When the body bags of American soldiers started their return journey from Iraq, it was reason enough to revive the haunting nightmares of the Vietnam war. A war where several hundreds of thousands of American soldiers had to pay with their lives for an ideological war between the American and Soviet policymakers. A war whose end was not in sight for forty long years and which served little for the betterment of mankind, except for the eternal tension of an incumbent war – or what was commonly known as the Cold War era. For President Bush and his coterie, it was too much of a risk not to mitigate the domestic backlash against the body bags and continue with the loot of Iraq. And yet, the stakes in Iraq in terms of oil reserves and the potential contracts for reconstruction were too luring to be given up just for the sake of preventing the body bags from coming home. After all, the body bags are nothing but a petite collateral price for the big Iraq pie in the offing. In these days of outsourcing, what better way can there be to manage to contain the American casualties and yet make a business out of security than to outsource it?
Thus, comes the concept of Private Military Companies or PMCs. Their job? To go to Iraq and protect the American assets using personnel armed to the teeth and professionally trained. And like what most of the American corporate do in terms of hiring personnel from developing countries, the PMCs do the same. And poorer the country from where they recruit, the better the deal is. Consider Blackwater, by far the biggest beneficiary of President Bush’s Iraq engagement. This company has made it big simply by recruiting thousands of former military personnel from Latin American and Asian countries. Most of the countries like Peru, Chile, Fiji and Nepal have high incidence of poverty and unemployment. And under such circumstances, it is not difficult to find recruits who are left with just two options: either face abject poverty in their home country or accept the lure of dollar payments for fighting it out in some of the most hostile terrains of the world, that too, for a foreign country!! Recent reports state that most are paid anywhere between $1,000 to $3,000 per month. For the likes of Peruvians and Chileans and several others from Latin America or Asia, getting $1,000 is like a reverie, given the situation back home. And for the likes of Blackwater and the US government, it serves the dual objective of not bothering about casualties, because in this skewed world, even the deaths of a hundred Chileans or Peruvians do not equal to saving the life of a single American.
There cannot be probably any worse way to exploit the helplessness of a beleaguered lot of such impoverished countries than to send their men to fight a war – which is not all theirs – for the sake of nothing else but capitalist and imperialistic ulterior motives, greed and profits.
And it goes without saying that many such personnel, when they go back home, resort to many human rights atrocities and create a vicious environment in their home countries, something which Chile, one of the largest suppliers of personnel in PMCs is witnessing. But for the American Private Military Companies, most of whom have been started by war veterans and who have strong political connections, they are probably extremely thankful to the American public for creating the outcry against the body bags, because had it not been so, the American PMC wouldn’t have grown this far today. This industry, which is worth more than $100 billion annually, has grown manifold since the onslaught of the Iraq war.
Today, estimates say that 40 cents of every American tax dollar is being spent on this, and in Iraq alone the costs are upwards of a staggering $2 billion per week!! Worse, there are reports that already the American armed forces are witnessing an exodus in the ranks of their armed ranks, who are taking premature retirement to join the PMC where the American soldiers are even paid to the tune of $1,000 a day.
Apart from Blackwater, some of the biggest American PMCs include the likes of AirScan, C3 Defense, Dyn Corporation, Jax Desmond and Tactical Response Service. Not just this, the business of PMCs has spread far beyond Iraq, into African countries and elsewhere. (Albeit, wherever there is conflict and wherever there is Western interest to be protected). For example, Titan Corporation, a San Diego-based PMC has its operations mostly in Benin. And unfortunately, everywhere it is the people from developing countries who are being used as dispensable trash. There have been several instances where people have been contracted and yet neither been given the promised compensations nor have been medically taken care of in case of injury. In the absence of any regulation and complete immunity from local prosecution that these PMCs enjoy, it is not surprising that such practices are common. Moreover, there has several other instances of atrocities being committed by the personnel of PMCs on the local population, the most gruesome being the killing of 17 innocent civilians by personnel of Blackwater in Baghdad.
The objective of governmental armed forces of any civilised country is to contain conflicts and mitigate it as far as possible, while attempting to reduce the influence of armed forces in running the country as much as possible. But the lure of huge money and the business involved is making conflict a viable and profitable proposition. Therefore, for the likes of Blackwater getting such lucrative contracts from the government, they would never want the intensity of insecurity and threat perception to come down. More the people remain terrorised, bigger the business opportunity. And if there is no threat, they might even create one just to keep the business going. After all, that’s what the fiscal bottom line-driven cowboy capitalism stands for!!
- 10 August 2008 |
- Dr. Arindam On America