KING GEORGE'S HESSIANS ARE COMING!!
"By perseverance and fortitude we have the prospect of a glorious issue; by cowardice and submission, the sad choice of a variety of evils-- a ravaged country-- a depopulated city-- habitations without safety, and slavery without hope-- our homes turned into barracks and bawdy-houses for Hessians, and a future race to provide for, whose fathers we shall doubt of. Look on this picture and weep over it!" The reference to "Hessians" should give you a clue that this is not some Iraqi mullah exhorting Muslims in a mosque to fight the occupiers of their country. And you'd be correct. It's a 1776 quote from the most "leftist" of the American Founding Fathers, Thomas Paine. And although it is painfully true that no one from Hesse of any other German states are fighting in Iraq, the term "Hessian" has come to mean more than soldiers from Hesse and that meaning is important in understand a key element of Bush's disastrous policies in Iraq.
If you went to junior high school in the U.S. you probably heard the fearful phrase "The Hessians are coming! The Hessians are coming!" That the German mercenary troops employed by the British in the American War of Independence were reputed to be heartless, even blood-thirsty barbarians, is part of our nation's Founding Mythology. A right-wing/militarist blog points out that "The Hessians were ruthless German mercenaries hired by King George III to fight the rebellious colonies, and were infamous for their wanton and indiscriminate cruelty. Indeed, the word 'Hessian' has often been used to describe soldiers-for-hire who rape, pillage, and lay waste to the countryside -- regardless of their national origin." There was around 30,000 of them in the British Army in the American colonies-- approximately one third of the total force. The rulers of the German principalities, not just Hesse-Kassel but also Anhalt-Zerbst, Anspach-Bayreuth, Brunswick-Luneburg, Nassau, Hesse-Hanau, and Waldeck, rented their soldiers to George III. Historian George F. Smith pointed out, in an essay about Washington's successful crossing of the Delaware to attack the British (Hessian mercenaries) in Trenton on Christmas Day that "Hessian brutality swung many New Jersey neutrals to the American cause..."
According to a recent article in JANE'S DEFENSE, the US has enormously increased is use of mercenaries, or what they prefer to call 'Private Security firms,' in Bush's war in Iraq. Use of these contractors isn't new, but never before have these mercenaries formed so much of a US military force. According to the article, "out of a total $85 billion allocated by the USA for military operations in the Middle East this year, over a third will go to private contractors" (considerably higher than the defense budgets of most countries).
Knowing Bush's rogue attitude towards treaties and international laws in general, let's leave aside, for a moment, that long established international law has prohibited the USE of mercenaries and, instead look at some of the inherent problems of their widespread use. I recall one of the first big thunderclaps about the occupation of Iraq was the mass media's hysteria and manufactured outrage when 4 mercenaries were strung up under a bridge after being killed in Falluja. Fox "News" the tails they wag at CNN and the other propaganda outlets never referred to them as mercenaries, only as "civilian contractors." You might have has the idea they were putting in asphalt driveways in a Falluja neighborhood-- or helping repair the destroyed water or electrical systems. But they weren't. They were fighting-- and fighting by their own rules. The private mercenaries in Iraq appear not to be subject to the same (Pentagon or Geneva Convention) rules as our own soldiers. They have virtually no legal restraints. The illegitimate Bush Regime, from the day they stole the election in 2000, has never played by any accepted rules in anything. Has anyone not noticed that they always look for ways to circumvent international obligations and restraints? Turning prisoners over to other countries for interrogation who don't care how they "look" about the use of torture is an example of how the short-sited, arrogant and abysmally ignorant Bush Regime attempts to get around the rules of the Geneva Conventions-- and the widespread use of mercenaries is another tune in Rumsfeld's disgraceful dancing around Truth, morality and legality. Many very serious excesses, torture and brutality have been linked to mercenaries ('private contractors') who have been hired on as interrogators of Iraqi POWs.
