by Chris Hedges
from CommonDreams Website
Armed units from the private security firm Blackwater USA opened fire in Baghdad streets twice in two days last week.
It triggered a standoff between the security contractors and Iraqi forces, a reminder that the war in Iraq may be remembered mostly in our history books for empowering and building America's first modern mercenary army. There are an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 armed security contractors working in Iraq, although there are no official figures and some estimates run much higher. Security contractors are not counted as part of the coalition forces.
When the number of private mercenary fighters is added to other civilian military "contractors" who carry out logistical support activities such as food preparation, the number rises to about 126,000.
The privatization of war hands an incentive to American corporations, many with tremendous political clout, to keep us mired down in Iraq. But even more disturbing is the steady rise of this modern Praetorian Guard.
The Praetorian Guard in ancient Rome was a paramilitary force that defied legal constraints, made violence part of the political discourse, and eventually plunged the Roman Republic into tyranny and despotism. Despotic movements need paramilitary forces that operate outside the law, forces that sow fear among potential opponents, and are capable of physically silencing those branded by their leaders as traitors.
And in the wrong hands, a Blackwater could well
become that force.
Tens of billions more have been paid to
companies that provide logistical support. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D.,
Ill.) of the House Intelligence Committee estimates that 40 cents of every
dollar spent on the occupation has gone to war contractors. It is unlikely
that any of these corporations will push for an early withdrawal. The
profits are too lucrative...
Jeremy Scahill, the author of Blackwater - The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, points out that Blackwater has also constructed,
Blackwater also recently opened a facility in
Illinois ("Blackwater North") and, despite local opposition, is moving ahead
with plans to build another huge training base near San Diego. The company
recently announced it was creating a private intelligence branch called
His employees, in an act as cynical as it is
dishonest, take an oath of loyalty to the Constitution. But what he and his
allies have built is a mercenary army, paid for with government money, which
operates outside the law and without constitutional constraint.
And the appearance of Blackwater fighters, heavily armed and wearing their trademark black uniforms, patrolling the streets of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, may be a grim taste of the future.
In New Orleans Blackwater charged the government $240,000 a day.
The word contractor helps launder the fear and threat out of a more accurate term: "paramilitary force."
We're not supposed to have such forces in the United States, but we now do. And if we have them, we have a potential threat to democracy. On U.S. soil, Blackwater so far has shown few signs of being an out-and-out rogue retainer army, though they looked the part in New Orleans. But were this country to become even a little less stable, outfits like Blackwater might see a heyday.
If the United States falls into a period of
...such paramilitary forces, protected and assisted by fellow ideologues in the police and military, could ruthlessly abolish what is left of our eroding democracy. War, with the huge profits it hands to corporations, and to right-wing interests such as the Christian Right, could become a permanent condition.
And the thugs with automatic weapons, black
uniforms and wraparound sunglasses who appeared on the streets in New
Orleans could appear on our streets.