[R-G] Mercenaries, as they were once known, are thriving
nick at faunusherbs.com
Thu Oct 17 19:08:47 MDT 2002
LESLIE WAYNE, NY TIMES - Mercenaries, as they were once known, are
- 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 abroad.
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. . .
Many function near, or even at, the front lines, causing concern among
military strategists about their safety and commitment if bullets start
to fly. The use of military contractors raises other troubling questions
as well. In peace, they can act as a secret army outside of public view.
In war, while providing functions crucial to the combat effort, they are
not soldiers. Private contractors are not obligated to take orders or to
follow military codes of conduct. Their legal obligation is solely to an
employment contract, not to their country.
Private military contractors are flushing out drug traffickers in
Colombia and turning the rag-tag militias of African nations into
fighting machines. When a United Nations arms embargo restricted the
American military in the Balkans, private military contractors were sent
instead to train the local forces.
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 these incidents.
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