“As American commanders meet this week for the Afghanistan review, Obama is hiring military contractors at a rate that would make Bush blush. Tim Shorrock on the Blackwater heirs.
Top U.S. commanders are meeting this week to plan for the next phase of the Afghanistan war. In Iraq, meanwhile, gains are tentative and in danger of unraveling”
“Both wars have been fought with the help of private military and intelligence contractors. But despite the troubles of Blackwater in particular – charges of corruption and killing of civilians—and continuing controversy over military outsourcing in general, private sector armies are as involved as ever.
Without much notice or debate, the Obama administration has greatly expanded the outsourcing of key parts of the U.S.-led counterinsurgency wars in the Middle East and Africa, and as a result, for its secretive air war and special operations missions around the world, the U.S. has become increasingly reliant on a new breed of specialized companies that are virtually unknown to the American public, yet carry out vital U.S. missions abroad.”
“Among the companies getting contracts is Blackbird, which is staffed by former CIA operatives, and is a key contractor in a highly classified program that sends secret teams into enemy territory to rescue downed or captured U.S. soldiers.
Glevum, meanwhile, fields a small army of analysts in Iraq and Afghanistan who provide the U.S. military with what the company opaquely describes as "information operations and influence activities."
And K2 is a highly sought-after subcontractor and trainer for the most secretive units of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, including the SEAL team that rescued the crew of the Maersk Alabama from a gang of pirates last year. It is based near the Army's Special Forces headquarters in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and was founded by Lane Kjellsen, a former Special Forces soldier.”
This information is truly disturbing.
One of the staunch and unbending components of the contract between the American armed forces and the men and women who make up the armed forces is that we always bring back our dead and wounded from the field of battle; and we never forget our MIA’s and POW’s. Essentially, this is true. We will expend a company of Marines to bring back one Marine KIA. We will spend and have spent millions in an attempt to free POW’s from a camp that was no longer holding them. We’ve exposed our nation to ridicule when we publically acknowledged a rescue attempt that failed before it could actually be implemented. And while no one in the military accepts the lack of, or bad quality of the intelligence that led to failure, or the poor logistics, preparation, and planning that resulted in those failures, nor does anyone responsible for bringing lost or captured troops home count the cost of the operation.
Those are our troops, our brothers and sisters, our comrades in arms. Their lives can become more important than those of the lives of the men and women attempting the rescue effort. We’ve always promised our comrades that they, dead or alive, will not be left behind when the battle or the war is over.
That’s the reason a medic will run out under fire to pull a wounded trooper back to shelter, to begin saving his life. That’s the reason an infantryman will charge a machine gun nest to rescue his wounded squad mate. It is the reason a helicopter crew will fly into a hot LZ to pick up wounded and/or extract soldiers under fire. That knowledge that he will be rescued is the reason a pilot will remain on-site, providing Close Air Support for a downed fellow pilot until he may not have the fuel to make it home him or herself. It is a tenet of faith held by all of us who wore or wear the nation’s uniform.
Other countries armed forces behave the same way. Britain, North Vietnam, Israel, value the lives and the legends of their men and women at arms. Troops don’t fight for God and Country, at least modern effective armies don’t; they fight for the squad mates, teams, aircrews whom they actually go into battle with. They fight for their lives and those of their friends. Mercenaries fight for money.
Now we are at risk of destroying that bond between soldier and nation. We are considering the use of “private contractors” to effect the recovery of our downed &/or captured troops. Call it what they will, the U.S, government is entering into a money for retrieval contract with a mercenary corporation.
This is wrong. Mercenaries fight for money. Implicit in their use for recovery of our troops will be a negotiation centering on how much we pay pirates to retrieve our troops or the bodies of our troops. Will a soldier bring more in retrieval fees to the parent mercenary company than will a body? Will the retrieval of an officer cost more than that of an enlisted man or woman?
Implicit in the use of mercenaries is their corporate contract with the local indigenous populace, LIP’s. In order to use LIP for local intelligence &/or manpower the corporate mercenaries will have to provide some access to what, where, when, and who they are contracting to retrieve. Our experience with LIP’s tells us that at some point in the effort, the likelihood of LIP’s flipping and providing information to our enemies is high. Mercenaries fight for money, except for those who fight for ideological reasons. Does martyrdom over ride their greed? Will our ethnic American mercenaries flip for more money, for more money and ideological reasons?
If loyalty were the force that drives mercenary corporations there would be somewhat less concern on my part at this plan from the Pentagon. But as with all pirates, privateers, and other guns for hire, the unit is for hire to the highest bidder. We, the “real Americans” who want to treat government and war as a business are breaking a bond with our military men and women that will have wider-ranging implications than we realize. Throughout the history of warfare, mercenaries have turned coats during a battle or war. They have chosen to negotiate for more money during critical events during a battle. Mercenaries are not fighting for anyone but their selves. Money drives them. I would not wish to be in battle, wondering if my government will pay what amounts to ransom for my release from an enemy prison. Nor would I care to engage in combat while not knowing that someone I trust will drag me or my remains back because of who I am, not what I mean to their annual income.
Using mercenaries while withdrawing our own under-paid troops from a combat zone is not ending a war, it is simply increasing the cost of fighting a war we have no reason to fight. The use of mercenaries by the U.S is wrong, at every level. If we can’t demonstrate sufficient support by our population to fill the ranks of our own armed forces, we should not be fighting the war in question.
We’re heading back to the pre-enlightenment era of statecraft. We’re heading back to the era when mercenaries fought all the battles, when citizens did not care enough to defend their own nations. We mark the use of mercenaries as significant in deciding when empires fall. I think we’re reaching that point.
The trees are free of ice today, the snow is melting, the creek is roaring. The chimney sweeps arrived at 1700 last night and climbed onto an icy, steep roof to clean the obstruction from the chimney cap and the creosote from the flue. The stove burned brightly and warmly last night.
Dinner will be bowtie pasta with seafood in olive oil and garlic.