Thursday, July 19, 2007

The New Face Of War

For every Soldier, there are one or two contractors in Iraq to care for them
Christian Science MonitorSilent surge in contractor 'armies'

By Brad Knickerbocker
Wed Jul 18, 4:00 AM ET
* emphasis mine
* My thoughts

There are two coalition armies in Iraq: the official one, which fights the war, and the private one, which supports it.This latter group of civilians drives dangerous truck convoys, cooks soldiers' meals, and guards facilities and important officials. They rival in size the US military force there, and thousands have become casualties of the conflict. If this experience is any indication, they may change the makeup of US military forces in future wars.

To recap, HALF of the people we have in the war zone are civilians, and the civilians servicing our military have had thousands of casualties.
Having civilians working in war zones is as old as war itself. But starting with US military action in the Balkans and Colombia in the mid-1990s and accelerating rapidly in Afghanistan and Iraq, the number and activity of contractors has greatly increased. Coming from dozens of countries, hired by hundreds of companies, contractors have seen their numbers rise faster than the Pentagon's ability to track them.

Now, the challenges of this privatization strategy are becoming clear.

Everything from who controls their activities to who cares for them when wounded remains unresolved, say experts in and out of the military. This has led to protests from families in the United States as well as concerns in military ranks about how contractors fit into the chain of command.

"This is a very murky legal space, and simply put we haven't dealt with the fundamental issues," says Peter Singer, a foreign policy specialist at the Brookings Institution in Washington. "What is their specific role, what is their specific status, and what is the system of accountability? We've sort of dodged these questions."

As the inevitable drawdown of US military forces in Iraq occurs, the importance of civilian workers there is likely to grow.

"In my view, the role of contractors is just going to continue to escalate, probably at an ever-increasing rate," says Deborah Avant, a political scientist at the University of California, Irvine, whose research has focused on civil-military relations.

For example, the new US Embassy now being completed in Baghdad – 21 buildings on 104 acres, an area six times larger than the United Nations complex in New York – is likely to be a permanent fixture needing hundreds if not thousands of civilian contractors to maintain it and provide services.

In Iraq, up to 180,000 contractors
Estimates of the number of private security personnel and other civilian contractors in Iraq today range from 126,000 to 180,000 – nearly as many, if not more than, the number of Americans in uniform there. Most are not Americans. They come from Fiji, Brazil, Scotland, Croatia, Hungary, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Australia, and other countries.

"A very large part of the total force is not in uniform," Scott Horton, who teaches the law of armed conflict at Columbia University School of Law, said in congressional testimony last month. In World War II and the Korean War, contractors amounted to 3 to 5 percent of the total force deployed. Through the Vietnam War and the first Gulf War, the percentage grew to roughly 10 percent, he notes. "But in the current conflict, the number appears to be climbing steadily closer to parity" with military personnel. "This represents an extremely radical transformation in the force configuration," he says.

Until recently, there has been little oversight of civilian contractors operating in Iraq. The Defense Department is not adequately keeping track of contractors – where they are or even how many there are, the Government Accountability Office concluded in a report last December. This is especially true as military units rotate in and out of the war zone (as do contractors) and institutional memory is lost.

This lack of accountability has begun to change with a Democrat-controlled Congress. As part of the 2007 National Defense Authorization Act passed last year, Congress now requires that civilian contractors who break the law – hurt or kill civilians, for example – come under the legal authority of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So far, however, the Pentagon has not issued guidance to field commanders on how to do this.

So, they don't know who's there, they don't know how many are there, they cannot keep track of these contractors because the military is transferring in and out for their tours of duty while the contractors stay or go as the corporations please. These contractors carry weapons, and can operate lawlessly if they want to, and some have been found, even in the clusterf**k that is Iraq, to have committed grave crimes against civilians with impunity.

Proposed bills in the House and Senate would require "transparency and accountability in military and security contracting." For example, companies would be required to provide information on the hiring and training of civilian workers, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff would have to issue rules of engagement regarding the circumstances under which contractors could use force.

Senior commanders acknowledge the value of contractors, especially those that are armed and ready to fight if attacked.

At his Senate confirmation hearing in January, Army Gen. David Petraeus, commander of the multinational force in Iraq, said that the "surge" by US forces in Iraq might not include enough American troops. "However, there are tens of thousands of contract security forces and [Iraqi] ministerial security forces that do, in fact, guard facilities and secure institutions," he added. "That does give me the reason to believe that we can accomplish the mission in Baghdad."

Can anyone say mercenaries?? What does that say about the US? That we don't have the unity of purpose here to prosecute this war, so we go around the world, hiring the lowest bidder and paying them premium wages, just to do what we don't have the conviction to do ourselves. All the while we cut cut cut the funding for veterans' programs that serve our military families, throwing our own citizens who have risked all to the wolves and (literally) onto the streets to rot.

