The Republican Party has worked for some time to privatize as many functions of government as possible. The one area I would have expected to be immune from this tampering was the military. Going back to Bush I, Cheney and Rumsfeld have been working to outsource tasks that have traditionally belonged to the military to private firms. In Iraq and Afghanistan, this trend has become frightening. Euphemistically called, "contractors," these folk are not carrying hammers and rulers but instead M4's and automatic weapons. They are guarding diplomats, facilities, and escorting convoys of supplies through war zones. There have even been instances where these mercenaries have commanded US military forces. To make it worse, at least in Iraq, they are not subject to military rules of engagement nor are they subject to civilian law... Yes, you read that correctly, they are essentially above any law while being in incredibly stressful situations and highly armed. Currently there are over 22,000 of them operating in Iraq and Afghanistan. They were even deployed under similar rules in New Orleans after Katrina.
Many of these mercenaries are former US special forces people but others, employed by the US government, were former members of Pinochet's henchmen, apartheid soldiers in South Africa, and the worst of the worst from other war torn places.
This industry has quickly grown to being worth billions of dollars.
Here are some of the pieces that really worry me...
They make war easier. As a nation we think twice about committing our sons and daughters in uniform to war. Mercenaries don't elicit the same concern. And the costs of war are not quite so clear. All of this makes it easier to go to war without the input and approval of the population or even our elected representatives.
We are encouraging private companies to build large, highly trained armies that are not accountable to anyone except the folk running those companies and their bottom lines. We are making our national security dependent upon companies over whom we have no control and who have no accountability to the government or the people of the United States.
What happens if their commercial interests or political ideologies differ from the nation as a whole? Or what if a bunch of crazy billionaires say, "Here is more money than you've ever imagined, let's overthrow the government and turn it into the utopia we envision." At the same time, because these mercenaries are paid so well, they are siphoning off many qualified people from our military and from the militaries of our allies.
As an industry, they benefit from conflict and suffer if there is none so they have significant impetus to be sure that conflict continues and to insure that the primary response to a political conflict is violence. Because it is such a huge industry, they have the ears of many in Washington, on Wall Street, and in other places f influence around the world.
Rep. Jan Schakowsky in the House (H.R. 4650) and Bernie Sanders in the Senate (S. 3023), have introduced bills that would prohibit hiring private mercenaries to perform tasks traditionally done by the military. This is essential to our national security. This is essential to our future. Contact your congress people and encourage them to support these bills.