Hillhouse also has a site The Spy Who Billed Me, and is (in part) a journalist tied into the intelligence community.

Taken together, these three books present a chilling vision of the present, and even more so of the future. While not the total focus of her book, Klein discusses the role of mercenary forces in enforcing and extending the policies implemented under the economic shock doctrine. The premise of this economic approach is to create, or take advantage of "disaster" to implement the privatization of social functions (education, public resources, critical infrastructure), and the role of militaries and police forces (including corporatized ones) in controlling a panicked (or angry) public. She talks about the presence of Blackwater in New Orleans after hurricane Katrina - as does Scahill in response to Moyers' comparison of Blackwater to Pinkerton guards of old:

No. I mean, you know, it was like Baghdad on the bayou down there in New Orleans. And-- I mean, this is the point I'm making. The poor drowned. They are left without food. They're called looters when they take perishable goods out of a store when they've been systematically neglected. The rich bring in their mercenaries to guard their properties or their businesses or their hotel chains. And I think it's a window into what happens in a national emergency. And in this country, the poor are left to suffer and die and the rich bring in their mercenaries.


Of course it is not just the rich hiring mercenaries. Blackwater showed up in New Orleans on their own, but within three days they had a contract from Homeland Security.

R. J. Hillhouse focuses more on Intelligence issues, but sometimes those are almost indistinguishable from military activities. He book "Outsourced" is set in Iraq and Afghanistan and focuses on the activities of two contractors. On one hand, she weaves a web of military contractors competing for a bigger part of the contracting pie. However, she also focuses on the merging of corporate interests and interagency competition (Pentagon and CIA in particular). In this miasma, the contractors have found an almost unimaginable gravy train. They have found an almost limitless source of no-bid contracts which pour hundreds of millions of dollars into their corporate (and personal) accounts. The ending of the conflict also ends the need for the contractors and the lucrative situation they are in. So you have a situation of contractors funding and supplying insurgents and even Al Qaida. On the other hand, the contractors in Outsourced are also intimate parts of the secret operations of the CIA and the Pentagon (who of course are not talking to each other).

So we have a monster on our hands. A monster with the best weapons, deep coffers, tremendous political influence, and the protection of corporate status. Dealing with corporatism and the influence it wields over government - the U.S. government at the head of the list - is one thing. You can apply pressure to elected representatives and to the IMF, World Bank, and World Trade Organization. However, corporations which are complete militaries into themselves are a very different scenario indeed. They are particularly a concern when the government is their primary customer.

 

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Rowan Wolf is an activist and sociologist living in Oregon. She is the founder and principle author of Uncommon Thought Journal, and Editor in Chief of Cyrano's Journal Today.


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