Posted by: Opey | May 29, 2007

“That paddle wheel thumpin’, Blackwater keeps rollin on past just the same”

A little Doobie Brothers to open up this Tuesday morning. Over the Memorial Day weekend, I had a chance to do a bit of reading, so I finally was able to get into the “meat” of the book Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army (Amazon.com). I went in expecting the book to be a simple story about the rise of private contractors in the last decade or so, but the book is more than that. It offers both that story, as well as the parallel story about the interests at work behind the scenes that allowed for private entities to take over the government’s role as the sole holder of military power. Governments are able to maintain their power through a couple of ways, by legitimacy in the minds of their people or through a monopoly on the use of force and military power. What the US has begun to do, outsourcing both non-combat and “security” roles to firms such as Blackwater and Haliburton, is rather troubling. I can understand from a standpoint that corporations may be able to do the job cheaper, but is it worth the risk. Through cost cutting measures designed to insure maximum profit, 4 Blackwater employees were killed and mutilated in Fallujah due to inadequate support and armor (Link). In addition, many of these firms have been awarded both no-bid contracts for their services, as well as immunity from prosecution for their actions. In a time where US military personnel are under more and more scrutiny for their actions in the field, these private contractors act with impunity, free from any consequences for their actions. Furthermore, some of these firms, Blackwater included, have hired foreign personnel from some of the most brutal military units in the world, such as Chilean special forces from the Pinochet era, to act as their ground forces. Are we to trust US companies that search out members of brutal regimes to spread the message of what the US stands for? We must act to curtail the immunity of such private military contractors, at the very least, and at most, push their roles back to more logistical or periphery roles. To continue reading about this rise in the use of private armies, “When Private Armies Take to the Front Lines” by Michael Duffy of Time is a good read.

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