While media pundits and politicians bum rush the mike about President George W. Bush's plans to "surge" U.S. troop forces in Iraq, little is being said about another army there.
By this I refer not to the British, who, as the junior partners in this nefarious occupation, have contributed a significant number of troops to this operation, nor to the other so-called 'coalition of the willing', most of whom have only sent token numbers.
I mean the private armies, known best by the term "contractors" -- men (mostly) who work for private corporations, who are often heavily armed, and who number some 100,000.
They often wear camouflage fatigues -- and many are paid six-figure salaries!
Remember the notorious scandal of Abu Ghraib prison? While the fate of 7 low-level soldiers (and one female general) is generally well-known, there is rarely discussion (and rare still, legal action) on the actions of contractors. Such people played a key role in Abu Ghraib -- and play vital roles everyday in Iraq, separate and apart from the U.S. military, or any governmental structure.
In Abu Ghraib, around the exact time of the events that are now infamous and historic, all of the interpreters at the prison worked for one U.S. company -- Titan Corp.
At the same time (as of Jan. '04), over 1/2 of all interrogators and analysts worked for a Virginia-based company -- CAGI International.
As novelist-essayist Joan Didion noted in a recent edition of The New York Review of Books:
"There are now, split among more than 150 private firms, thousands of such contracts outstanding. Halliburton alone had by July 2004 contracts worth $11,431,000,000.
"Private firms in Iraq has done more than build bases and bridges and prisons. They have done more than handle meals and laundry and transportation. They train Iraqi forces. They manage security. Contract interrogators from two firms, CAGI International (according to its web site 'a world leader in providing timely solutions to the intelligence community') and Titan ('a leading provider of comprehensive information and communications products, solutions, and services for National Security'), were accused of abuses at Abu Ghraib, where almost half of all interrogators and analysts were CAGI employees. They operate free of oversight. They distance the process of interrogation from the citizens in whose name, or in whose "defense," or to ensure whose "security," the interrogation is being conducted. They offer 'timely solutions.'" [Fr.: Didion, Joan, "Cheney: The Fatal Touch," The New York Review of Books, October 5, 2006, p. 56.]
More than any other war in U.S. history, big companies are making big bucks by privatization of almost everything. Indeed, in a very real sense, it can be said that even torture was privatized -- as shown by the allegation that Abu Hamid, a Titan employee, hired to do interpreting at Abu Ghraib, reportedly raped a 15-year old boy there.
Titan held contracts worth an estimated $657 million.
CAGI had contracts in the tens of millions, at least.
Speaking of Halliburton (where Vice President Dick Cheney was CEO), it proceeded to run up so many bills that it overcharged the U.S. government by more than $1 billion! One Billion!
Halliburton, by the way, provided U.S. service members with contaminated drinking water -- and charged Army folks $99 to wash their laundry -- and didn't get it clean!
No matter what Bush ultimately decides, a private army continues to roam Iraq, answerable only to their bosses. Armed to the teeth, they are a private army for business.
Who says war is bad for business?
Copyright 2007 Mumia Abu-Jamal