Sunday, September 25, 2005
A comment from Mefi about the situation of 'military contractors' in New Orleans
We are supposed to be americans governed by an american government, not the supplicants of a corporation that has no more interest in our personal well being than a middle-ages lord does for his serfs.
posted by mk1gti at 6:49 PM PST on September 24
This is supposed to be the United States, Not Fucking Bosnia...
umm some of this shit didn't even happen in BiH! I am more and more against the use of 'military contractors' in any situation. It's bad enough people hire private security and private investigators. I don't care for the fact these contractors are paid ten times what a proper soldier is paid either. I have a good bit of respect for the regular army, I know a lot of folks out there think I'm your basic bleeding heart liberal but there's things that the Army is good for, and I respect soldiers. I have met very few of them I didn't like as people.
The thing is that it's harder, far harder even in an un-free society to get away with misuseing a proper army, but military contractor is an Orwellian 'newspeak' it should really be 'mercenary' That is the job.
Oh one article had one of these 'military contractors' say 'New Orleans, cool! What country is that in?' jebiga! excuse me while I puke!
I have had some problems with the links thingie here on Blogger, it's got me very angry, I had a long post on the demonstrations against the war here in our humble gulag, and the hurricanes and floods and some of the disgusting aftermath of these events, but links that illustrate my points could not be put in and I have saved the draft for until Blogger removes it's head from it's rectum. I don't know what it is, I put links in a post just a bit earlier today no problem.
baaah got homework bilokako later prijatelji!
If you go to www.blackwaterusa.com you will find they are seeking "contractors" for employment in Louisiana.
With the potential of making 9,000 dollars a month I've got to admit I almost went. I've actually turned down a position with Blackwater in Iraq.
But, I don't understand the problem people have with these "types" going in. In this instance they are not "military contractors". Blackwater is a privately owned civilan security company that has wone some government contracts.
I doubt you will see these "military-contractors" gunning down just anyone.
If you like you can visit Blackwater's web site and sign up for their "Blackwater Tactical Weekly". Since the hurricane Katrina hit there has been a segment in this newsletter about the ongoing operation Blackwater has there.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not defending Blackwater nor am I angry if I sound like it in my writing.
The simple truth of the matter is these "Military Contractors", in most cases, are better trained, equipped and in much better shape than your average "local" security or law enforcement agency. With all due respect to these agencies of course.
I don't know, I just don't see them as MERCs or bad guys. Visit the above web site and suscrive to their newsletter and read for yourself.
If you want a real MERC site visit, www.sandline.com; here you will find secrecy and games one must play before being employed with these guys. I haven't been there in a while so I hope the site still opens.
I know "Executive Outcomes" took some heat in Africa and has since changed it's site address, name and everything else.
I'm at the begining of my busiest day of the week.
It's not so much the guys who go, some of them are indeed very good at what they do, if you read the original articles in Metafilter you would have read of some things that make me go hmmm...
I think haveing security and military functions privatized is more of a bad thing than a good thing. It's my personal opinion based on 52 years of being alive and personal observation. I could be wrong, I could be partly wrong.
Executive Outcomes is a particularly bad outfit. For the record I'm glad you didn't go to Iraq. The situation there is razjebao.
On the flip side, you also have a few very mean, "kill-anything" types. These kinds of guys usually end up "black-balling" themselves from a unit or an entire company and never get a call back.
One has to remember though the nature of this kind of work, especially in hostile countries like Iraq. In urban areas there will be "collateral" damage; it's just the nature of war.
When you’re on an "operation" all that matters is the objective, your "principle" and of course the "buddy" to the left and right of you, and not necessarily in that order.
The other problem is the accoutability problem, in a regular army, sooner or later if a guy is one of those 'kill anything that moves hey let's just do the village jebiga!' types, there is still a chance that justice will catch up to him (or her!) my illustration being Lyndie England and the fact she and her boyfriend wound up getting court martialed. or the various war criminals who have wound up in front of the Hague Tribunal. Basically contractors, as you mentioned before in your own blog, are more immune from repercussions.
