Soldiers of good fortune (on the privatization of the U.S. military)


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w4rma
August 15, 2003, 06:09 AM
They fly helicopters, guard military bases and provide reconnaissance. They're private military companies--and they're replacing U.S. soldiers in the war on terrorism

At a remote tactical training camp in a North Carolina swamp, six U.S. sailors are gearing up for their part in President Bush's war on terrorism. Dressed in camouflage on a January afternoon, they wear protective masks and carry nine-millimeter Berettas that fire nonlethal bullets filled with colored soap. Their mission: recapture a ship--actually a three-story-high model constructed of gray steel cargo containers--from armed hijackers.

Because they operate with little oversight, using contractors also enables the military to skirt troop limits imposed by Congress and to carry out clandestine operations without committing U.S. troops or attracting public attention. "Private military corporations become a way to distance themselves and create what we used to call 'plausible deniability,'" says Daniel Nelson, a former professor of civil-military relations at the Defense Department's Marshall European Center for Security Studies. "It's disastrous for democracy."

When the companies do screw up, however, their status as private entities often shields them--and the government--from public scrutiny. In 2001, an Alabama-based firm called Aviation Development Corp. that provided reconnaissance for the CIA in South America misidentified an errant plane as possibly belonging to cocaine traffickers. Based on the company's information, the Peruvian air force shot down the aircraft, killing a U.S. missionary and her seven-month-old daughter. Afterward, when members of Congress tried to investigate, the State Department and the CIA refused to provide any information, citing privacy concerns. "We can't talk about it," administration officials told Congress, according to a source familiar with the incident. "It's a private entity. Call the company."

The lack of oversight alarms some members of Congress. "Under a shroud of secrecy, the United States is carrying out military missions with people who don't have the same level of accountability," says Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), a leading congressional critic of privatized war. "We have individuals who are not obligated to follow orders or follow the Military Code of Conduct. Their main obligation is to their employer, not to their country."

The companies don't rely on informal networking alone, though. They also pour plenty of money into the political system--especially into the re-election war chests of lawmakers who oversee their business. An analysis shows that 17 of the nation's leading private military firms have invested more than $12.4 million in congressional and presidential campaigns since 1999.

The United States has a history of dispatching private military companies to handle the dirtiest foreign assignments. The Pentagon quietly hired for-profit firms to train Vietnamese troops before America officially entered the war, and the CIA secretly used private companies to transport weapons to the Nicaraguan contras during the 1980s after Congress had cut off aid. But as the Bush administration replaces record numbers of soldiers with contractors, it creates more opportunities for private firms to carry out clandestine operations banned by Congress or unpopular with the public. "We can see some merit in using an outside contractor," Charles Snyder, deputy assistant secretary of state for African affairs, recently told reporters, "because then we're not using U.S. uniforms and bodies."

Despite such experiences in the field, the Bush administration is rapidly deploying private military companies in the Persian Gulf and other conflict zones. By March, DynCorp alone had 1,000 employees in the Middle East to assist in the invasion of Iraq. "The trend is growth," says Daniel Nelson, the former professor at the Pentagon's Marshall Center. "This current president and administration have--in part because of September 11, but also because of their fundamental ideology--taken off constraints that somewhat limited the prior administration." According to some estimates, private military companies will double their business by the end of the decade, to $200 billion a year.

President Bush only has to look to his father's war to see what the consequences of this trend could be. In the Gulf War's single deadliest incident, an Iraqi missile hit a barracks far from the front, killing 28 Army reservists who were responsible for purifying drinking water. Other troops quickly jumped in to take their place. "Today, the military relies heavily on contractors for this support," Colonel Steven Zamparelli, a career contracting officer, notes in the Air Force Journal of Logistics. "If death becomes a real threat, there is no doubt that some contractors will exercise their legal rights to get out of the theater. Not so many years ago, that may have simply meant no hot food or reduced morale and welfare activity. Today, it could mean the only people a field commander has to accomplish a critical 'core competency' task such as weapons-system maintenance...have left and gone home."
http://indyweek.com/durham/2003-07-23/cover.html

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w4rma
August 15, 2003, 03:24 PM
"Fascism should more appropriately be called corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power." -- Benito Mussolini

"The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic State itself. That, in its essence, is Fascism -- ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or any controlling private power." -- Franklin D. Roosevelt

MicroBalrog
August 15, 2003, 03:26 PM
Mussolini's corporations were nothing like what we know under that name by today.

atek3
August 15, 2003, 03:54 PM
"The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic State itself. That, in its essence, is Fascism -- ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or any controlling private power." -- Franklin D. Roosevelt

:barf:

*** was FDR thinking. Fascism is private ownership of the means of production but public control of the use of thse means through regulation and taxation. FDR was a total Fascist.
FDR admired mussolini's fascist system of government, and his National Recovery Act gave him virtually unlimited dictatorial powers over American business and industry, He setup a complicated and ineffective scheme of prices and wage controls. He outlawed private ownership of gold, USING AN EXECUTIVE ORDER!
FDR= mr. gun banning, gold stealing, fascist. One of the worst presidents... EVER.

atek3

PeteyPete
August 15, 2003, 04:29 PM
FDR = Great Wartime Leader

FDR also = Japanese Concentration Camps, Manipulation of the Supreme Court to push through unconstitutional socialist agenda, Gun-Banning, Military Tribunals, Comrade of Alger Hiss, and furtive communist.

w4rma
August 15, 2003, 04:42 PM
I. Introduction

"Robber Barons": that was what U.S. political and economic commentator Matthew Josephson (1934) called the economic princes of his own day. Today we call them "billionaires." Our capitalist economy--any capitalist economy--throws up such enormous concentrations of wealth: those lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, driven and smart enough to see particular economic opportunities and seize them, foresighted enough to have gathered a large share of the equity of a highly-profitable enterprise into their hands, and well-connected enough to fend off political attempts to curb their wealth (or well-connected enough to make political favors the foundation of their wealth).

