This Alternet article, Rachel Maddow: How America’s Security-Industrial Complex Went Insane is an excerpt from Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power, Maddow’s new book that will debut at #1 on the New York Times best seller list.
Here’s a little taste of it:
It’s not just the small-potatoes post-9/11 Homeland spending that feels a little off mission. It’s the big-ticket stuff too. Nobody ever made an argument to the American people, for instance, that the thing we ought to do in Afghanistan, the way we ought to stick it to Osama bin Laden, the way to dispense American tax dollars to maximize American aims in that faraway country, would be to build a brand-new neighborhood in that country’s capital city full of rococo narco-chic McMansions and apartment/office buildings with giant sculptures of eagles on their roofs and stoned guards lounging on the sidewalks, wearing bandoliers and plastic boots. No one ever made the case that this is what America ought to build in response to 9/11. But that is what we built. An average outlay of almost $5 billion a month over ten years (and counting) has created a twisted war economy in Kabul. Afghanistan is still one of the four poorest countries on earth; but now it’s one of the four poorest countries on earth with a neighborhood in its capital city that looks like New Jersey in the 1930s and ’40s, when Newark mobsters built garish mansions and dotted the grounds with lawn jockeys and hand-painted neo-neoclassic marble statues.
The New York Times, Janet Maslin, published one of many good reviews, How War Came Home to Stay:
A book by the host of a political talk show is often an ancillary product or marketing tool. But “Drift,” by Rachel Maddow, whose show is on MSNBC, is much more. It is an argument — a sustained, lucid case in which points are made logically and backed by evidence and reason. What’s more, it follows one main idea through nearly a half-century. The subtitle, “The Unmooring of American Military Power,” explains exactly what “Drift” is about.
Sounds like a good read. 275 pages, Crown Publishers, $25.
As we on the left are beguiled by the power and energy of the OWS movement et al, we must not forget that there is an alternate reality inhabited by much of the nation with a whole different narrative.
“Rather than permit America to consider any responsibility for the gross immoralities of our foreign aggression, the GOP’s demand for reparations plays to our exceptionalist conceit by implicitly suggesting that — facts be damned! — the war was Good and Just. And not just moderately good and just, but so Good and Just that we deserve to be paid for our trouble. Along the way, this self-righteous posture implies that we shouldn’t change anything about the (highly profitable) Military-Industrial Complex that led us into the war in the first place.”
Now that military spending is supposedly going to be cut sufficiently enough to make a difference in our economy, this article, U.S. Relies on Contractors in Somalia Conflict – one that tries to make the case for taxpayer funding of private military contractors, is not surprising or early or late. It’s right on schedule as if surreptitiously written by those profiteers who encourage the war ‘games’ being played around the world at the expense of our politically expressed social morals and our economic security.
The article is a loosely woven account with tokens of the good and the bad information about mercenaries – and with an horrific desensitizing quote thrown into the mix – [“Urban fighting is a war of attrition, you nibble, nibble, nibble,” said Mr. Rouget, the Bancroft contractor … Still, he seems to thoroughly enjoy his work. “Give me some technicals” — a term for heavily armed pickup trucks — “and some savages and I’m happy,” he joked.] And there’s another spooky quote … “No one, not even the president, knows what the N.S.A. is doing,” he said. “The Americans are creating a monster.”
The reality of huge pro-war lobbies and their agendas – far apart from the interests of the American people, represent a cash-cow industry including companies like Bechtel, KBR (Halliburton), Blackwater/Xe, Boughton Protection Services (BPS), Dyncorp and many more.
Though contracted war services are not new, our increased use and dependence on them is staggering. In 2006, the DOD reported a tenfold increase in Private Military Companies in ten years – and this is an industry “reporting” its worth well in excess of $100 billion a year. Recently, DynCorp was criticized for not properly accounting for $1.2 billion in contracts authorized by the State Department for training Iraqi police, and though the class action case against them was dismissed, Blackwater has also fudged on their taxes by listing employees as subcontractors.
Military soldiers who are not members of a nation’s own forces are fighting because they are paid and paid well to fight and kill on the orders of a private corporation. Where and when we use them, I think they embody the ugly American persona to a tee. They are mercenaries regardless of blurred lines drawn by the media, and by the actions of our own, often financially conflicted representatives and lawmakers. They are considered unlawful combatants in the Geneva Conventions and in the US Military Commissions Act.
Most notable for atrocious criminal behavior – like offensive action against unarmed civilians, is Blackwater/Xe, who has been indited for murdering civilians as well as more than 300 violations of our own weapons export control laws. But when it comes to targeting “evildoers”, Blackwater always gets a pass. Our government – its facets not always seeing eye to eye, intercedes in all cases where Blackwater is indited allowing for a monetary settlement at best.
Some good background on that is here, but for examples, in 2007, when federal prosecutors were investigating allegations that Blackwater employees were smuggling weapons into Iraq, weapons later transferred to the Kurdistan Workers Party – a terrorist organization, the FBI took over the investigation and charges have yet to be filed. In 2008, when the Justice Department charged five Blackwater employees, Judge Urbina threw the criminal case right out of court. In a U.S. District Court in Virginia in 2009, a suit was brought against Blackwater for murder, kidnapping, weapons smuggling, money laundering, tax evasion, child prostitution, illegal drug use and destruction of evidence among the many charges. (Allegedly, young Iraqi girls had been brought to the Green Zone to provide oral sex to contractors for $1.) The terms of the settlement were not made public … but Xe reported that it was “pleased” with the resolution.
“… And a panel that we had said that they can do the job, that they have shaped up their act. So there really was not much choice but to accept that contract.” That was CIA Director Leon Panetta giving contrived and feeble excuses quoted in this excellent article that appeared in The Nation about a year ago when the Obama administration awarded Blackwater/Xe a quarter of a billion dollar contract to work for the U.S. State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency in Afghanistan. And here’s Rep. Jan Schakowsky, chair of the House Intelligence subcommittee on investigations and oversight:
It’s just outrageous. What does Blackwater have to do to be determined an illegitimate player? While some of Blackwater’s personnel do good work, its employees have proven to be untrustworthy with weapons in combat zones. Whether they are at the center of a mission or are doing static security, we should not be using Blackwater employees. The CIA should not be doing business with this company no matter how many name changes it undergoes.” And Schakowsky on This Week: “We’re talking about murder, a company with a horrible reputation, that really jeopardizes our mission in so many different ways.
If you missed Jeremy Scahill’s opinion back then, you might enjoy it now before any more articles come out on the benefits of Private Military Companies. The light he shines on Blackwater is applicable to other military contractors and our dependency on them that just continues to grow …. But in case you don’t get to read it, here’s Scahill’s astute last line that I won’t forget:
“… Blackwater has been involved with so many sensitive operations for a decade and knows where the bodies are buried and who buried them. Those are not the kind of people you simply cut loose without fear of consequences.”
I believe it was the Roman Praetorian Guard who were initially helpful protecting generals and Emperors and such. Unfortunately, over time they exploited their position and ended up under a bridge somewhere. They’re not generally remembered for the good among them, or the good they did early on. I guess my point is that we should be looking for ways to control our use of Private Military Companies … or we could start looking around for a big bridge.