I will grant that many contractors ARE in better shape than the police or local National Guard guys, I will grant that many of them do a fine job, but unfortunately there is no oversight, and that is a problem that can lead to bad deeds being unpunished.
Latin America and Africa have suffered greatly from hired help in the security and military business for these very reasons. It's not a situation I want to see in this country.
In Africa or in certain parts of Latin America, if a company wants a piece of land, they hire a bunch of guys to show up with personel carriers and automatic weapons and big black SUVs and they show up, burn these people out, kill them and voila! instant oil field!
I don't want that to happen in this country. Don't think it can't, we are on a very slipperly slope here.
Some of the concerns I raised about a sort of 'Private U.N.' apply here.
Thanks for visiting, I appreciate your input and perspective.
If I were a LA native and one of these Blackwater guys came up to me and gave me an order I would laugh in his face. he has no authority over any civilian. He is simply there to provide a service for a client.
Who ever that client may be it doesn't matter. In America these contractors will never become a major player in the way things work because the CEOs of the corporate world know this and will not risk the legal ramifications.
I think the LA contractors by Blackwater are is being blown out of porportion. They are a very small group of men.
The leadership and management of Blackwater simply saw a moneymaking opportunity in N.O. and proposed a contract.
If the "operators" on the ground can make 9 grand a month I can tell you corportate is making at least twice that amount per individual operator off the client.
Like I mentioned on my blog. Ninety-nine percent of the clients are conned or scammed into beleiveing they need all this protection. They are scared, paranoid and are willing to do just about anything to insure their safty and the safty of their assets.
When it all boils down to it, as America is concerned; military contractors have the same authrority as "SMITH" security. Just because they look all gung-ho and are well trained and equipped doens't give them any extra authority.
What's funny though is how the average citizen can be "tricked" into thinking they have much more authroity than they do by this "professional" image.
If one of thse contractors were to violate any crime here in America they would be subject to that local jouridictions criminal justice system, what ever state or county it may be. There would be no getting out of it simply because they are contractors.
About the private UN company. I guess it would take a core group of leaders and managers to be moraly responsible enough to make sure things of this nature come with a zero tolerance police. Yea I know, easier said than done.
You could laugh in the face of one of these guys partly because you've done this sort of work,partly because you do know the laws, and partly because you are doubtless trained in self defense, how to use firearms etc.
Most people don't have that training, and most people don't have firearms.
I don't know how a court case would go with this really, I'd have to hurt my eyes and read some case law, which I don't have time for right now given my academic load right now.
I do know that if one of the less than ok types did shoot someone, it would be too late.
Soldiers can get court martialed if they do shit they shouldn't do. They come under US Military Justice Code, which is very strict.
I just have more confidence in the military even under Bush than I do in some corporate CEO.
I, as a legally sworn, commissioned police officer would have more authority over these contractors who are mere security guards when you strip off all the gear and hard faces, and it would be my duty as a police officer to arrest this man/men.
I could be wrong but, I bet these contractors in N.O. were hired by some rich business owners through Blackwater to protect their assets and to provide executive protection for these rich business owners as they travel in and out of N.O., or something similar in nature.
If in fact the U.S. Government is the client they could be there to protect vital, sensitive government equipment or Government civilian employees conducting their day to day routine. They would not be actively engaged in "offensive" operations such as patrolling, searching house to house.ect..ect..like the National Guard and 82nd.
You wrote, "Soldiers can get court martialed if they do shit they shouldn't do. They come under US Military Justice Code, which is very strict."
True, but on the flip side, American Civilians fall under the U.S. Penal Code offenses and American Justice/legal system, especially when working inside American territory. These contractors are American citizens and would have to answer accordingly.
I would like you to read the article I linked to on Posse Comitatus, which is a very important consideration in any debate on the use of either military or security contractors, as opposed to the use of the U.S. Army, or the National Guard, and indeed of when and how they are used. There has been more govno put out lately about this subject and a balanced view of Posse Comitatus is very important to the discussion.
The reason why I want you to read it is because that is my primary objection.