What is driving so many Iraqis to suicide attacks on the occupation forces (and their homegrown allies)? Even the Japanese-- remember how effectively they used kamikaze pilots in the battles of Leyte Bay and Okinawa-- eventually accepted unconditional surrender. Why are Iraqis still martyring themselves? Can it be because they have seen things our army of occupation (particularly the mercenaries) has done--mass arrests, brute force searches, random round-ups, imprisonments, humiliations and tortures... and the kind of behavior that engenders so much hopelessness as to make otherwise sane people take the prospect of martyrdom seriously. Remember, to an 18th century British Redcoat, an American "patriot" was nothing but a terrorist and a cowardly traitor, fighting behind trees and using sneak attacks, burning the homes and destroying the property of Loyalists.
Not surprisingly, the Bush corporate propaganda machine can make a lot of hay and generate a lot of emotional response towards "bloodthirsty Iraqi terrorists" who massacre fellow Iraqis who've collaborated with the American "Coalition." Yet these Iraqis wage war as the Vietcong waged it, as WE would wage it if we were the occupied country and turncoat Americans collaborated with the occupying army. We wouldn't fight fair; many Americans-- conservative or liberal-- would fight just as fiercely.
This all brings me to a piece in yesterday's NEW YORK TIMES, "The Other Army" by Daniel Bergner. It's everything-- and more-- than anyone needs to know about the U.S. use of mercenaries under the Bush Regime. It's very long. I'm going to leave out Bergner's exciting "color" and quote the main facts. He points out that no one even seems to know-- or is willing to admit knowing-- how many mercenaries, or even mercenary firms, are active in Iraq, although the figure, ironically, is similar to the numbers of Hessians the British had in the American colonies-- and between 15 and 20% of the total U.S occupation presence. (This article isn't counting military contingents sent by other governments as mercenaries, although in many cases that is exactly what they are-- and more akin to the Hessian model than the "private security firms," in which the individual mercenaries are very
highly paid; the Hessians' payment went directly to the German princes who sent them.) In any case, Bergner states that "the estimates, from industry representatives and the tiny sector of academics who study the issues of privatized war, are so vague that they serve only to confirm the chaos of Iraq and the fact that-- despite an attempt at licensing the firms by the fledgling Iraqi Interior Ministry-- no one is really keeping track of all the businesses that provide squads of soldiers equipped with assault rifles and belt-fed light machine guns." Reasonable estimates seem to range between 60 and 100 private (unregulated) firms with armed mercenaries in Iraq.
Much of Bergner's story is about one called Triple Canopy which "has about 1,000 men in Iraq, about 200 of them American and almost all the rest from Chile and Fiji. Its rivals include British firms that draw from the elite units of the U.K. military and outfits that draw from South African veterans of the wars to save apartheid. Australians and Ukrainians and Romanians and Iraqis are all making their livings in the business. Many have experience as soldiers; some have been in law enforcement. The firms guard the huge American corporations struggling to carry out Iraq's reconstruction. The private gunmen try to hold the insurgents at bay so that supplies can be delivered and power stations can be built. And companies like Triple Canopy shield American government compounds from attack. With guns poking out from sport utility vehicles, they usher American officials from meeting to meeting. They defend the buildings and people whom the insurgency would most like to reach." Another of these firms, Blackwater USA protected Paul Bremer III, surely the highest-value target when he was the U.S. tribune/dictator in Baghdad. Private gunmen guard 4 U.S. generals, and even protect large military bases as well as essential military sites like depots of captured munitions. "Yet it is hard to discern who authorized this particular outsourcing as military policy," states Bergner, as though this were an anomaly is Bush Regime operating procedure. "No open policy debate took place; no executive order was publicly issued. And who is in charge of overseeing these armed men? One thing is sure: they are crucial to the war effort. In the world of companies like Triple Canopy, a great deal of importance is attached to a very few words. The word 'mercenaries' is despised. The phrase 'private military company' is heatedly dismissed as inaccurate. 'Private security company' (or P.S.C.) is the term of art."
