A lot has been written about the increasing role of “military contractors” in Iraq. Blackwater, CACI, and others have made headlines. So many contractors are being used by both the U.S. military and intelligence branches that Amnesty USA (5/23/06) claimed that the U.S. was “outsourcing the war on terror.”
According to an article at The Strategy Page, Blackwater is purchasing five Super Tucano fighter planes from Brazil. The planes can be are used for fighting and bombing. Colombia uses them for “counter-insurgency” missions. According to the article, Blackwater already has armed helicopters in Iraq.
One has to wonder where (and if there is a) line between “contractors” and troops in Iraq (and Afghanistan and elsewhere) any more. It has been clear from the beginning that contractors were being used to “free up” US troops. It allowed the U.S. to shift its troops from such things as strategic communications and supply to infantry. Of course, many of those troops had only the most basic of infantry training as they were specialized in other areas. Then we heard that the contractors were being used for “security.” I would say that attack helicopters and planes capable of mounting 1.5 tons of weaponry move them from “security” to offensive operations.
There is every reason to be concerned about the amount and significance of contracting being done by the U.S. government. According to a presentation done by Terri Everett – Senior Procurement Executive in the DNI (Office of the Director of National Intelligence), 70 percent of the U.S. intelligence budget is now going to private contractors.
I recently read R. J. Hillhouse’s new novel Outsourced. In an interview with DemocracyNow, Hillhouse had talked about national intelligence, the CIA, and the use of private contractors. She said that she wrote the novel because some things can only be said (at this point) fictionally. In “Outsourced,” Hillhouse paints a picture of military and intelligence contractors intimately involved and entwined with Pentagon intelligence, the military and special ops, and the CIA. In the book (and this is reinforced by other reports) these “contractors” are doing far more than security and “support.” They are actively engaged ion operations. The purchase of fighter planes by Blackwater is only another indication of the types of “activities” in which “contractors” are involved.
I believe this is a direction that not only makes us less secure, but damages the U.S. image around the planet. From the constantly increasing costs for intelligence and the “war on terror,” it is also incredibly expensive. Contractors in intelligence and military operations are not accountable in the same way as government entities. The oversight is lacking or missing entirely. It put highly sensitive material (purportedly the most protected information critical to U.S. security) in the hands of private corporations and operators. This seems criminally stupid to me. While such an “arrangement” also allows the executive branch and the military to effectively engage in activities that are illegal on both a national and international level, that very “benefit” undermines the rule of law and the U.S. Constitution.
The other “threat” posed by the “contracting” spree is that an infrastructure of control is being put in place that can be pointed anywhere including -and particularly – the United States.
Thanks to Bill for forwarding the article on Blackwater’s fighter plane purchase.
Warriors for Hire: Blackwater USA and the rise of private military contractors. Mark Hemingway. Weekly Standard. 12/18/2006, Volume 012, Issue 14
Outsourced. R. J. Hillhouse. 2007.
Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army. Jeremy Scahill. 2007.
The corporate takeover of U.S. intelligence. Tim Shorrock. Salon. 6/01/07.
US Intel Budget May Reach 60 Billion Dollars. Shaun Waterman. UPI. 6/11/07.