By Bernard Weiner, The Crisis Papers
“Outsourcing” jobs overseas is only the tip of the iceberg. How about the CheneyBush Administration “outsourcing” our military, our intelligence-gathering, our nation’s soul?
Taking private enterprise way beyond what is reasonable, or desirable, or safe, the CheneyBush Administration has turned over a huge raft of national-security functions to those not adequately trained, not accountable to the public or the law, not showing up on the political radar.
In short, CheneyBush have created what amounts to their own private legions — soldiers, intelligence analysts, security guards, construction experts, supply specialists, et al. — in effect, a “mercenary” force bought and paid for by the American taxpayer.
That’s why there will probably be no draft: There is no guarantee of loyalty from those dragooned into service. Besides, many draftees have politically-connected constituencies. But when one’s mercenary “volunteer” forces are totally beholden to the paymaster for their livelihood and under-the-table payoffs, they will dance with them that brung ’em.
These are no small numbers. It’s estimated that in addition to the 160,000 regular troops in the field in Iraq, CheneyBush control anywhere from 60,000 to 100,000 private assets (“independent contractors”). Nobody’s even sure under what “rules of engagement” these guys — many in security and reconstruction fields — operate, or whether they are accountable to anyone other than their corporate bosses’ and the financial “bottom line.”
History shows us the dangers involved when leaders have large extra-institutional forces at their command, such as the Praetorian Guards and Legions of ancient Roman Caesars, Hitler’s Brownshirts, Saddam’s Republican Guards, the private militias of political and religious leaders today in Iraq, Blackwater forces in control of New Orleans after Katrina, etc. By and large, these mercenaries swear allegiance to their employer, not to the rule of law, not to any constitution. The catastrophic damage done to democracy by the existence, and power, of these private forces can’t be over-stated.
News flash: Blackwater, the huge corporation that CheneyBush rely on for most of the non-military functions in Iraq and elsewhere, is buying combat aircraft. Do we really want a private air force, effectively operating under the aegis of the Executive Branch, conducting secret ops in our names?
In America’s current case, there is also this ominous danger: Accurate intelligence is an absolute necessity in warfare and war-planning, but CheneyBush are increasingly going outside the usual intelligence channels and hiring private intel corporations. Even with the mass purgings in governmental intelligence agencies of those not sufficiently “Bush-loyal,” Cheney in particular doesn’t trust the CIA and the State Department’s intel analysts, never has and never will. So we get this recent story from veteran Washington Post reporter Walter Pincus:
“The Defense Intelligence Agency is preparing to pay private contractors up to $1 billion to conduct core intelligence tasks of analysis and collection over the next five years, an amount that would set a record in the outsourcing of such functions by the Pentagon’s top spying agency.
“The proposed contracts, outlined in a recent early notice of the DIA’s plans, reflect a continuing expansion of the Defense Department’s intelligence-related work and fit a well-established pattern of Bush administration transfers of government work to private contractors.
…”The DIA did not specify exactly what it wants the contractors to do but said it is seeking teams to fulfill ‘operational and mission requirements’ that include intelligence ‘Gathering and Collection, Analysis, Utilization, and Strategy and Support’.”
By outsourcing, CheneyBush, of course, get the intelligence they pay for, rather than risking that some CIA or State Department analysts might tell them intel-truths they don’t want to hear, as was the case with Iraq.
LOWERING THE RECRUITING BAR
How did CheneyBush begin to assemble their mercenary forces for the reckless misadventure in Iraq? At first, they started out with an all-“volunteer” army of sterling patriotic recruits, high school graduates, many from lower- and middle-middle circumstances, not well-connected politically, many underemployed and desirous of a stable career. But the brutality and criminality and constant fear of the Iraq War (never knowing for sure if civilians were good guys or bad guys, U.S. death rates going up, horrific injuries to body, brain and psyche) took their toll on the troops, suicide and post-traumatic rates mushroomed, and recruitment of top prospects plummeted.
As a result, the U.S. military felt forced to relax its high standards in order to even come close to meeting its replacement quotas. High schoolers and dropouts were prime targets of unscrupulous recruiters. Don’t have a high school diploma? Don’t need one. Felony record? Don’t worry about it; we’ve got “moral waivers” now. Poor physical health? Here, have some more pizza and desserts. A gang member on the streets of L.A.? Here’s your assault rifle, soldier, and welcome to the brotherhood.
And when lowering the standards still didn’t yield the required numbers, the military went to simple bribery. Sign up now and get a $25,000 signing bonus. Not enough? How about $30K?
The military also is trolling for mercenary recruits among non-citizens in Latin America and elsewhere; those who sign up with the U.S. military are told that it could take them six months to become a U.S. citizen rather than 12 years.
But even with all those waivers and inducements, many potential recruits stay away; they are quite aware that troops in Iraq face serial deployments, rotations extended to 15 months each time, a constant high rate of deaths and injuries. Check out what seven serving NCOs have to say in the New York Times about the realities of this war. So it’s no wonder that the Administration has taken to increasing the hiring of “independent contractors,” at high salaries, to carry out tasks often associated with the professional military.
