Thomas Paine saw the United States as an "asylum for mankind." Sadly,
under the political and social dominance of the Social Darwinists, America has
become more of an "asylum for the insane". Torture, state-sponsored
terrorism, illegal wars, flagrant disregard for international law, tax decreases
for the wealthy, funding cuts for social safety net programs, government endorsed
racism, and diasporas in the aftermath of natural disasters are but a few examples
of the handiwork of the wealthy elite as they create a gross perversion of Paine's
vision of the US. Not to worry though. America's patrician class now has its own
private armies to protect its gold from the proletariat they so graciously tolerate.
Recently, a company called Blackwater Lodge and Training Center, Inc. ("Blackwater")
unleashed some attorneys on me for an editorial I published on Thomas Paine's
Corner (my blog). The article was by another writer and I had published it under
Fair Use since my blog generates no revenue. Blackwater's legal representatives
threatened me with a libel suit and demanded that I depublish the article because
it contained factual inaccuracies. After some research I agreed with them and
removed the article from Thomas Paine's Corner. However, in the course
of my research, I made some startling discoveries about the corporate mercenaries
of Blackwater and their disturbing relationship with the US government, which
clearly illustrates the threat America's parasitic aristocracy poses to the
poor, working and middle class of the world.
Martial law? Here?
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 Blackwater's 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.
Tell me sweet little lies
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 provides an interesting solution to the Bush Regime's dilemma in satiating
its desire to employ martial law covertly. 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 the paramilitary employees of a company such as Blackwater 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 side-step 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 http://www.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. The mainstream media, Blackwater and the US government claim
that they were on security detail protecting a food delivery. However, some suggest
that the claims of protecting a food caravan were a ruse to cover the fact that
Blackwater employees were completing a military operation. While the facts remain
unclear, it is certain that the mainstream media's portrayal of the Blackwater
victims as "civilian contractors" was significantly inaccurate.
According to the Revolutionary Worker (http://rwor.org/a/1236/blackwater.htm):
Soon after the four U.S. "civilian contractors" died in Fallujah,
it became obvious they weren't "civilians" at all. All four were
trained commandos--at least three had years of experience in elite U.S. military
units. They were working for the private mercenary army called "Blackwater
USA." All were heavily armed. One carried a Department of Defense ID
Revolutionary Worker also indicated:
Increasingly, however, the main work of Blackwater has been deploying its
own mercenary army-- recruited from elite U.S. military forces (especially
from Navy SEALS and Marine Recon), SWAT police forces, and international "soldiers
of fortune." In February it started training former Chilean commandos--some
of whom served under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet--for use in Iraq.
In August 2003, Blackwater was awarded a $21 million contract to supply security
guards and two helicopters for Paul Bremer III, head of the U.S. occupation in
Iraq. Other Blackwater operations in Iraq are merely described as full protective
teams "for any threat scenario."
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 Blackwater "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
Blackwater 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, including Blackwater, was 20,000.
20,000 is a very significant number. The US government is relying heavily on
private corporations like Blackwater, which demonstrates the Bush Regime's fetish
with privatization (to benefit the wealthy and corporations) even extends to
military operations. Unfortunately for the American people, as is true with
most privatization schemes, the cost is high to the poor and working class.
A typical Blackwater contract soldier 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 its military down
significantly, 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 it so loathes. At the same time, it exposes the American
people to the dangers of the fickle loyalties of avaricious corporations and
Since it began its involvement in the Bush Regime's "War on Terror",
Blackwater has been the defendant in at least two lawsuits. Family members of
the four Blackwater employees killed in Fallujah are pursuing legal action against
Blackwater for failure to properly equip its employees. Blackwater and its aviation
subsidiary also face litigation stemming from the deaths of three US soldiers
killed in a plane crash in Afghanistan.
Read the following written by Kristin Collins at http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=12400
and draw your own conclusions about our "friends" at Blackwater:
According to the suit, the plane lacked even the most basic safety equipment.
It had no global positioning system or radar. Its crew did not wear oxygen
masks. And its two pilots, who had been in Afghanistan only two weeks and
had never flown the route before, failed to take the basic step of filing
a flight plan, leading to a delay in finding the wreckage.
That delay could have been fatal for Miller, who apparently survived the
crash. When his body was found, it was clear he had gotten out of the wreckage,
smoked a cigarette, pulled out a sleeping bag and tried to find shelter, said
Robert Spohrer, a Florida lawyer who is representing the families.
"These contractors are certainly in a position to make a lot of money
from the government," said Jeanette McMahon, whose husband, Michael,
died in the crash. "But they have to take their jobs as seriously as
Blackwater officials said Monday they had nothing to do with the doomed flight.
The company's lawyer, Jonathan Stern of Washington, said in a statement that the
government contracted with Presidential Airways of Florida, not Blackwater, to
transport troops and cargo in and around Afghanistan.
But the company's Web site says Presidential Airways is part of Blackwater's aviation
As you contemplate Blackwater and its relationship with the US government, consider
the inherent danger and ethical conflicts involved in using public funds to engage
a private corporation (which exists to generate profit) to supplement (or perhaps
to supplant) the military in its role to "provide for the common defence".
Alarming issues leap to mind like a panther springing upon its prey.
More frightening still, 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. New
Orleans is a prime example. 150 highly trained Blackwater quasi-military professionals
openly armed with assault weapons descended on a tragedy-stricken city. As hurricane
victims taking necessities were called "looters" and shoot to kill orders
were in effect, those who value property over people saw to it that their interests
were well-protected. Thankfully, Blackwater was there to protect the patrician
class from the "savages" from the Lower Ninth Ward who had the audacity
to attempt survival.
Blackwater is one of many symptoms of a very sick America. Thomas Paine would
feel deeply ashamed of what has become of the nation he helped forge with his
Jason Miller is a 38 year old activist writer with 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 http://civillibertarian.blogspot.com/.