Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Mercenaries without borders - Part 2

Felix Rohatyn and Middlebury On October 9, 2004, barely weeks before George W. Bush’s reelection, a conference took place in Middlebury, Vermont under the auspices of the “Rohatyn Center for International Affairs” on the theme of the “Privatization of National Security” (1) Felix “the fixer” Rohatyn, big shot of the synarchist Lazard Freres-Lehman Brothers banking nexus, a man who was at ITT when that company was backing Pinochet’s coup in Chile on September 11, 1973, shared the panel with a group of scholars, editors such as William Dobson, editor of “Foreign Affairs”, geopolitical whiz kids, such as Harvard’s Michael Ignatieff who thinks America should drop the republic and become “liberal imperial”, and a selection of high placed military that travel very often from the Pentagon to the very profitable business of PMC’s, an ambiguous name to polish the less brighter label of feudal mercenary companies. Lieutenant General Ed Soyster, for example, appeared on the program as a “Special assistant to the secretary of the Army”. In reality, Soyster, former head of D.I.A. (the Defense Intelligence Agency in charge of counter-intelligence operations) between 1988 and 1991, happens to be the current vice-president of Military Professionals Resources Inc. (MPRI), one of the largest PMC’s of the world. (2) Seven years earlier, on January 1997, the D.I.A. organized a closed-door symposium, "The Privatization of National Security Functions in Sub-Saharan Africa." According to Ken Silverstein, writing in The Nation of July 28, 1997, “On hand were M.P.R.I. and other U.S. private contractors, as well as Eeben Barlow, head of South Africa's notorious Executive Outcomes (EO), which in the past few years has provided mercenaries to the governments of Angola and Sierra Leone, and Timothy Spicer of Sandline International.” (3) One month after the conference, Rohatyn gave his thoughts on the matter in a co-authored article published in the Financial Times, “The Profit Motive Goes to War.” Since a decade, writes Rohatyn, a silent revolution is taking place. “In the first Gulf war, the ratio of American troops on the ground to private contractors was 50:1. In the 2003 Iraq war, that ratio was 10:1, as it was for the Clinton administration's interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo. As these figures reflect, key military functions have been outsourced to private companies; both Democratic and Republican presidents alike have steadily privatized crucial aspects of US national security. For a rough sense of the magnitude of this shift, Halliburton's total contracts in Iraq to date are estimated at $11bn-13bn, more than twice what the first Gulf war cost the US." "In the history of warfare," Rohatyn continued, "sub-contracting and the deployment of mercenaries are nothing new. The British built an empire with contracted soldiers, developing a citizens' army only in the latter half of the 19th century. But there are two major structural differences between the 19th century British and 21st century US empires. First, publicly quoted companies now conduct private military operations. Second, the market for this force is now genuinely global, which raises new accountability and normative concerns."