- Thomas Paine saw the United States as an "asylum
for mankind." Sadly, under the political and social dominance of the
Social Darwinists, America has become more of an "asylum for the insane".
Torture, state-sponsored terrorism, illegal wars, flagrant disregard for
international law, tax decreases for the wealthy, funding cuts for social
safety net programs, government endorsed racism, and diasporas in the aftermath
of natural disasters are but a few examples of the handiwork of the wealthy
elite as they create a gross perversion of Paine's vision of the US. Not
to worry though. America's patrician class now has its own private armies
to protect its gold from the proletariat they so graciously tolerate.
- Recently, a company called Blackwater Lodge and Training
Center, Inc. ("Blackwater") unleashed some attorneys on me for
an editorial I published on Thomas Paine's Corner (my blog). The article
was by another writer and I had published it under Fair Use since my blog
generates no revenue. Blackwater's legal representatives threatened me
with a libel suit and demanded that I depublish the article because it
contained factual inaccuracies. After some research I agreed with them
and removed the article from Thomas Paine's Corner. However, in the course
of my research, I made some startling discoveries about the corporate mercenaries
of Blackwater and their disturbing relationship with the US government,
which clearly illustrates the threat America's parasitic aristocracy poses
to the poor, working and middle class of the world.
- Martial law? Here?
- As some have written and conjectured, the Posse Comitatus
Act (passed by Congress during Reconstruction to prevent the government
from using the military to enforce civilian law) is in serious jeopardy
of going the way of the dinosaurs. Signs of ill portent for the Act are
its statutory rather than Constitutional nature (leaving it much more vulnerable
to legislative changes), the federal government's use of the military to
fight the "War on Drugs" along America's borders, the precedent
set by the deployment of Blackwater's military proxies in New Orleans,
and the Bush Regime's repeated statement of its intention to rely heavily
upon the military in times of domestic crisis (i.e. during future hurricanes,
a potential outbreak of Avian Flu). Unfortunately, Posse Comitatus affords
the American public about as much protection from martial law (at the whim
of our deranged president) as the levees provided New Orleans from the
ravages of Katrina.
- Tell me sweet little lies
- In a time that is roughly comparable to that of the Gilded
Age, corporations and the wealthy elite in the United States revel in their
virtually unparalleled power and wealth. Labor unions, whose membership
peaked at 35% of the hourly wage force in the 1950's, now comprise less
than 10% of the US work force. The wealth gap continues to widen to devastating
proportions as the middle class slowly disappears. Statistically, unemployment
is relatively low, but many of those who are working are under-employed
or working multiple jobs just to make ends meet. As the wealthy elite continue
to tighten the screws by raising regressive taxes and lowering progressive
taxes, lowering wages and benefits for the working class, off-shoring jobs,
and cutting social programs, the threat of riots and social unrest becomes
real. Hence the Bush Regime's moves to lay the foundation for declaring
martial law and the rising fortunes of companies providing private military
forces, like Blackwater.
- Blackwater provides an interesting solution to the Bush
Regime's dilemma in satiating its desire to employ martial law covertly.
Despite their Social Darwinism, America's leaders prefer to maintain the
illusion of "democracy and freedom" to keep the masses pacified.
Just as they did in New Orleans, the federal government can now utilize
the paramilitary employees of a company such as Blackwater to replace the
overt presence of the US military. Rumsfeld, Chertoff, and company demonstrated
that they can deploy a domestic military presence "under the radar",
enabling them to side-step potential public backlash and legal challenges.
- Their reach is global and they are not your average "civilians"
- Here is what Blackwater has to say about itself on its
Website at http://www.blackwaterusa.com/:
- We have established a global presence and provide training
and operational solutions for the 21st century in support of security and
peace, and freedom and democracy everywhere.
- Blackwater's global presence includes Iraq, where the
murder of four of their employees triggered the US military's vengeful
attack on Fallujah in which it committed heinous war crimes and atrocities
against hundreds of Iraqi civilians. Why the four Blackwater contractors
were near Fallujah the day of their deaths remains unclear. The mainstream
media, Blackwater and the US government claim that they were on security
detail protecting a food delivery. However, some suggest that the claims
of protecting a food caravan were a ruse to cover the fact that Blackwater
employees were completing a military operation. While the facts remain
unclear, it is certain that the mainstream media's portrayal of the Blackwater
victims as "civilian contractors" was significantly inaccurate.
- According to the Revolutionary Worker (http://rwor.org/a/1236/blackwater.htm):
- Soon after the four U.S. "civilian contractors"
died in Fallujah, it became obvious they weren't "civilians"
at all. All four were trained commandos--at least three had years of experience
in elite U.S. military units. They were working for the private mercenary
army called "Blackwater USA." All were heavily armed. One carried
a Department of Defense ID card.
- Revolutionary Worker also indicated:
- Increasingly, however, the main work of Blackwater has
been deploying its own mercenary army-- recruited from elite U.S. military
forces (especially from Navy SEALS and Marine Recon), SWAT police forces,
and international "soldiers of fortune." In February it started
training former Chilean commandos--some of whom served under the dictatorship
of Augusto Pinochet--for use in Iraq.
