Thursday, November 18, 2004

It's not us, it's our mercenaries

In an article on the Guerilla News Network website, PR Watch reports that Blackwater USA, a Private Military Contractor, cheered Bush's reinstatement for another four years.

Private Military Contractors? I had a vague idea that the US hired mercenaries in places where they didn't want to show their political face, but wanted to exert their influence (e.g., South America), but I wasn't aware that their use was so pervasive. The private military industry has "several hundred companies, operating in over 100 countries on six continents, and over $100 billion in annual global revenue" (From Policy Review Online)

Disinfopedia states that "since 1994, the U.S. Defense Department has entered into 3,061 contracts valued at more than $300 billion with 12 of the 24 U.S.-based PMCs."

For the most part, these arrangements proceed without sufficient if any accountability or oversight. In an excellent article warning about the growing reliance upon and political influence of PMCs, Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman note: "The mechanisms by which the contractors are held responsible for their behavior, and disciplined for mistreating civilians or committing human rights abuses - all too easy for men with guns in a hostile environment - are fuzzy... They do not fall under international law on mercenaries, which is defined narrowly. Nor does the national law of the United States clearly apply to the contractors in Iraq -- especially because many of the contractors are not Americans." Specifically, in Iraq, "many of the security contractors work for the Coalition Provisional Authority, as opposed to the U.S. military, [therefore] they are not integrated into the military's operations."

It's no wonder that we see unwarranted killings such as the killing of an unarmed Iraqi by a US Marine. When the laws of war become blurred, it then becomes difficult to define what is right and what is wrong.

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