Private Military Contracting is now becoming a very lucrative business. Should we be concerned?
A private military contractor (AKA - PMC, private corporate soldier, mercenary, private military company) is a person/company paid by governments to perform everything from providing federal armies with lunch to assassinations of foreign leaders. Currently PMCs make up the second largest contingent of the coalition forces and since these companies are hired by governments and not a government regulated industry theyÂ are independent and don't have to abide by many of the rules that military forces do. In fact, since the beginning of the war none of the 20,000 PMC'sÂ who have servedÂ in Iraq have been charged with war crimesÂ in contrast toÂ the many soldiers who have been court martialed from infractions as minor as military code violations to as appalling as murder.
When US military soldiers are ordered to stop firing PMC's can continue to fire. In fact PMC's can initiate fire whenever they please.Â They are not ruled by any lawÂ while working inÂ foreign nations except their own. Recently, many Special Forces soldiers from Britain and the US have been lured by the high pay (many start at $100,000 a yearÂ or $1,000 per day)Â of these companies. If I were a soldier $100,000 would be a lot more appealingÂ than a salary a little larger than the minimum wage, especially since most soldiers have only a High School Diploma and nothing to look forward to but a low paying job once they return from duty.
I was told about PMCs by a marine friend of mine. He said that when he was over there, "The mercenaries did the majority of the fighting." He also said that they had full body armer and top of the line gear. The idea of working as a mercenary appealed to him but his attempts to get into Blackwater failed.
Today, governments could not perform many operations without them. The Guardian even states:
"The private sector is so firmly embedded in combat, occupation and peacekeeping duties that the phenomenon may have reached the point of no return: the US military would struggle to wage war without it." (Link)
For me this is all very disturbing. These mercenaries answer to no one but themselves, not even the Geneva Conventions,Â although a larger cost is paid if they are captured: mercenaries that are captured are considered unlawful combatants and not prisoners of war.
I think the problems of having a force that abides by no rules are pretty apparent.Â Mercenaries canÂ actually live their livesÂ by the old saying, "Kill 'em all and let god sort 'em out" without fear or repercussions. The problem deepens when the use of contractors is on a steady rise. During Desert Storm the ratio of service men and women to private contrators was 100:. In Iraq the ratio is 10:1.
Of course this is an all-to-perfect scenario for politicians who have to answer to the loss of American lives fighting in foreign nations. Today, the Iraq war remains a top issue in the minds of Americans as they go to the polls a week from today and supporters of the war are taking a beating. Perhaps 10 years from now the ratio of contractors to service men and women will be 1:1 and there will be no political backlash for entering into a war. The Air ForceÂ will safely perform their bombing missions from thousands of feet in the air and the Marines, Army, and NavyÂ will sit back on their cots talking via Satellite to their familes and friends back home. We could safely secure every resource from oil to water thatÂ we Americans need to maintain our lifestyle with very few lives lost.
For a list of notable missions performed by PMCs have a look at this artical in The Atlantic.
Should we really be hiring contractors to interrogate prisoners of war?
I believe something has to be done about putting an end to the hiring of military contractors serving as soldiersÂ by the US government. The military slush fund that allows for these hirings needs to have some restrictions put on them as well as some rules and closer oversight. Of course, there isn't a politician with a spine strong enough to tackle something like this. Almost immediately they will be labeled withÂ rhetoric like "militarily weak" and "un-Patriotic".
If you're a recent SF retiree here are some job listings: http://www.sfahq.org/jobs/Job_Opportunities.php
And here's a Blackwater video for enticement: