Posts Tagged ‘mercenaries’

Mercenary Soldiers on Sale… Who’s In Charge of These Hired Killers?

March 23, 2010

Eric S. Margolis, Khaleej Times Online, March 22, 2010

A fascinating scandal has erupted in Washington over the use of mercenaries (‘private contractors’ in US terminology) that is exposing the dark underbelly of America’s foreign wars. It has been that the Pentagon and other US intelligence agencies secretly fielded mercenaries in Afghanistan, Pakistan (aka “Af-Pak”), and Iraq to assassinate tribal militants.

US law forbids murder or using mercenaries.  But, as the Roman jurist Cicero said, “laws are silent in times of war.”

A former senior Pentagon official specialising in clandestine operations, Mike Furlong, set up a shell company, International Media Ventures (IMV), to supposedly provide the US military with “cultural information” about Afghanistan’s Pashtun tribes.  Two obscure Pentagon outfits, the “Cultural Engineering Group” in Florida, and “Counter-Narco-terrorism Technology Programme” of Virginia funded Furlong with $24.6 million. Furlong hired a bunch of former Special Forces types and assorted thugs. These rent-a-Rambos’s real mission was to assassinate Pashtun leaders in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and target tribal compounds for strikes by US Predator drones. Welcome to the modern version of the Mafia’s infamous contract killers, “Murder Inc.”

Thickening this plot, retired CIA types, including the flamboyant Dewey Clarridge, whom I well recall from the 1980’s Afghan war, were involved. So were other would-be bounty-hunters, eager to cash in one the Pentagon’s cash bonanza. It is uncertain if Furlong’s Murder Inc had time to go operational.  But its exposure is causing uproar.  In best US government tradition, the Pentagon denied backing Furlong and cut him adrift. He is now under criminal investigation. Shades of former CIA agent Edwin Wilson, whose frightful case I long followed. Wilson was set up as a deniable “independent” by CIA to supply arms and explosives to Libya and Angola in the 1980’s. When this intrigue blew wide open, Wilson was kidnapped by US agents and buried alive in federal prison for 27 years.

The Furlong scandal comes at a time of growing criticism of the US government’s use of over 275,000 mercenaries in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.   These hired gunmen and logistics personnel operate without any accountability, legal structure, or oversight. Lack of command and control of such free-lancers infuriates traditional military men, who detest US Special Forces and these hired gunmen as ‘cowboys.’

It certainly is no way to win over Muslim hearts and minds.

Private mercenary firms like Xe (formerly Blackwater) and DynCorp have raked in fortunes running private armies for the US. They are major donors to the far right of the Republican Party. Deeply worried civil libertarians call these private armies potential Brownshirts, after the Nazi Party’s private army in the late 1920’s.

Amazingly, US Special Forces in Af-Pak have not until this month been under the control of supreme commander, Gen. Stanley McChrystal. They apparently reported to his rival, Central Command chief Gen. David Petraeus in Tampa, Florida.

To the Pentagons’s anger, CIA runs its own killer paramilitary units and drone assassination operations, 90 per cent of whose victims are civilians, according to Pakistani media investigations.   CIA’s paramilitaries report only to HQ in Langley —which does not talk to the Pentagon. Pakistan’s feeble government is not even informed in advance of Predator strikes and assassinations on its own territory.   How many of the 15 other US intelligence agencies and NATO forces are running their own little illegal private armies? US mercenaries are responsible for a growing number of civilian deaths. It’s only a matter of time before all these cowboys begin shooting at one another.  Reliable sources in Pakistan report that US-paid mercenaries are staging bombings there and in Afghanistan in an attempt to incite popular anger against Islamic or tribal militants, and draw Pakistan’s army deep into the fray.

Washington brands all Al Qaeda and Taleban “illegal combatants,” denying them due process of law and the Geneva Convention’s prisoner protections.  Murdering or torturing such “terrorists,” says Washington, is lawful.  So what about all the US mercenary Rambos running amok, who wear no uniform, kill at will, and have no legal oversight and, as we saw in Iraq, get away with murder?

