Private Military Companies Mere War Profiteers

1 January 2017

This war has been privatized more than any other war in history… forty cents of every dollar Congress controls goes to private contractors. ”1 In Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers Robert Greenwald shows how private companies have made millions of the Iraq War performing duties that used to be done by the government. In that same documentary, private military companies are portrayed as greedy, profit-seeking organisations, who will do anything to maximize their profits.

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If a company is primarily concerned with profits, might they skim on their mission, might they offer cheaper services when possible? According to director Robert Greenwald the answer is yes. In their turn the private military companies and their supporters often claim that they are more nimble and cost-effective than the government (Isenberg 2009: 29), and therefore the right person to do the job. This paper will deal with three issues regarding private military companies in general and more specific in Iraq.

First, attention will be paid to the reasons and motives of the American government to contract out many of its responsibilities to private military companies (PMCs) such as Halliburton, Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR) and Blackwater (which nowadays goes under the name Academi). Second, this paper will address the challenges transparency as a public value faces in the light of outsourcing activities to PMCs.

Finally attention will be paid to the question whether Greenwald is right in his claim that PMCs are in fact War Profiteers who are only looking for profit, or that contracting out military services is in fact a cost-effective alternative in a time where the national military of the US is downsized. American use of PMCs: military outsourcing in Iraq This section will describe the motives of the American government to outsource a large portion of its military in the Iraq War.

This outsourcing is the result of three issues (O’Keefe 2009:1) a limited military capacity to unilaterally invade and occupy Iraq, sensitivity of public opinion and the need of specific technically skilled individuals. Limited military capacity One of the motives for employing PMCs in Iraq is the fact that the American military capacity is limited. One reason for this limited capacity is the military downsizing following the end of the Cold War (O’Keefe 2009: 3). In the aftermath of the fall of the Berlin Wall, nearly 700. 000 American troops were no longer needed and became unemployed.

This decline in troops greatly reduced American capabilities (Ballard 2005: 5). To this point, Andre Bearpark, the 2003 Coalition Provisional Authority’s (CPA) direct of operation says, “the military just hadn’t provided enough numbers [for the Iraq War]. It was stretched to the limit. ”(Bergner 2005: 32). This argument is also set forward in the 1 Derived from the documentary “Iraq for Sale.

The War Profiteers” (2006) directed by Robert Greenwald first minute of Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers, where the voice-over states that “there isn’t enough military infrastructure [… and PMCs fill the gap”. In other words, the reduced capacity of the national armed forces provides the private sector with the opportunity to fill the gap. PMCs might be filling a gap, but the use of PMCs is also convenient for the US government, they allow – in this case the Bush administration – to mount a military campaign by looking towards the private sector for support.

Perlak, a judge advocate with the US Marine Corps, stated in a 2000 article in the Military Law Review that privatized forces function as an civilian contractors function as an “effective force multiplier. ” This means they are hired to provide services that will free a “trigger puller” to fight, or they provide technical expertise to the force, thereby assisting the force in waging war or enforcing peace (Keefe 2004: 3). Also, by using PMCs America is recruiting personnel quickly and fielding forces for short periods of time without training large portions of the population or having to institute a draft.

This is additionally beneficial to a state in the aftermath of war, Avant contends that “once dangers pass of local forces are trained and deployed, contracts can lapse” (Avant, 2009: 332). One could argue that despite the limited military capacity of the US, the PMC’s make it possible for the government to pursue their plans to invade Iraq in 2003. Technical skilled personnel: The need for PMCs The development of new, sophisticated weapon systems made military personnel more reliant on contractors for technical support.

In Iraq PMCs have provided support for the B-2 stealth bomber, the F-117 stealth fighter, Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle, U-2 reconnaissance aircraft, the M-1 tank, the Apache helicopter, and many navy ships (Avant 2009: 329). This new equipment and highly sophisticated weapons systems demand specific training, experience and tools that make it “virtually impossible” for the American military to maintain modern systems without the use of contracted civilian experts.

According to Evans: “Without contractors, the Army would have to expand significantly to account for the increase in required specialities to repair al weapon systems” (Ibid, 4). Taking this in consideration it is more or less inevitable for the US government to outsource this part of the military to PMCs. In the documentary Iraq for Sale the lack of enough sufficient military infrastructure is also mentioned as the reason for contracting out military responsibilities to PMCs.

Hiring PMCs: the role of public opinion Domestic public opinion often has a significant role in determining the extent of a state’s military actions , some would argue that public opinion can constrain a state leader in their decision to go to war or not (O’Keefe 2009: 5). Yet, some of the pressure of public opinion can be alleviated when a state outsources military functions. The public does not equate the death of contractor with that of a national soldier, as contractors are not directly associated with the state’s military (O’Keefe 2009:5).

The use of PMCs in the Iraq War allows the state to avoid what is known as the “body-bag syndrome”, where governments are increasingly pressured by domestic constituents as death tolls mount (Kinsey 2006: 96). In addition to the ability of states to avoid the body-bag syndrome, the way in which media report on the involvement of contracted troops further benefits the state as the public disassociates contractors with soldiers. When the media reports of fallen private soldiers, they are often referred to as contractors, which generates another response of the public than to the death of a national soldier.

The next quotation from Thomas Pogue, a former Navy SEAL, who has worked for Blackwater illustrates this point; “These forces can be employed without a lot of publicity—and that’s a very useful characteristic for any government. It’s politically easier, and there is less red tape… We’re expendable. If ten contractors die, it’s not the same as if ten soldiers die. Because people will say that we were in it for the money. And that has a completely different connotation with the American public. (Scahill 2008: 366)”.

A compelling example of the efficacy of PMCs helping the state evade public opinion is a comparison between the events of Mogadishu on 4 October 1993 and Fallujah on 31 March 2004. In 1993, rebels shot down an American Black Hawk helicopter in Mogadishu, Somalia. In this attack eighteen American soldiers were killed and some of their bodies were dragged through the streets of Mogadishu. While the death of eighteen American soldiers in Mogadishu eventually resulted in a withdrawal of all American troops in the region – in response to mounting public pressure – (Scahill 200: 107), the incident in Fallujah did not have the same result.

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