Monday, August 24, 2009

What War Brings: mercenaries

WHAT WAR BRINGS: mercenaries

Sometimes these mercenaries are called “security contractors” here in the USA, or just “contractors”. But they are mercenaries, and they are feared by helpless civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. These mercenaries from America are basically operating in various places without much oversight or control. And they are the people who represent our country to the people of other lands.

For the most part, it seems they represent us very badly. In some cases, the “contractors” are not even Americans, though they work for US institutions. But their nationality does not matter to the men who hire them. The guys who own and run these “security contractors” are only in it for the thrills and the money…. mostly the money. Ditto for the hired hands.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, the number of armed contractors is rising under the Obama administration. According to an article written by Jeremy Scahill and published in June 2009, there has been a 23% increase in the number of “security contractors” in Iraq and a 29% increase in Afghanistan. Scahill is referring to the Department of Defense “security contractors”. He was unable to determine if the “security contractors” under the State Department were included in these numbers or not, so the real numbers may be higher. (This is somewhat disputed and may reflect better counting under Obama. Still, there are no signs that the number of mercenaries being used by the DoD and State Department is going down under Obama.)

Obama Has 250,000 "Contractors" in Iraq and Afghan Wars, Increases Number of Mercenaries

Overall, contractors (armed and unarmed) now make up approximately 50% of the "total force in Centcom AOR [Area of Responsibility]." This means there are a whopping 242,657 contractors working on these two US wars. These statistics come from two reports just released by Gary J. Motsek, the Assistant Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Program Support): "Contractor Support of U.S. Operations in USCENTCOM AOR, IRAQ, and Afghanistan and "Operational Contract Support, 'State of the Union.'"

"We expect similar dependence on contractors in future contingency operations," according to the contractor "State of the Union." It notes that the deployment size of both military personnel and DoD civilians are "fixed by law," but points out that the number of contractors is "size unfixed," meaning there is virtually no limit (other than funds) to the number of contractors that can be deployed in the war zone.

Of course, we all know about the Blackwater killings on the streets of Baghdad in September 2007. That was just one incident of many. Blackwater goes by several different names now, but they are still going strong.

Here is what one Iraqi had to say about that shooting in September 2007:

Farid Walid, who was shot in Nisour Square two years ago during a massacre that killed 17 Iraqis, said: “Everybody here knows of cases where Blackwater guards shot innocent people without a second thought. They are a symbol of the occupation. Nobody will forget.”

Lawsuit now accuses Xe contractors of murder, kidnapping

A just-amended lawsuit alleges six additional instances of unprovoked attacks on Iraqi civilians by Blackwater contractors. Three people, including a 9-year-old boy, are said to have died.

Also added to the suit is a racketeering count accusing Blackwater founder Erik Prince of running an ongoing criminal enterprise involved in, among other things, kidnapping and child prostitution. The latest charges, filed this week in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, bring to more than 60 the number of Iraqis allegedly killed or wounded since 2005 by armed Blackwater contractors guarding U.S. diplomatic personnel in Iraq.

….. The racketeering count added to the suit this week accuses Prince's companies of engaging in murder, weapons smuggling, money laundering, tax evasion, kidnapping, child prostitution, illegal drug use and destruction of evidence.

In short, they are accused of engaging in war crimes. (But then, the whole invasion and occupation of Iraq is a war crime.)

Blackwater Founder Implicated in Murder

A former Blackwater employee and an ex-US Marine who has worked as a security operative for the company have made a series of explosive allegations in sworn statements filed on August 3 in federal court in Virginia. The two men claim that the company's owner, Erik Prince, may have murdered or facilitated the murder of individuals who were cooperating with federal authorities investigating the company. The former employee also alleges that Prince "views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe," and that Prince's companies "encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life."

Well, I don’t know if the last statement is true, but they sure did kill a lot of Iraqis who were unarmed. If they cared about Iraqi lives, it seems to me that less of that would have happened. And, they are still in Iraq, even though the Iraqi government officially told them to leave. We also know that the US extended their contracts with Blackwater after those sworn statements were made. That’s pretty amazing.

Blackwater has different names now, like “Xe” or “DynCorp” or “US Training Center”.

Blackwater Still Armed in Iraq

"The public perception in Iraq is that Blackwater is no longer operating in the country; that they were kicked out and their license revoked," says Raed Jarrar, the Iraq consultant at the American Friends Service Committee. "The public perception is that they are gone already. This is very disturbing."

And over in Afghanistan, the same story is shaping up. Blackwater is under investigation for the deaths of two Afghan civilians (and other incidents). The story below claims that there are more than 70,000 “security contractors” in Afghanistan.

Deadly contractor incident sours Afghans

The shooting deaths of Raheb Dost, 24, and another Afghan civilian by four gunmen with the company once known as Blackwater have turned an entire neighborhood against the U.S. presence here. Already enraged by the deaths of civilians in U.S. military airstrikes, many Afghans are also demanding more accountability from security contractors who routinely block traffic and bark orders to motorists and pedestrians. As the war escalates in Afghanistan and the U.S. seeks to win over a wary public, incidents such as the one that left Raheb Dost dead raise uneasy ghosts of the Iraq war.