Bergner points out the mercenaries have been around since pre-Biblical times but that the 18th and 19th centuries brought new ideas about the "sanctity of the nation and the honor of the citizen in soldiering for it. Those who fought for profit, rather than patriotism were completely delegitimized... "and in the Geneva Conventions of 1949 it was essentially outlawed, at least in wars between nations."
"In 2002, the U.S. government hired about 40 private gunmen, from the American company DynCorp, to keep President Hamid Karzai alive in Afghanistan. And in the spring of 2003, as Gen. Jay Garner, retired, established the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, the short-lived precursor to the C.P.A., as the occupation's governing body in Iraq, the Pentagon put a small contingent of South Africans and Nepalese Gurkhas from the British firm Global Risk Strategies in charge of protecting him and his staff. 'That,' Garner told me when we spoke last month, 'was the genesis' of the rise of private security companies in Iraq. The numbers, at the start of the occupation, were not large. Then, in the second half of 2003, as the C.P.A. expanded its presence across the country in its attempt to rule and rebuild, and as the insurgency mounted, the C.P.A. turned away from the coalition forces, which had been providing a measure of protection, and looked to the companies for safety. Andrew Bearpark, the C.P.A.'s director of operations during that period, explained to me that he was closely and strongly advised by the U.S. military in Iraq -- and financed by the Department of Defense -- to make this move."
He goes on to explain that the U.S. corporations being paid BILLIONS of dollars in U.S. taxpayer money to do the rebuilding were spending up to 25% of their U.S. government money on hired protection. "The deployment of private gunmen grew and grew into a profusion that may be explained partly by the subtle shift in perception that had removed some of the old mercenary stigma, and partly by the emphasis on outsourcing that had been gathering momentum in the U.S. military since the early 1990's (but that had been focused on logistical, unarmed support). Most immediately, though, the explosive growth may be explained by the strength of the insurgency in Iraq and by the apparent fact that there weren't enough troops on the ground to fight it. (Bergner doesn't address how General Shinseki was sacked for his accurate predictions about troop strength, nor of course, how Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neill was immediately fired when he pointed out that the war would cost over $200 billion. The Bush Regime neo-cons frothed at both of these honest civil servants but both have been proven to have been tragically correct.) According to Garner, "the fundamental reason for the C.P.A.'s hiring of the companies... 'The military just hadn't provided enough numbers. It was stretched to the limit.'"
"The Department of Defense is reluctant to discuss the role of security companies in Iraq and precisely how it got so big. Over several weeks I called the Pentagon repeatedly, asking whether the secretary of defense or one of his under secretaries had, at any point, deliberated about the presence of some 25,000 armed men or perhaps authorized it in one way or another, piecemeal or in its entirety. These questions -- which no one I spoke to was able to answer -- elicited from departmental press officers a series of unfulfilled promises to help me get an answer. In the end, they sent an officially approved written statement, which detoured fully around the questions but included the key line, "P.S.C.'s are not being used to perform inherently military functions."
The Pentagon's reticence on the issue may be due to uneasiness over the now-common accusation that it didn't adequately plan for battling an insurgency. (It may view questions about private gunmen as leading inevitably to questions about troop numbers.) But there is most likely an additional discomfort, a lingering problem with the companies' public image. For the shift in perception hasn't been complete; the hated word "mercenaries" still hovers near. With this problem, the firms are doing their best to help. Many of them have tried to rechristen themselves again, to further separate themselves from the past, from the old infamy of ruthless, insurrection-stirring white freelancers in Africa, to make their work palatable to all."