Eric Margolis is a veteran US journalist who reported from the Middle East and Asia for nearly two decades

The Terror-Industrial Complex and Aafia Siddiqui

February 9, 2010

By Chris Hedges, TruthDig.com, Feb 8, 2010

AP / Fareed Khan
Mohammad Ahmed, son of Aafia Siddiqui, takes part in a demonstration arranged by Human Rights Network.

The conviction of the Pakistani neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui in New York last week of trying to kill American military officers and FBI agents illustrates that the greatest danger to our security comes not from al-Qaida but the thousands of shadowy mercenaries, kidnappers, killers and torturers our government employs around the globe.

The bizarre story surrounding Siddiqui, 37, who received an undergraduate degree from MIT and a doctorate in neuroscience from Brandeis University, often defies belief. Siddiqui, who could spend 50 years in prison on seven charges when she is sentenced in May, was by her own account abducted in 2003 from her hometown of Karachi, Pakistan, with her three children—two of whom remain missing—and spirited to a secret U.S. prison where she was allegedly tortured and mistreated for five years. The American government has no comment, either about the alleged clandestine detention or the missing children.

Continues >>

Obama Wants $736 Million Colonial Fortress in Pakistan

June 1, 2009

Critics say the White House wants to use the new “embassy” for “pushing the American agenda in Central Asia.”

By Jeremy Scahill | RebelReports, June 1, 2009

Ah, good thing the US quest for violent global domination was brought to a screeching halt with the November presidential election. Without Obama’s election, we’d still have an occupation of Iraq, mercenaries on the US payroll, torture of prisoners, an unending and worsening war that kills civilians in Afghanistan, regular airstrikes in Pakistan, killing civilians and an embassy the size of Vatican city in Baghdad, which was built in part on slave labor. Not to mention those crazy “Bush/Cheney” neocons running around trying to become the “CEOs” of foreign nations. Wow, glad that’s all over. Whew! And, it’s a really good thing Bush is no longer in power or else the US would come up with some crazy idea like building a colonial fortress in Pakistan to defend “US interests” in the region.

From McClatchy:

The White House has asked Congress for — and seems likely to receive — $736 million to build a new U.S. embassy in Islamabad, along with permanent housing for U.S. government civilians and new office space in the Pakistani capital.

The scale of the projects rivals the giant U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, which was completed last year after construction delays at a cost of $740 million.

[…]

Other major projects are planned for Kabul, Afghanistan; and for the Pakistani cities of Lahore and Peshawar. In Peshawar, the U.S. government is negotiating the purchase of a five-star hotel that would house a new U.S. consulate.

[…]

In Pakistan, however, large parts of the population are hostile to the U.S. presence in the region — despite receiving billions of dollars in aid from Washington since 2001 — and anti-American groups and politicians are likely to seize on the expanded diplomatic presence in Islamabad as evidence of American “imperial designs.”

“This is a replay of Baghdad,” said Khurshid Ahmad, a member of Pakistan’s upper house of parliament for Jamaat-e-Islami, one of the country’s two main religious political parties. “This (Islamabad embassy) is more (space) than they should need. It’s for the micro and macro management of Pakistan, and using Pakistan for pushing the American agenda in Central Asia.”

Will Obama Vacate Iraq?

April 8, 2009

Nasir Khan, April 8, 2009

On February 27, 2009 President Barack Obama delivered his much-anticipated policy speech on Iraq. The important point in his announcement was the withdrawal of some U.S. troops from Iraq by August 31, 2010. However, it did not mean an end to the American occupation of Iraq, or an end to an illegal genocidal war that the Bush-Cheney administration had started. Despite his high-blown rhetoric about withdrawing from Iraq, Obama did not deal with many important questions. Thus what was not said cannot be regarded as an oversight but rather as an indication of how the new administration intends to pursue its policy objectives. Those who had wished to see a break by the new administration with the Bush-Cheney administration’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are concerned because they detect the continuation of the goal of the U.S. domination, which the American rulers usually refer to as the ‘U.S. interests’ in the region.

