by Victor Thorn

We hear reports that Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai is being protected from assassins in Kabul. Who is guarding him – the U.S. Army? No – he is being surrounded by a private military company (PMC) called DynCorp. This same private company also trains the newly formed Iraqi police force, while the Vinnell Corporation trains the Iraqi army and the Saudi National Guard. How about the huge military base in Iraq that houses our 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment – who built that – the U.S. military? No, it was constructed by Kellogg Brown & Root, an affiliate of Halliburton. How about the Baghdad headquarters of Paul Bremer – who protects him? Surely is must be our armed forces. But no, our commanders are safeguarded by a British private military company called Global Risk International. Even a significant percentage of our Stealth bombers, Global Hawks, and Predator drone aircraft are operated by PMCs, along with our advanced technological operations, intelligence, communications and logistics.

With this eye-opening information in mind, someone may ask, “Wait a minute, what does our military do in Afghanistan, the Middle East, and other hot spots? Who’s really in control?”

The answer may shock you, but guess who the second largest military force in Iraq belongs to. If you answered Great Britain with 9,000 men, you’d be wrong, for the next highest contingency of troops are constituted by PMCs – Private Military Companies. But before we explore this intriguing phenomenon that is reshaping how we view war, I feel a clarification is in order. The Center for Public Integrity defines a Private Military Company (PMC) as:

“A Company that provides, for profit, services that were previously carried out by a national military force, including military training, intelligence, logistics and offensive combat, as well as security in conflict zones.”

Yes, you read those words correctly. Warfare in the year 2004 is increasingly being carried out by corporate armies (or mercenaries as they were called in a bygone era). One of the primary reasons for this trend is that, worldwide, the size of government armies is shrinking. In the United States, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, despite being an ardent war-hawk, has cut over 200,000 military jobs, and says that he would like to outsource all armed forces roles except those for actual combat. This stance has angered many long-standing traditional generals (many of whom have been released from their duty), especially when they see that our military has dropped from 2.1 million active members in 1990 to 1.4 million in 2003.

But American forces aren’t the only ones that have dwindled. Britain’s is at its smallest point since the Napoleonic era, while the Russian army was decimated by the fall of communism, and East Germany’s has significantly decreased since the Berlin Wall came down. Even Africa’s once strong forces aren’t what they were during the days of Apartheid.

But if the actual size of our military is decreasing, how can we account for the billions of dollars the Bush administration is receiving from Congress? Well, naturally a substantial percentage is being funneled to the defense contractors, while other portions are earmarked for Homeland Security and rebuilding Iraq. But what the mainstream media isn’t revealing is the enormity of funds being forwarded to PMCs. In fact, the Department of Defense has entered into over 3,000 contracts with a dozen U.S. PMCs that total $300 billion. Peter Singer, author of Corporate Warriors: The Secret World of Corporate Mercernaries states that annual PMC global revenue now tops $100 billion. Although this figure sounds incredible, consider that PMCs now operate in over 50 countries, with Kellogg Brown & Root performing maneuvers in at least 18 different nations since the 1990s. Likewise, Alpha Firm (comprised of ex-KGB agents) operates out of Moscow, Sandline in the U.K., while Israel touts PMCs such as Levdan, Ango-Sedu, and Silver Shadow.

This movement toward Private Military Companies has become so prevalent that a consortium has been formed – the IPOA (International Peace Operations Association) – to bring together all the MSPs (Military Service Providers). But, one may wonder, how does a firm get into the PMC business? The first step they must take is to register with the U.S. Government and get a license from the State Department. Once that is accomplished, they can either be employed to work with American troops; or, if they want to be deployed on foreign soil, they must get an export license from the State Department’s Office of Defense Trade Controls. With that paperwork, they can station their employees in the Middle East, or let them be recruited as operatives in one of the CIA’s paramilitary divisions.

Knowing all this, the next logical question should be: who exactly are these Private Military Companies? The answer is very revealing, and somewhat disturbing, for we begin to realize that quite a few Fortune 500 companies are now in the mercenary business, including: Lockheed Martin with L-3 Communications, Halliburton with Kellogg Brown & Root, while the Virginia-based MPRI brags of having more generals in its employment than the Pentagon. Even British Petroleum hired a PMC to represent it in South America.

But instead of mere generalities, let’s look at a few specifics. DynCorp, one of the undisputed leaders in this field, works in unison with the Kuwaiti Air Force, plus also received a $50 million government contract in Iraq where they hired 1000 ex-cops to train the Iraqi police. Their total federal contracts for 2002 totaled $2.1 billion. Following closely behind them, Halliburton’s Kellogg Brown & Root received $1.7 billion in federal money, while the Vinnell Corporation got $148 million to train the Iraqi Army. One of the most disturbing aspects of this phenomenon is that a substantial amount of this money was awarded through no-bid contracts.

These multi-national companies (MNCs) then use their funds for mining and oil operations, technology & communications, military ventures or computers, or to protect their own factories and headquarters. This final concept – protection – has become a vital consideration for PMCs due to the level of violence they face, especially in volatile foreign countries. Two newsworthy examples are the recent bombing of a Saudi embassy where employees of the Vinnell Corporation were targeted and killed. In addition, a fall 2003 attack on the Gaza Strip led to the deaths of some Americans. It was assumed at the time that these were U.S. troops, when in fact they were employees of DynCorp.

But these aren’t the only problems associated with PMCs. Military privatization also carries other issues:

1) National Security is now in the hands of an outside entity (proxy).

2) Less accountability in that a private company is less apt to answer Congressional questions or open their books to those they view as outside the loop. This notion is reinforced by Jason McIntosh, a spokesman for Science Applications, who said, “We refrain from talking about things our customers don’t want us talking about. That’s just good policy.”

3) The delicate balance of power which this country was founded upon will be circumvented, for Congress will have less input in military matters, while the Executive Branch (via the State Department and Pentagon) will rise in stature. In fact, by law, Congress doesn’t even have to be notified by the State Department that a PMC has been hired unless the contract is great than $50 million. Plus, if you think the CIA has carte blanche now; imagine if there is even less oversight in regard to hiring and operational practices.

4) Lastly, PMCs have no oath or loyalty to this country; only contracts as hired guns. In this sense, they’re not compelled to follow a military code of conduct (or any other, for that matter). An excellent case in point is DynCorp, whose employees have recently been involved in a sex-slavery fiasco, prostitution rings on foreign soil, and employment scandals with its female workers. Likewise, Mike Ruppert of From the Wilderness has provided some compelling evidence of Kellogg Brown & Root’s association with known drug traffickers.

Representative Jan Schakowsky says of this situation: “There is little or no accountability in the process of outsourcing. This is a way of funding secret wars with taxpayer money.”

Colonel Bruce Grant of the Army War College concurs. “Privatization is a way of going around Congress and not telling the public. Foreign policy is made by default by private military consultants motivated by bottom-line profits.”

These chilling words lead us to the crux of this issue. How is the security of our nation affected by the fact that the ability to wage war is no longer the sole possession of governments? Now, I’m not talking about street violence or terrorist acts; instead, I’m referring specifically to war being waged by our government (or any other). If this concept exists outside that commonly held arena, where will it lead the world?

Regrettably, from my perspective, the overtones don’t bode well for the citizens of this country because, as many of us know, the United States is already being run by a consortium of international bankers, multi-national corporations, and secret societies. What if these entities build-up an enormous network of PMCs that is eventually able to challenge our Army, Navy, Coast Guard and Air Force? Before answering, consider that our government is DEEPLY in debt … so deeply that there isn’t enough money in circulation to pay our way out of it. On the other hand, conglomerate banks and multi-national corporations are raking in untold billions in profits every year. In fact, they are precisely the entities that fund our debt and are in control of our purse strings.

With that premise in mind, what would happen if these banks and corporations continued to merge (as has been the trend) and one day say to the U.S. government (or any other): Considering our current financial and military position, we really don’t need your taxes, your environmental laws, your host of regulations, or your Congressional oversight. All we really want you to do is keep collecting taxes off your citizens, then passing it along to us.