"It is impossible to say exactly how many private security men have been killed in Iraq. Deaths go unreported. But the figure... is probably between 160 and 200. That's more deaths than any one of America's coalition partners have suffered. 'Some people will tell you they're here for Mom and apple pie,' a private security man with another company told me. (He didn't want his or his company's name printed, he said, because neither his colleagues nor the industry in general think kindly of conversations with the media.) 'That's bull. It's the money... I'm richer than I've ever been,' he said. 'I'm not in debt to nobody.' He had jowls and loose swells of flesh beneath his T-shirt. 'Don't let the package fool you,' the ex-Delta colonel who introduced us had told me. 'He's a commando from way back.' After a career in Special Forces, the man said, he hadn't seemed able to survive in the civilian world. Work in construction fell apart. He drank heavily. He took a job as a cashier in a convenience store -- 'till I found out I had to smile at the customers.' He laughed ruefully at his inability to adapt. But now, when his 16-year-old son sent him an e-mail message from back home in South Carolina, with a picture to prove that he'd mowed the lawn the way his mother had asked, he could buy the boy some tech equipment as a gift. 'I'll stay until this is over,' he said. 'The money's too good.' He didn't specify his salary, but Americans and other Westerners in the business tend to make between $400 and $700 a day, sometimes a good deal more. (The non-Westerners earn far less. Triple Canopy's Fijians and Chileans make between $40 and $150 dollars each week and sleep in crowded barracks at the Baghdad base, while the Americans sleep in their own dorm rooms. The company explained the difference in salaries in terms of the Americans' far superior military backgrounds and their higher-risk assignments.) "
"There is no effective regulation in Iraq of whom the firms hire or how the men are trained or how they conduct themselves. 'At best you've got professionals doing their best in a chaotic and aggressive environment,' Lyle Hendrick said in an e-mail from Iraq in July, describing his colleagues in private security there. He had spent six months with one company in the country's north and is now with another down in Basra. 'At worst you've got cowboys running almost unchecked, shooting at will and just plain O.T.F. (Out There Flappin')... This whole thing has brought out some pretty scary characters.' He mentioned a newspaper article about one of the men he'd worked alongside. The man was arrested when he went on leave back to the States. Apparently the security company hadn't done much of a background check, if it had done one at all; it turned out the man was a fugitive in Massachusetts. He had been charged with embezzlement. He had also violated the terms of a suspended sentence in a separate case, a local paper in Lowell, Mass., explained: he'd been convicted of assault 'for nearly blowing a friend's jaw off during a game of Russian Roulette.'"
"No one knows how many times gunfire from a private security team has wounded a bystander or killed an innocent driver who ventured too close to a convoy, not realizing that mere proximity would be taken for a threat. When they fire their weapons in defense or warning, the teams rarely concern themselves with checking for casualties -- it would be too dangerous; they are in the middle of a war. Besides, no one in power is watching too closely. And what rules exist seem to be ignored. A C.P.A. decree, which has now evolved into Iraqi law, limits the caliber and type of weapons that private security personnel employ. But I was told by several people in the business that, especially outside Baghdad, weapons like heavy machine guns and grenades are -- perhaps by necessity -- sometimes part of the arsenal."
"Back in October of last year, a Congressional bill demanded that the Department of Defense come up with a plan to manage the security companies -- to investigate individual backgrounds and inculcate rules of engagement and enforce compliance. Until then, according to a Pentagon official with knowledge of the process who asked not to be named because the Pentagon plan is still being finalized, the department had been at work, for many months, on doctrine dealing in a general way with all types of private contractors in Iraq but not specifically addressing the huge sector of gunmen. It seems that only the October bill drove the Pentagon to formally account for the most vital, and potentially most troubling, part of its outsourcing. Congress gave the department six months to produce its plan. Nine months have passed. The Pentagon has now promised the document any day; there's no telling whether it will change anything -- what guidelines it will give, what level of commitment will be behind them. When I asked the Pentagon official about who would enforce the rules in Iraq, I was told that the country's new sovereignty would be 'the context.' It was hard not to think that the infant government of Iraq would be left mostly on its own to control the thousands of private gunmen that the American-led occupation has introduced to the country. It was hard not to think that the companies would be left to govern themselves."
