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Special US commandos are deployed in about 75 countries around the world – and that number is expected to grow.
Nick Turse Last Modified: 08 Aug 2011 06:05
Somewhere on this planet a US commando is carrying out a mission. Now, say that 70 times and you’re done … for the day. Without the knowledge of much of the general American public, a secret force within the US military is undertaking operations in a majority of the world’s countries. This Pentagon power elite is waging a global war whose size and scope has generally been ignored by the mainstream media, and deserves further attention.
After a US Navy SEAL put a bullet in Osama bin Laden’s chest and another in his head, one of the most secretive black-ops units in the US military suddenly found its mission in the public spotlight. It was atypical. While it’s well known that US Special Operations forces are deployed in the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq, and it’s increasingly apparent that such units operate in murkier conflict zones like Yemen and Somalia, the full extent of their worldwide war has often remained out of the public scrutiny.
Last year, Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post reported that US Special Operations forces were deployed in 75 countries, up from 60 at the end of the Bush presidency. By the end of this year, US Special Operations Command spokesman Colonel Tim Nye told me, that number will likely reach 120. “We do a lot of travelling – a lot more than Afghanistan or Iraq,” he said recently. This global presence – in about 60 per cent of the world’s nations and far larger than previously acknowledged – is evidence of a rising clandestine Pentagon power elite waging a secret war in all corners of the world.
The rise of the military’s secret military
Born of a failed 1980 raid to rescue American hostages in Iran, in which eight US service members died, US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) was established in 1987. Having spent the post-Vietnam years distrusted and starved for money by the regular military, special operations forces suddenly had a single home, a stable budget, and a four-star commander as their advocate.
Since then, SOCOM has grown into a combined force of startling proportions. Made up of units from all the service branches, including the Army’s “Green Berets” and Rangers, Navy SEALs, Air Force Air Commandos, and Marine Corps Special Operations teams, in addition to specialised helicopter crews, boat teams, civil affairs personnel, para-rescuemen, and even battlefield air-traffic controllers and special operations weathermen, SOCOM carries out the United States’ most specialised and secret missions. These include assassinations, counterterrorist raids, long-range reconnaissance, intelligence analysis, foreign troop training, and weapons of mass destruction counter-proliferation operations.
One of its key components is the Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC, a clandestine sub-command whose primary mission is tracking and killing suspected terrorists. Reporting to the president and acting under his authority, JSOC maintains a global hit list that includes US citizens. It has been operating an extra-legal “kill/capture” campaign that John Nagl, a past counterinsurgency adviser to four-star general and soon-to-be CIA Director David Petraeus, calls “an almost industrial-scale counterterrorism killing machine”.
This assassination programme has been carried out by commando units like the Navy SEALs and the Army’s Delta Force as well as via drone strikes as part of covert wars in which the CIA is also involved in countries like Somalia,Pakistan, and Yemen. In addition, the command operates a network of secret prisons, perhaps as many as 20 black sites in Afghanistan alone, used for interrogating high-value targets.
From a force of about 37,000 in the early 1990s, Special Operations Command personnel have grown to almost 60,000, about a third of whom are career members of SOCOM; the rest have other military occupational specialties, but periodically cycle through the command. Growth has been exponential since September 11, 2001, as SOCOM’s baseline budget almost tripled from $2.3bn to $6.3bn. If you add in funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it has actually more than quadrupled to $9.8bn in these years. Not surprisingly, the number of its personnel deployed abroad has also jumped four-fold. Further increases, and expanded operations, are on the horizon.
Lieutenant General Dennis Hejlik, the former head of the Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command – the last of the service branches to be incorporated into SOCOM in 2006 – indicated, for instance, that he foresees a doubling of his former unit of 2,600. “I see them as a force someday of about 5,000, like equivalent to the number of SEALs that we have on the battlefield. Between [5,000] and 6,000,” he said at a June breakfast with defence reporters in Washington. Long-term plans already call for the force to increase by 1,000.
During his recent Senate confirmation hearings, Navy Vice Admiral William McRaven, the incoming SOCOM chief and outgoing head of JSOC (which he commanded during the bin Laden raid) endorsed a steady manpower growth rate of 3 per cent to 5 per cent a year, while also making a pitch for even more resources, including additional drones and the construction of new special operations facilities.
A former SEAL who still sometimes accompanies troops into the field, McRaven expressed a belief that, as conventional forces are drawn down in Afghanistan, special ops troops will take on an ever greater role. Iraq, he added, would benefit if elite US forces continued to conduct missions there past the December 2011 deadline for a total American troop withdrawal. He also assured the Senate Armed Services Committee that “as a former JSOC commander, I can tell you we were looking very hard at Yemen and at Somalia”.
During a speech at the National Defense Industrial Association’s annual Special Operations and Low-intensity Conflict Symposium earlier this year, Navy Admiral Eric Olson, the outgoing chief of Special Operations Command, pointed to a composite satellite image of the world at night. Before September 11, 2001, the lit portions of the planet – mostly the industrialised nations of the global north – were considered the key areas. “But the world changed over the last decade,” he said. “Our strategic focus has shifted largely to the south … certainly within the special operations community, as we deal with the emerging threats from the places where the lights aren’t.”
To that end, Olson launched “Project Lawrence“, an effort to increase cultural proficiencies – like advanced language training and better knowledge of local history and customs – for overseas operations. The programme is, of course, named after the British officer, Thomas Edward Lawrence (better known as “Lawrence of Arabia”), who teamed up with Arab fighters to wage a guerrilla war in the Middle East during World War I. Mentioning Afghanistan, Pakistan, Mali, and Indonesia, Olson added that SOCOM now needed “Lawrences of Wherever”.
While Olson made reference to only 51 countries of top concern to SOCOM, Col. Nye told me that on any given day, Special Operations forces are deployed in approximately 70 nations around the world. All of them, he hastened to add, at the request of the host government. According to testimony by Olson before the House Armed Services Committee earlier this year, approximately 85 per cent of special operations troops deployed overseas are in 20 countries in the CENTCOM area of operations in the Greater Middle East: Afghanistan, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, and Yemen. The others are scattered across the globe from South America to Southeast Asia, some in small numbers, others as larger contingents.
Special Operations Command won’t disclose exactly which countries its forces operate in. “We’re obviously going to have some places where it’s not advantageous for us to list where we’re at,” says Nye. “Not all host nations want it known, for whatever reasons they have – it may be internal, it may be regional.”
But it’s no secret (or at least a poorly kept one) that so-called black special operations troops, like the SEALs and Delta Force, are conducting kill/capture missions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Yemen, while “white” forces like the Green Berets and Rangers are training indigenous partners as part of a worldwide secret war against al-Qaeda and other militant groups. In the Philippines, for instance, the US spends $50m a year on a 600-person contingent of Army Special Operations forces, Navy Seals, Air Force special operators, and others that carries out counterterrorist operations with Filipino allies against insurgent groups like Jemaah Islamiyah and Abu Sayyaf.
Last year, as an analysis of SOCOM documents, open-source Pentagon information, and a database of Special Operations missions compiled by investigative journalist Tara McKelvey (for the Medill School of Journalism’s National Security Journalism Initiative) reveals, the US’ most elite troops carried out joint-training exercises in Belize, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Germany, Indonesia, Mali, Norway, Panama, and Poland.
So far in 2011, similar training missions have been conducted in the Dominican Republic, Jordan, Romania, Senegal, South Korea, and Thailand, among other nations. In reality, Nye told me, training actually went on in almost every nation where Special Operations forces are deployed. “Of the 120 countries we visit by the end of the year, I would say the vast majority are training exercises in one fashion or another. They would be classified as training exercises.”
The Pentagon’s power elite
Once the neglected stepchildren of the military establishment, Special Operations forces have been growing exponentially not just in size and budget, but also in power and influence. Since 2002, SOCOM has been authorised to create its own Joint Task Forces – like Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines – a prerogative normally limited to larger combatant commands like CENTCOM. This year, without much fanfare, SOCOM also established its own Joint Acquisition Task Force, a cadre of equipment designers and acquisition specialists.
With control over budgeting, training, and equipping its force, powers usually reserved for departments (like the Department of the Army or the Department of the Navy), dedicated dollars in every Defense Department budget, andinfluential advocates in Congress, SOCOM is by now an exceptionally powerful player at the Pentagon. With real clout, it can win bureaucratic battles, purchase cutting-edge technology, and pursue fringe research likeelectronically beaming messages into people’s heads or developing stealth-like cloaking technologies for ground troops. Since 2001, SOCOM’s prime contracts awarded to small businesses – those that generally produce specialty equipment and weapons – have jumped six-fold.
Headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida, but operating out of theatre commands spread out around the globe, including Hawaii, Germany, and South Korea, and active in the majority of countries on the planet, Special Operations Command is now a force unto itself. As outgoing SOCOM chief Olson put it earlier this year, SOCOM “is a microcosm of the Department of Defense, with ground, air, and maritime components, a global presence, and authorities and responsibilities that mirror the Military Departments, Military Services, and Defense Agencies”.
Tasked to coordinate all Pentagon planning against global terrorism networks and, as a result, closely connected to other government agencies, foreign militaries, and intelligence services, and armed with a vast inventory of stealthy helicopters, manned fixed-wing aircraft, heavily-armed drones, high-tech guns-a-go-go speedboats, specialised Humvees and Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, or MRAPs, as well as other state-of-the-art gear (with more on the way), SOCOM represents something new in the military.
Whereas the late scholar of militarism Chalmers Johnson used to refer to the CIA as “the president’s private army“, today JSOC performs that role, acting as the chief executive’s private assassination squad, and its parent, SOCOM, functions as a new Pentagon power-elite, a secret military within the military possessing domestic power and global reach.
