A Thought on so-called “Security Firms”
On September 16, 2007 in Baghdad, the private security firm Blackwater USA killed 10-20 people in a shooting spree. Details are on CNN.com and MSNBC.com. Many people have commented on the inevitable nature of these killings, which arise from the privatization of the military. Blackwater USA has been involved in many such killings, always writing them off as self-defense. They tried that again this time, but no one believes them. And many people are taking a second look at previous events with similar explanations.
The rise of such “security firms” should be alarming to all Americans. It is easy enough to opine about their utility under the philosophy of outsourcing—is it good or bad, more or less efficient, etc. But these discussions and arguments are red herrings. What has been developed under funding from our government is nothing more or less than a paramilitary group. And the question is, as it will always be, to whom does it owe its allegiances?
Every military person who serves America takes an oath to defend the Constitution. We know where their allegiances lie. Every military person must obey the military laws, is trained in those laws and procedures, and has developed the disciplines of effective military action. Mistakes are made, a few rogues get through, and leaders can thoroughly mess things up, as Donald Rumsfeld did. But ultimately, the military is accountable to the people in America. Blackwater USA is accountable only to itself and its profits.
In his book titled Prelude to Terror: The Rogue CIA and the Legacy of America’s Private Intelligence Network, Joseph J. Trento documents how the CIA networks built to operate in the 1960s and 1970s in Southeast Asia morphed into private companies with the ability to operate in utmost secrecy after the operations were officially disbanded by the Carter administration. We had all these people with abilities to undertake covert operations, yet the government would not hire them. They became private operators of covert activity organizations who, to this day, remain the go-to people and organizations for government or corporations needing to undertake covert activities.
History repeats itself to those who do not think about it much, and we are not thinking about this as a nation. If the 1960s and 1970s operations in Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and other countries left us with the legacy of unregulated covert operators, the 2000s will certainly leave us with the legacy of unregulated paramilitary groups such as Blackwater USA. Contracts can be cancelled, and organizations can be disbanded, but we now have a large group of people who have developed a competency in the use of violence to create “security.” Those competencies will reformulate in new legitimate or illegitimate organizations if people can figure out how to benefit from them once the government contracts are gone. When the contracts are cancelled and the people themselves come home, how will they reconstitute? Who will they serve? And who will they turn their guns on then? We don’t know the answers, we are not thinking about the problem, and if we don’t, we are sure to repeat our history.