Will Trump Use Paramilitary Hired Guns in US War Theaters?
Renamed Academi, Blackwater USA founder Erik Prince proposed getting Trump to privatize US warmaking in Syria, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.
The idea surfaced in July 2017 over endless years of war in Afghanistan, achieving nothing but more war. Trump reportedly questioned advice he was getting from military advisors.
Taliban fighters control much of the country, US operations doing nothing to change things. “We aren’t winning. We are losing,” he was quoted saying.
Unsaid is that war in Afghanistan is more about waging it than winning an unwinnable war no matter how long it goes on – unrelated to who’s commanding US forces on the ground or their superiors in Washington.
If US troops are replaced with private military contractors (PMCs) like Blackwater mercenaries, things will drag on endlessly at a far greater cost.
Paramilitary hired guns are expensive. They operate extrajudicially, unaccountable to US and local laws, free from culpability, licensed to kill and get away with it unchecked.
They’re professional killers, soldiers of fortune, dogs of war, operating with little or no civilian oversight, Congress largely out of the look on their operations.
Article 47 of the 1977 Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions defines a mercenary as anyone:
(a) specially recruited locally or abroad in order to fight in an armed conflict;
(b) …take(s) a direct part in the hostilities:
(c) is motivated to take part in the hostilities essentially by the desire for private gain and, in fact, is promised, by or on behalf of a Party to the conflict, material compensation substantially in excess of that promised or paid to combatants of similar ranks and functions in the armed forces of the Party;
(d) is neither a national of a Party to the conflict nor a resident of territory controlled by a Party to the conflict;
(e) is not a member of the armed forces of a Party to the conflict; and
(f) has not been sent by a State which is not a Party to the conflict on official duty as a member of its armed forces.”
Use of paramilitary hired guns began centuries ago in ancient Greece, Rome and elsewhere. The Pentagon’s transformation to using PMCs abroad began in the early 1990s. The Bush/Cheney regime escalated use of private companies in US war theaters.
They’re involved in a wide range of activities, including construction, maintenance, consulting, logistics support, combat, and other functions, PMCs involved in what used to be limited to America’s military.
Today they way exceed the number of Pentagon troops in US combat theaters – in Afghanistan by a three-to-one margin, according to the Congressional Research Service.
In 2016, the Pentagon spent over $220 billion on PMCs in Afghanistan and Iraq alone. Whatever government can do, private business can do better so let is how the reasoning goes.
Privatizing America’s military penetrated the last frontier to let PMCs serve in place of Pentagon forces. The industry is huge, operating in scores of countries, the Pentagon far and away the largest user of what firms can provide.
The State Department, Homeland Security, CIA, other US intelligence agencies, along with other branches of government use PMCs, hundreds of billions of dollars spent on the services they provide – ordinary Americans none the wiser about the misuse of their tax dollars.
An earlier Congressional Research Service report said supporting a US soldier abroad costs around a million dollars annually – largely because of rampant unchecked waste, fraud and abuse.
Academi (Blackwater) signaled its aim to secure Trump regime contracts in US war theaters with a full-page ad in Recoil magazine, declaring: “We are coming.”
Outgoing US war secretary Mattis opposed the idea. His successor’s views likely won’t be known until on the job.
Trump’s way of cooling opposition to his announced withdrawal of US forces from Syria and Afghanistan may be by replacing them with paramilitary hired guns – regardless of the exorbitant cost and Blackwater’s disturbing past, including the 2007 unprovoked murder of 14 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad’s Nisour Square, wounding others.
The company’s contract to operate in Iraq was temporarily revoked for the incident. Permitting its hired guns back in US war theaters risks similar future incidents.
The way to avoid large-scale violent civilian deaths is by renouncing wars, declaring a new era of peace, abiding by rule of law principles the way they’re supposed to be observed.
My newest book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”