At present the U.S. has 142,000 combat troops in Iraq. But what is often glossed over is the fact that there is almost a parallel army of American mercenaries and private military contractors whose numbers range from 100,000 to 150,000. Thus both the regular fighting force and these mercenaries are virtual foreign occupiers. However, the planned withdrawal of U.S. troops will not amount to ending the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Obama wants to keep more than 50,000 occupying troops in Iraq. His innovation, if we can call it so, lies in classifying them as ‘non-combat’ troops or a ‘transitional force’. And what will they be doing? It is worth noticing how Obama formulates the policy objective that shows the real intentions of the occupiers: ‘we will retain a transitional force to carry out the three distinct functions: training, equipping , and advising Iraqi Security Forces as long as they remain non-sectarian; conducting targeted counterterrorism missions; and protecting our ongoing civilian and military efforts within Iraq.’

So, instead of ‘combat brigades’, the re-labelled ‘transitional force’ will carry on the ‘targeted counterterrorism missions’! This cannot fool anyone. What this in effect means is that that the 50,000 soldiers will continue to accomplish the ‘mission’ that the former U.S. president George W. Bush had laid out for them.

President Obama has plans to remove all such remaining U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011. But things are far from certain. What will happens if the resistance against the occupier and its puppet regime in Baghdad continues and the U.S. policy-makers and military planners conclude that the challenge to American hegemony and its geopolitical interests in Iraq persists? In that case, this plan can be replaced with a new one neatly drafted by the Pentagon. Such concern was aired by the NBC’s Pentagon’s correspondent Jim Miklaszeswki on February 27, 2009 that ‘military commanders, despite their Status of Forces agreement with the Iraqi government that all U.S. forces would be out by the end of 2011, are already making plans for a significant number of troops to remain in Iraq beyond that 2011 deadline, assuming that the Status of Forces Agreement would be renegotiated. And one senior military commander told us that he expects large number of American troops to be in Iraq for the next 15 to 20 years.’ In case of such need to keep the American forces in Iraq, the puppet regime in Baghdad will hardly be in a position to resist the American diktat and pressure. That means the colonial occupation of Iraq according to U.S. designs and interests will continue.

There are a number of important issues that President Obama did not touch in his speech. What will happen to more than 100,000 mercenaries and private military contractors operating in Iraq? Dyncorp, Bechtel, Blackwater have been used by American military and they have been immune to any accountability for killing Iraqis. The recent change of name from Blackwater to ‘Xe’ does not change the mission of the mercenaries and their crimes in Iraq. Again, the ultimate responsibility for the actions of such people lies with the American government. The peace movement should demand the Obama administration to redress the issue.

In Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, the Bush administration built the largest embassy of any nation anywhere on Earth, a sprawling complex of buildings to accommodate up to 5,000 American diplomats and officials. That shows what long-term objectives the Bush administration had for Iraq and the Middle East. Besides, it was again the illegal action of the occupying military power in which the people of Iraq had no say. An embassy is meant for diplomatic relations between two states. But the gigantic building to accommodate thousands of officials in the capital of an occupied oil-rich country shows the true intentions of the American rulers. These buildings should be closed down or handed over to the Iraqis.

The United States has 58 permanent military bases in Iraq, as a part of the larger network of American military bases around the world. President Obama should give a clear indication that when the American troops are withdrawn, the illegal use of Iraqi military bases will also come to an end.

Let us hope that President Obama’s words match his actions; actions that will signify a change in the direction of American imperial policy. It was encouraging to see that when he turned to the Iraqi people and said: ‘The United States pursues no claim on your territory or your resources. We respect your sovereignty and the tremendous sacrifices you have made for your country. We seek a full transition to Iraqi responsibility for the security of your country.’

