“Have gun, will fight for paycheck”

The Mercenary Revolution by Jeremy Scahill exposes the corruption behind the use of private military contractors in Iraq (the US has deployed almost 200,000 to date!). Normally I like to repost articles in their entirety, but this is a bit long. In any case, it’s a fascinating read, and you can be sure that I had my eyes open for any mention of the infamous Tim Spicer and Aegis Defence Services (see my earlier post about Spicer and the fight for justice for Peter McBride). Sure enough, there he was in the (lucky number) thirteenth paragraph:

The single largest U.S. contract for private security in Iraq was a $293 million payment to the British firm Aegis Defence Services, headed by retired British Lt. Col. Tim Spicer, who has been dogged by accusations that he is a mercenary because of his private involvement in African conflicts.

Granted, this article is about the slew of private contractors our tax dollars are paying for, so this was the only mention (and I did not expect any reference to Peter McBride). It’s nice to know that people are still paying attention to this enormous scandal.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the outsourcing of traditional military responsibilities (again, your tax dollars at work), please read this article. The use of these private military companies (like DynCorp, Blackwater USA, Triple Canopy, Erinys, ArmorGroup and Aegis) has actually doubled the size of the US occupation of Iraq–there are more contractors than troops at this point.

A little background from Scahill:

“I think it’s extraordinarily dangerous when a nation begins to outsource its monopoly on the use of force and the use of violence in support of its foreign policy or national security objectives,” says veteran U.S. Diplomat Joe Wilson, who served as the last U.S. ambassador to Iraq before the 1991 Gulf War.

The billions of dollars being doled out to these companies, Wilson argues, “makes of them a very powerful interest group within the American body politic and an interest group that is in fact armed. And the question will arise at some time: to whom do they owe their loyalty?”

Precise data on the extent of U.S. spending on mercenary services is nearly impossible to
obtain – by both journalists and elected officials-but some in Congress estimate that up to 40 cents of every tax dollar spent on the war goes to corporate war contractors. At present, the United States spends about $2 billion a week on its Iraq operations.

While much has been made of the Bush administration’s “failure” to build international consensus for the invasion of Iraq, perhaps that was never the intention. When U.S. tanks rolled into Iraq in March 2003, they brought with them the largest army of “private contractors” ever deployed in a war. The White House substituted international diplomacy with lucrative war contracts and a coalition of willing nations who provided token forces with a coalition of billing corporations that supplied the brigades of contractors.

It gets worse. Many private military companies recruit their employees from impoverished countries (many of which are opposed to the war), luring them to work for a paycheck that is oftentimes more than they would earn back home serving in their own militaries. Scahill continues:

“This externalization of services or outsourcing attempts to lower costs – third world mercenaries are paid less than their counterparts from the developed world – and maximize benefits. In other words, let others fight the war for the Americans. In either case, the Iraqi people do not matter at all.”

The Iraq war has ushered in a new system. Wealthy nations can recruit the world’s poor, from countries that have no direct stake in the conflict, and use them as cannon fodder to conquer weaker nations. This allows the conquering power to hold down domestic casualties – the single-greatest impediment to waging wars like the one in Iraq. Indeed, in Iraq, more than 1,000 contractors working for the U.S. occupation have been killed with another 13,000 wounded. Most are not American citizens, and these numbers are not counted in the official death toll at a time when Americans are increasingly disturbed by casualties.

In Iraq, many companies are run by Americans or Britons and have well-trained forces drawn from elite military units for use in sensitive actions or operations. But down the ranks, these forces are filled by Iraqis and third-country nationals. Indeed, some 118,000 of the estimated 180,000 contractors are Iraqis, and many mercenaries are reportedly ill-paid, poorly equipped and barely trained Iraqi nationals.

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2 Comments

Filed under aegis defence services, human rights, Iraq, Pat Finucane Centre, Peter McBride, private military contractors, tim spicer, war

2 responses to ““Have gun, will fight for paycheck”

  1. Sonny

    hey kate, there are about four democracynow programs about this, they are pretty good, you should check them out
    -mostly interviews with scahill

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