"Fourteen armed security men, traveling in a convoy through Fallujah in May, were detained by U.S. Marines, the first and only time, it appears, that the military has made such a detention. A Marine memo, quoted in The Washington Post, accused the men, who worked for a company called Zapata Engineering, of 'repeatedly firing weapons at civilians and marines, erratic driving and possession of illegal weapons' -- six anti-tank weapons, the Zapata men later explained, kept for defense and condoned, they claimed, by the U.S. military. The security men (eight of them former marines) said they had fired only typical warning shots at civilians. They insisted that their bullets had never struck close to any servicemen. They suggested that their detention -- which lasted three days before they were released, without charges so far -- was driven by jealousy over their pay. They told of being roughed up and taunted, of being asked, 'How does it feel to be a rich contractor now?' This kind of resentment may be deepening" (and) "may be corrosive. And the private security companies are, almost surely, eroding elite sectors of the military; the best-qualified troops, the men most desirable to the companies, are lured by private salaries that can be well more than twice their own. The Special Forces have lately responded with re-enlistment bonuses of up to $150,000. It's not enough. One Triple Canopy man in his mid-30's, with about 15 years of Special Operations experience, told me that his commander had begged him to stay in the service. 'But there was no way,' he said. 'Here I get to be with the best and make so much more money.' Triple Canopy, Mann had said to me, has a policy of never recruiting directly from the military. But when this man quit the Army, he knew exactly where he wanted to go. And plenty of his old friends from 'the unit' -- a Delta soldier's oblique way of referring to his exclusive caste -- were poised to follow."
"There may be a danger that something else could erode eventually, if there is a drift toward using more private gunmen -- in yet more military ways -- to compensate for the inevitable reduction of troops in Iraq or to wage other wars. There may be the loss of a particular understanding, a sense of ourselves as a society, that we hold almost sacred. Soldiering for profit was taken for granted for thousands of years, but the United States has thrived in an age when soldiering for the state -- serving your country -- has taken on an exalted status. We often question the reasons for making war, but we tend to revere the soldiers who are sent off to fight. We honor their sacrifice, we raise it up and in it we see the value of our society reflected back to us. In it we feel our special worth. We may not know what to think of ourselves if service and sacrifice are increasingly mixed with the wish for profit. We may know less and less how to feel about a state that is no longer defended by men and women we can perceive as pure. But that is an abstract and perhaps a distant worry. To wonder what will happen when the private work in Iraq finally winds down is a more concrete concern. What will happen to these companies, these men, without these thousands of jobs? Some will get contracts protecting U.S. departments and agencies around the world. Some will do the same for other governments. Doug Brooks, whose Washington industry organization, the International Peace Operations Association, represents several of the largest firms, says he believes the United Nations will soon hire the companies to guard refugee camps in war zones. But some of the firms and some of the men will no doubt be offered work by dictators or terrible insurgencies -- or by the kind of oil speculators who reportedly backed a recent mercenary-led coup plot in Equatorial Guinea (a plot involving former members of Executive Outcomes), in an attempt to install a ruler to facilitate their enterprise. And with so many newly created private soldiers unemployed when the market of Iraq finally crashes, aren't some of them likely to accept such jobs -- the work of mercenaries in the chaotic territories of the earth?"
What about in the U.S.? Bergner didn't get into it but one of the companies is providing patrols throughout Iraq and its arsenal ranges from M4 assault rifles to 20mm cannons mounted on its own helicopters. The company operates firing training ranges in the USA and actively recruits for what, to all intents and purposes, is now a private army. It is all perfectly legal. And, worse, some people think that creating chaos and mayhem in Iraq is part of the neo-con grand scheme. Let's face it, occupation forces use terrorism to 'fight terrorism' and only create more terrorists. We see this in both the Israeli and US occupations. It's not "an accident or an oversight of brilliant military strategists, but an intentional strategy used to maintain chaos and justify ongoing occupation. Occupation becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, using 'security' to exploit, dominate, and colonize," wrote Joe Carr in his book, THE SELF-FULFILLING PROPHESY OF OCCUPATION.