In 120 countries across the globe, troops from Special Operations Command carry out their secret war of high-profile assassinations, low-level targeted killings, capture/kidnap operations, kick-down-the-door night raids,joint operations with foreign forces, and training missions with indigenous partners as part of a shadowy conflict unknown to most Americans. Once “special” for being small, lean, outsider outfits, today they are special for their power, access, influence, and aura.
That aura now benefits from a well-honed public relations campaign which helps them project a superhuman imageat home and abroad, even while many of their actual activities remain in the ever-widening shadows. Typical of the vision they are pushing was this statement from Admiral Olson: “I am convinced that the forces … are the most culturally attuned partners, the most lethal hunter-killers, and most responsive, agile, innovative, and efficiently effective advisors, trainers, problem-solvers, and warriors that any nation has to offer.”
Recently at the Aspen Institute’s Security Forum, Olson offered up similarly gilded comments and some misleading information, too, claiming that US Special Operations forces were operating in just 65 countries and engaged in combat in only two of them. When asked about drone strikes in Pakistan, he reportedly replied, “Are you talking about unattributed explosions?”
What he did let slip, however, was telling. He noted, for instance, that black operations like the bin Laden mission, with commandos conducting heliborne night raids, were now exceptionally common. A dozen or so are conducted every night, he said. Perhaps most illuminating, however, was an offhand remark about the size of SOCOM. Right now, he emphasised, US Special Operations forces were approximately as large as Canada’s entire active duty military. In fact, the force is larger than the active duty militaries of many of the nations where the US’ elite troops now operate each year, and it’s only set to grow larger.
Americans have yet to grapple with what it means to have a “special” force this large, this active, and this secret – and they are unlikely to begin to do so until more information is available. It just won’t be coming from Olson or his troops. “Our access [to foreign countries] depends on our ability to not talk about it,” he said in response to questions about SOCOM’s secrecy. When missions are subject to scrutiny like the bin Laden raid, he said, the elite troops object. The military’s secret military, said Olson, wants “to get back into the shadows and do what they came in to do”.
Nick Turse is a historian, essayist, and investigative journalist. The associate editor of TomDispatch.comand a new senior editor at Alternet.org, his latest book is The Case for Withdrawal from Afghanistan (Verso Books).
A version of this article originally appeared on TomDispatch.com
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.
The inability of the feudal system to provide reliable armies gave rise to cadres of mercenaries that at first supplemented the aristocratic warriors of the feudal army, and then replaced them. By the Renaissance period, armies were largely made up of hired mercenary companies. Aristocrats, once the knights of the feudal army, became the owners and officers of the feudal companies. By the end of the 15th Century, Kings began the slow process of replacing mercenary formations with their own regiments. Mercenary companies were a key element of warfare throughout the 15th and 16th Centuries. Many consider that they reached their greatest influence during the Thirty Years War, 1618-1648. During the war they began to decline in importance and by the end of the 17th Century they had largely been replaced by national professional armies.
The professional armies that came into existence in the 17th Century evolved from the mercenary companies of the Renaissance period as a more efficient system for the state to meet its military requirements. They had the major advantages of always being there when the King needed them, they followed orders, they were cheaper in the long term, and could be relied upon in battle even when the odds were great. They also ensured the sovereignty of the king, the rule of law, and the territorial integrality of the crown’s land.
Why did mercenary companies exist in the first place? What advantage did they initially bring to the battlefield?
What other reasons were there for switching from an army of mercenary companies to a professional army equipped, recruited, trained and paid for by the King?
How were mercenary specialists of the Renaissance different from the contract specialists that we used today?
Dirty Tricks, Inc.:
The DynCorp-Government Connection
by Uri Dowbenko
Organized White-Collar Crime is the absolute essence of Mega-Corporate-Government Business.
As Jim Hougan wrote in his landmark book, Spooks: The Haunting of America – The Private Use of Secret Agents, “With their cultural and career investments in upholding the stereotype of the Mafia as the vehicle of organized crime, the public and the press have generally failed to grasp the felonious nature of the outfit’s WASP counterparts on the Big Board. Whereas some petty hoodlums put out contracts on individuals, the multinationals have begun to place contracts on entire countries (for example, ITT versus Chile). With that difference, their operational styles are similar: offshore laundries used to wash bribes paid in clandestine support of a sales effort designed to create and satisfy the potentially lethal addictions of their would be customers. Whether the product is heroin or Starfighter jets, the result is often the same: profits that corrupt and impoverish… In short it appears that some multinationals had evolved into genuinely criminal enterprises.” (p. 441)
Likewise, outsourcing State Terrorism is the fastest growing segment of the US Government market. In fact, white-collar criminal activities, like Federal IT, or Information Technology, which involves “privatizing” the financial database management of government agencies, accounts for some of the most lucrative contracts available anywhere on earth.
The practice of privatizing (using private companies for government work) has been long exploited by the CIA and the Pentagon, who like to use proxies, like contractors or mercenaries, to fight their covert wars.
The benefits for federal agencies include “plausible deniability” with respect to assassination and drug trafficking, as well as the ability to bypass the Military Code of Honor and the accords of the Geneva Convention, which hold “official” combatants to a different standard.
In other words, by privatizing “dirty tricks,” a federal agency cannot be held liable to the standards one would expect of, well, the US Government.
Acting as one of the US Government’s primary privatized Dirty Tricks Divisions, DynCorp has become one of the leading prime federal contractors, reaping a global harvest of shame and disgrace.
The Murky Origins of DynCorp
And where did DynCorp come from?
In the apocryphal story, DynCorp began as an Air Force contractor in 1954. Since then, however it has garnered a reputation as a shadowy company with a spooky pedigree, rumored to be a CIA “cutout,” or front company, for the Agency’s dirty tricks.
Using high-level government insider connections, DynCorp provides a range of “services” one would expect to facilitate fraud and money laundry activities, acting like a virtual conduit between the corporate (private) and government (public) worlds.
According to DynCorp, the US Government is its biggest client, accounting for more than 95% of its revenues.
After it gobbled up GTE Information Services LLC in 1999, DynCorp has become one of the nation’s largest Federal contractors for IT, or Information Technology, services. Along with Lockheed Martin, SAIC, AMS, and others, DynCorp contracts with federal government agencies to “manage” federal databases.
Dyncorp’s clients include the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Department of Defense, Department of State, Department of Justice, Internal Revenue Service, Securities and Exchange Commission, FBI, CIA, and HUD — all government agencies notorious for rampant, unchecked and egregious fraud.
For example, the Pentagon cannot account for a mind-boggling $2.3 trillion. In fact, at Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s confirmation hearing in January 2001, Sen. Robert Byrd wondered aloud, “How can we seriously consider a $50 billion dollar increase in the Defense Department’s budget when the DoD’s own auditors cannot account for $2.3 trillion in transactions?”
After September 11, of course, fresh fraud at DoD will become virtually limitless because of the new “War on Terrorism,” a black hole of a boondoggle that may surpass even the “Cold War” in Pentagon corruption, waste and malfeasance.
Meanwhile, HUD cannot account for $59 billion, according to the testimony of former HUD Inspector General Susan Gaffney. (See “Why Is $59 Billion Missing from HUD?” by Kelly O’Meara, Insight Magazine)
Coincidentally, that was the year that “HUD Taps DynCorp for Services,” according to a Washington Post headline from August 2, 1999, describing a new $51 million contract to provide desktop services to the Office of Inspector General at Housing and Urban Development.
Even more sinister is the fact that DynCorp manages email and information systems for many federal investigation agencies like FBI, DOJ and SEC. What does that mean? Whenever criminal behavior is detected, DynCorp controls the information, giving it defacto power to subvert the process of law and cover-up corporate-government criminal activities.
And guess who’s DynCorp’s auditor of record?
It’s none other than Arthur Andersen, the best Corporate Cooking-the-Books-and-Shredding-Documents firm money can buy. If this Big Eight Firm did it for Enron, you can bet they’re doing it for most of their other clients.
Corporate Insiders at the Government Trough
So who’s minding the store at DynCorp?
The sordid cast of characters includes Herbert S. (Pug) Winokur, member of the Council on Foreign Relations, as well as a director of DynCorp since 1988, according to a May 9, 2001 Proxy Statement.
By the way, the Council on Foreign Relations, which has been liberally described as a think tank, is actually “a clearinghouse for the really choice frauds,” according to whistleblower Al Martin, author of The Conspirators: Secrets of an Iran Contra Insider. (almartinraw.com)
In fact, Winokur was the also Chairman of the Board of DynCorp from 1988 to 1997.
So here is the connection between criminal corporate and government networks.
Winokur is also on the Board of Directors of the notorious Enron — the notorious slush fund/ money laundry disguised as a corporation. It should be noted that Enron has declared bankruptcy after paying corporate insiders hundreds of millions of dollars for their “services.”
As the chair of Enron’s Finance Committee, Winokur approved the creation of more than 3000 offshore limited partnerships and subsidiaries, used by the corporation to hide losses from derivative trading, other bogus transactions and money laundering.
Winokur is also a director of Harvard Management Company and a member of Harvard Corporation.
Harvard, of course, has all the trademarks of a highly successful money laundry, but is cleverly disguised as a prestigious “educational institution.” Its endowment fund rose remarkably from $5 billion to $19 billion in just 6 years.
(Imagine if you could get that kind of return.)
Winokur also has the ability and the means to coordinate money flows in and out of offshore slush funds with little or no public supervision — as Chairman and CEO of Capricorn Holdings, Inc., a “private investment company” and Managing General Partner of three Capricorn Investors Limited Partnerships “concentrating on investments in restructure situations.” That’s code for “bottom feeding” on so-called “distressed” properties.
As far as DynCorp is concerned, though, there’s Winokur’s pal, Dudley Mecum, DynCorp Director since 1988, who just happens to also be the managing director of Winokur’s Capricorn Holdings Inc., as well as CitiGroup, the New York banking conglomerate, convicted of serial money laundering and other criminal offenses.