You are in this line of work so it gives you two things an old granma isn't going to EVER have, 1. a vested interest, (at my age, no one is going to hire me to do this sort of job! Even though I'm in very respectable physical shape for my age!)
2. An insider's perspective, which is very valuable to any discussions of this.
The fact these companies are hired by very wealthy people is both totally understandable and very disquieting.
Not all very wealthy individuals and companies think they are above the law, and like anyone else they have the right to protect their assets. If you have very great assets of any sort, extraordinary means of defending these assets are perfectly understandable and reasonable.
I will grant you that the average guy in one of these private security companies is not a cold blooded killer, the average guy in it is probably about like you, good at his work, decent, a good citizen.
Probably a far better citizen than the rich guy who hires such companies.
Right now one of the very interesting things that is occuring is that it's being revealed that maybe there were fewer deaths than reported in New Orleans. ONE death is too many, but in a disaster of such proportions, one expects more, and Lord knows the reports were horrific.
The rich men of property can't be faulted for wanting some means of defence under such conditions, even given that there were fewer deaths by violent action than reported. If you have the means to protect yourself, then you can and should do it.
The problem comes down to what orders a company may be given, and may accept.
I lived in my childhood in Mexico, and it was not unusual for rich men to hire 'pistoleros'. Admittedly 'pistoleros' are NOT professional security, and were never trained as well as employees in even the least desireable private security firms let alone employees of even the least desireable military contractors.
Still guys like this in Mexico could and did get away with murder. They were to be feared. They were in fact above the law in many ways.
What I am concerned about here is the slow slide to something similar in the U.S.
I've lived to see the U.S. become more Balkans and more like Latin America withour getting ANY of the GOOD points of those cultures and places.
If you read the article on Posse Comitatus you will see more clearly what disturbs me most about this trend.
If you were a New Orleans cop and your weapons were not as good as the contractors weapons, you could have law on your side, but in a situation of chaos, the superior weapons are going to be decisive.
This could be an argument for arming and training regular police and the National Guard better as much as anything eles.
I am even willing to concede that since the reports that came from the Superdome and the Convention Center as to deaths were exagerated, it is very likely the reports of the behavior of contractors in New Orleans were also exagerated.
Still another thing bothers me that is more Balkans and Latin than when I was a young person, and that is the level of political division in our country, and the level of incompetant reporting and the level of political slant and propaganda foisted on a population which hasn't got the mental training to detect these things but that is another discussion, I've wandered from the main point.
If it's only rich individuals and corporations useing private security and military contractors that is still a disquieting trend,that the government increasingly feels this need is even worse, because it is a workable way around Posse Comitatus, and because maybe a contractor has less legal power than I do, but has WAY more firepower than I ever will, and I still say in certain circumstances is going to be very likely to use it when it should not in fact be used.
Definately not everyone who hires contractors has either your sense or your character, and not everyone hired has your sense or character.
Not that I for a moment think it gets better among the military, but there is less of a financial motive simply because the pay is less.
The military still has some ethos of serveing the people, and that makes a difference. The military are sworn to uphold the Constitution against all foes foreign and domestic.
That is not the case with private security contractors and private military contractor so far as I know.
There is in my mind a great deal of nobility in the Soldiers Oath for the very reason that you swear to uphold the United States Constitution, a document nobler than any I can think of written by human agency!
The general lack of governmental support for Private Military Companies willing to help end armed conflicts in places like Africa, in the absence of effective international intervention, is the reason for this decision. Without such support the ability of Sandline to make a positive difference in countries where there is widespread brutality and genocidal behaviour is materially diminished.
Email Sandline International at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Blackwater site is most interesting, I will be visiting it again for more intensive perusal.
I fail to see the connection of race riots, racial discrimination and civil rights as it relates to this Hurricane. I also disagree with the authors claim that there was a reluctance to use Government resources.
This worst case scenario (breaking levies) resulted in an entire city being flooded. A flood of this magnitude was not taken into account as far as the Government’s preparation for response goes.
I would be willing to bet President Bush put Katrina on the backburner of his mind which was filled with other, seemingly more important war on terror issues. Like a mother cooking dinner for a 10 member family Mr. Bush occasionally looked back at this backburner while giving more attention to the front meals cooking which he thought was more important at the time.
