Contractually Obligated

Ever since 2001, the United States has been spoiling for a fight. Granted, back then, we had a perfectly good reason. But now, six years later, our reasoning is beginning to fall into question. We’ve got a war going in the Middle East that has outlasted almost every other modern war (including World War Two), and several other wars threatening to take hold in Korea and Iran. In light of all this conflict, the phrase “military contractors” has become something of a buzzword among American political pundits. This did not seem, at the beginning of the war, to be much of a problem. It was actually quite nice that there were civilians willing to help out the war effort. But that was then. Now, trouble is brewing.

Let’s go first to New Orleans, which was smashed in 2005 by Hurricane Katrina (a name that anybody who listens to the news even occasionally will be tired of hearing). Since the government relief efforts were, shall we say “lackluster,” there was a desperate need for aid, any kind of aid. The military contractor known as Blackwater stepped up and sent people to New Orleans to help in the repair and recovery operations. This was all well and good, until they billed the government for several hundred million dollars. Still, for a great humanitarian effort like the rescue of New Orleans, they certainly deserved some pay. But problems arise when you look at just how the money was broken down. Blackwater billed the government for $950 per person per day. The problem is, the actual contractors who went into New Orleans only reported being paid $650 per person per day. Somewhere along the way, almost a third of the money is unaccounted for. It is not difficult to go from the missing money to foul play on Blackwater’s part.

The problems do not end there, by any stretch of the imagination. The contractors often refuse to release documents to Congress, claiming that they are classified. But aren’t they working as employees of the government? And aren’t most employees obliged to disclose information on the request of the employer? It gets worse still: there have been several reported cases of privatized military forces disobeying congress’s orders. This is a very dangerous situation, exacerbated by the fact that, when they cause or get caught up in a problem, they refuse to abide by, or find legal loopholes in the contracts they have with their employees.

By now, I’m sure, the little alarm bells will be ringing madly in some of my readers’ heads. They ring in mine, too, and here’s why: we have private armies entering war zones and disaster areas, where they have a tendency to get killed, or perhaps to exacerbate an already-serious situation. They then refuse to release the documents concerning these affairs, even to Congress. This has all the makings of an embryonic coup.

Now, perhaps I’m being dismal and paranoid. I’m sure my more conservative readers will agree with this, but I see a truly frightening scenario:

The military contractors refuse to withhold from the government vital documents concerning incidents in which they are involved, thus creating a sphere of deniability. They use some of the money that they report to have spent on their employees in order to buy equipment and train more employees. Before long, the number of members of the United States military is overtaken by the number of soldiers employed by military contractors. We have, at this point, a force capable of overtaking the military forces of the U.S. government. This would make a coup, should the idea cross their minds, relatively easy to execute. Now, I’m sure there are some radical individuals who would like to see the government overthrown, and in any other case, I might agree with them; the only problem in this case is that the contractors are already known for lying, denying, and abusing their power. Were they to get control over the government (that is, assuming they don’t already have it), what kind of totalitarian state could they build?

Just something to think about…

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