Nice. Job. Bushie.

Still, many senior military officers worry about the impact that relying on so many civilian contractors – especially armed private security forces – will have on the conduct of future conflicts. This past Christmas Eve, for example, a Blackwater USA contractor shot and killed an Iraqi security guard. The contractor was fired and returned to the US. The FBI and Justice Department are investigating.

The US military needs to take "a real hard look at security contractors on future battlefields and figure out a way to get a handle on them so that they can be better integrated – if we're going to allow them to be used in the first place," Col. Peter Mansoor, a deputy to General Petraeus, recently told Jane's Defence Weekly.

"I meet with a lot of O-5s and O-6s [lieutenant colonels and colonels] at the war colleges, and you hear a lot of that discomfort with how far it's gone," says Mr. Singer of Brookings.

Opinions differ over whether the trend in using more contractors is here to stay.

"Every war is unique, but the heavy use of private contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan is likely to persist in future conflicts," says military analyst Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute in Arlington, Va. "Relying on market sources is intrinsically more flexible than using government workers, and nobody seriously believes that the market will fail to respond to multibillion dollar opportunities even when danger is involved."

God, when will we wake up and say "enough of war and destruction"? It's gotta be bad for business...

"In addition," says Dr. Thompson, "modern military technology often requires support that only the original makers can provide." Hello - why are we producing military technology that is too hard to teach someone to use?

A new military-industrial complex?
Other observers also foresee an increase in military contractors – for darker reasons.

The "military-industrial complex" that former President Eisenhower warned of has been overshadowed by the "war-service industry," says Dina Rasor, coauthor of the recent book "Betraying Our Troops: The Destructive Results of Privatizing War." The complex relied on the cold war to keep its budgets high, knowing that the weapons it produced probably would never be used. The war-service industry, by contrast, "doesn't build weapons but has to have a hot war or an occupation going on in order to keep its budgets high," says Ms. Rasor. Constituencies will be built within the military and in Congress to promote this growing industry, she predicts.

Just like privatizing our prisons has led to a swelling prison population, so privatizing our "war service industry" will lead to more and more war.

Lawrence Korb, a former assistant secretary of Defense, takes a different view. He predicts that the number of contractors providing military logistics support will shrink, in part because the US effort in Iraq will wind down at some point and in part because the US plans to increase the armed forces by 92,000 soldiers and marines over the next five years.

Looking ahead to the need for peacekeeping and stabilization in future conflicts, Dr. Korb says, "I can't imagine doing it again without thinking it through."

Uh, glad HE's so confident in our leaders.

After trials of war, a lone helping hand in the US
Contrary to popular perception, most contractors are not the beefy, grim guys wearing scary sunglasses and carrying guns. But in a war like Iraq, every one from mechanics to translators has become a target. At least 916 contractors have been killed in the four-year war and more than 12,000 wounded, according to official statistics and Labor Department figures provided to the New York Times and Reuters. An unknown number experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

But unless they have previous military service, contractors are not eligible for help from the US Department of Veterans Affairs. Many have been denied treatment by insurance companies. In some cases, the companies they worked for have successfully fought legal efforts to declare the firms liable for physical or mental injury resulting from work in Iraq.

Enter Jana Crowder, a "stay-at-home mom with four kids" who started a website for moral support during the seven months her husband was an engineering contractor in Iraq.

"I had no idea what I was getting into," says Mrs. Crowder, who lives in Knoxville, Tenn. "I found a whole different war zone out there – contractors coming home physically and mentally damaged. I didn't even know what PTSD was, but I had guys calling me up saying they had nightmares, that they couldn't sleep, that they were hallucinating and crying."

If we ever do get out of Iraq, we will have this time bomb in the bosom of our society: not only ex-military with horrific maiming and mental problems who cannot get adequate care, but also hundreds of contractors with untreated PTSD.

And the nightmare that I cannot get out of the back of my mind: if the withdrawl ends with 'copters airlifting people out of the embassy grounds, how are all the 150,000 contractors going to get themselves out of there safely? Seems like the contractors as a whole are getting browner and browner, and are being drawn less and less from america. Is the ultimate plan to just abandon them there?

When 12 Nepali workers were killed in an unprotected convoy in route to jobs in Iraq, Chicago Tribune reporter Cam Simpson covered the story. What he discovered was shocking. These men had left their country for work in Jordan, not Iraq. He also discovered that a contractor called First Kuwaiti was holding other workers against their will and forcing them to work. They wanted to leave but were told they couldn’t. article here

We're not only abusing Iraqi civilians, but enslaving workers from other countries not involved with the conflict. Throughout this war the agressors (that would be US) have shown a total disregard for anyone caught in the meatgrinder, military OR civilian.