The DynCorp Board itself is filled with so many shadowy characters that the company could be rightly considered a retirement/ slush fund for former spooks and military honchos.
They include General P.C. Carns, a retired General US Air Force who served as Vice Chief of Staff and as Director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. According the DynCorp Proxy statement, Carns is also a member of the Defense Science Board and the Board of Advisors, National Security Agency.
Then there’s General Russell E. Dougherty, Director since 1989, whose term as director expired in 2001. He was an attorney with the law firm of McGuire, Woods, as well as a retired General US Air Force, who served as Commander in Chief, Strategic Air Command and Chief of Staff, Allied Command, Europe.
Who needs a pension when you have the coffers of the government open to you?
Dirty Business, Dirty Clients
One of the DynCorp’s biggest clients is the US Department of Justice. The ironically named JCON (Justice Consolidated Office Network) also awarded DynCorp a $500 million contract to design, implement and manage and integrated hardware and software program as early as 1996.
Reliable inside sources claim that a new improved PROMIS software with increase real-time tracking capabilities has also been used by DynCorp in recent times. By all accounts, it comes in very handy when you’re trying to coordinate government interagency fraud.
JCON after all is available to Executive Attorneys (USA), Executive Office for US Marshals, Executive Office for Immigration Justice Management Division, Office of the Solicitor General and the six litigating divisions including Civil, Civil Rights, Environmental, Tax Criminal, and Anti Trust Divisions of the US Department of Justice.
Between its DoJ contracts (PROMIS) and HUD contracts, it’s not unlikely that DynCorp may have had the ability to falsify evidence of HUD system e-mail and offshore accounts. After all, DynCorp is also in charge of so-called asset seizure (forfeiture) programs for HUD and Treasury. DynCorp’s sweet contract deal with JCON is the ultimate insider scam. The fed-speak for it is “a single-vendor indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract.”
Another major client of DynCorp is the FBI. DynCorp will do a $51 million upgrade of the FBI network for the information technology and transport network components of its Trilogy program, a $300 million, three-year initiative to update the FBI backbone network. By the way, the notorious Andersen will be doing the audit. Imagine how many documents will be shred in that deal…
DynCorp’s RICO Problems
According to Washington Technology Magazine (April 2, 2001), DynCorp’s revenue for 2000 was more than $1.8 billion, up from $1.4 billion in 1999. Its contract backlog at the time was $6 billion, and about half of DynCorp’s revenue comes from the Department of Defense.
With little or no public scrutiny, DynCorp has acted like a white-collar organized crime outfit. Besides being a federal contractor with insider deals for rigging computer systems to facilitate government fraud and malfeasance, whistleblowers working in Bosnia have revealed that DynCorp supervisors are engaging in sex slavery and prostitution of local 12-year old girls. [See “DynCorp’s Disgrace” By Kelly O’Meara, Insight Magazine.
In Johnson v. DynCorp Inc., et al, DynCorp employee Ben Johnston alleges that his former employer breached his three-year contract, firing him without cause in June 2000 because of Johnson’s whistleblower activities. The lawsuit alleges that DynCorp engaged in racketeering activities in violation of the RICO, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, and that Johnson was fired because he refuse to commit an illegal act.
The suit alleges that DynCorp engaged in peonage and slavery, sexually exploiting children, dealing in obscene material and procuring fraudulent identification documents for the underage victims. When Johnston told his DynCorp supervisor that co-workers were buying women from the mafia, he was told to mind his own business.
Johnston is not the only DynCorp employee to blow the whistle on Dirty Works, Inc., otherwise known as DynCorp. A UN International Police Force monitor called Kathryn Bolkovac has also filed a lawsuit in Great Britain against DynCorp for wrongful termination.
Bolkovac discovered that DynCorp, whose $15 million contract to train police officers in Bosnia, had officers who were also participating in sex- trafficking.
And you’d think that government fraud would be enough?
DynCorp Drug Trafficking and Cover-Up?
“The Resister,” a US military whistleblower publication, has claimed that DynCorp was also contracted by the CIA to “observe” activities against the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) on the part of the Serbs.
For the record, the KLA was a drug-financed army of gangsters, murderous thugs and terrorists, trained by the CIA, and used to undermine attempts at peace between Kosovars, Albanians and Serbs.
DynCorp’s contracted employees are typically ex-military, probably “sheep dipped” (moved into a new cover) into DynCorp, standard operating procedure for black ops and other covert activities by US military and intelligence organizations.
Most recently, DynCorp’s use of military veterans and retired spooks to do the dirty work for the phony War on Drugs in Colombia, known as “Plan Colombia,” is no exception.
In June 2001, DynCorp’s unsavory presence in the War on Drugs in Colombia was exposed when an American missionary plane was shot down in Peru, leaving a mother and her baby daughter dead.
DynCorp Technical Services had been paid hundreds of millions of dollars by the CIA, Customs Service, Defense Department and State Department for “missions” like these, everywhere from Bosnia, Rwanda, Haiti, Colombia and Peru.
According to an AP story (“Peru incident shines spotlight on shadowy practice,” by Lisa Hoffman, April 24, 2001), “DynCorp has supplied dozens of mechanics, trainers, maintenance and administrative workers, logistics experts, rescuers and pilots” for a price tag of $600 million.
The UK Guardian describes DynCorp’s role in the five-year $200 million contract as providing “crop dusting pilots for eradication of coca plantations [could they be CIA competitors?] and helicopter pilots to ferry Colombian troops and DynCorp’s own security personnel.”
Another DynCorp Aerospace Technology subcontractor in the so-called War on Drugs (Plan Colombia) called EAST (Eagle Aviation Service and Technology, Inc. has an equally notorious.
EAST “helped Oliver North run guns to Nicaraguan rebels in what would be known as the Iran Contra affair,” wrote AP reporter Ken Guggenheim on June 5, 2001.
Founded in the 1980s by Richard Gadd, EAST helped North secretly supply weapons and ammunition to the Nicaraguans.
General Richard Secord hired Gadd in 1985 to oversee weapons deliveries, and it’s a good bet that drugs would have been flown north on the return trip in Oliver North’s infamous “Guns-For-Drugs” operation.
Bid Rigging De Rigueur
Here’s another example of insider government contract shenanigans.
According to a General Accounting Office report of Feb. 28, 2001, “the Department of State awarded two contracts to DynCorp Aerospace technology for aviation services to support the Bureau’s counter narcotics aviation program.” One five-year contract for $99 million was awarded by State in 1991. Then in 1996, State awarded DynCorp another sole-source contract for another $170 million without competitive bidding.
Rigged deals can’t get much sweeter, can they?
At the time, DynCorp’s Jim McCoy got new contracts from the State, Treasury, and Commerce Departments, as well as the CIA and NASA. It became common knowledge that DynCorp acted as a front-company on behalf of the CIA, hiring mercenaries and “assets” in order to distance itself from the manipulation of US foreign policy from behind the scenes.
According to an article in The Nation (“DynCorp’s Drug Problem,” by Jason Vest), DynCorp employees have also been implicated in narcotics trafficking. It must be remembered that US involvement in Colombia is ultimately a gambit to control the lucrative drug trade, as well as the oil fields, explored by Bush Family connected Harken Energy.
DynCorp Charged with Terrorism
Most recently DynCorp has been charged with terrorism.
According to NarcoNews.com reporter Al Giordano (www.narconews.com), a class-action lawsuit has been filed in Washington, DC, on behalf of 10,000 farmers in Ecuador and the AFL-CIO-related International Labor Rights Fund. Why? DynCorp has US Government contracts to spray toxic herbicides over 14 percent of Colombia, supposedly to eliminate coca in the phony War on Drugs.
Giordano writes, “Although DynCorp’s taxpayer-sponsored bio-warfare has not made a dent in the cocaine trade, it has caused more than 1,100 documented cases of illness among citizens, destroyed untold acres of food crops, displaced tens of thousands of peasant farmers, and harmed the fragile Amazon ecosystem, all in the name of the ‘war on drugs.'”
“DynCorp may be about to get its comeuppance in federal court,” continues Giordano, “where Justice Richard W. Roberts is presiding over a lawsuit brought by labor, environmental and indigenous groups against the aerial herbicide program. The text of the legal complaint is available online for all to read: www.usfumigation.org/compliant.htm.
In addition, NarcoNews.com writes that DynCorp’s top corporate director, Paul Lombardi, attempted to intimidate the International Labor Rights Fund, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
According to documents obtained by NarcoNews.com , on October 25, 2001, “Lombardi wrote to each of the board members of the AFL-CIO allied Rights Fund in an unsuccessful attempt to scare them off the lawsuit. In that letter, Lombardi accused the group, without offering evidence, of fronting for illicit ‘drug cartels.’ Lombardi also attempted, bombastically, to portray the Rights Fund as an enemy in the war on terrorism. He wrote: ‘Considering the major international issues with which we are all dealing as a consequence of the events of September 11th, none of us need to be sidetracked with frivolous litigation the aim of which is to fulfill a political agenda.’ And DynCorp’s Lombardi attempted to cause the Rights Fund to drop the lawsuit, saying, ‘Clearly it is not in our mutual best interests to continue politically charged litigation.’ Bishop Jesse DeWitt, president of the International Human Rights Fund, responded in a November 5, 2001 letter to DynCorp’s Lombardi, suggesting that it is DynCorp that engages in terrorist actions.”
In this letter, Bishop DeWitt called DynCorp’s actions in South America “terrorism.” He wrote “we found your reference to September 11 particularly apt, but for a very different reason. Based on what appear to be uncontested facts, a group of at least 10,000 Ecuadoran subsistence farmers have been poisoned from aerial assault by your company.”
“Imagine that scene for a moment. You are an Ecuadoran farmer, and suddenly, without notice or warning, a large helicopter approaches, and the frightening noise of the chopper blades invades the quiet,” he continues. “The helicopter comes closer and sprays a toxic poison on you, your children, your livestock and your food crops. You see your children get sick, your crops die. Mr. Lombardi, we at the International Labor Rights Fund, and most civilized people, consider such an attack on innocent people terrorism. Your effort to hide behind September 11 is shameful and breathtakingly cynical.”
