Privatizing wars and spying

This video is called Inside Blackwater: Iraq’s Most Controversial Private Military Contractor.

From British daily The Morning Star:

Privatising war

(Sunday 27 July 2008)

War PLC by Stephen Armstrong
(Faber & Faber, £14.99)

SHOCKING: War PLC by Stephen Armstrong.

MICHAL BONCZA is shocked to learn that ever-increasing numbers of corporate mercenaries are involved in war.

It should surprise no-one that privatisation zealots have put their grubby fingers straight into one of the richest pies of them allwar.

Nowhere has this been clearer than in Iraq, where the US Department of Defence had issued 149 contracts worth $42 billion involving around 100,000 “private contractors” – mercenaries to you and me – by the end of 2005.

Earlier this year, author Stephen Armstrong attended a DfID conference, where it was estimated that the industry was worth approximately $85 billion a year and had several million people employed in it.

As a matter of interest, a European or US “soldier of fortune” commands around $10,000 a month, but a Pinochet special forces veteran will be happy with just $2,500.

According to US Logistics Management Institute, a subsidiary of Halliburton, KBR, “had done with $462 million and 6,766 personnel (during the Balkans conflict) what would otherwise have required 8,918 troops and $638 million.”

Much of the work centres on logistics, supplies and construction and protection of “assets.” Front line combat is still rare.

But, as Armstrong discovers, a much murkier battlefield is being privatised. Enter market leader Diligence LLC – a private intelligence company founded by former MI5 and CIA operatives Nick Day and Mike Baker respectively.

Diligence offers “24/7 monitoring of civil unrest, environmental and health concerns, economic stability and information technology.” Tellingly, former Conservative Party leader Michael Howard is its European chairman.

When Alisher Usmanov started buying shares in Arsenal FC, Diligence got the club owner’s intelligence profiling him and helping assess his long-term intentions.

Armstrong met its managing director Russell Corn, a former Royal marine, who let it be known that “easily, one in four of the people of every (political) activist camp are taking the corporate shilling.” He should know.

“We are now seeing a migration of hardcore away from anti-globalisation and into environmental issues – we are employed to understand and map those dynamics,” he says in a matter of fact way.

So, who’s next? Trade unions?

This is a skilful, thoroughly researched and appropriately fast-paced book. It points to the tip of a corporate iceberg that might yet disembowel democracy and let it sink, taking us all down with it.

Privatising water in New Zealand: here.

3 thoughts on “Privatizing wars and spying

  1. Downsizing Government to Death

    By Eric Lotke
    Los Angeles Times
    July 20, 2008,0,1958019.story

    Consumers were first told that salmonella was caused by tomatoes, but now it has
    been linked to jalapeno peppers.

    Thanks to “E. coli conservatism,” weakened government watchdogs have put us all
    at risk.

    Last week, consumers were worried about salmonella in their fresh tomatoes.
    Before that, it was E. coli in their spinach. Something is wrong. Eating a salad
    is not supposed to be a high-risk activity

    But the problem isn’t so much farmers. It’s ideology. Historian Rick Perlstein,
    author of “Nixonland,” calls it “E. coli conservatism” — government shrinks and
    shrinks until people get sick.

    “Government is not the solution to our problem,” President Reagan famously
    declared in his inaugural address in 1981. “Government is the problem.”

    Many conservatives have gone far beyond that. Their traditional embrace of small
    government has been replaced with outright disdain for it. Grover Norquist,
    president of Americans for Tax Reform, doesn’t just want to shrink government.
    To use his words, he wants government “down to the size where we can drown it in
    the bathtub.”

    Once in power, E. coli conservatives shrink government by hamstringing it. They
    weaken rules that protect people, slash the budgets of consumer agencies and
    appoint industry friends to oversight commissions. The result: Some government
    regulatory agencies that we trust to protect us have shrunk to insignificance or
    serve private industry rather than consumers.

    The Food and Dru g Administration’s seeming ineptness in finding the source of a
    salmonella outbreak, which has poisoned more than 1,200 people in 42 states, is
    case in point. What’s especially troubling is that even before this episode, the
    Government Accountability Office had officially designated “federal oversight of
    food safety as a high-risk area.”

    The FDA first thought that tomatoes — either grown in Florida or imported from
    Mexico — were the culprit. After weeks of trying to trace the source of the
    salmonella, with domestic farmers bulldozing crops they weren’t allowed to sell
    and taking a $100-million hit, the agency on Thursday ruled out tomatoes. It’s
    now on the trail of jalapeno peppers.