- In August 2003, Blackwater was awarded a $21 million
contract to supply security guards and two helicopters for Paul Bremer
III, head of the U.S. occupation in Iraq. Other Blackwater operations in
Iraq are merely described as full protective teams "for any threat
- In light of the International Convention Against the
Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries of 1989, the US
military and Blackwater are careful to frame Blackwater's mission in Iraq
as security-related, but many of their employees are former military special
ops, often heavily armed and working in dangerous combat areas. One would
be foolish to believe that they would not become embroiled in combat, and
once they do, the question becomes, "under the Geneva Convention,
are they considered to be civilians or soldiers?" One particular danger
to Iraqi civilians is that Blackwater "security" personnel are
not subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, so if they do commit
a crime, there is very little accountability. In the past, US mercenaries
committing serious crimes while on assignment in foreign nations simply
lost their jobs as punishment. US military and civilian courts lacked the
jurisdiction, will, or capacity to prosecute them. In 2000, the US Congress
passed the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act to provide a means
for punishing civilian (and perhaps mercenary) personnel assigned to the
military for committing crimes in foreign nations. Unfortunately, this
law has yet to make much impact.
- Business as usual: rewards for the elites and risks for
the rest of us
- Blackwater offers several advantages to the Bush Regime
in its imperialist endeavors. The military can lower "body counts"
by employing more private contractors and fewer military personnel. Forces
provided by Blackwater are less subject to Congressional oversight and
public scrutiny than the conventional military. The availability of "guns
for hire" negates the need for a highly unpopular draft and helps
fill in gaps left by military recruitment shortages. As far back as May
of 2004, the number of employees deployed to Iraq by private security firms,
including Blackwater, was 20,000.
- 20,000 is a very significant number. The US government
is relying heavily on private corporations like Blackwater, which demonstrates
the Bush Regime's fetish with privatization (to benefit the wealthy and
corporations) even extends to military operations. Unfortunately for the
American people, as is true with most privatization schemes, the cost is
high to the poor and working class. A typical Blackwater contract soldier
reportedly makes six figures per year. Risking their lives side by side
with people making five times their salary is tough on the morale of US
troops. The lure of higher salaries naturally leads to a drain of talent
from the US military, particularly in special ops. While the US needs to
end its imperial conquest in Iraq and scale its military down significantly,
we still need a standing army (which is accountable to the representatives
of the people) of qualified, well-equipped individuals to provide for the
national defense. Bypassing oversight by Congress by employing private
warriors, the Bush Regime is increasing its opportunities to violate the
Geneva Conventions and the US Constitution it so loathes. At the same time,
it exposes the American people to the dangers of the fickle loyalties of
avaricious corporations and their employees.
- Since it began its involvement in the Bush Regime's "War
on Terror", Blackwater has been the defendant in at least two lawsuits.
Family members of the four Blackwater employees killed in Fallujah are
pursuing legal action against Blackwater for failure to properly equip
its employees. Blackwater and its aviation subsidiary also face litigation
stemming from the deaths of three US soldiers killed in a plane crash in
- Read the following written by Kristin Collins at http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=12400
and draw your own conclusions about our "friends" at Blackwater:
- According to the suit, the plane lacked even the most
basic safety equipment. It had no global positioning system or radar. Its
crew did not wear oxygen masks. And its two pilots, who had been in Afghanistan
only two weeks and had never flown the route before, failed to take the
basic step of filing a flight plan, leading to a delay in finding the wreckage.
- That delay could have been fatal for Miller, who apparently
survived the crash. When his body was found, it was clear he had gotten
out of the wreckage, smoked a cigarette, pulled out a sleeping bag and
tried to find shelter, said Robert Spohrer, a Florida lawyer who is representing
- "These contractors are certainly in a position to
make a lot of money from the government," said Jeanette McMahon, whose
husband, Michael, died in the crash. "But they have to take their
jobs as seriously as the military."
- Blackwater officials said Monday they had nothing to
do with the doomed flight.
- The company's lawyer, Jonathan Stern of Washington, said
in a statement that the government contracted with Presidential Airways
of Florida, not Blackwater, to transport troops and cargo in and around
- But the company's Web site says Presidential Airways
is part of Blackwater's aviation services.
- As you contemplate Blackwater and its relationship with
the US government, consider the inherent danger and ethical conflicts involved
in using public funds to engage a private corporation (which exists to
generate profit) to supplement (or perhaps to supplant) the military in
its role to "provide for the common defence". Alarming issues
leap to mind like a panther springing upon its prey.
- More frightening still, the Social Darwinists sitting
atop the food chain in the wealthiest, most powerful nation in humanity's
history now have access to their own paramilitary force. They can unleash
their private army on the "unfittest" when the need arises, whether
it be within America's borders or otherwise. New Orleans is a prime example.
150 highly trained Blackwater quasi-military professionals openly armed
with assault weapons descended on a tragedy-stricken city. As hurricane
victims taking necessities were called "looters" and shoot to
kill orders were in effect, those who value property over people saw to
it that their interests were well-protected. Thankfully, Blackwater was
there to protect the patrician class from the "savages" from
the Lower Ninth Ward who had the audacity to attempt survival.
- Blackwater is one of many symptoms of a very sick America.
Thomas Paine would feel deeply ashamed of what has become of the nation
he helped forge with his powerful writing.
- Jason Miller is a 38 year old activist writer with a
degree in liberal arts. He works as a loan counselor in the transportation
industry, and is a husband with three sons. His affiliations include Amnesty
International and the ACLU. He welcomes responses at firstname.lastname@example.org
or comments on his blog, Thomas Paine's Corner, at http://civillibertarian.blogspot.com/.