“Bishop DeWitt put Lombardi on notice that he and other DynCorp officials may be added as defendants in the lawsuit, now having been officially informed of the harm done by their fumigation program: ‘If there is any further spraying done that causes similar harm, we will amend the legal complaint and name you and other DynCorp decision-makers as defendants in your personal capacities, and will charge you with knowingly conducting aerial attacks on innocent people. Again, based on well-established principles of international law, that would be terrorism.'”
Lombardi has shown that Homegrown White-Collar Terrorism is alive and well at DynCorp.
Translating the “Drug War” into Dollars: How Much Pop Per Dead Colombian?
So how much does DynCorp really make on the notorious War on Drugs Scam?
According to Catherine Austin Fitts, former FHA Commissioner in the Bush I Administration and former CEO of Hamilton Securities, an investment banking/ software company, the creation of Stock Value, also referred to as Capital Gains, is called “Pop” in Wall Street jargon. She explains the money dynamics of DynCorp’s business model with regard to its War on Drugs activities.
“If DynCorp has a $60 million per year contract supporting knowledge management for asset seizures in the United States,” she says. “The current proxy shows that they value their stock, which they buy and sell internally, at approximately 30 times earnings.”
“So, if a contract has a 5-10% profit, then per $100 million of contracts, DynCorp makes about $5-$10 million, which translates into $150 million to $300 million of stock value.”
“That means that for a $200 million contract, with average earnings of 5-10% ($10 million to $20 million), DynCorp is generating $300 million to $600 million of stock value. Pug Winokur of Capricorn Holdings appears to have about 5% ownership, which means that his partnerships’ stock value increase $15-$30 million from the War in Colombia.”
“If the DynCorp team kills 100 people, as an example, then that means they make $1.5 – $3 million per death. That way the Pop per Dead Colombian can be estimated, or, how much capital gains can be made from killing one Colombian. Since DynCorp was also in the Gulf and in Kosovo, we should be able to calculate the relative value of killing people in various cultures and nationalities. Pug Winokur’s partnership, under these assumptions, makes $75,000 to $250,000 of Pop per Dead Colombian.”
“Since the stock of prison companies trades on a per bed basis, my guess is that defense stocks are going to evolve towards a per person expenditure and other similar performance rules-of-thumb for profit-making opportunities.”
“One of my expectations is that the numbers for the Colombian war will yield a very high per death cost,” Fitts continues. “That means lots of shareholders’ profits, but probably very few American Jobs Created per Dead Colombian. That’s because the big money is not made on labor intensive contracts, but on switching ownership of land, natural resources and other resources, including control of the drug markets and their reinvestment in our stock market and university endowments like Harvard, as opposed to local Colombian investments. This insider trading cabal is where the real money goes.”
“That’s why DynCorp’s role as a knowledge manager (managing federal agency databases) is so important,” she concludes. “It’s worth far more money than the straight-up government contract. The profit will not show up for insider trading on DynCorp’s portfolio, but in other capital gains that flow to the players of the Chase and Council on Foreign Relations syndicates and their private and institutional portfolios.”
Outsourcing State Terrorism
This analysis of Catherine Austin Fitts, current CEO of Solari, Inc. (www.solari.com) is probably the best model available for calculating the cost-benefit numbers in this egregious corporate-government scam.
The implications are ominous. By subcontracting (outsourcing) State Terrorism to so-called “private” entities like DynCorp, the US Government abdicates any moral/ ethical high ground in future confrontations. The proverbial “Iron Fist in the Velvet Glove” of the US Military in a Global Imperial Rampage is all that’s left.
It was Executive Order 12333 that precipitated the shift during the Reagan-Bush Regime – a policy change in which so-called “national security” and “intelligence” functions were “privatized.”
Likewise the DOJ-CIA Memorandum of Understanding allowed the outsourcing of illicit drug trafficking and weapons sales to private firms and individuals. (Regarding CIA Inspector General Fred Hitz’s cover-up of CIA drug trafficking, see “The Curious Case of the Spooky Professor”)
According to Washington Technology Magazine, this is the future. “The global market for outsourcing of government services is growing faster than outsourcing in any commercial segment, and is likely to more than double over the next five years, according to a new study by Accenture Ltd.,” writes Patience Wait in her article “Government outsourcing grows fastest of all sectors” (March 4, 2002). In this outsourcing market, DynCorp has an estimated 5% market share, while Lockheed Martin leads the proverbial pack with 30%.
However there’s a bigger question. When a handful of federal contracting firms with lucrative insider deals control federal accounting and computer systems, does US Government sovereignty even exist anymore?
In other words, if the US Government and its agencies do not control their proprietary accounting, payment and information systems, it becomes even questionable whether we have a sovereign government at all.
The outsourcing of these systems, then, in essence has become a silent coup d’etat by Corporate-Government Insiders.
According to Washington Technology Magazine (March 4, 2002), top outsourcing vendors to the US Government in fiscal 2000 are Lockheed Martin Corp (30% market share), CSC (13%), EDS (7%), DynCorp (5%), TRW (5%), Raytheon (4%) SAIC 4%) Northrop Grumman (3%) and Unisys (2%).
This is America’s Corporate/ Public Enemy #1 — the parasitic constituents of the so-called Military-Industrial-Pharmaceutical Complex. Now that the parasites have literally overwhelmed the host, the question remains — how long will companies like DynCorp continue to give America the finger?
And, more importantly, how long will America put up with the Enemy Within?
© Copyright 2002, Uri Dowbenko. All rights reserved.
This aricle is included in the new book
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Privatizing Combat – the New World Order
by Laura Peterson and Phillip van Niekerk
The Public i – Center for Public Integrity, Nov/Dec 2002
In 1998, unbeknownst to most Americans, the United States had a military presence in a remote African war that drew little attention from the media. Unlike other U.S. interventions in Somalia, Bosnia, Haiti and Kosovo, there was no hand-wringing over whether a deployment was justified by U.S. national interests, or whether the level of barbarity justified, on its own merits, the deployment of U.S. troops on humanitarian grounds.
The conflict in Sierra Leone, in which the rebels of the Revolutionary United Front displayed a ghastly predilection for amputating the limbs and noses of their victims, could certainly compete with the horrors of “ethnic cleansing” in Bosnia and Kosovo and the man-made famine engineered by warlords in Somalia. In November 1998, the RUF was in the middle of an orgy of looting, murder and decapitation, an operation code-named “No Living Thing.”
There was international intervention aimed at stopping the bloodshed. Sierra Leone’s demoralized and underequipped national army was bolstered by Nigerian troops-flying the colors of the West African peacekeeping force, ECOMOG-and a handful of South African mercenaries in helicopter gunships who made constant forays into the battle zones to attack the RUF. In Freetown, the country’s capital, two large transport helicopters circled in the air, backing up the Nigerian troops.
Painted on their fuselages were American flags.
This small U.S. contribution to defending Sierra Leone was not conducted by an elite unit of the Army, Navy or Marines, but by a private, Oregon-based company, International
Charter Incorporated of Oregon (ICI), managed in part by former U.S. Special Forces operatives. ICI is one of several companies contracted by the State Department to go into danger zones that are too risky or unsavory to commit conventional U.S. forces. It also has been active in conflicts in Haiti and Liberia.
ICI’s role in Sierra Leone was to back up the Nigerian troops, providing transport and medical evacuation services. The hot combat, as one former ICI employee explained to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, was left to the South African mercenaries. But ICI personnel inevitably and often were shot at and forced to return fire, according to team members interviewed by ICIJ, a right these sources claimed was explicitly extended to ICI in a letter from then U.S. ambassador to Sierra Leone, Joseph Melrose.
The State Department did not respond to requests for comment by telephone or through the Freedom of Information Act on whether such a letter was issued. ICI refused to respond to a number of questions put to the company on several occasions.
The United States had little real interest in Sierra Leone itself. U.S. involvement was driven by the fear that the instability and anarchy caused by the RUF and its sponsor, Liberian President Charles Taylor, would prove a danger to Washington’s ally Nigeria, an oil-rich nation that is the fifth largest supplier of crude to the United States. For ICI, the mission to Freetown was business, but it also advanced U.S. foreign policy.
ICI’s deployment is part of a global trend of military outsourcing and foreign policy by proxy that has become far more common since the end of the Cold War. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the nature of international conflict shifted from U.S.-Soviet competition in client states to regional and ethnic conflicts requiring peacekeeping or other engagement. At the same time, the end of the Cold War resulted in reduced superpower defense budgets, forcing even high-ranking military officers to sell their talents in the public sector. This collision of supply and demand resulted in a new age of military and security services on the world market.
In fact, a nearly two-year investigation by ICIJ identified at least 90 private military companies, or PMCs (as some of these new millennium mercenaries prefer to be known), that have operated in 110 countries worldwide. Most of these companies-defined as providing services normally carried out by a national military force, including military training, intelligence, logistics, combat and security in conflict zones-are headquartered in the United States, Britain and South Africa, though the vast bulk of their services are performed in conflict-ridden areas of Africa, South America and Asia. Eleven of the companies identified by ICIJ are no longer active, and the operational status of 18 others could not be determined.
“Mercenaries” are officially outlawed under Article 47 of the Geneva Convention, which defines them as persons recruited for armed conflict by or in a country other than their own and motivated solely by personal gain. However, few modern PMCs fit that definition and, indeed, spokesmen for such companies insist they rarely engage in combat and provide military skills only to legitimate, internationally recognized governments. The ICIJ investigation found that a wide range of companies-from large corporations that offer military training, security, landmine clearance and military base construction to start-up entrepreneurs offering combat services and tactical training-are in what has become the complex and multibillion-dollar business of war.