    What’s clear, though, is that imports of agricultural products have increased by
    78% since 1973, but inspections of those products have decreased by 78% over the
    same period, according to the Coalition for a Strong er FDA, whose membership
    includes former chiefs of the Department of Health and Human Services, of which
    the FDA is a part.That’s a problem because the FDA itself says pesticide
    violations or infectious disease occur three times more often in imported foods
    than in domestic foods. In 1991, there were 1.5 inspections for each $1 million
    worth of imported agriculture commodities; in 2006 there were only 0.4.

    In a 2007 interview in USA Today, William Hubbard, a former FDA associate
    commissioner, admitted that food safety had become a crap shoot: “The FDA has so
    few resources, all it can do is target high-risk things, give a pass to
    everything else and hope it is OK. … The public probably has the perception
    … that they’re more protected than they really are.”

    The agency’s decline started when Reagan was president. FDA food inspections
    plummeted from 29,355 in 1980 to 7,668 in 1989. They stayed flat during Bill
    Clinton’s years in the White House, then jumped past 11,000 after 9/11, amid
    fears that the nation’s food was vulnerable to terrorist attack. Food
    inspections have now, however, fallen to levels below that number.

    But E. coli conservatism is not limited to the food supply. Before the
    salmonella outbreak, there were major recalls of pet food (contaminated by
    melamine) and toys (lead paint). The agency that’s supposed to protect us from
    toxic toys is the Consumer Product Safety Commission, a job made tougher because
    its resources have been cut. The commission’s 2007 budget was half its 1974
    budget in real dollars. Staffing is in free fall, dropping from 978 in 1980 to
    420 in 2007. The testing labs have not been modernized since 1975, and the 2008
    budget request removed the reduction of childhood drowning deaths as a strategic
    goal because of “resource limitations.” The agency’s entire toy-testing
    department last year consisted of one man who dropped toys on his office floor
    to see if they broke.

    People cannot test toys for lead on their own. That’s why Congress created the
    Consumer Product Safety Commission in 1972 “to protect the public against
    unreasonable risks of injury associated with consumer products” by giving the
    agency the authority to set safety standards, require labeling, order recalls,
    ban dangerous products and collect death and injury data. People count on it to
    do its job.

    In the era of globalization, the job is more important than ever. When the
    commission was created, toys were primarily manufactured in the U.S. under
    American-set safety standards. Now they are mostly imported from low-wage
    producers in countries not subject to U.S. rules. The Toy Industry Assn.
    estimates that 80% of the toys that Americans buy are made in China. Last year,
    more than 20 millio n of them were recalled because of lead paint or other
    hazards. The U.S. banned the use of lead paint 30 years ago.

    After the 2006 election, the new Democratic Congress recognized the dangers and
    offered additional resources. The commission chair, Nancy Nord, resisted. The
    appointee of President Bush, said fears about not protecting consumers were
    overstated and that modest oversight plus commercial self-interest were
    sufficient to achieve the agency’s goals.

    There are many other examples of E. coli conservatism at work. In 2000-2001,
    energy deregulation in California opened the door for Enron and similar
    companies to artificially limit the supply of electricity to the state, driving
    up prices and creating rolling blackouts. Financial deregulation helped create
    the housing bubble by allowing companies to sell mortgages to people who
    couldn’t afford the payments. The surging commodities markets a nd the swooning
    stock markets are in part caused by rule changes, made in the name of
    deregulation, that make it easier to speculate on price swings. It was recently
    learned that the three main credit-rating agencies — Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s
    Investors Service and Fitch Ratings — failed to rein in conflicts of interest
    in their ratings practices. Among the problems: Companies issuing securities
    were paying the ratings agencies for their rating.

    Enough. Instead of talking about the size of government, we should be debating
    how to make our government more effective. How many more people have to get sick
    before the government reclaims its mission to serve the people?


    Eric Lotke is research director for the Campaign for America’s Future, a
    research and policy organization.


  2. Debunking the `Tragedy of the Commons’

    By Ian Angus

    August 24, 2008 — Will shared resources always be misused and overused?
    Is community ownership of land, forests and fisheries a guaranteed road
    to ecological disaster? Is privatisation the only way to protect the
    environment and end Third World poverty? Most economists and development
    planners will answer “yes” — and for proof they will point to the most
    influential article ever written on those important questions. Since its
    publication in Science in December 1968, “The Tragedy of the Commons”
    has been anthologised in at least 111 books, making it one of the
    most-reprinted articles ever to appear in any scientific journal. It is
    also one of the most quoted: a recent Google search found “about
    302,000” results for the phrase “tragedy of the commons”.


  3. Pingback: Gordon Brown in Afghanistan | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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