The administration that billed itself as returning morality to the White House has done anything but. It is not only the most imoral and hypocritical band of felons* ever to hold power in the United States, they are the most incompetent bunch of cronies I personally have ever seen.

MMmmmmm - Peach Mint!

*fel·on1 (fĕl'ən) pronunciation
  1. Law. One who has committed a felony.
  2. Archaic. An evil person.
adj. Archaic.

Evil; cruel.

[Middle English feloun, from Old French felon, wicked, a wicked person, from Medieval Latin fellō, fellōn-, possibly of Germanic origin.]

fel·on2 (fĕl'ən) pronunciation
n. A painful purulent infection at the end of a finger or toe in the area surrounding the nail.

Time to kick them out if our White House!

Update: Bill Clinton speaks out on teh war

"There is no evidence that, whether we have a good day in a particular community or region in Iraq, that we have either the political reconciliation process within the country working or any diplomatic process that's got a chance to help with the neighbors," the former Democratic president said.

"I believe that Gen. Petraeus is a very able man and I don't have any doubts that they'll win some battles," Clinton said. "I hope this works. I think every American hopes this works. But it can't work beyond winning a few battles. It has to be accompanied by ... progress on the political front."


Blogger TheCultureGhost said...

If you go to a war zone to earn a paycheck, you are a mercenary or a profiteer. In either case it is volitional: you have a choice as to whether or not to be in a war zone. Soldiers are there because that's their job, to fight wars. Civilians generally have no say in the matter and become "collateral damage." But those who willingly enter a war zone to earn money have a choice as to their participation. I have no sympathy for their plight. If they become "collateral damage" so be it-shouldn't have been there in the first place.

11:25 AM, July 19, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Keep in mind we have several different types of contractors in Iraq. Most are not in the Security field and are NOT ALLOWED to carry a WEAPON! ONLY THOSE LIKE BLACK WATER can, SECURITY ONLY, but they did not go their to fight the war, they went to protect the others, for those goverment contracts that "do not" provide military Protection. Yeah...beleave that one. We have sent contractors into a WAR ZONE without MILITARY PROTECTION and they can't even carry a gun. They have to rely on Private Security Contractors LIKE BLACKWATER, Armor group, and Parson for Protection. Now with that said, knowing the "MILITARY rules of Engagement" Which means the military can not fire back unless they see who it is firing at them, such as the PRESTON WHEELER Ambush, where 3 unarmed civilians were left to be shot at point black after hitting an IED and led down a dead end street by our service members, Question is who would you want to have covering your butt if you were there. These so called mercenarys you call them those who don't have rules of engagments or those that do?

Soldiers volunteered to join the service, no one forced their hand, just like the contractors volunteered. You should be asking your goverment why they are not paying the soldiers the same! I mean they are paying these companies to do the job, why not just raise the pay for soldiers and offer huge bonuses to INLIST!
Most these contractors are PRIOR MILITARY, or are past the age of 42! Do some research!
get educated!

11:52 AM, July 19, 2007  
Anonymous C. Corax said...

A couple of things to anonymous: The article is from The Christian Science Monitor, which boasts excellent foreign reporting. The use of the term "mercenary" is absolutely correct in the article, and the article is clear that not all contractors are combatants. By and large, the soldiers who volunteer are from poorer families (yes, there are many exceptions; nevertheless, wars are fought by those who have no better economic alternative). It's disingenuous to say they're all "volunteers."

Your point about how civilian soldiers are paid is valid. The Bushies wave flags, appeal to patriotism, then screw them and their families royally. Much better to have avoided the war and used that $3 billion/week to develop local economies in the U.S. and to further alternatives to petro-based energy sources.

1:26 PM, July 19, 2007  
Blogger DivaJood said...

I have awarded you with a schmooze award

5:52 PM, July 19, 2007  
Blogger SB Gypsy said...

Hey, Culture Ghost,
On the one hand, for those(I would think mostly americans) who are not desperate, knew what they were getting into and where they were going, and who have return tix to get out at will, and are being paid a fortune to be there - if they become "collaterally damaged" then they should have known better and tough luck.

But for those (we don't know how many) who were desperate, who may not have known where they'd end up(having been told lies to get them on the plane) I feel as bad for them as I feel for the Iraqis who didn't ask for any of this.

Anonomous, welcome and thank you for commenting. I deplore the privatizing of our armed forces, and see it as more dangerous, and expensive than almost anything this illegal administration has done.

Hey, C Corax, ya got that one, could not agree more. We should have followed Carterwhen he was leading, we'd be sitting pretty right now. Instead we wasted a whole 30 years sitting on our thumbs. Dang!!

Hey, DivaJood,

tagged!! Post will be forthcoming.

9:30 AM, July 20, 2007  

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