Since 1994, the U.S. Defense Department has entered into 3,061 contracts with 12 of the 24 U.S.-based PMCs identified by ICIJ, a review of government documents showed. Pentagon records valued those contracts at more than $300 billion. More than 2,700 of those contracts were held by just two companies: Kellogg Brown & Root and Booz Allen Hamilton. Because of the limited information the Pentagon provides and the breadth of services offered by some of the larger companies, it was impossible to determine what percentage of these contracts was for training, security or logistical services.
The U.S. Defense Department has increasingly turned to outside vendors for logistical support, one of the most heavily outsourced sectors for the armed forces in both peacekeeping and wartime. In Bosnia, for example, the ratio of contractors to American soldiers has ranged from one in 10 to nearly one-to-one, according to various defense analysts.
The strong links between the U.S. government and many of the private military companies that contract with them has presented questions regarding the revolving door between government and the private sector. In 1992, the Pentagon, then headed by Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, paid Brown & Root Services $3.9 million to produce a classified report detailing how private companies could help provide logistics for American troops in potential war zones. Later in 1992, the Pentagon gave Brown & Root an additional $5 million to update the report. Brown & Root (now called Kellogg Brown & Root, or KBR) is a subsidiary of Halliburton Corporation, which Cheney, the U.S. vice president, headed as CEO from 1995 to 1999. Brown & Root was also awarded contracts in 1995 and 1997 to provide logistical support in the Balkans, where the U.S. military has been enforcing the 1995 Dayton Peace accord that ended the war in former Yugoslavia. Those contracts mushroomed to $2.2 billion worth of payments over five years, according to the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress.
Wall Street has noticed the booming business of both foreign and domestic PMCs. Security companies with publicly traded stocks reportedly increased in value at twice the rate of the Dow Jones industrial average in the go-go 1990s. Revenue from the global international security market was projected to rise from $55.6 billion in 1990 to $202 billion in 2010, an estimate that has risen sharply since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.
As the industry continues its rapid growth, foreign governments are trying to figure out how-or if-to regulate it, thereby deterring PMCs from becoming vehicles for clandestine foreign policy, arms trafficking, or simply waste and mismanagement. The United States and South Africa are the only countries that exercise some regulatory oversight of domestic PMCs; other governments have acknowledged the need for the services PMCs offer, but have yet to develop a structure to oversee them.
In early 2002, the British government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office released a report titled “Private Military Companies: Options for Regulation.” The report argued that PMCs could actually aid in low-intensity conflicts and proposed regulating them as soon as possible rather than leaving them to operate unchecked. Others, however, see PMCs as a potentially destabilizing force accountable to no one. A January 2001 report by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights stated that “mercenary activities, by impeding the exercise of the right to self-determination, constitute a violation of human rights” and recommended that the commission reaffirm “the need to condemn and prohibit any type and form of mercenary activity.”
As governments outsource more tasks, foreign conflicts grow more complex and defense companies merge into mega-corporations that do everything from constructing military housing to producing high-tech weaponry, the lines between security, training and logistics companies increasingly blur. The expansion of services performed by civilian entities raises several issues, including the lack of transparency and public oversight, the performance of companies motivated by profit rather than national interest, nepotism between governments and their former employees, and the potential for conflicts of interest as military companies diversify into various business ventures.
Even within the U.S. military, outsourcing on the battlefield has become a subject of growing debate. Concerns include contractor accountability under U.S. and military law, command flexibility and whether contractors require protection by U.S. forces. The most pervasive concern, however, regards the contractors’ ultimate master. “Contractor loyalty to the ‘almighty dollar’ as opposed to support for/of the front-line soldier remains serious questions [sic] which will be difficult to test in a nonwarfare environment,” an April 2002 U.S. Army War College paper said. Noting that contractors can legally terminate their contract in the face of danger in a combat zone, the paper added: “We cannot let outsourcing and civilian contracting compromise our fighting forces, nor our ability to fight and win the next war.”
That a small company like ICI has been involved in so many operations is indicative of the changing nature of war. The lean military of the new millennium cannot be everywhere at once, so contractors fill in the gaps. That need grew exponentially when the Bush administration responded to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks with its war on terrorism.
The increasing scope of the war has led to a bonanza for PMCs. For example, Kellogg Brown & Root has built camps in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for U.S. detainees and is providing logistical support for U.S. military bases in Uzbekistan.
Many worry, however, that the oversight system that monitors PMCs will never be able to keep up with the sheer volume and geographical spread of the hundreds of Pentagon contracts being issued. A May 2002 GAO report predicted that weak oversight would remain a problem. “With the involvement of contractors in the efforts to combat terrorism, the potential exists for a similar condition (as in the Balkans) in Afghanistan and the surrounding area.” At the request of the Senate Armed Services Committee, the agency has begun a review of the oversight of defense contractors in deployment missions worldwide. That report is due out in mid-2003.
Blackwater’s abandoned logo
In February 2009, Blackwater changed its name to “Xe,” (pronounced like the letter “Z”), as part of a “rebranding” effort aimed at helping the company distance itself from negative incidents such as a September 2007 shooting in Nisoor Square in Baghdad, Iraq that killed at least a dozen civilians. The company says its latest name change is meant to reflect a new focus. Blackwater / Xe spokesperson Anne Tyrrell said, “We’ve taken the company to a place where it is no longer accurately described as Blackwater.” Its subsidiaries also have new names: Blackwater Airships is now Guardian Flight Systems, Blackwater Target Systems is GSD Manufacturing, and Blackwater Lodge and Training Center is the U.S. Training Center. The company also shed its bear-paw and crosshairs logo, for a stylized rendering of the name “Xe.” The new head of Blackwater / Xe, Gary Jackson, told employees, “Xe will be a one-stop shopping source for world class services in the fields of security, stability, aviation, training and logistics.”  However, in June 2010, Xe announced it would be pursuing a sale in part because rebranding efforts failed to change opinions of the company, most critically inside government, which is its main customer .
Blackwater offers “tactical training,” firing range and target systems, and security consulting under the company’s subdivisions: Blackwater Training Center, Blackwater Target Systems, Blackwater Security Consulting and Blackwater Canine. According to its website, Blackwater provides “a spectrum of support to military, government agencies, law enforcement and civilian entities in training, targets and range operations as a solution provider.” Their slogan is: “Providing a new generation of capability, skills, and people to solve the spectrum of needs in the world of security.”
A “Timeline of significant events for Blackwater” was posted September 18, 2007, by The Virginian-Pilot of Hampton Roads, Virginia.
In November 2008, Blackwater announced that it had “laid off an undisclosed number of employees after it failed to win a government contract for its Grizzly armored vehicle to replace the Humvee.” 
State crime by proxy
Written by Sherwood Ross
by Sherwood Ross
If the Pentagon’s instructors haven’t been teaching assassination at the School of the Americas(SOA) in Fort Benning, Ga., is it just coincidental that so many of its star pupils graduate to become mass murderers?
Take the strange case of Francisco del Cid Diaz, an SOA-educated second lieutenant in the El Salvadoran army who ordered his unit to drag 16 people out of the Los Hojas cooperative of the Associacion Nacional de Indigenas, beat them, shoot them, and dump their bodies into the Cuyuapa River.
Not content with his SOA undergraduate work, Diaz re-enrolled after the massacre and was accepted again in 2003. By then the Pentagon had renamed SOA The Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, (WHINSEC) as Latins joked SOA stood for “School of Assassins.” Perhaps the most infamous Salvadoran SOA grad was Major Roberto D’Aubuisson, who ordered the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero and who operated a death squad that used blowtorches on his victims.
D’Aubuisson might not have learned to use this device at SOA, of course, as he also attended the CIA-run International Police Academy in Washington, one of the classier D.C. “finishing” schools.
It might just be that some weird metaphysical force beyond human understanding has been attracting thousands of criminally insane military officers like Diaz from all over Latin America to Ft. Benning — and that they were psychiatric basket cases before they got there. That’s unlikely, of course, as a WHINSEC official claims “only personnel of unquestionable character” are admitted to study.
Yet, it’s odd that case after case — hundreds of them, really — keep popping up in which SOA/WHINSEC alumni after leaving Georgia have gone stark raving berserk once they got home, overthrowing governments and filling elected officials full of holes. Didn’t Georgia’s “old sweet song” mellow them even a teensy-weensy bit?
Two of SOA’s more notorious alumni, Generals Roberto Viola and Leopoldo Galtieri, both of whom trained at SOA in 1981, went on to become dictators during the “Dirty War”, in which 30,000 Argentines were put to death. The generals were assisted by five other SOA grads and when civilian rule was restored Viola was sentenced to 17 years for his crimes. Who’s to say, though, that he learned his grisly trade from the Pentagon? He could have gotten his ideas just as well from studying Hitler’s “Mein Kampf,” right?
WASHINGTON (CNN) — Manuals used by the U.S. Army’s School of the Americas between 1982 and 1991 appeared to condone executions, beatings and other human rights abuses, the Pentagon said in a disclosure that prompted renewed calls for the school’s closure.
The Pentagon on Friday disclosed English translations of portions of seven training manuals it said were pulled from use in 1991 by then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney. He determined that the language violated U.S. policy. At the time, the Pentagon conducted a review of the training materials and reported the findings to Congress in closed briefings.
“The review found that about two dozen isolated phrases, sentences or short passages, out of 1,100 pages in six of the manuals, were objectionable or dubious,” a Pentagon statement said, “(and) appeared to condone practices violating U.S. policy.”
The phrases, including references to “eliminating potential rivals” to “obtaining information involuntarily” to the “neutralization” of people, were taken out of context, the statement said.
The School of the Americas was established in Panama in 1946 to train Latin American military and security officers. The school was moved to Ft. Benning in Columbus, Georgia, in 1984.
The program has been criticized by some in Congress as a training ground for human rights abusers, but the Army says less than 1 percent of all graduates have been cited as committing human rights violations.