No wonder the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and perhaps even Defense Secretary Gates, are suggesting, as best they can without being summarily dismissed by the political lunatics in charge, that the U.S. military is stretched as thin as it can get in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that initiating more hostilities with other countries in the region (Iran and Syria come to mind) would not make much military or any other kind of sense.
OUTSOURCING EXTREME TORTURE
In addition to outsourcing its military and intel gathering, one has to mention the outsourcing of interrogation and torture, especially of High Value Prisoners (HVPs). (Torture, as we all know by now, under CheneyBush, is officially-sanctioned state policy.)
CheneyBush send these suspects on CIA planes to secret U.S. interrogation centers abroad and then often forward the more recalcitrant detainees and other HVP to countries that specialize in especially brutal torture, including Egypt, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, even Syria.
These “rendition” flights abroad are not only to keep the U.S. vaguely in line with the Geneva Conventions and U.S. law, but also because those other nations have torturing down to a science by now, and, as long as these countries get paid off well, seem to have few moral scruples about breaking down the minds and bodies of prisoners sometimes even to the point of death.
“CATAPULTING THE PROPAGANDA”
The Administration sees the same polling numbers as the Democrats do and realizes that in order to be able to continue its surge at least through Election Day 2008 — which would, they believe, get CheneyBush off the blame-hook for the “loss” of Iraq — they need to mount an enormous public-relations campaign to cancel out the lies and sell the escalated war to the American public and Congress. Potential scapegoats for that “loss” are already being put in place: al-Maliki, the Democrats, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Petraeus, etc. etc. Never Cheney, never Bush.
When governmental policies stink, no policies are changed; instead, the common practice is to tell more lies and hire public-relations firms to disguise the crap being peddled by dousing it heavily with rose petals. Sell your policies like soap or perfume; the theory rests on a belief that enough Americans will buy the fragrant, handsomely-packaged new product to make politicians think twice about opposing Administration policy.
And so the Pentagon has set up an Iraq Communications Desk to coordinate the campaign to sell the Petraeus Report findings, and, through a covert “cut-out” organization, a new White House-connected group called Freedom Watch has launched a $15 million pro-war propaganda campaign in various media markets. The spots already are running, and they often feature Iraq War veterans and/or their surviving family members delivering the White House spin (“patience,” “we’re making progress in Iraq,” “stop them there so they can’t come here,” etc. etc.).
In coordination with the Freedom Watch campaign, a powerful P.R. program has begun to aid in the transition away from the prickly Iraqi prime minister al-Maliki, to a more malleable, pro-U.S. figure, most likely former prime minister (and former CIA asset) Ayad Allawi. Hired to coordinate the campaign is the GOP lobbying outfit of Barbour, Griffith & Rogers.
CheneyBush are peddling the continue-the-surge idea because that’s all they’ve got at this stage. That and the long-discredited attempt to link Iraq and 9/11 in the public mind. And why not? That latter lie worked for a few years after 9/11, so why not haul it out again? Haul out anything again that might confuse the American citizenry and bump up the pro-surge numbers so as to divide the Democrats and keep the war going at least past Election Day 2008 and, ideally, keep U.S. troops in their permanent Iraq bases for another decade or two.
Or, at the very least, FUBAR the situation there so badly that a Democratic president in 2009 would be unable to extricate U.S. forces easily or maybe even at all.
THINKING THE UNTHINKABLE
And, if CheneyBush are unable to keep the U.S. public from demanding that Congress close down this quagmire of a war, they might well decide to unleash their ultimate weapon of mass distraction by finding a good reason to attack Iran “pre-emptively” (via a false-flag operation?). When Iran responds in self-defense by attacking U.S. assets in the Persian Gulf and elsewhere, the American public will be told that it’s imperative that the U.S. must fight in Iraq and Iran to stop the Muslim hordes from taking over the world, and controlling “our” oil.
Think it won’t happen? Think Iran is not in the planning bombsights right now? Dream on. The CheneyBush gang is desperate and will do anything, including using nuclear weaponry, to maintain its power and control. Former Middle East CIA specialist Bob Baer says that senior intelligence officials told him recently that CheneyBush are likely to attack Iran within six months.
Most Americans didn’t think CheneyBush would be crazy enough to invade and occupy Iraq. We should have learned our lesson by now; these ideological zealots are unhinged enough to do it again.
And it looks like the Democrats, who should be forcefully leading the opposition to stop the Iraq War and to prevent the Iran War, are going to be enablers of CheneyBush policy once again, either out of stupidity or political cowardice. That’s the moral tragedy of where we are in late-2007. #
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in government & international relations, has taught at universities in California and Washington, worked for two decades as a writer/editor for the San Francisco Chronicle, and currently co-edits The Crisis Papers. To comment: firstname.lastname@example.org .
First published by The Crisis Papers and Democratic Underground 8/28/07.
Copyright 2007 by Bernard Weiner.