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Health Care & Environment
01.17 How America's 'childcare deserts' are driving women out of the workforce [no, the answer is not to deny a livable minimum wage for childcare workers!]>
01.17 New NASA Study Solves Climate Mystery, Confirms Methane Spike Tied to Oil and Gas [sloppy Fracking and unconscionable tar sands processing?]
01.14 Doctors say new Medicaid rules 'like asking people to work with an anchor on their back' [instead of universal and more efficient single-payer @ half current per-capita cost, Republicans cleverly found a way to increase crime, street begging and early deaths]
News Media Matters
US Politics, Policy & 'Culture'
01.14 The US retail industry is hemorrhaging jobs – and it's hitting women hardest [don't worry, our Republican government is working on this problem]
Economics, Crony Capitalism
01.07 Student Debt Slavery II: Time to Level the Playing Field [This is the second in a two-part article on the debt burden America’s students face. Read Part 1 here.]
International & Futurism
01.17 Turkish attack on US-backed Kurds in Syria believed imminent [is there a reason or just a habit?]
01.15 Turkey plans assault on Kurdish enclave in Syria [“Stupid is as stupid does.” –Forrest Gump]
Privatize Me...Corporatize Me.... Blackwaterize Me...
As some have written and conjectured, the Posse Comitatus Act (passed by Congress during Reconstruction to prevent the government from using the military to enforce civilian law) is in serious jeopardy of going the way of the dinosaurs. Signs of ill portent for the Act are its statutory rather than Constitutional nature (leaving it much more vulnerable to legislative changes), the federal government's use of the military to fight the "War on Drugs" along America's borders, the precedent set by the deployment of military proxies in New Orleans, and the Bush Regime's repeated statement of its intention to rely heavily upon the military in times of domestic crisis (i.e. during future hurricanes, a potential outbreak of Avian Flu). Unfortunately, Posse Comitatus affords the American public about as much protection from martial law (at the whim of our deranged president) as the levees provided New Orleans from the ravages of Katrina.
In a time that is roughly comparable to that of the Gilded Age, corporations and the wealthy elite in the United States revel in their virtually unparalleled power and wealth. Labor unions, whose membership peaked at 35% of the hourly wage force in the 1950's, now comprise less than 10% of the US work force. The wealth gap continues to widen to devastating proportions as the middle class slowly disappears. Statistically, unemployment is relatively low, but many of those who are working are under-employed or working multiple jobs just to make ends meet. As the wealthy elite continue to tighten the screws by raising regressive taxes and lowering progressive taxes, lowering wages and benefits for the working class, off-shoring jobs, and cutting social programs, the threat of riots and social unrest becomes real. Hence the Bush Regime's moves to lay the foundation for declaring martial law and the rising fortunes of companies providing private military forces, like Blackwater USA.
Despite their Social Darwinism, America’s leaders prefer to maintain the illusion of "democracy and freedom" to keep the masses pacified. Just as they did in New Orleans, the federal government can now utilize paramilitary employees of a private company to replace the overt presence of the US military. Rumsfeld, Chertoff, and company demonstrated that they can deploy a domestic military presence “under the radar," enabling them to sidestep potential public backlash and legal challenges.
Their reach is global and they are not your average "civilians"Here is what Blackwater has to say about itself on its Website at blackwaterusa.com:
We have established a global presence and provide training and operational solutions for the 21st century in support of security and peace, and freedom and democracy everywhere.Blackwater's global presence includes Iraq, where the murder of four of their employees triggered the US military's vengeful attack on Fallujah in which it committed heinous war crimes and atrocities against hundreds of Iraqi civilians. Why the four Blackwater contractors were near Fallujah the day of their deaths remains unclear. While the facts about their presence there remain unclear, the mainstream media's portrayal of the Blackwater victims as "civilian contractors" was significantly inaccurate.
In light of the International Convention Against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries of 1989, the US military and Blackwater are careful to frame Blackwater's mission in Iraq as security-related, but many of their employees are former military special ops, often heavily armed and working in dangerous combat areas. One would be foolish to believe that they would not become embroiled in combat, and once they do, the question becomes, “under the Geneva Convention, are they considered to be civilians or soldiers?” One particular danger to Iraqi civilians is that private "security" personnel are not subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, so if they do commit a crime, there is very little accountability. In the past, US mercenaries committing serious crimes while on assignment in foreign nations simply lost their jobs as punishment. US military and civilian courts lacked the jurisdiction, will, or capacity to prosecute them. In 2000, the US Congress passed the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act to provide a means for punishing civilian (and perhaps mercenary) personnel assigned to the military for committing crimes in foreign nations. Unfortunately, this law has yet to make much impact.
Business as usual: rewards for the elites and risks for the rest of usUsing private forces offers several advantages to the Bush Regime in its imperialist endeavors. The military can lower "body counts" by employing more private contractors and fewer military personnel. Forces provided by Blackwater are less subject to Congressional oversight and public scrutiny than the conventional military. The availability of "guns for hire" negates the need for a highly unpopular draft and helps fill in gaps left by military recruitment shortages. As far back as May of 2004, the number of employees deployed to Iraq by private security firms was 20,000.
Unfortunately for the American people, as is true with most privatization schemes, the cost is high to the poor and working class. A typical member of a private security force reportedly makes six figures per year. Risking their lives side by side with people making five times their salary is tough on the morale of US troops. The lure of higher salaries naturally leads to a drain of talent from the US military, particularly in special ops. While the US needs to end its imperial conquest in Iraq and scale down its military, we still need a standing army (which is accountable to the representatives of the people) of qualified, well-equipped individuals to provide for the national defense. Bypassing oversight by Congress by employing private warriors, the Bush Regime is increasing its opportunities to violate the Geneva Conventions and the US Constitution. At the same time, it exposes the American people to the dangers of the fickle loyalties of avaricious corporations and their employees.
The Social Darwinists sitting atop the food chain in the wealthiest, most powerful nation in humanity’s history now have access to their own paramilitary force. They can unleash their private army on the "unfittest" when the need arises, whether it be within America's borders or otherwise.
Thomas Paine would feel deeply ashamed of what has become of the nation he helped forge with his powerful writing.
Jason Miller, 38, holds a degree in liberal arts. He works as a loan counselor in the transportation industry, and is a husband with three sons. His affiliations include Amnesty International and the ACLU. He welcomes responses at firstname.lastname@example.org or comments on his blog, Thomas Paine's Corner, at civillibertarian.blogspot.com.
See Kristin Collins' article on the CorpWatch website for more details about the issues in this article.
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This story was published on January 4, 2006.