The American rulers have inflicted immeasurable death and destruction on the Iraqi people and the infrastructure of their country. They have caused untold humanitarian disaster and suffering in Iraq. The people of Iraq have seen only death, destruction and barbarity at the hands of the occupiers since the U.S. invasion of their country. The Belgian philosopher, Lieven De Cauter, the initiator of the BRussells Tribunal, writes: ‘During six years of occupation, 1.2 million citizens were killed, 2,000 doctors killed, and 5,500 academics and intellectuals assassinated or imprisoned. There are 4.7 million refugees: 207 million inside the country and two million have fled to neighbouring countries, among which are 20,000 doctors. According to the Red Cross, Iraq is a country of widows and orphans: two million widows as a consequence of war, embargo, and war again and occupation, and five million orphans, many of whom are homeless (estimated at 500,000).’

For us the ordinary human beings, such a degree of inhumanity shown by the rulers of the United States towards the people of a great country and callous imperviousness to the suffering of so many people is hard to understand. In addition, Iraq, the cradle of human civilisation eventually fell in the hands of the American occupiers and they vandalized the ancient treasures and artifacts, which were the common heritage of all humanity.

In sum, the peace movement should demand the complete withdrawal of all U.S. troops, the withdrawal of all mercenaries and military contractors hired by the Pentagon. All American military bases in Iraq should be closed and the full sovereignty of Iraq over its land and air be respected. All lucrative oil contracts the occupiers made with the puppet regime in Baghdad should be held null and void. Above all, the United States should be held accountable to pay reparations for the damage it caused and pay compensation to the victims of aggression. We should demand that the International Criminal Court takes steps to indict the alleged war criminals. The governments of the United States and Britain have a special responsibility to hand over the principal war criminals to The Hague and to facilitate the task of such trials.

Protests target Blackwater facilities

September 16, 2008

Protests stopped Blackwater from opening its planned facility in Potrero, Calif., east of San Diego (Rick Greenblatt | SW)Protests stopped Blackwater from opening its planned facility in Potrero, Calif., east of San Diego (Rick Greenblatt | SW)

ACTIVISTS DEMONSTRATED against the Blackwater mercenary company in four U.S. cities on September 13 and 14 to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Nisour Square massacre, in which company operatives killed 14 Iraqi civilians and wounded dozens more.

Protests were held in North Carolina, Illinois, Idaho and California, each targeting an existing or planned Blackwater site.

In San Diego, some 125 protesters marched and rallied across the street from Blackwater’s new training facility and base in the Otay Mesa district, just yards from the U.S.-Mexican border.

Pedro Rios of the American Friends Service Committee spoke at the rally to highlight Blackwater’s presence at the border as part of “a process of militarization that has impacted our community.” Rios, who grew up close to the Blackwater site, said:

I know what it is to see Border Patrol chasing after people, detaining them and beating them up. I know what it is to see checkpoints where people are randomly searched and asked questions.

We now have two additional checkpoints that are leading to the Border Fields State Park area. I know what it is to have our civil liberties called into question. And so, when we add the component of a paramilitary mercenary group along our border, then we are really calling into question what’s at stake. And what’s at stake is our basic principles for democracy.

Rep. Bob Filner (D-Calif.), whose congressional district includes Otay Mesa, addressed the San Diego rally by phone from his Washington office. There was also a phone report from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, describing the opposition to Blackwater’s attempt to set up a new training facility in northern Idaho.

To end the San Diego rally, a local imam read the names of the Nisour Square dead. A bell was rung once for each of the victims. Neither Blackwater nor its contractors have been prosecuted for the killings.

In the face of broad public opposition from residents, Blackwater failed in its initial attempt to establish a base in the rural San Diego country town of Potrero. Operating under front companies with different names, however, Blackwater was able to get a permit to open its current facility in an Otay Mesa industrial park.

The San Diego City Attorney has sued in federal court to overturn Blackwater’s permit to use the warehouse facility as a military training base. But the absence of a broad public mobilization against the military contractor will make it difficult to reverse the current foothold that Blackwater has established in San Diego.