Other excerpts from the manuals:
“Insurgents can be considered criminal by the legitimate government and are afraid to be brutalized after capture.”
“If an individual has been recruited using fear as a weapon, the … agent must in a position of (sic) maintain the threat.”
“The … agent must offer presents and compensation for information leading to the arrest, capture or death of guerrillas.”
“The employee’s value could be increased by means of arrests, executions or pacification, taking care not to expose the employee as the information source.”
“Threats should not be made unless they can be carried out and the employee realizes that such threats could be carried out.”
Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, who has fought to deny funding to the school, said the disclosure shows that “taxpayer dollars have been used to train military officers in executions, extortion, beating and other acts of intimidation” and that it “underscores the need to close” the school.
The Pentagon says the School of the Americas has trained some 60,000 officers, cadets, non-commissioned officers, police and civilians from Latin America and the United States since its founding. It says every course includes mandatory human rights training to help foster military professionalism and respect for civilian authority.
Panamanian dictators Manuel Noriega and Omar Torrijos were among the 10 Latin American presidents who seized power in their countries undemocratically after attending the school.
Recent events in Iraq have highlighted the dubious and criminal nature of Blackwater, perhaps the best known of the myriad mercenary corporate entities operating in Iraq. This is a dangerous path to go down.
Inside the Cells of Abu Ghraib
The CIA Privatized Torture
By KURT NIMMO
Damn video and digital cameras.
If not for the availability of these electronic devices, it is possible the world would have never viewed — to its collective disgust — the images of the hideous events that took place in the murky depths of the Abu Ghraib military prison.
It’s safe to say US Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski — who commanded the 800th Military Police Brigade in Baghdad and will likely be held responsible for what happened inside Abu Ghraib — regrets such devices ever existed.
It is not simply a proliferation of cheap electronic cameras that revealed how US military and intelligence officers and agents work over detainees, but a secret US Army internal investigation report leaked to the New Yorker and handed over to ace investigative journalist Seymour Hersh played an important role as well.
According to the author of the report, Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba, reservist military police at Abu Ghraib were instructed by Army military officers and the CIA to “set physical and mental conditions for favorable interrogation of witnesses” — in other words they were to be tortured until they were reduced to well-disposed porridge.
As we now understand, it was not simply the military and the CIA involved the torture at Abu Ghraib — so-called interrogation specialists from private defense contractors were hired to humiliate and break detainees identified by Hersh as common criminals, security detainees suspected of crimes against the occupation, and a small number of suspected high-value leaders of the resistance against the occupation.
Following Hersh’s explosive revelations, the Guardian filled in conspicuous gaps and reported companies contracted at Abu Ghraib include CACI International and the Titan Corporation. CACI’s website claims its mission is to “help America’s intelligence community collect, analyze and share global information in the war on terrorism.” Titan describes itself as “a leading provider of comprehensive information and communications products, solutions and services for national security.”
As Julian Borger of the Guardian points out, the military and the CIA may be using private “security” and “national security” corporations because they are not under military jurisdiction. “One civilian contractor was accused of raping a young male prisoner but has not been charged because military law has no jurisdiction over him,” writes Borger.
In fact, the CIA has used torture by proxy for decades.
Consider as an example the CIA’s activities in Guatemala. “In March 1995, it was revealed that CIA Guatemalan assets were involved in the murders of American citizen Michael Devine and Efrain Bamaca Velasquez, a guerrilla leader married to an American woman, Jennifer Harbury,” writes Jon Elliston. Harbury and Sister Diana Ortiz — an American nun kidnapped, raped, and tortured by Guatemalan security forces in 1989 — managed to gain Clinton White House assurances that the CIA’s involvement in Guatemala would be made public.
But as investigative journalist Allan Nairn discovered, the CIA had “systematic links to Guatemalan Army death squad operations that go far beyond the disclosures” made public by the Clinton administration. Nairn interviewed former officials from the United States and Guatemala who revealed that “CIA operatives work inside a Guatemalan Army unit that maintains a network of torture centers and has killed thousands of Guatemalan civilians.”
A former U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency official in Guatemala told Nairn the involvement was so extensive that “it would be an embarrassing situation if you ever had a roll call of everybody in the Guatemalan Army who ever collected a CIA paycheck.”
In June 1995, Baltimore Sun reporters Gary Cohn and Ginger Thompson revealed the CIA’s close involvement with a Honduran military intelligence unit, Battalion 316. As Cohn and Thompson reported, the CIA worked with Argentine military experts that had a decade of experience torturing and killing dissidents. The CIA and Argentine thugs instructed and guided Battalion 316 in surveillance and interrogation in much the same way the CIA and the Pentagon’s MI apparently instructed “contractors” from CACI International and the Titan Corporation at Abu Ghraib in the torture of unfortunate Iraqis.
In addition to Honduras and Guatemala, the CIA has instructed torturers and assisted in overthrowing governments in Chile, Bolivia,Uruguay, Greece, the Dominican Republic, Indonesia, El Salvador, Brazil, Ecuador, Congo, Haiti, Laos, Iran, and elsewhere. Noriega, Galtieri, Pinochet, Rodriguez, Fujimori, and Alvarado — these are but a few of the murderous dictators tutored by the CIA. Both the Taliban and al-Qaeda are creations of the CIA. According to the Association for Responsible Dissent, by 1987 6 million people had died as a result of CIA covert operations. William Blum, a former State Department official and historian, terms this an “American Holocaust.”
Bush “plans to ‘unleash’ the CIA to perpetrate political assassinations, torture and a string of human rights violations,” writes Raymond Ker of Middle East News, “…’physical interrogation’ (read: torture) is recommended by the venerable Newsweek magazine; and George W Bush orders the institution of military tribunals for suspected terrorists in camera and without a jury.”
It appears this is what happened at Abu Ghraib — the CIA and military intelligence were “unleashed” on those in the Iraq resistance (or simply suspected of being associated with the Iraqi resistance or maybe insulting viceroy Bremer’s intelligence).
9/11 provided the CIA with a custom-made excuse to continue its gratuitous use of torture, either directly or through proxy. After thethe Senate Intelligence Committee conducted hearings on terrorism in December 2002, several CIA officers told Alasdair Palmer of the UK Telegraph that “they were in no doubt about what they would have to do: they would have to torture people … The unanimity in American law-enforcement circles is striking. Torture is no longer simply a topic for debate. The debate has been won.”
At the Bagram air force base in Afghanistan, this debate is ancient history — and there is absolutely no worry about human rights or the Geneva Convention as it pertains to prisoners of war. As the Washington Post reported in December 2002, the CIA routinely tortured al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects at Bagram — interrogations resulting in at least two deaths.
Cofer Black, the former director of the CIA’s counter-terrorist branch, told a congressional intelligence committee at the time: “All you need to know: there was a before 9/11, and there was an after 9/11… After 9/11 the gloves come off.”
According to US officials responsible for capturing and detaining terrorist suspects, the only problem with torture is that the CIA was prevented from using it by fence-straddling lawmakers and a public without stomach. “If you don’t violate someone’s human rights some of the time, you probably aren’t doing your job,” an official told the Washington Post.
Late last year the Sunday Times reported the CIA was actively recruiting former agents from Saddam Hussein’s notorious security force, Mukhabarat. Mohammed Abdullah, who had spent 10 years in the Mukhabarat and eight in Iraqi military intelligence, told the Sunday Times he was on the CIA’s payroll — hired to hunt down members of the resistance as well as Iraqis allegedly spying for Iran and Syria. “If successfully set up, the group would work in tandem with American forces but would have its own structure and relative independence,” an anonymous intelligence officer told the Times. “It could be expected to be fairly ruthless in dealing with the remnants of Saddam.” It does not seem to matter to the CIA or Bush, however, that many former members of Mukhabarat remain Saddam loyalists.
Considering the above, a pattern begins to emerge: the CIA runs the counterinsurgency effort in Iraq, from directing Mukhabarat in the field — rounding up resistance fighters and their supporters — to overseeing the operations of mercenaries (many recruited from Chilean and South African military services) and directing “interrogations” conducted by private companies such as CACI International, the Titan Corporation, and defense contractors.
Although individual soldiers are under investigation for abusing Iraqi detainees — and Hersh names them in his article — there is no mention of the CIA, military intelligence, or private corporations (this information was provided by Jullian Borger of the Guardian, aBritishnewspaper). As usual in such situations, lowly scapegoats will be sacrificed — careers ruined, pensions lost — and the real culprits will fade into the background, allowed to continue their repulsive work.
On Sunday, May 2, Fox News and CNN were strangely mute about the scandal, although the European and Arab press continued to publish accounts of the torture. Of course, considering another CIA Operation — innocuously dubbed Operation Mockingbird — this should be expected. As far back as the late 1940s, the CIA recruited US news organizations and individual journalists as disseminators of CIA propaganda. All told, at least 25 news organizations and 400 journalists became helpmates for the mega-snoop organization.
Of course, for Iraqis finding such behavior deeply offensive — especially the pornographic aspects at odds with Arab culture — the wholesale depravity of Abu Ghraib will serve as yet more inspiration to resist the occupation and eventually get rid Bush, the CIA, and their hired sadists. Fox News and CNN may choose to allow Abu Ghraib drop from the media radar screen and move on to more superficial and politically disengaged news items but in the Arab world the damage has been done and it has momentous consequences.
On the day the US leaves Iraq in disgrace, not even Fox News will not be able to ignore helicopters departing from the roof of the US embassy in Baghdad.
Kurt Nimmo is a photographer and multimedia developer in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Visit his excellent no holds barred blog at www.kurtnimmo.com/blogger.html . Nimmo is a contributor to Cockburn and St. Clair’s, The Politics of Anti-Semitism. A collection of his essays for CounterPunch, Another Day in the Empire, is now available from Dandelion Books.
