Monday, January 29

Unfit for battle

Gorals ("Highlanders")

The 2004 Freedom Roller
, a post that first appeared in a university magazine, included a satirical scenario in which the U.S. government sets out to bypass all federal and international laws and regulations by hiring private citizens to intervene in international conflicts favorable to U.S. business interests. Here is the scenario, which is relevant to the discussion that follows:
The recently formed SUT Club, Inc. has commandeered a number of its members into a veritable vigilante fleet, capable of responding to the behest of local or federal officials. This drivers club (web site) describes itself as a not-for-profit corporation whose aims are to promote the adventurous and safe use of SUTs (Sports Utility Tanks) and to encourage its members to act as a social force for the security of the Motherland. It and similar clubs will be free to embark on deer hunting expeditions, take diversionary excursions through Yellowstone National Park, or patrol gang-infested neighborhoods and quell public expressions of political dissent or cultural ambiguity. The crime-fighting benefits may be called upon by the federal government to battle terror itself. With sufficient training, it is thought, such a club could one day confront brutal dictators suspected of potentially harboring, or of conceiving of, or of being able to share their conceptions of harboring, WMD-related-program-like activities (or conceptions). They would thereby spare the government from having to make academic presentations at the United Nations or appease dilly-dallying allies while threats gravely gather. Indeed, with such a swiftly acting force at its command, the government could redirect its military spending to much needed nuclear and space-oriented weaponry.
Even I was surprised to see that such a mad proposal--far from being satire--made its way into President Bush's State of the Union address last week--admittedly, with less detail and color. Bush's team has baptized the proposed hired team of internationally-operating civilian assassins with the benevolent-sounding name "Civilian Reserve Corps." Jeremy Scahill explains that the president,
slipped in a mention of a major initiative that would represent a significant development in the U.S. disaster response/reconstruction/war machine: a Civilian Reserve Corps.

'Such a corps would function much like our military Reserve. It would ease the burden on the armed forces by allowing us to hire civilians with critical skills to serve on missions abroad when America needs them,' Bush declared.
The frightening thing about Bush's proposal is that it is, in fact, already a reality, on a relatively smaller scale of approximately 100,000 civilian fighters in Iraq. As Scahill continues,
This is precisely what the administration has already done, largely behind the backs of the American people and with little congressional input, with its revolution in military affairs. Bush and his political allies are using taxpayer dollars to run an outsourcing laboratory.
Scahill has written on this phenomenon in his book Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army.

As Naomi Klein remarks in regard to Scahill's work:
If the Republicans lose in 2008, they will leave office armed and dangerous. Blackwater is the utterly gripping and explosive story of how the Bush Administration has spent hundreds of millions of public dollars building a parallel corporate army, an army so loyal to far right causes it constitutes nothing less than a Republican Guard.
One day, soon, it seems, "America's wars" may be fought not only for the sake of, but also entirely by, sweet-hearted corporations such as Blackwater. This shows just how confident U.S. leadership is in being able to sell their self-profiting wars as "matters of national interest." (It is understandable that the adventure in Iraq has emboldened them in the deception.) Even when the very fighters are connected to the U.S. only by virtue of the fact that it is U.S. taxpayer money that supports them, you can be sure that every conflict fought by such mercenary forces will be described as a privately-engaged patriotic enterprise (i.e., "Civilian Reserve Corps") that, as such, tolerates neither criticism nor, surely, governmental oversight.