Monday, August 04, 2003
One issue we've covered from time to time is the Mercenary industry in the United States. While mercenaires (who go by all sorts of different names these days, but whom are nevertheless mercenaries and thus banned under the terms of the Geneva convention) have gone legit in the last ten years, this still does not address the fundamental question of whether or not they should be employed on behalf of the American people. Consider for a moment this example:
'The campaign cash and personal connections give private military companies an unusual degree of influence, even by Washington standards. In at least one case, a company has successfully shifted U.S. foreign policy to bolster its bottom line. In 1998, the government of Equatorial Guinea asked MPRI to evaluate its defense systems, particularly its need for a coast guard to protect its oil reserves. To do so, MPRI needed a license from the U.S. State Department. But the Clinton administration flatly rejected the company's request, citing the West African nation's egregious record of torturing and murdering political dissidents. '
'MPRI launched a full-scale blitz to overturn the decision, quietly dispatching company officials to work the hallways of the Pentagon, State Department, and Capitol. "This is the kind of lobbying that's surgically executed," says Rep. Schakowsky. "This is not something they want a wide discussion on in Congress." MPRI's executives argued that the United States should be engaging Equatorial Guinea, both to improve its record on human rights and to ensure access to its oil reserves. It didn't hurt that the company could effectively pull rank, citing its extensive military experience. "Remember, these are high-level four-star generals, who can really make an argument that this is consistent with foreign policy," says Deborah Avant, an international-affairs expert at George Washington University. '
'In 2000, the State Department did an about-face and issued a license to MPRI. Bennett Freeman, a high-ranking State Department official who initially opposed the deal, says he changed his mind after meeting with Lt. General Harry Soyster of MPRI, who convinced him that the company would include human-rights training in its work. "These private military companies, if properly directed by U.S. government officials, can in fact play positive roles," Freeman says. MPRI refuses to reveal the terms of its contract with Equatorial Guinea.'
The time has come for a serious national debate about privatizing such things as national defense, and more importantly diplomacy. While this certainly isn't the first time a company has influenced U.S. policy to its benefit, it is an egregious example of how privatization has ceeded traditional governmental functions to private corporations. This has, of course, all happened with very little pubicity and a lack of effective oversight by Congress. Hopefully the current military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, which employ a number of mercenaries, will force the issue into the public eye.
Andrew 8:55 AM : |
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