He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry By P. W. Singer, Cornell University Press, 2003, 330 pages;
William D. Hartung
The New Mercenaries Corporate Armies For Hire
by Major Thomas J. Milton, USA
Security Contractors: Vinnell Corporation, Brown and Root, MPRI, Sandline Ltd., Executive Outcomes. As the armies of the major nations shrink, the number of companies that provide military assistance grow. These companies are filling a legitimate defense need, usually advising and training regular armies. Many members of the United States Army are familiar with the US based companies. Soldiers either have worked alongside them in operations, training, or in headquarters staff functions. But what about the others, the French, Brazilian, British, or South African? Some companies view themselves as military assistance corporations, similar to many United States based corporations; however, they have taken the military assistance role to the next level. Traditionally, corporations working for a foreign government provided only assistance and training, they did not conduct combat operations. This is changing.
When a nation cannot provide, for whatever reason, enough government security to meet the needs of the nation, private contractors will fill the void. Witness the increase in the number of security firms, bodyguard services, etc. in those countries where crime has become rampant. In 1994, South Africa ended its apartheid era. Their police service, whose mission had been to maintain and enforce the separation between the races, was not properly trained or organized to perform law-enforcement functions. Consequently, crime has soared. South Africa now has one of the highest murder rates in the world. The number of private security guards in South Africa has grown accordingly. Today, private security guards outnumber the police. The same phenomena can be witnessed in places such as Russia or Columbia. In many aspects these private security companies can provide the security and protection that the government cannot.
Changing Missions of Armies: Just as private security firms are accepted as a positive development, if successful in reducing crime, so too are military contractors accepted, if successful in assisting an army to accomplish its missions at a reduced cost. Coinciding with the shrinking size of the world’s armies, is the growing requirements placed upon them. Armies the world over are being asked to perform missions that are outside the traditional mission of defending national sovereignty. Assisting the nation in the policing of national borders, combating drugs, and humanitarian relief missions are now the everyday missions of armies around the world. What had been traditional police missions now have a mix of police, private security firms and military working in the same arena. With the proliferation of private security firms and military contractors who assist the armies, it is time the US Army begins to consider the implications of operating in an environment where the most capable military force may be a private company, not a government entity.
Changing Trade: Although not a new concept, the number of private security firms, and the scope of work they can provide has greatly expanded in recent years. It is wrong to think of these corporations as a new breed of mercenaries. These “armies for hire” can provide a variety of services; advice, training, equipping, maintenance, logistics and when needed, some can and will engage in combat operations. There are three major differences between these new corporate armies and mercenaries of old. First, they are business ventures foremost, not a venture for individual profit or excitement. Second, these corporations, at least those based in western states, do not take contracts that are in direct opposition to their country’s national interest. Third, again for those based in western countries, they maintain a high level of professionalism and profess to adhere to internationally accepted norms of operations. Undoubtedly, many of the individuals who work for these corporations do so as a matter of patriotism. They are retired military who see this new line of work as a continuation of their chosen profession. The danger in this lies in the increasingly complex nature of defining what is a country’s national interest. In areas where international interests are not clearly defined, these corporations will have opportunities that fall in the gray area of neither being totally within, nor directly opposed to their home country’s interest.
second problem may occur when Western Powers view the services of these corporations from different perspectives. If a security corporation takes employment to assist a legitimate government with a complicated, long-term problem, the reactions from the various Western Powers may be opposed to each other. This is very likely in African situations, where European nations often have different views on how best to react to a crisis.
Corporations Becoming Part of the Military: Within the United States, there are a number of these corporations that not only are working for the interest of the US government, but also are part of Department of Defense (DoD) planning considerations. Almost all of these corporations, such as Vinnell, Brown and Root, and MPRI have retired senior military persons working in and/or running the companies. These companies have become an integral part of DoD plans and operations. The professionalism and expertise within these corporations are without reproach.
It is important to remember, though, that these corporations only take contracts if financially beneficial. Foreign governments contract them to improve their country’s military capabilities. While none of the contractors are to participate in direct hostilities, their advice and assistance are critical for combat operations. Just as the distinction between combat arms and non-combat arms has become blurred during operations, the distinction between “advising” and “doing” for these contractors is similarly blurred. The reality is that most of these corporations’ operations become an integral part of the foreign government’s military capability. If these companies ceased work during hostilities, the host government’s military would not be able to function near its perceived capability. The Gulf War gave good evidence of this. The Saudi military and Saudi Arabian National Guard rely heavily on US-owned companies to provide military training, and maintenance support. Throughout the war, these contractors continued to provide the logistical and maintenance support to the Saudi forces. Some contractors who had trained Saudi units traveled with these units to provide tactical advice and at times aided in the development of some Saudi units’ operation orders. The Saudi units, while proficient on their own accord, would have lost significant capabilities if these contractors had gone home.
The New Face of Military Assistance: A natural evolution of these corporate armies for hire has occurred in Africa. Several corporations have and will provide security assistance to governments. If warranted these companies will participate in combat operations. Press reports on these companies are mixed: some praise their capability at restoring order in countries threatened by rebel movements, as was the case in both Sierra Leone and Angola, other reports still view them as a group of mercenaries which eventually will cause problems in the region. Negative reporting on such companies usually links these corporations with being paid for their services by mineral or oil concessions from the government. A situation that is reminiscent of the days of colonialism.
ne point that all media accounts agree on, is that these corporations have been very effective, at least for the short-term, in assisting governments maintain stability. They employ professional, experienced soldiers, mostly from Africa. From the company’s point of view, it is more cost effective, and saves more lives, for a government to hire them to assist a teetering government before it collapses, than it is to send in a peacekeeping force after a violent fight has subsided.
ompanies that provide security services are actively looking to expand their business. These companies emphasize that they only take contracts that are under the auspices of a legitimate government or entity (i.e., the United Nations), and that do not oppose the interest of the home government. Foreign companies view their US competitors as military assistance corporations. In their view, the difference between their companies and their US competitors, is that they have the capability to train, equip, or deploy a combat force if needed. In several instances foreign company advisors fought either with the units being trained or in a separate unit alongside the host government forces. If requested, such companies could respond to a humanitarian crisis, with a 300 man force, complete with communications, logistics, medical and close air support. This force would be to stabilize the situation and assist in humanitarian efforts until a UN peacekeeping force arrived.
The services provided by these types of companies are a growth industry. There have been small-scale operations in the Far East and some companies are now actively seeking to gain military assistance contracts with South American governments. Other companies with similar capabilities have reportedly been formed in Israel, France and Brazil. MPRI, Vinnell and smaller US based companies are also seeking contracts to aid militaries around the world, albeit without the combat capability of these more robust corporate entities.
New Capabilities for “Corporate Mercenaries”: During the Cold War, mercenaries operating in Africa, and elsewhere, provided experience, leadership and small arms. Occasionally, a mercenary outfit could acquire a light plane or a few artillery pieces. Today, with the flood of weapons on the world’s market a corporation involved in military training can acquire and provide a complete array of conventional and unconventional weapons systems. With the proper corporate financing, the new corporate mercenaries can purchase attack aircraft and helicopters, transport planes, tanks, artillery, night vision devices, secure communications, computer systems and software. Anything that a modern, western army has, they can purchase. This equipment can be of very good quality. Recently, countries such as Russia and France have been offering satellite imagery to individuals or companies able to pay for the service.
Implications for US Army: For the near future, it seems unlikely that the US Army will find itself in conflict with any of these corporations. Yet, with the Army being deployed more frequently to peacekeeping and humanitarian operations in regions where these corporations may be working, the probability of coming in contact with them grows. Just as the military recently had to develop a system for working with Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) during humanitarian operations, so it should begin to consider how it will deal with these organizations.
In the case of the US-based corporations, the issue is at present fairly routine. One should not lose sight, however, that these corporations ultimately could have different interests than that of the US military; the corporations are a business. In today’s international politics, US interests and the interests of US allies, often are not clearly defined and may differ on specific events. This is particularly true when dealing with complicated peacekeeping or humanitarian situations. What happens when a corporation is hired by a foreign government whose objectives differ from the United States but whose overall intent is not against US policy? What happens if the US must deploy to that region? How will the international political aspects play out if a key US ally supports the use of these corporations?
The lucrative future for these corporations appears to be in areas of the world where a government is having difficulty with rebel movements or organized crime: Angola, Bosnia, Congo, Sierra Leone, Columbia, etc. These are also the regions where the US will most likely find itself deployed in Military Operations Other Than War. If used, these corporate armies may often be the preeminent army in a region. If the US deploys its military into a region where one of these corporate armies is maintaining the stability, what happens if a contract dispute causes the corporation to withdraw its forces? How will the US military coordinate with these corporations — through the government represented or directly with the corporate representatives? What are the legal ramifications with dealing with these corporations? What happens when there is a conflict of interest between the corporate army and the US objectives?
Most of these questions will find their own answers as operations dictate. For now, though, it is time to realize that there are new players in the field and think about the changing operational conditions.
1997, Foreign Area Officer Association
Blackwater Reveals Underpinnings of ‘Private Security’ Industry
Reviewed by Alice Cherbonnier
Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army
by Jeremy Scahill
NY: Avalon Publishing Group, Inc./Nation Books, 2007. 438 pp. $26.95.
Questions arise for which there are no known answers at this time, such as: Who else besides Erik Prince has a financial stake in Blackwater?
Among the many topics covered in his new book, Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army, investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill shows how politically powerful Christian fundamentalists and Neocons are pressing forward with their battle for what they call ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’—whether the U.S. public, or indeed the rest of the world, wants to fight or not.
They envision, as a Baltimore Sun letter to the editor expressed on March 25, “a global war, with the United States serving as the primary defender of Western civilization against our rarely named enemy, Islamist totalitarianism…”
Sounds over the top, doesn’t it? Yet those who believe “Western civilization” (read “Christendom” or perhaps “Judeo-Christendom”) is imperiled by ‘infidels’ are pushing hard to confront and defeat ‘the enemy.’