What Mr. Bush didn’t count on was a malfunction in the meal on this backburner as it suddenly flared up and threatened danger to this family if not handled appropriately. As in N.O. Mr. Bush didn’t have the necessary items in place standing by ready to quench this potential flair up. He used vital minuets searching the cupboard for items to assist him but, he eventually found the items and quelled the flair up.
My point here is; Mr. Bush, FEMA and the local L.A.- N.O. authorities just didn’t have the resources to respond accordingly to this “worst-case-scenario” because it really wasn’t taken serious enough given the track record of hurricane hits in this region.
It’s virtually impossible to quickly respond to a disaster of such a scale in an efficient manner without being properly prepared for it beforehand. There are just too many people and variables involved.
With this being said, though, the Government is still to blame, for they should have listened to all the experts and prepared for this worst case. I think too many “false-alarms” made the Government not want to front the money needed for such a response team standing by in the off chance the levies did break and N.O. found it’s self destroyed.
As far as Marshal Law in concerned; in my mind the Government has the responsibility to it’s citizens to ensure the safety and well being of those citizens not involved in criminal activity.
Given the large amount of criminals inside a large urban environment, which by comparison is only a small percentage of the population but, very havoc reeking none the less given the vulnerability of your average law abiding citizen caught up in such a catastrophe, Marshal Law is needed at least initially.
When the Government responds and declares Marshal Law they have the authority to federalize local State and County agencies giving these agencies the authority to enforce the rules and regulations restricted upon citizens under the rule of Marshall Law.
Whether or not the Government could legally “federalize” private “military-contractors” I doubt very seriously and would seem to be a high risk liability issue just waiting for the flood waters to crash the levies of a series of lawsuits.
If in fact these military contractors were “federalized” then they would be tasked with the authority to enforce every rule, policy and regulation that comes with Marshal Law. It’s under these circumstances that I would be against military contractors engaged in such activities. It would seem to me as a conflict of interest as far as this profession goes and I doubt very seriously such a thing would ever occur.
The case now, though, is these military contractors in N.O. are simply civilians and are governed by the rule of law the same as that grandmother caught up in flood waters. They even have to follow the law and respond the same as a “responsible citizen would respond” under harsh circumstances in their duties of protecting what ever they were hired to protect just the same as a shop owner protecting his store from looters.
Say for instance a two man military contractor team engaged a group of looters in a shootout in downtown N.O. If a single bullet from the weapons of these contractors was to kill an innocent bystander they potentially could face manslaughter charges just the same as if a shop owner killed an innocent bystander shooting it out with looters trying to protect his store. I could see a civil case in this instance even if a grand jury failed to indict anyone on manslaughter charges.
One more thing to take into account here is these “automatic” weapons these military contractors are “reported” to be carrying are not really automatic. If they are they are violating the law or somehow got around the law, but I doubt the later very seriously.
Any civilian can go and by a semi-automatic weapon that looks exactly like the three burst rifles the Army carries. A soldier in the Army doesn’t even have fully automatic M16s anymore. Years ago they were converted to shoot three bursts of rounds at once per trigger pull. This occurred to try and conserve round usage during combat. The selector switch on the M16 and many variations of the M16 have a Safe, Semi and Burst toggles one can rotate up or down with the thumb given the need. Civilians are prohibited from owning this kind of M16 though.
Given the lawlessness in N.O. I could see how a local cop could ignore the law prohibiting the carry of a rifle in city limits if used in a security employment issue by a licensed security company. As the months go on, though, so does the threat level by the thugs, gangs and looters which would also reduce the level of “arms” carried out in the open by a security company if rifles are even employed now.
I hope all this made some kind of sense to you. I just personally don’t ever see the U.S. Government using these contractors for operations inside the borders of America. The reason there seems to an influx of such contractors now a days is because there simply just isn’t enough Soldiers to fill all the jobs. I’m sure a client would rather have a low paid soldier verses a highly paid civilian contractor inside Iraq. The ranks of the Army would be stretched too thin if they were to suddenly get rid of all the contractors and fill their jobs with Soldiers.
