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Contractors Like Blackwater Are Simply Government Armed Forces

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Michael S. Rozeff
Lew Rockwell Blog
October 24, 2013

Iraq was not a mercenary war, as Patrick Cockburn contends. It was a U.S. war. Privatizing security (his terms, not mine) in Iraq may have been bad, even very bad, but it was not the recipe for the Iraq disaster. The recipe was the U.S. aggression itself. Mr. Cockburn had it nailed much more clearly in one of his articles in 2003.

Blackwater and other trigger-happy “contractors” or “mercenaries” that worked or still work for the CIA and the U.S. government were and are simply government armed forces. The organization chart looks different than the U.S. Army, because their men under arms are employed by a company being employed by the U.S., but they are directed by the U.S. at the top and that’s who pays them (with taxes).

These mercenaries have absolutely nothing to do with free markets, free market ideology or such market institutions as outsourcing. And just because they are not drafted doesn’t mean that they are some sort of privatized military force. They are a government force, albeit somewhat less directly than inducting soldiers into the official armed forces, and that makes them public. They and their activities should not be confused with privatization of defense or privatized security companies. The same is true of prison companies that work hand in glove for states. They are basically arms of the state, employed and directed by them and paid by them (via taxes).

The Iraq War was never a privatized war. It was always a U.S. war, bought and paid for by the U.S. In all of its wars that it has ever fought, the government always causes profits in the industries that are supplying the means of war. Iraq was not special in this regard.

The government can run its forces directly itself or through a chain of agents and companies. If it does the latter, that is not privatizing the war. It is simply using a different organization scheme, since it is still the government instigating the war, running it, leading it and funding it. There may well be differences in the military effectiveness of these two general organizational routes. That is a separate question. One should not assume that the pursuit of profits is somehow to blame if it so happens that using mercenaries undermines military effectiveness. Regardless of profit-seeking, the employment of mercenaries by a government is likely to lead to a number of organizational problems, such as loss of government control, coordination issues between several kinds of forces, increased difficulty of monitoring the hired forces and communications problems.

There may or not be studies of these two ways to conduct the Iraq war or to carry out certain activities during the war, but the matter is strictly of second-order importance compared with the U.S. government’s decision to attack Iraq and its subsequent political decisions. In exactly the same way, having private companies run prisons versus having the state itself run them is not as important as the War on Drugs and other features of the legal system that create a huge prison population.

This article was posted: Thursday, October 24, 2013 at 4:34 am

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