War that serves the purposes of this ‘belief’ faction also fuels profits for war-related businesses. Scahill demonstrates the added risks that can occur when these two powerful motivations (one might even substitute the word “addictions”) come together.
Blackwater USA is prominent among many companies that provide “contract security” personnel for governments, corporations and wealthy individuals. It began in 1987 by offering advanced military training at its 7,000-acre main training facility in Moyock, North Carolina, near the Great Dismal Swamp, and has rapidly expanded. It is now doing business on a global scale, with its operations horizontally and vertically integrated to cover just about any imaginable security need.
Blackwater merits being singled out for attention because of its leaders’ well-placed political, social, and religious connections, and its founder Erik Prince’s immense wealth and Catholic extremist connections.
In addition to its size, Blackwater merits being singled out for attention because of its leaders’ well-placed political, social, and religious connections, and its founder Erik Prince’s immense wealth and Catholic extremist connections. Scahill’s meticulously researched and thoroughly documented account makes for fascinating—and disturbing—reading.
Scahill reports that Blackwater currently has over $500 million in U.S. government contracts, not including secret “black budget” contracts for U.S. intelligence agencies. And this isn’t counting Blackwater’s revenues from contracts with other governments, corporations and individuals.
Questions arise for which there are no known answers at this time, such as: How much seed money did Prince put up to start Blackwater? How much profit did he make on his initial investment? Who else besides Erik Prince has a financial stake in Blackwater?
Among the company’s first Iraq War assignments was the high-profile job of protecting top U.S. officials stationed there. One wonders why such an important and sensitive assignment wasn’t given to top-notch U.S. military personnel; but by the end of this book, one wonders if the U.S. military even has all that much skill and authority left, as so many of its traditional functions have been privatized and outsourced. Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumseld famously included military contractors as part of the Pentagon’s “Total Force,” which he said included “active and reserve military components, civil servants, and its contractors.” Though they are part of the “Total Force,” however, mercenary soldiers are not subject to the structure and checks and balances of the U.S. military chain of command.
One of the last acts of Presidential Envoy to Iraq L. Paul Bremer before he left his post in June 2004 was to issue a decree, known as Order 17, that made private contractors in Iraq immune from prosecution. (An attempt has been made to rectify this exemption in the 2007 defense spending bill, which includes a line “that could,” according to Scahill [emphasis provided], “subject contractors in war zones to the Pentagon’s UCMJ” [Uniform Code of Military Justice].)
Blackwater is expanding rapidly, adding training campuses in California and Illinois and a jungle-training base in the Philippines. It has about 2,300 private soldiers deployed in nine countries, including the U.S., and claims a database of over 20,000 former military personnel who are on-call.
Following the deployment of Blackwater mercenaries to New Orleans post-Katrina, the company saw a growth opportunity, establishing a domestic operations division that is seeking permits to contract for work in all 50 states.
Blackwater’s Greystone Ltd. division (registered in Barbados and classified by the U.S. as a “tax-exempt” corporate entity) offers to hire out “Proactive Engagement Teams” to meet client needs overseas (asset protection and recovery, emergency personnel withdrawal, defensive and offensive small group operations), using mercenary recruits from other countries, including some from Chile who served as commandos under Pinochet. Greystone has been seeking applicants qualified in such weapons as AK-47s, Glock 19s, M-16 series rifles, machine guns, and shoulder-fired weapons, and skilled in such specialties as sniper and door gunner. Scahill reports that pay scales for recruits from such countries as El Salvador, Nepal, Honduras and Chile are substantially lower than for Blackwater’s U.S. recruits.
Another Blackwater division, Presidential Airways, is known to use the same airports as those used in the CIA’s “extraordinary rendition” program. The company claims to hold a Secret Facility Clearance with the U.S. Department of Defense.
While Blackwater specializes in training and deploying contract mercenaries, it is simultanously reframing its mission, calling its work “humanitarian” and “peacekeeping.” Realizing there will be questions about how their workers conduct themselves, and for whom they work, Blackwater and some other private mercenary companies have established a private military trade group called the International Peace Operations Association, and some are also signatories to The Global Compact espoused by the U.N. (which Blackwater’s president, Gary Black, has critiqued as ineffective). Adherence to the standards promulgated by these entities is voluntary, however, with no outside oversight or enforcement mechanisms.
There’s nothing wrong, per se, for an employer to engage contract personnel, especially for occasions when work is seasonal or there’s temporary work to be done that’s beyond the capacity of day-to-day staff. Scahill shows, however, that the use of “temp” armed personnel, when engaged by governments and other entities bent on pursuing military and economic advantage, presents substantial moral and ethical issues, as well as practical ones: Who will police the police? What legal oversight exists for these mercenaries? What’s the chain of command, and can the public trust it? How can the public be assured that such mercenaries won’t be turned against them? What weapons systems will be entrusted to them, and by whom? What other normal government functions—police, disaster relief, corrections—will be turned over to such entities, and what could be the outcomes? What worker safety protections will be provided for individuals employed by mercenary contractors? What public safety and human rights guarantees will they follow? Are governments irrelevant if wealthy private entities can rent-an-army? Where will the next mercenary hot spots be—Sudan? Iran? Nigeria? Venezuela?
The experience of reading Jeremy Scahill’s book about Blackwater USA compares with reading Taylor Branch’s Parting the Waters: there’s just no way around the mountain of information, you have to go through it.
Are you suffering from reader fatigue yet? Imagine what it’s like to slog through Blackwater’s nearly 400 pages of dense facts, figures, references, and interconnections—all important to know and understand. The reader wishes for diagrams and lists of dramatis personae to help keep track of all the characters and subplots. The experience of reading this book compares with reading Taylor Branch’s Parting the Waters: there’s just no way around the essential mountain of information, you have to go through it. Fortunately Scahill, like Branch, is a strong writer and skilled synthesizer. He also had support: it is obvious, from the meticulous attention to detail throughout, that all involved with this book were dedicated to doing it right.
Make the effort to read Blackwater: you’ll emerge refreshed and revitalized, for the information it conveys can propel concerned readers to seek to change what needs to be changed. Jeremy Scahill has performed an immense public service by gathering such a huge amount of information—and making sense of it while Blackwater’s story is still emerging.
Jeremy Scahill is a producer and correspondent for “Democracy Now!,” a daily radio and TV news program, and a regular contributor to The Nation magazine.
* Author Jeremy Scahill acknowledges the help of many people in the writing, fact-checking and copy-editing of this book, and credits The Nation Institute and the Puffin Foundation for their support.
* Blackwater founder Erik Prince is a major contributor to the Republican Party. He and his family are known to support Christian right causes (e.g., ban gay marriage, oppose abortions, favor school vouchers and prayer in public schools, oppose stem-cell research), and also, according Scahill, are friends and benefactors of (among others) ex-con Chuck Colson’s faith-based Prison Fellowship; Christian conservative leader Gary Bauer, founder of the Family Research Council Christian lobby group; and Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, Christian Freedom International.
* Blackwater was founded the same year (1997) as the Neocon think tank Project for a New American Century (PNAC), an outgrowth of the New Citizenship Project, a 501(c)(3) organization funded by the Sarah Scaife Foundation, the John M. Olin Foundation and the Bradley Foundation, according to the watchdog group Media Transparency. Closely related to the American Enterprise Institute, PNAC’s charter members included Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, Other prominent PNAC members have included Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, John Bolton, Richard Armitage, James Woolsey, Lewis Libby and Elliott Abrams. Not surprisingly, PNAC was a major proponent of the Iraq War.
* Some Blackwater executives are members of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, a pre-Crusades Christian militia that has a mission of defending territories the Crusaders conquered from Islamic control.
* J. Cofer Black, former chief of the CIA’s counterterrorism division, joined Blackwater as vice president in 2005. He is believed to have started the post-9/11 rendition program.
* Killology Research Group aims to study “the psychological cost of learning to kill.”
* Joseph E. Schmitz, the scandal-ridden former Pentagon Inspector General during the first years of the Iraq war, is a member of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. Says Scahill, Schmitz “comes from one of the most bizarre, scandal-plagued, right-wing political families in U.S. history,” and the facts back him up. Schmitz left the Pentagon in 2005 to take job as Blackwater’s Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel.
* Aegis Defense Services, another mercenary company, was founded and run by Tim Spicer, who merits a book of his own. See Vanity Fair magazine’s story (April 2007), “Iraq’s Mercenary King.”
* In addition to Blackwater USA, other significant companies that offer contract mercenary soldiers include DynCorp, Erinys, Aegis Defense Services, Kroll Inc., ArmorGroup, Hart, Steele Foundation, Global Risk Strategies, CACI.
“Use of mercenaries masks scope of US involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq”
permalinke-mail story to a friendprint version
Published 04 February, 2010, 10:26
Edited 17 March, 2010, 07:41
There has been a massive increase in the funding of US war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and private military contractors are flourishing in its wake, even though their reputations are at an all-time low.
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Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky told RT that there are at least as many contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan as there are military.
“So when the President asks for a 30,000 troop increase in Afghanistan, we are talking about at least that number of contractors too, which makes the mission much bigger. We don’t even count them when they get killed,” she said.
Jan Schakowsky also added that private contractors in Iraq are getting away with murder.
“We have seen these private hired guns – mercenaries if you will – actually in situations that have jeopardized the mission of the US, have put her own troops at risk, have killed private civilians,” she said. “So far those cases have been dismissed. Fortunately, the Justice Department has decided to appeal the ruling and go forward, but they’re in a kind of grey legal limbo.”
Jan Schakowsky believes it is worrying that private firms like Blackwater have an even greater capability to wage wars than America itself.
“Blackwater use certain helicopters that, believe it or not, the US government doesn’t even have. These [private] companies have the capacity that the US government does not have. I think this is a very dangerous trend,” she concluded.