Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Contracting, A Disease

It’s old news that the U.S. uses well-armed “contractors” in place of armed military forceds to perform “various tasks,” most notably “guarding” diplomatic posts and personnel. Fatalities and other casualties among these “mercenaries” aren’t counted among our military statistics. Useful, huh? We know the most controversial Blackwater paramilitary group became so infamous in its seemingly cavalier treatment of Iraqi civilians – engaging in what were purported to be “defensive firefights” with what others believed were excessive civilian casualties – collateral damage – that it was forced to change its notorious name (it’s now Xe Services). Criminal accusations and prosecutions against our “contractors” are well-reported… as well as a recent binge-party – laced with nudity (nice picture above) – by contractors engaged to guard a U.S. Embassy.

Arrogance and dark glasses. Hard men looking for hard pay. Have you read about all the good they are going, reaching into the countryside to help farmers and villagers upgrade their lives? Rescue trapped children? Bringing medical help to the isolated? No? Well, neither have I. These well-armed soldiers of fortune are yet another face that locals have learned to identify with American arrogance, new symbols to focus their rage at us. You’d think that the Obama administration would have ended this Rumsfeld/Cheney transfer of military options to the high-profit world of soldiers for hire… to the highest bidder. Sure doesn’t look that way.

You can exclude these contractors from your “number of military deployed.” They come out of different budgets; the Department of State has a “guard” category that no longer draws on the vast hordes of U.S. Marines (and out of the Department of Defense budget!) that were once charged with guarding our diplomatic facilities. We can play cool new games with dollars and numbers of personnel. Doesn’t save the taxpayers a dime; if anything, these defense contractors are even more costly. Just goes into a different budget category. Games.

But I continue to be concerned that these contractors are at least one step removed from the kind of oversight that you would think America would want from people, armed to the teeth, who are seen as America’s representatives to so many international venues. How much does the hatred that these folks have engendered costs the U.S. – in hard dollars – as their faces and actions help extremists recruit new “freedom fighters” to oppose, even destroy, U.S. interests here and abroad? Blackwater gave us the blackest of diplomatic eyes. Hated and feared, they symbolized everything that the world thinks is wrong with the US.

And new companies are springing up to supply a seemingly insatiable need by the U.S. government for armed mercenaries. Somehow, the results of such efforts don’t seem to change, but we keep hiring more. The September 19th New York Times: “Pakistani police raided a local [Islamabad] security firm that helps protect the U.S. Embassy on [September 19th], seizing dozens of allegedly unlicensed weapons at a time when unusually intense media scrutiny of America's use of private contractors has deepened anti-U.S. sentiment… Two employees of the Inter-Risk company were arrested during the raids in Islamabad, police official Rana Akram said. Reporters were shown the seized weapons -- 61 assault rifles and nine pistols. Akram said police were seeking the firm's owner.”

The report continues: “In particular, Pakistani reporters, anti-U.S. bloggers and others have suggested the U.S. is using the American firm formerly known as Blackwater -- a claim that chills many Pakistanis because of the company's alleged involvement in killings of Iraqi civilians… The U.S. Embassy denies it uses Blackwater -- now known as Xe Services -- in Pakistan.” Yeah, we use them “elsewhere.”

The damage that utilizing these “government vendors” – and the concomitant loss of direct government control over their actions – far outweighs the budgetary and statistical tricks that don’t save U.S. taxpayers one thin dime. It’s time for our government to phase out this most toxic habit of recent government policy. The face of the U.S. government should at least be… the U.S. government.

I’m Peter Dekom, and I approve this message.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If you're so worried about "taxpayer" penal---tease, start wth the "32 CZAR'S" the Obama administration has appointed. What do they weed out? What have they accomplished thus far? The war has unfortunately started, finish it, and WIN.