In North Carolina, Blackwater’s home state, a demonstration was held outside the Winston-Salem office of the company’s main lobbying firm, Womble, Carlyle, Sandridge and Rice. In Chicago, a rally was held on Michigan Avenue to bring attention to the new Blackwater base in Mount Carroll, Ill., 100 miles south of the city.

Foreign contractors stoking Iraqi violence

August 23, 2008

BAGHDAD, Aug. 22 (UPI) — An Iraqi defense official said Friday security contractors employed by Western nations are recruiting foreign fighters to Iraq, boosting the level of violence.Defense Ministry spokesman Lt. Gen. Mohammed al-Askari blamed foreign fighters employed by unnamed security firms under contract with U.S.-led forces for a spate of attacks recently, Iraqi daily Azzaman said.

“These people’s access to Europe is facilitated by these firms. Once trained to carry out special violent actions, they are sent to Iraq to execute their plans,” he said.

Without mentioning specific firms, the spokesman suggested many had recruited fighters from North Africa to conduct operations in Iraq.

By his estimate, there are around 2,000 foreign fighters in Iraq. He said some are working for Western security firms, while others are al-Qaida mercenaries.

Askari said his information comes from interrogations of foreign detainees who admitted to training in Europe under the guidance of the security firms.

They were trained, he says, “to kill Iraqis and cause further insecurity.”

© 2008 United Press International. All Rights Reserved.

The Military-Industrial Complex

July 29, 2008


It’s Much Later Than You Think

By Chalmers Johnson | TomDispatch.com, July 27, 2008

Most Americans have a rough idea what the term “military-industrial complex” means when they come across it in a newspaper or hear a politician mention it. President Dwight D. Eisenhower introduced the idea to the public in his farewell address of January 17, 1961. “Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peacetime,” he said, “or indeed by the fighting men of World War II and Korea… We have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions… We must not fail to comprehend its grave implications… We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.”

Although Eisenhower’s reference to the military-industrial complex is, by now, well-known, his warning against its “unwarranted influence” has, I believe, largely been ignored. Since 1961, there has been too little serious study of, or discussion of, the origins of the military-industrial complex, how it has changed over time, how governmental secrecy has hidden it from oversight by members of Congress or attentive citizens, and how it degrades our Constitutional structure of checks and balances.

From its origins in the early 1940s, when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was building up his “arsenal of democracy,” down to the present moment, public opinion has usually assumed that it involved more or less equitable relations — often termed a “partnership” — between the high command and civilian overlords of the United States military and privately-owned, for-profit manufacturing and service enterprises. Unfortunately, the truth of the matter is that, from the time they first emerged, these relations were never equitable.

In the formative years of the military-industrial complex, the public still deeply distrusted privately owned industrial firms because of the way they had contributed to the Great Depression. Thus, the leading role in the newly emerging relationship was played by the official governmental sector. A deeply popular, charismatic president, FDR sponsored these public-private relationships. They gained further legitimacy because their purpose was to rearm the country, as well as allied nations around the world, against the gathering forces of fascism. The private sector was eager to go along with this largely as a way to regain public trust and disguise its wartime profit-making.

In the late 1930s and early 1940s, Roosevelt’s use of public-private “partnerships” to build up the munitions industry, and thereby finally overcome the Great Depression, did not go entirely unchallenged. Although he was himself an implacable enemy of fascism, a few people thought that the president nonetheless was coming close to copying some of its key institutions. The leading Italian philosopher of fascism, the neo-Hegelian Giovanni Gentile, once argued that it should more appropriately be called “corporatism” because it was a merger of state and corporate power. (See Eugene Jarecki’s The American Way of War, p. 69.)

Some critics were alarmed early on by the growing symbiotic relationship between government and corporate officials because each simultaneously sheltered and empowered the other, while greatly confusing the separation of powers. Since the activities of a corporation are less amenable to public or congressional scrutiny than those of a public institution, public-private collaborative relationships afford the private sector an added measure of security from such scrutiny. These concerns were ultimately swamped by enthusiasm for the war effort and the postwar era of prosperity that the war produced.

Continued . . .


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