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What’s a Little War Profiteering among Friends?
Blackwater, a Private Military Company (PMC), is the scariest thing you haven’t heard of. They bill themselves, on their website, as “the most comprehensive professional military, law enforcement, security, peacekeeping, and stability operations company in the world.” And, apparently, the Bush administration agrees.
In a recent (and disturbing) new novel, Jeremy Scahill talks about Blackwater and its rise to power, its uncanny ability to win no-bid government contracts in places like Iraq and New Orleans, and its utter lack of accountability in its missions. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg -- Blackwater is emblematic of the rise in the private contracting of war and the hefty profits it reaps.
Maybe you heard about Blackwater briefly, when four of their men were killed in Fallujah, Iraq, their bodies dragged down the streets, burned, and then hung from bridges in town. These were the deaths that began a massive ‘counter insurgency’ in the Iraq war. But, these deaths don’t count towards the official tally of U.S. personnel killed in Iraq -- in many ways, they aren’t counted at all.
Herein lies the problem. Blackwater, as well as many other Private Military Companies, have an unknown number of people working as military contractors in Iraq -- but estimates are around 100,000. They function like U.S. military but are not held to the same rules of conduct. This is particularly distressing in light of tragedies like Abu Ghraib, a disgusting abuse of power in which PMCs were key players.
In the 2007 Defense Authorization Act, a small amount of checks were put on PMCs, an attempt by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham to start the ball rolling on holding these contractors remotely accountable for their actions. But, this legislation isn’t enough. Holding accountable PMCs is only one part of the equation -- the other is addressing the massive amount of profits that are a by-product of privatizing war, as well as relief efforts.
Profits reaped by Blackwater and other military contractors are in the billions of dollars. In post-Katrina New Orleans, individual PMCs were paid thousands of dollars a day to "maintain order." In the Iraq war, PMCs are estimated to account for forty cents of every dollar. That’s forty cents of every dollar going to people who are in no way accountable to laws of military conduct, not to mention the Geneva Conventions.
Oh, and if Blackwater scares you, just think about some of these other private military contractors. There is KBR, CACI, Raytheon, SCG International Risk, SOS Temps, Pathfinder Security Services, Top Cat Marine Security, STOP units, Triple Canopy, Titan Corporation, ManTech International, and Vinnell Corporation, to name a few.
The privatization of war and the profits it creates is a relatively new phenomenon. And Blackwater, unfortunately, isn’t alone. We hear about war profiteering to some extent. What we need to be hearing is that private war profiteers are making a killing -- literally and figuratively -- on the backs of Americans and Iraqis alike.
If it bothers you, tell your legislator. Tell them that you want PMCs to be traced, accounted for, and accountable. Tell them that you don’t want your money going to people who answer to no one.