…… A June report by the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan cites serious deficiencies among private security companies in Afghanistan in training, performance, accountability and effective use-of-force rules.

Well, I guess we can be reassured that they are not engaging in weapons smuggling, prostitution, or money laundering……yet.

Photo above: Mirza Mohammed Dost at the grave of his son, Raheb, 24, who was shot by Blackwater (now Xe) security contractors in May as he walked in his neighborhood. Another man was also shot fatally and a third was wounded. (Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)

Even the oversight of the “security contractors” has been contracted out:

Since February, oversight of security contractors in Afghanistan has been entrusted not to Congress or the Pentagon, but to a British-owned private contractor, Aegis. The company was hired by the American government after the U.S. military said it lacked the manpower and expertise to monitor security contractors. Aegis is supposed to help U.S. authorities make sure contractors are properly trained, armed and supervised.

It is no wonder there is so much violence and corruption under the mercenaries – it is the wild, wild west out there in the countries were the US decides to make war or occupation.

There was another incident that caused a great deal of trouble. President Karzai accused Afghan guards working for US forces of killing the police chief of Kandahar and four officers in Kandahar in May 2009.

Karzai: Afghan guards employed by US killed police

President Hamid Karzai accused Afghan guards working for U.S. coalition forces of killing a provincial police chief and at least four other security officers during a gunbattle outside a government office Monday.

……. The U.S. military said it was not involved in the shooting, calling it an "Afghan-on-Afghan incident." However, Karzai's statement suggested that the security guards sought refuge at a U.S. coalition base after the killings, and he "demanded that coalition forces prevent such incidents, which weaken the government."

Killing the police chief of a major city cannot be good for the overall security situation.

And Blackwater is feared in Pakistan too.

US Blackwater-Xe mercenaries spreads fear in Pakistani town

Fear is spreading across University Town, an upmarket residential area in Pakistan's north-western city of Peshawar, due to the overt presence of the controversial US private security contractor Blackwater. Sporting the customary dark glasses and carrying assault rifles, the mercenaries zoom around the neighbourhood in their black-coloured armoured Chevy Suburbans, and shout at motorists when occasionally stranded in a traffic jam. The residents are mainly concerned about Blackwater's reputation as a ruthless, unbridled private army whose employees face multiple charges of murder, child prostitution and weapons smuggling in Iraq.

One Pakistani man said that they (Blackwater) are creating a state within a state, and he questioned if the streets of Pakistan are ruled by Pakistan or by the Americans. Of course, these “security contractors” may not be Americans at all, since Blackwater has hired mercenaries from foreign countries.

And the latest story to come out – that the CIA hired Blackwater to kill “jihadists” back in 2004.

CIA sought Blackwater’s help to kill jihadists

It is unclear whether the C.I.A. had planned to use the contractors to actually capture or kill Qaeda operatives, or just to help with training and surveillance in the program. American spy agencies have in recent years outsourced some highly controversial work, including the interrogation of prisoners. But government officials said that bringing outsiders into a program with lethal authority raised deep concerns about accountability in covert operations.

This development, when Panetta found out, inspired him to go and brief Congress. They had been kept in the dark about this for years. Panetta also ended this program, reportedly because it was not successful. From that same article:

The C.I.A. this summer conducted an internal review of the assassination program that recently was presented to the White House and the Congressional intelligence committees. The officials said that the review stated that Mr. Panetta’s predecessors did not believe that they needed to tell Congress because the program was not far enough developed.

That reminds me of something Bill Moyers said back in the 1980’s – if the CIA will brag about killing off foreign heads of state, what would they do that they would be hesitant to brag about? Of course, THAT question takes us right into CT land.

As to this particular program at this particular time, it is claimed that the Blackwater “security contractors” did not kill any al Qaeda operatives. I wonder how many innocent civilians were killed by them while pursuing these “al Qaeda operatives”. Blackwater, by the way, is so closely connected to the CIA that the CIA uses their facilities in North Carolina.

It’s a dirty web we weave, when we practice to deceive. And that is exactly what the US authorities, the mercenaries, and the CIA have done. Just recently we learned that Blackwater was involved in the drone bombings in Pakistan.

US still using security firm it broke with

This week, government officials and current and former Blackwater employees said the company had also taken on a role in the United States’ most important counterterrorism program: the use of remotely piloted drones to kill Al Qaeda leaders.

Well, that certainly explains why so many civilians are being killed in those drone bombings…. Blackwater is running it! Or helping to run it.

US Drones kill 687 innocents

But here is a bit from a WaPo article, that I found particularly funny:

Meanwhile, Raytheon, the corporation that supplies many technical elements of the Predator drones, is advertising for a technician to help "troubleshoot" the surveillance camera used on the unmanned vehicles. A senior Senate staff aide familiar with defense matters said yesterday that such technicians are needed "because the equipment is so advanced" that the best workers are those from the companies that helped build the drones and not from the military.

And WHY did I find this funny? Because our military is using equipment that they cannot even control!! This, of course, means that the “security contractors” have them over a barrel. This is both funny and frightening.

This website records the news articles about the war profiteers – and their war crimes.

If you support the continued occupation of Iraq or Afghanistan, or the bombing of Pakistan, then you support WHAT WAR BRINGS: mercenaries.

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