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PMC's - The Disturbing Future of Warfare

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 they 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's who have served in Iraq have been charged with war crimes in contrast to 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. They are not ruled by any law while working in 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 year or $1,000 per day) of these companies. If I were a soldier $100,000 would be a lot more appealing 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, 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. Mercenaries can actually live their lives 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 Force will safely perform their bombing missions from thousands of feet in the air and the Marines, Army, and Navy 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 that 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 soldiers 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 with 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:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RXgcQNsUKO0

October 14, 1960, 2:00 a.m...

...John F. Kennedy gave a short speech at the University of Michigan challenging students to give a few years of their lives to their country and to a greater cause. Weeks later 1000 students at the University, inspired by the speech, had created "Americans Committed to World Responsibility" and signed a petition calling for the creation of the Peace Corps agency. That impromptu speech on that early October morning spawned events leading to the creation of the Peace Corps, an organization that has served in 138 different countries with the dedication of over 182,000 volunteers. 

A Timeline

October 14, 1960 - Speech at the University of Michigan

January 20, 1961 - President Kennedy's Innaugural address.

March 1, 1961 - President Kennedy creates Peace Corps by issuing an executive order (page 1, page 2).

August 28, 1961 - First volunteers depart to Ghana and Tanzania.

September 22, 1961 - Congress makes it official by passing Public Law 87-293 (page 1, page 2).

December 1961 - 750 volunteers have already started programs in 13 countries.

Is it just me or do things fail to get accomplished as fast or as efficiently as this anymore? Less than a year from the day Kennedy inspired thousands of young students, volunteers were on the ground in Ghana and Tanzania working to disseminate the message of the Peace Corps to "promote world peace and friendship".

Today's political promises rarely amount to much more than rhetoric and charades. For example, our current president stated that the Millenium Development Goals were important but later bogs progress of its signing down with the attempted addition of 750 ammendments to a 29 page document which had been committed to in September of 2000 during the Clinton administration. In the political realm this is the equivalent of a veto while avoiding a huge political backlash. My favorite useless amendment has to be a request to stop using the term "Millennium Development Goals" - a term accepted by all other member nations. We've gone from welcoming progress and embracing it at amazing speeds to undermining progress and harming the image portrayed to the world. To further illustrate this, take the promise President Bush made in 2005 of $5 billion a year for the Millennium Challenge Corporation from 2006 onward. President Bush managed to only ask for $3 billion in the 2006 budget and so far congress has only supplied $2.5 billion. (This year the US military budget is $449 billion dollars and the Iraq war has cost over $300 billion thus far.) Since when did we stop becoming a people of our word? Since when did we stop becoming a leader on issues such as these? Of course money isn't everything when it comes to helping other nations and the half of the world living on less than $2 a day but as the richest and most powerful nation in the world we should be on the forefront of almost every issue, especially the fight against poverty. When the national security strategy of the United States states that,

“A world where some live in comfort and plenty, while half of the human race lives on less than $2 a day, is neither just nor stable.â€

something certainly needs to change. Why not meet these goals and take the lead? Why not an executive order to press for them? We promised to meet the .7% of GDP way back in 1970. It's never too late.
 

Goat Birthday and Seth's Homecoming

Aaron is weird :) They made a Goat Pie for me and got a cake for Seth with the infamous buck picture on it. Seth was in the hospital for a few weeks with viral pnemonia. We're all happy you are alive Seth!

ONE.org Video and comments

[video]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0G3bNxStYBI[/video]

Every politician says they agree with issues such as world poverty and helping catastrophe victims but how many of them actually push and continue to maintain their energy past their campaign trails? Enough people think that they are doing a lot to combat these issues but when it comes down to it almost every politician receives an F on their political report cards for their efforts.

Perception: Polls have shown that, on average,
Americans believe 24% of the federal budget
goes to development assistance. (150 times the actual amount)

Reality: U.S. leaders allocate less than .16% of
the budget to aid (last among wealthy nations).

Approximately 790 million people in the developing world are still chronically undernourished, almost two-thirds of whom reside in Asia and the Pacific.9

Nearly a billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names.10

HIV/AIDS has created more than 14 million orphans — 92 percent of them live in Africa 11

The fact that the US is last among wealthy nations when it comes to budget contributions isn't something that's exactly published. Of course we do have generous people and organizations that continue to do a lot of private acts to help the situations the poverty stricken people are facing but when political promises are made they should be kept. President Bush made promises in his inaugural address that he would meet the millenium devlopment goals and "change trade rules, forgive debt and raise aid spending to 0.7 percent of their gross national incomes". This promise needs to be kept!

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