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Friday, May 16, 2003

Bloomberg has a fascinating article (via Cursor) about an industry called "sutling", and it's connection to the Saudi Arabian terrorist attacks:

'The car-bomb attacks on three residential compounds in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, that killed nine Vinnell Corp. employees has triggered alarm bells among the hush- hush coterie of some 200 firms that, like Vinnell, specialize in sutling. That is, the business of supplying U.S. military operations abroad with logistical support and of training foreign armies in the art of war. '

Sutling is also spelled "mercenaries", along with a number of other security-related "industries" that sell military services to the U.S. government and others. One aspect of the industry brought out by the article is that these people are now being targeted by terrorists. This brings up an interesting question -- are these casualties considered combat casualties or are they civilian casualties? As the military is privatized this question gets murkier and murkier:

'"All of these firms are targets for attacks,'' [P.W.] Singer explains. "The original rationale for the Defense Department contracting them was to lower the U.S. military presence and profile abroad. That logic may play in Washington, but it doesn't play on the ground. Adversaries make absolutely no distinction between uniformed U.S. soldiers and ex-military men working for a private company.'''

The article also points out at least one connection between the mercenary industry and big money:

'One U.S. sutling company still wrestling with the political impact of working in the Balkans and the Middle East is Kellogg Brown & Root, a division of the Houston, Texas- based oil industry services firm Halliburton Co.'

'"We do not detail our assessments and precautions in support of our efforts,'' says Halliburton public relations manager Wendy Hall. Since 1987 KBR has maintained a joint venture with Vinnell to maintain three U.S. military bases in Turkey.'

Here is a link to one paper on the subject by Thomas J. Milton (who's quoted in the Bloomberg article).

Here is another article specifically addressing the issue of Vinnell's ties to Saudi Arabia and the issues surrounding the mercenary industry.

Andrew 9:36 AM : |


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