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Mercenaries in Iraq:
Iraq is rapidly vanishing into the mists of uncollectable, unknowable news, with information travelling only as far as an Iraqi scream can be heard. But sometimes, if you peer closely, you can glimpse reality. Last week, Shia militiamen seized four "security contractors" working for the Canadian company Gardaworld. Buried in the story of this small horror is the bigger tale of a vast shift in how Western wars will be fought in the 21st century if the American right has its way - and one of the great lost scandals of this war.

These men are not "security contractors", nor are they "civilian operatives", nor "reconstruction workers". There are now more of them in Iraq than there are professional soldiers: Britain alone has 21,000 in the country, raking in $1.6bn a year.

As he scurried out the door in 2004, Paul Bremer - the first US viceroy to Iraq - issued Order 17, which exempted all mercenaries operating in the country from having to obey the law. He in effect gave these men a licence to kill - and they are using it, every day.

Yas Ali Mohammed Yassiri was a peaceful 19-year-old Iraqi trying to get on with an ordinary life in a deeply unordinary Baghdad when he boarded a taxi on his street in the Masbah neighbourhood. The mercenaries guarding the US embassy spokesman in Baghdad drove around the corner, so Ali's taxi slowed down - but the convoy opened fire anyway, to clear their path. Ali was hit in the throat and died immediately. Although the US embassy now admits the convoy "opened fire prematurely", the mercenaries were merely sent home; they are free, happy men.

This is not a one-off freak. It is virtually an everyday occurrence.  [...]

One big Milgram experiment.  Predictable results.

The US right has a slew of reasons to privatise the US military so rapidly. The most obvious is simple corruption. It funnels money to companies in which they have a huge stake, and who in turn donate a fortune to the Republican Party. This is justified in public by a market fundamentalist conviction that governments can never run anything properly, so their functions must always be sold off.

But this is a secondary motive. The main limit on an aggressive US foreign policy today is the limited number of US citizens who are prepared to kill and die for it. Mercenaries solve the problem: just buy troops in. The public is far less likely to protest against a war if the victims are hardened Colombians in it for the cash, rather than their cousin from Wisconsin who signed up out of patriotism. In mercenary wars, all citizens are asked to give is money, not blood. The Cheney model of mercenary warfare being tried out in Iraq is, in fact, a way of making possible his vision of a 21st century in which wars for resources will be "necessary" on a "regular basis".

We have been here before. In his Discourses, Niccolo Machiavelli describes how, in its dying days, the Roman Empire was no longer able to inspire a large citizen-militia, and increasingly bought armies of willing foreigners. The result was dissolution, decadence and imperial collapse. What would the world look like if Cheney's vision of privatised armies prevailed in this century? There would be far more wars, far less checked by the rules of war built up after the nightmare of the 1940s: in other words, more Iraqs.

History also points towards a longer-term danger. Where governments depend on private armies, they become increasingly their servants, physically incapable of standing up to them. In the 14th century, corporations determined the fate of the Hundred Years War, and in lulls in the fighting would burn down towns that refused to pay for their protection. The French sovereign was powerless to stop them, because his own forces were too feeble.

Little more than a century ago, the East India Company ignored the explicit orders of the British government and attacked Portuguese garrisons in India, solely to boost its own profit margins. The Empire relied on private militias, until they slipped off the leash. Phillip Bobbit, a former advisor to presidents Nixon and Reagan, warns in his book The Shield of Achilles that as we dissolve back into private armies, we are setting ourselves up for a repeat of this corporate dominance over government.

Dick Cheney effectively believes in rule by corporations, rather than rule by the state, so for him, this is a comforting vision. For the rest of us [...]

Nunver of expatriate refugee Iraqis passes 2 million

Creating a Land Without a People so that there's no one to stand in the way of the oil grab?  

Could it be that the aim of imperial foreign policy in the 21st century is to create Empty Spaces -- now that industrialised, machihe-dependent elites no longer require the labour of millions of peasants to support their luxury lifestyles, the object is not to conquer territories intact or to take slaves, but to displace and exterminate so that depopulated lands remain to be looted?

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Tue Jun 5th, 2007 at 05:40:07 PM EST
You're on a roll today, De. And so are Cheney and the rest of the psychopaths running our "civilisation".

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jun 5th, 2007 at 05:46:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
it is noticeable that neither the US or the UK are signatories of International Convention Against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Tue Jun 5th, 2007 at 05:52:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Article 10
1. Upon being satisfied that the circumstances so warrant, any State Party in whose territory the alleged offender is present shall, in accordance with its laws, take him into custody or take such other measures to ensure his presence for such time as is necessary to enable any criminal or extradition proceedings to be instituted. The State Party shall immediately make a preliminary inquiry into the facts.
How restricted would the international travel of certain Pentagon Officials become if State Parties to the Convention decided to prosecute those responsible for using mercenaries in Iraq? Does this include Rumsfeld, Cheney or Bush himself?

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jun 5th, 2007 at 06:02:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Fortunately for them, so few states have signed, it's probably not in effect yet, and if not theres only about 30 countries it would be unwise for them to visit.

it's probably one of the best arguments for moving to New Zeeland, the fact that if this treaty comes into effect then you can guarantee Bush, Blair etc will be as far from there as possible.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Tue Jun 5th, 2007 at 06:10:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What was it O'Brien said in 1984.

"Imagine a jackboot stamping in the face of humanity forever.." Cheney plays O'Brien very well, Room 101 at Guantanamo

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Jun 5th, 2007 at 06:27:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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