[R-G] Re: America's For-Profit Secret Army
DavidMcR at aol.com
DavidMcR at aol.com
Tue Oct 15 12:02:58 MDT 2002
Friends and co-workers,
I've cut this piece drastically - and am posting this bit of it to remind
those not aware of it of two things. First, the New York Times is indeed the
daily paper of the Establishment, but the Establishment can only work with
information - the Times (or the Wall Street Journal or the Financial Times)
is essential reading for radicals. So many good pieces are being forwarded on
email it is worth reminding newer or younger comrades of the crucial value of
reading the Times.
Second, if you want to get articles of value from the Times (and many other
places) considering getting on the Portside list (info at the bottom).
Slogans don't move us toward social change - facts do.
<< Subj: America's For-Profit Secret Army
Date: 10/13/02 7:04:51 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: portsidemod at yahoo.com (portsideMod)
Reply-to: portside at yahoogroups.com
To: portside at yahoogroups.com (ps)
Going Backwards: America's For-Profit Secret Army
By Leslie Wayne
October 13, 2002;The New York Times
With the war on terror already a year old and the possibility of
war against Iraq growing by the day, a modern version of an ancient
practice - one as old as warfare itself - is reasserting itself at
the Pentagon. Mercenaries, as they were once known, are thriving -
only this time they are called private military contractors, and
some are even subsidiaries of Fortune 500 companies.
The Pentagon cannot go to war without them.
Often run by retired military officers, including three- and four-
star generals, private military contractors are the new business
face of war. Blurring the line between military and civilian, they
provide stand-ins for active soldiers in everything from logistical
support to battlefield training and military advice at home and
American taxpayers already pay $300 billion a year to fund the
world's most powerful military. Why should they have to pay a
second time in order to privatize our operations? Are we
outsourcing in order to avoid public scrutiny, controversy or
embarrassment? Is it to hide body bags from the media and thus
shield them from public opinion?
US Rep Jan Schakowsky, an Illinois Democrat Some are helping to
conduct training exercises using live ammunition for American
troops in Kuwait, under the code name Desert Spring. One has just
been hired to guard President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, the
target of a recent assassination attempt. Another is helping to
write the book on airport security. Others have employees who don
their old uniforms to work under contract as military recruiters
and instructors in R.O.T.C. classes, selecting and training the
next generation of soldiers.
In the darker recesses of the world, private contractors go where
the Pentagon would prefer not to be seen, carrying out military
exercises for the American government, far from Washington's view.
In the last few years, they have sent their employees to Bosnia,
Nigeria, Macedonia, Colombia and other global hot spots.
Motivated as much by profits as politics, these companies - about
35 all told in the United States - need the government's permission
to be in business. A few are somewhat familiar names, like Kellogg
Brown & Root, a subsidiary of the Halliburton Company that operates
for the government in Cuba and Central Asia. Others have more
cryptic names, like DynCorp; Vinnell, a subsidiary of TRW; SAIC;
ICI of Oregon; and Logicon, a unit of Northrop Grumman. One of the
best known, MPRI, boasts of having "more generals per square foot
than in the Pentagon."
During the Persian Gulf war in 1991, one of every 50 people on the
battlefield was an American civilian under contract; by the time of
the peacekeeping effort in Bosnia in 1996, the figure was one in
10. No one knows for sure how big this secretive industry is, but
some military experts estimate the global market at $100 billion.
As for the public companies that own private military contractors,
they say little if anything about them to shareholders.
That means even more business, and profits, for contractors who
perform tasks as mundane as maintaining barracks for overseas
troops, as sophisticated as operating weapon systems or as
secretive as intelligence-gathering in Africa. Many function near,
or even at, the front lines, causing concern among military
strategists about their safety and commitment if bullets start to
At times, the results have been disastrous.
