Thursday, October 11, 2007

Who to be Angry with the Most

After my earlier post, even more stuff comes out, and the mind boggles. Continuously.

Blackwater continues to be in the news (though ever so slightly in the big news). Via an industry contractor from Australia. This is not Blackwater's fault, by the way, just want to make that clear. But it is a byproduct of the brains behind such companies.

Two Christian Iraqi women were killed in their car by contractors from an Australian security firm. They didn't move out of the way of the convoy fast enough. That's good enough cause, I'm sure. As Blackwater contractors have said, "we have to view every Iraqi as a potential threat, and treat them as such. If they don't move fast enough, we have to get them to move, no matter what happens." People have had their cars wrecked, been shot at, or shot dead. And guess how many of these contractors, Blackwater or otherwise, have been prosecuted for any crimes at all?


Here's the part I find the most interesting. When Darth Cheney was Secretary of Defense under Bush 1, he had this neat idea of privatizing the functions of various chunks of the military. "Why should soldiers cook? Isn't their job to fight, to defend? They should only need to learn those functions that a professional soldier should have to do."

Kill. And stay alive at any cost. Or keep their men alive.

All of which I find laudable. Sort of. However, do we really want people working in combat areas who aren't trained soldiers? Forward bases in Vietnam had cooks, drivers, vehicle repair guys, etc., who were also trained in the use of firearms and self-defense. Just in case.

So Cheney began the outsourcing of the military to contractors such as Kellogg, Brown and Root (then a subsidiary of Halliburton). They would build the bases and staff them with trained cooks, drivers, mechanics, janitors, etc.

Then, Bush lost the presidency to Bill Clinton. And Cheney became the CEO of (guess who) Halliburton. Clinton and his Sec. of Defense continued the practice. And when Cheney was asked to find a good VP for Bush 2, he searched long and hard and found - himself! Resigned from Halliburton, eventually got rid of his stocks (putting them into a blind trust - meaning he doesn't know that they're doing well, I guess, unless perhaps he reads the financial pages of any f**king newspaper). And he's still drawing a deferred salary as part of his exit compensation package.

Before Iraq, Blackwater's finances were circling the drain. They had developed a business model that needed a war to succeed. Not the war, the business model. If the war succeeded, the business would then be back to waiting and training for the next war. Another interesting facet of all of this: Blackwater claims that none of the people they have in Iraq (except a few supervisors) are "employees." They're actually "contractors."

Wow. Birth of the war "temp."

Who make something like ten times what the soldiers they're "augmenting" make. Some of whom come from a military background of dubious moral origins, such as Pinochet's bodyguard, or ex-death squad guys from El Salvador. The eighties just keep on payin'. And strangely enough, lots of American officers and soldiers decide not to re-up their contracts with the military, and go to work as contractors for Blackwater.

The difference is, the military is a non-profit organization, while Blackwater isn't. Blackwater (as required by its corporate papers) is required to make a profit off of its business. Nothing wrong with that. But how does that square with fiscal conservatives? Doesn't spending more money on warfighting mean we've gone against conservative economic principle?

Not that I've suddenly become a right-wing nutball, by any means. However, I do see the use of making a soldier do some menial chore (like peeling potatoes, a favored image of punishment in the military), rather than paying a contractor ten times as much to do the same job with a big fat smile on his wallet.

President Johnson promised he would be able to deliver "guns and butter" during the Vietnam war. That we no longer had to sacrifice to have a war, because we'd built such a wonderfully powerful war infrastructure. Also known as the "military-industrial complex" that President Eisenhower warned us against. We're still paying for Vietnam, literally. A large part of the yearly government budget is paying for wars of the past.

President Shrub and Darth Cheney and Rummy and Wolfowitz and Feith have given us a situation where we can have "guns and HDTV." We're mortgaging our future to fight a war of choice against a population (it's not about Saddam anymore, folks) that doesn't want us there. And one of the reasons they hate us more than ever are private contractors such as Blackwater and Halliburton.

And of course, we're bankrupting the country, selling debt to China and the Saudis. Who may one day call in the loan and kill us off, once and for all.

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