One of the, if not the, defining characteristic of the State is the legitimate use of force. To the state alone belongs the power to take human life legitimately, and even that power is tempered by a growing abhorence to use of lethal force by the State, exemplified by the emerging global consensus against the death penalty.
Against this backdrop, the Bush admnistration’s policy of outsourcing the Iraq war is all the more suprinsing, … and disturbing.
The US military has longed used private contratctors for logistics (ie noncombatant positions), but in Iraq the threshold between the realm of the noncombatant and the combatant has been crossed. Private companies driven by profit and not patriotism have entered the realm of the State. They have a license to kill, which they have shown themselves willing to use with impunity.
As the Nation noted last year:
There is a reason that governments have historically maintained a monopoly over the use of force. Allowing private companies into the mix interferes with the ability of citizens to hold their government accountable for when and how force is used. The role of CACI in the torture scandal at Abu Ghraib prison is only the latest example of this problem. The Army’s internal investigation of abuses there singled out a CACI employee, alleging that he had been involved in directing some of the incidents for which Army reservists are now facing courts-martial. But this man has neither been brought out of Iraq nor brought up on criminal charges because military contractors are not subject to the code of military justice, and their status under US criminal law is vague.
Though our government’s policy of the outsourcing of roles that necessitate the use of force we have let loose the dogs of war onto a suffering people. And behold what they have done:
“THESE GUYS WERE ON THE WAY HOME AND DECIDED THAT THEY NEEDED TO KILL A FEW IRAQIS JUST FOR THE HELL OF IT—COWBOYS AND MURDERERS LIKE THESE [EXPLETIVE DELETED] ARE GOING TO UNDERMINE THE ENTIRE EFFORT IN IRAQ. THEY HAVE STAINED THE NAMES OF THE US MILITARY PERSONNEL WHO HAVE BEEN KIA OR WIA IN IRAQ. IF I WAS [IRAQI] I’D BE TRYING TO KILL THESE [EXPLETIVE DELETED] ‘CONTRACTORS’, TOO!”
I’ve never really belived in Hell, but motherfuckers like these make me hope there’s a place that justice will be done, because I have no faith in my own government to take action to confront the blatantly criminal actions committed by contractors, … let us call them by their true name: mercenaries.
Distance stirs us to complacency, and the belief that these horrible things happen over there. We Americans believe ourselves a chosen people, but what has marked us as a nation is not divine election, rather the continuing belief that we are a free people bound only our social contract, our Constitution, is what has blessed us with liberty and prosperity. Nothing is so sacred in our social contract more than the notion that we are the masters of our destiny, and the we recognize no sovereign but our own popular sovereignty.
The Neo-Liberal agenda brought into the White House by its current occupant, and the underlying distate for popular sovereignty is evident in Grover Norquist, the architect of the Bush administration’s dismanteling of the New Deal, statement that he wants to make government “small enough that he can drown it in a bathtub.” Behind the Bush administration’s drive to privatize is a deep desire to remove power from the government where it is accountable to the power of the people to the private sector where their friends and family may profit from power.
Nothing is more sacred to a nation than determing what rightly belongs in the public sector, and what rightly belongs in the private sector. Proponents of the Washingtons Consensus have become pathological partisans for privatization, taking the notion of private ownership to ridiculous heights in the Andean nation of Bolivia. In exhange for access to debt relief the World Bank forced this poor nation to turn the water supply of its third largest city to a subsidiary of Dick Cheney’s Halliburton. They quite literally belived that their contract meant they owned the rain, and they made desperately poor Cochabombans pay a permit fee to collect rainwater. The problem with privatization is that it is interested in profits and not people. The hubris neccesary to belive you own the rain belies one the of the Right’s greatest lies. They may talk about the love of Christ, but in their dark hearts lies a love for Darwin when the subject changes to economics.
They want to change the power structure in this country so that people exist to serve power, rather than power existing to serve people. The current leadership of the Republican party is but the latest incarnation of the antidemocratic tradition in this country. George Will’s column earlier this year in which he berates the problem of the masses making public policy noting that conservatives, “should cast a cool eye on any sentimental celebration of unchecked majorities.” It is this hostility to the will of the people, and the notion that there are those who are destined to lead as their birthright and those who exist to serve that should make us pause and take notice of the growing use of force outside of the context of the State, where it is subject to the will of the people.
In the particular case of Aegis, the company employing the mercenaries who allegdly went on a killing spree “for the hell of it”, has a nasty history that raises serious questions. Londonbear notes here at Booman that one of Aegis’s principals in implicated in the attempted overthrow of an oil rich African country, and the murder of two boys in Belfast while stationed their with the British Army. By creating a private sector military complete with license to kill we risk creating a Praetorians, the Roman emperor’s personal guard, who owed their loyalty to profit not patriotism.
For the right price, they’d knock off the ruling emperor, and regularly used violence to bring political change in the Roman Empire, including at one time selling the Empire for a substantial bribe. There been a long history comparing America to Rome, but the parallels have never been apparent than now. We risk creating ur own Praetorians, unless the use of force is one and forever removed from the hands of the private sector, and placed firmly within the context of a chain of command and submission to the rules and regulations of civilian authority emmanating from the will of the people.
The time has come for a Consitutional amendment clarifying Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 of the US Constitution which states Congress has the power to “To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water”. The legitimate use of force lies solely with the state, and private use of force that has been allowed by the mercenaries employed by the Bush Administration in Iraq must be forbidden.
That mercenaries from Blackwater were employed in New Orleans only makes it more urgent that we confront they use of force by private corporations not subject to the will of the people more urgent. Mercenaries in Iraq should be given the choice of enlisting in the US armed force and being subject to military discipline, or leaving their positions. The move by Bush to suspend Posse Comitatus, and the deployment of mercenaries on American soil being used against American citizens shows the danger unless action is taken. By sending Blackwater into New Orleans, Bush has taken us one giant leap into the realm of the privitization of police power in America proper, and make real the threat of Praetorians in America.