In Other Words… Military Contractors Gone Wild Part1

Military Contractors Gone Wild: Hijacking our Treasury and Living Above the Law

Written By: Sara Ledesma

Billions of dollars flow into the private contracting sector in Iraq and Afghanistan and into Homeland Security, here at home. The way in which this money is spent and the services provided by these contractors are performed is, for the most part, unregulated and unsupervised. The private armies, and the mercenary soldiers that comprise them, are not held to any legal standards…not the laws other citizens must abide by, not the laws our U.S. Troops are held to, and not the laws which apply to the countries in which they are contracted to fight and rebuild. Despite investigations which expose habitual negligence, waste, fraud, incompetence, and even criminal conduct, on behalf of these private contractors, nothing is being done to follow the trail of our tax dollars or make the employees of these companies accountable to the laws that the rest of us must follow.

How can our government willfully look the other way, abandoning one of their chief duties— supervising government contracts? Why do they refuse to demand responsibility for the billions of dollars unaccounted for, and criminal actions perpetuated by, military contractors voraciously profiting off the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Military contractors are calling the shots, writing their own contracts, conducting their own investigations when accused of wrong-doing, receiving immunity from the rule of law our men and women in uniform abide by, profiting off crony capitalism akin to corporate welfare where exorbitant profits are paid to the pet companies of the administration, all with no competition or accountability. A string of scandals has not been enough to put an end to the unregulated run, tallying in the billions, on our government coffers. In fact, an amendment to make it illegal to use government contractors that don’t allow rape victims their day in court was just defeated in the Senate. One of the first attempts at reigning in the outlaw military contractors committing criminal acts with impunity was actually voted down.

The use of military contractors is exploding as war abroad, and homeland security domestically, are transformed into privatized industries. Private security contractors now outnumber our own troops. We are witnessing the creation of the most privatized war in our history, and the same is happening with Homeland security here in the U.S. Private contractors have co-opted our international and domestic security, but at much higher profits and none of the regulation or accountability, of our military and government agencies. The CEOs of these companies bank billions of taxpayer dollars while their employees get a license to rape and kill at will.

Meanwhile, our men and women in uniform are dutifully held to U.S. Military law and get paid embarrassingly less for doing the same, or often more difficult and dangerous, duties than those of privately-contracted soldiers.

Halliburton, Bechtel, Parsons, KPMG, Blackwater, among others, are feasting insatiably off a corporate welfare system designed by their friends in our U.S. government. The Bush administration created private markets for war contractors, barred their competitors from even entering the race, and then paid them to do the work on “cost-plus” contracts, which guaranteed them profits –all at taxpayer expense. For Example, 90 percent of Blackwater’s revenues come from government contracts and virtually its entire staff is comprised of former U.S. soldiers. Our government spent millions training these soldiers and then Blackwater poaches them, pays them many times the salary our military pays, and charges the bill back to us!

Blackwater builds its staff, facilities and state of the art armory of weapons, tanks and jets on the government’s dime and yet this vast infrastructure is all privately owned and controlled. Our tax dollars foot the costly bill for the build up and running of this private army, yet as citizens we have no right to any of the equipment and infrastructure we’ve paid for or any right to demand accountability by the soldiers we’ve spent millions training. The CIA has lost so many staffers to contractors they had to prohibit recruiting in the agency dining room.

So how did the privatization happen? The Bush administration cannot claim it was a scheme to apply free market rules to the security industry because the granting of these outrageously profitable contracts are not given according to free market, capitalist principles. In fact, it’s a text book definition of crony capitalism. According to former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan in his book The Age of Turbulence: New Adventures in a New World, “When a government’s leaders or businesses routinely seek out private-sector individuals or businesses, and, in exchange for political support, bestow favors on them, the society is said to be in the grip of ‘crony capitalism.’ The favors generally take the form of monopoly access to certain markets, preferred access to sales of government assets, and special access to those in power.”

Corporations are funding their private, illegal armies and spy agencies with our tax dollars. The cronies of these private contractors in the Bush Administration’s State Department and Pentagon designed it so the contractors would have no government oversight, despite being funded by the National Treasury and having an enormous amount of power usually reserved for military, and intelligence agencies (CIA, NSA and FBI).

Rumsfeld took advantage of the state of emergency after 9-11 to create a new system of military outsourcing without a legal or national debate. His plan to enrich the pockets of his contractor friends at the expense of our tax dollars was laid out as follows: Reject troop increases in Iraq, force the military to go to private soldiers of fortune to fulfill its combat needs, build up private armies such as Blackwater while downsizing our military, then extend this privatization to homeland security back in the U.S. Once he began outsourcing security, he quickly expanded the services of private contractors to intelligence, interrogation, and homeland security.

There are hundreds of companies profiting rapaciously off of this privatization scheme. Lockheed, GE and Booz Allen are a few companies receiving some of the biggest slices of the military contracting pie and enjoying exemption from oversight. The problem is the outsourcing of our security has been deliberately constructed to allow contractors to operate completely outside the checks and balances of the constitutional structure of our country.

Rumsfeld, at the direction of Bush himself, put Paul Bremer in charge of orchestrating the laws to guarantee private contractors carte blanche to operate with complete immunity. Most of these laws are still on the books today. There is no political will to change the status quo. In Iraq and Afghanistan, companies like Blackwater and Halliburton are performing more and more of the duties our troops in uniform once performed. Here at home the intelligence industry continues to be outsourced and privatized to such an extent that the CIA has had to restrict Blackwater and others from poaching their spies inside the CIA’s own dining hall.

A few numbers to drive the point home:

• Counterintelligence Field Activity, an intelligence agency created under Rumsfeld to act independently of the CIA, outsources 70 percent of its budget to private contractors.

• In 2003, the U.S. government gave 3,512 contracts to private companies for security services

• From 2003-2006: the Department of Homeland Security issued more than 115,000 such contracts.

• The global homeland security industry—basically non-existent before 2001– is now a $200 billion sector of the economy.

Frighteningly enough, these private companies, entrusted with sensitive, classified intelligence pertaining to the security of our entire nation are allowed to play fast and loose with almost no oversight and no accountability. There is a blurring of the line between government and private corporations that breeds abuse, misconduct, and fraud because where these corporations end and government begins is becoming less and less discernible. This lack of a clearly defined demarcation allows for such perversions of oversight as: Blackwater being permitted to investigate its own alleged massacre in Baghdad, the Army to outsource the job of updating the manual for dealing with private contractors to a private contractor and for a private contractor to be awarded the job of overseeing other private contractors. And since Bremmer has already ensured private contractors work and play in a legal limbo where they are subject to no jurisdiction of law, when an investigation is actually conducted, it is ineffectual and merely for show.

Meanwhile, our own military and our own troops are left to do the dirty work and endure much more risk for much less pay. While our troops are subject to the rule of law, private contractors are allowed to run wild in a state of perpetual immunity. They play the game according to whatever rules they choose and the government pays the bill.

A close up look at a few of the recent scandals illustrates how our military and national budget is being hijacked by the military contractor cronies of those who are elected to serve the common good of the citizens of our nation – continued in Part2.


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