It's the kind of article that has to be read several times slowly to sink in, to make sense. Those New York types do that! :)
I think you raise good points about the liability side of the issue. REPUTABLE firms of this kind would not want to be federalized and would stick to their side of the job, which is protecting private assets for private pay.
I think we both realize one of the flaws of the New Yorker is that it comes from a certain type of East Coast perspective. I'm aware of the adjustments made to automatic weapons in use by the U.S. Armed Forces, and the legalities about what is and is not allowed with automatic and semi automatic weapons. Some of those people in New York are not. They used to have almost draconian gun control in New York, it was called 'The Sullivan Law' My late mother was very proud of haveing succesfully violated this law! :)
Remember I'm an army brat and not afraid of firearms or against them, they have many legitimate uses, self defence, National defence, hunting, sports. I used to go shooting on a regular basis with my late step dad, you'd be shocked how many visually impaired people like to go out shooting and are good at it. I used to be pretty good if I say so myself.
As far as not enough troops to run the war, yeah that's a serious problem.
I'd say that lots of people out there realize this war may not be for the best, may not be accomplishing what it was suposed to accomplish, and no one is going to go in as a soldier if they can go as a contractor and make really good money.
That said, I worry about a country which goes to wars that do not enjoy whole hearted public support.
I worry that it is so necessary to use contractors in this war.
There have been some problems with contractors in Iraq, not contractors doing bad stuff, because for the most part they haven't, certain companies yes but not most of them.
The inability to federalize private contractors in one of these situations is really kind of a disadvantage.
You are correct that relieveing a huge mega disaster like Katrina isn't going to go off smoothly. Even stageing supplies is only of limited value in such a situation. I lived at one point in my life through an average of one national disaster every two years, and had to set aside food and water for myself and two kids, I still have disaster supplies on hand always, I live near an active volcano. My family also lived near a river that likes to flood badly every couple of years. So we had evacuation drills regularly and my parents kept an evacuation kit in the station wagon.
When I lived in Mexico, same thing, less government help possible, at one point we lived near a river that flooded, I still have a little picture of the Virgen de San Juan that went through one of those floods, I keep that picture on a special altar in my home. It used to have a kind of round convex frame that I was never able to replace. My parents took us kids to Mexico City and we stayed in the Hotel Majestic a week or two. Then my mom left us with friends so she and my dad could pick up the mess. It was shortly after my family arrived in Mexico. This little river flooded every year, and sometimes went up to the house. It was a given.
EVERY book or pamphlet I've ever seen on disaster preparedness recomends keeping a minimum of three days worth of food, medicine, clothes, emergency fuels, and water for each family member and pet. Ideally you want to have three weeks worth, at least, but NEVER ever less than three days worth. That should tell any person with a lick of sense that in certain conditions you will have to wait for help. I think a lot of the people slamming the President over the relief effort are not being realistic about big disasters.
I don't like President Bush very much, nor did I like his father. In fact I really don't like the whole family.That said, I don't like even people I dislike being treated unfairly for ideological reasons.
I do think though the President has taken a bum rap on how this went from certain people in the media and in politics.
You can only stage things so much without risking the loss of those supplies.
The article did point out that both the New Orleans and Lousiana authorities did NOT take care of business.
FEMA was part of the problem too.Both the Red Cross and
Walmart had staged truck loads of food and water and stuff and FEMA and the local authorities didn't let them in, they didn't let in the Red Cross either! Some of that was FEMA and some was local idiots.
No way the President had anything to do with that!
The breaking of the levy is part of a longer problem, a lot of our infrastructure in this country really dates to the Roosevelt era, and needs updateing, and that is a combined state federal sin by ommission. Again hardly the fault of this president, that's better than half a century of neglect.
I do think Martial Law should have been declared righ away. You and I totally agree there! That is about the only thing I really fault Bush on.
I think he was afraid to do it for political reasons, but this was an unprecedented level of chaos, and it would have been wise to do it. It's not like declareing Martial Law has never occured in U.S. history, it's happened before for way less than this hurricane business!