In Bosnia, employees of DynCorp were found to be operating a sex-
slave ring of young women who were held for prostitution after
their passports were confiscated. In Croatia, local forces, trained
by MPRI, used what they learned to conduct one of the worst
episodes of "ethnic cleansing," an event that left more than
100,000 homeless and hundreds dead and resulted in war-crimes
indictments. No employee of either firm has ever been charged in
In Peru last year, a plane carrying an American missionary and her
infant was accidentally shot down when a private military
contractor misidentified it as on a drug smuggling flight.
MPRI, formerly known as Military Professionals Resources Inc., may
provide the best example of how skilled retired soldiers cash in on
their military training. Its roster includes Gen. Carl E. Vuono,
the former Army chief of staff who led the gulf war and the Panama
invasion; Gen. Crosbie E. Saint, the former commander of the United
States Army in Europe; and Gen. Ron Griffith, the former Army vice
chief of staff. There are also dozens of retired top-ranked
generals, an admiral and more than 10,000 former military
personnel, including elite special forces, on call and ready for
"The main reason for using a contractor is that it saves you from
having to use troops, so troops can focus on war fighting," said
Col. Thomas W. Sweeney, a professor of strategic logistics at the
Army War College in Carlisle, Pa. "It's cheaper because you only
pay for contractors when you use them."
But one person's cost-saving device can be another's "guns for
hire," as David Hackworth, a former Army colonel and frequent
critic of the military, called them.
"These new mercenaries work for the Defense and State Department
and Congress looks the other way," Colonel Hackworth, a highly
decorated Vietnam veteran, said. "It's a very dangerous situation.
It allows us to get into fights where we would be reluctant to send
the Defense Department or the C.I.A. The American taxpayer is
paying for our own mercenary army, which violates what our founding
For instance, Kellogg Brown & Root, which was paid $2.2 billion to
provide logistics support to American troops in the Balkans, was
the subject of a General Accounting Office report entitled, "Army
Should Do More to Control Contract Costs in the Balkans." The
office found that the Army was not exercising enough oversight on
Kellogg Brown & Root as contract costs rose, to the benefit of the
company. Still, the company continues to pick up new business.
Questions about security and control are even more basic. In the
battlefield, a commander cannot give orders to a contractor as he
can a soldier. Contractors are not compelled by an oath of office,
as soldiers are, but instead by an employment contract that
provides little flexibility. Nor are contractors subject to the
Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Contractors cannot arm themselves — they risk losing their status
as noncombatants if they do and, in the extreme, could be declared
mercenaries and subject to execution if captured. Yet in the gulf
war, contractors were in the thick of battle, providing maintenance
to tanks and biological and chemical vehicles as well as flying air
Should there be a war in Iraq, the line could be even blurrier.
"There are no rear areas anymore," Colonel Sweeney of the Army War
College said. With chemical and biological weapons, "no place is
safe," he said.
"You can't draw a map and say `no contractors forward of this
line,' " he added. "The American concept of combat is to take the
battle to the rear areas and be as disruptive as possible. The
other guy is thinking the same thing."
One tenet of warfare is that soldiers handling support functions
can grab a gun and hit the front lines if needed. While this is
often dismissed as a quaint World War II concept, it happened in
Somalia in 1993 when Army rangers were in trouble and military
supply clerks came to their rescue. When the support staff is
filled with contractors, would they do the same? Or would
commanders in the field become responsible for the safety of the
growing number of contractor employees at the expense of advancing
The issue is just beginning to generate some attention in military
"We sort of blur the lines," Col. Steven J. Zamparelli of the Air
Force said in an interview. In an article in 1999 for the Air Force
Journal of Logistics, Colonel Zamaparelli said: "The Department of
Defense is gambling future military victory on contractors'
performing operational functions in the battlefield."
Others in the military are more blunt about the effect on soldiers.
"Are we ultimately trading their blood to save a relatively
insignificant amount in the national budget?" said Lt. Col. Lourdes
A. Castillo of the Air Force, a logistics expert, in a 2000 article
in Aerospace Power Journal. "If this grand experiment undertaken by
our national leadership fails during wartime, the results will be
Copyright The New York Times Company
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