Matthew Josephson called them "Robber Barons". He wanted readers to think back to their European history classes, back to thugs with spears on horses who did nothing save fight each other and loot merchant caravans that passed under the walls of their castles. He judged that their wealth was in no sense of their own creation, but was like a tax levied upon the productive workers and craftsmen of the American economy. Many others agreed: President Theodore Roosevelt--the Republican Roosevelt, president in the first decade of this century--spoke of the "malefactors of great wealth" and embraced a public, political role for the government in "anti-trust": controlling, curbing, and breaking up large private concentrations of economic power.

Ironically, it was Republican president Herbert Hoover who triggered the process. Hoover thought that Wall Street speculators were prolonging the Depression and refusing to take steps to restore prosperity. He threatened investigations to persuade New York financiers to turn the corner around which he was sure prosperity waited. Thus, as Franklin D. Roosevelt put it, "the money changers were cast down from their high place in the temple of our civilization." The Depression's financial market reforms act broke the links between board membership, investment banking, and commercial banking-based management of asset portfolios that had marked American finance before 1930. Investment bankers could no longer be commercial bankers. Depositors' money could not be directly used to support the prices of newly-issued securities. Directorates could not be interlocked: that bankers could not be on the boards of directors of firms that were their clients.

E. The Return of the Super-Rich

The years since 1980 have seen the return of the super-rich in the United States. Some of this is due to the great stock market boom of the past decade and a half, which has carried many of those who inherited their wealth and whose ancestors had never achieved "billionaire" status into the billionaire category. These are America's first true inherited aristocracy: the first generation of those with immense social and economic power who have inherited it.

More of the return of the super-rich is due to the blurring of the lines between financiers and corporate managers as the Depression-era order of American finance has fallen apart. It is once again possible to raise large sums of money and then direct them to suit one's own interest, rather than turning them over to salaried managers interested in perpetuating organizations.

http://econ161.berkeley.edu/Econ_Articles/carnegie/delong_moscow_paper2.html

Mark Tyson
August 15, 2003, 05:17 PM
Corporations can be just as hostile to individual liberty as governments, and deserve to be watched carefully.

Now corporations are generally good, as is industry. Both exist to make a profit. But they have to be regulated to make capitalism humane, or else you get unsafe, unhealthy working conditons and price-gouging monopolies. We need something besides a market. Without a strong(accountable) regulatory agency people who are super- wealthy can just use their money to stifle any legal oppositions.

By the way w4rma I admire your audacity in posting that here. You are sure to hear some words from the libertarians! And welcome to the high road.

w4rma
August 15, 2003, 05:27 PM
Thank you for the welcome, Mark Tyson!

atek3
August 15, 2003, 05:33 PM
As one of the 'libertarians' all I can say is... whatever.

I'm glad gun ownership is making inroads among socialists, maybe it will make them less likely to steal my firearms. But I seriously doubt you'll make many converts, on this board at least. Talk about guns, or at least gun-related politics. If you want to blather on about how great government regulation is, I'm sure you'll find a much more interesting and receptive circlejerk over at the democratic underground.

atek3

Joe Demko
August 15, 2003, 05:54 PM
But I seriously doubt you'll make many converts, on this board at least. Talk about guns, or at least gun-related politics. If you want to blather on about how great government regulation is, I'm sure you'll find a much more interesting and receptive circlejerk over at the democratic underground.

He has one convert, or rather someone who already agreed with him, right here. My grandparents and parents lived in company towns and shopped at company stores. One of my grandfathers lost both legs in the mines because safety cut too far into profits. Please don't tell me about the wonders of unfettered corporations because I already know what they are like. If disbelief in the inherent goodness and heroism of the CEO distresses you, perhaps you need to find a place where they have the kind of circlejerk you like.

Waitone
August 16, 2003, 12:56 PM
Welcome to the world of corporatism. Just before the end of the last administration some of its members claimed corporations can do some things much better, faster, and cheaper than the government. In fact, traditional government may well be a concept falling out of favor.

We now have a military cut to the absolute bone and stretched past its limits. Rummy's solution is to begin calling up the national guard for deployment. By every measure we are doing too much with too little.

So the brain trust's solution to the problem is outsourcing. I love it. In corporate America we live with "hollowed out" corporations. They have been cut back to the point of being non-functional in terms of servicing its customers. So when that occurs the solution is to outsource critical functions that are cut back but not eliminated. Hollowed out corporations will eventually fail. The same brains who hollowed out corporations now hollow out the military and the solution to the same problems is the same. . . outsourcing critical functions.

Just amazing. Corporate stupidity is genetic. That can be the only explanation.

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