I often call the Bush administration a bunch of malignant idiots because the damage they started metastasized and continues to infect the United States and the world. One particularly nasty and aggressive bit of trouble is the founding of the massive mercenary army now known as Xe but formerly known as Blackwater.
Blackwater arguably caused as many problems in the occupation of Iraq as some of the smaller insurgency groups. Nominally tasked with protecting diplomats Blackwater operatives, drove around Baghdad running people off the road, firing on and killing civilians and in one memorable incident killing the bodyguard of an Iraqi legislature at a Christmas Party (it was later determined that the man who shot the Iraqi bodyguard was drunk at the time).
Things had gotten so bad that Eric Prince, the evil little troll who founded Blackwater, moved out of the United States to the United Arab Emirates, to avoid being subpoenaed and perhaps prosecuted for illegal actions taken by his company. Not that this has kept Prince down, not at all!
You see the New York Times is reporting that Prince, has formed a new company called Reflex Response and it has contracted with the government of the UAE to establish an 800 man battalion made up of forging (to the UAE) fighters. Call it the American Foreign Legion, if you like. Except the fighters seem to be mostly Colombian, rather than Americans.
This is a troubling extension of the idea that military contractors are a good idea. The new company called “Reflex Response” going to be in charge of counter terrorism and internal security for the UAE. Specifically it is supposed to protect a string of nuclear power stations that the Emirate is planning to build. However if no in UAE is a nervous about a State Security agency that is being outsourced I am.
Any secret police agency is prone to abuse. One that is not even made up of the people of your nation seems to me to have less restraint from the start. Then you add in the fact that it is a Blackwater company, a group known for having a totally cowboy attitude to this kind of thing and I see a potential 800 Jack Bauer wann-be’s running around in very short order.
If you want to be even more worried take note of this little factoid from the New York Times article:
Knowing that his ventures are magnets for controversy, Mr. Prince has masked his involvement with the mercenary battalion. His name is not included on contracts and most other corporate documents, and company insiders have at times tried to hide his identity by referring to him by the code name “Kingfish.” But three former employees, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of confidentiality agreements, and two people involved in security contracting described Mr. Prince’s central role.
Can anyone tell me why someone would think that giving a man who acted so recklessly that he had to sell his company and move out of the United States to avoid prosecution should ever be put in charge of a potato gun, let alone a new mercenary battalion?
I have a little sympathy for the UAE who is worried about Iran and does not have a very effective military. That is a legitimate concern. However, I think they have to be pretty freaking stupid if they think that instead of developing a home grown military, hiring one from outside is a better idea.
The Times article makes a big deal of Prince wanting to hide his involvement because of “controversy”, and that could be true. It could also be that there is a very real concern that this guy has an avowed interest in creating a private army that can be deployed around the world to hot spots, for a profit, of course.
It has always been on of the restraining factors of war, that you had to send your own citizens into the fire. The cost of that keeps would-be imperialists in check. Every time that large and well trained mercenary forces arise, we see an uptick in ambitions of conquest. History is littered with it and the remembrance of the atrocities that they committed. Here in the United States the Hessian mercenaries of the Revolutionary War are still reviled by those who have more than just a cursory grasp of the conflict.
Eric Prince (who I am beginning to think takes his last name far, far too literally) wants to bring back the bad old days when a government could intervene in another country militarily without sending its own troops. This is an inherently destabilizing idea. What if Hosni Mubarak could have called up Reflex Response and had 500 men flown in to suppress things in Tahrir Square? It would have avoided the problem he had with ordering the military to fire on civilians and might have broken the back of the uprising.
Unfortunately we can only watch as this particular cancer of the Bush administration metastasizes, the UAE, while a close US ally is already a long way down this road with bases built, troops in long the process of training and arming. This thing, as they say, is going to happen. What remains to be seen is how well the Emirati government is able to control this new small army they have created. Given the fact that the United States under the criminal Bush administration was unable or unwilling to reign in Blackwater and its “Prince of Darkness” I am skeptical that the Emirati knows what kind of tiger they have by the tail.
There are a lot of things that we should be speaking up against, the cancers left over from the Bush malignant idiocy are legion, but this is a one that needs a little extra attention. At no time should the United States use mercenaries or “private military contractors” for military roles. If our own gigantic and bloated military is not up to the task at hand, then we probably should not be attempting it. Short of that if we face a military emergency we should institute a draft.
These are very important constraints on military adventurism. When we removed them we wound up at war in three countries at a cost of hundreds of thousands of lives in those countries, tens of thousands wounded and thousands of dead Americans, and not to be the materialistic weasel, but more than a trillion dollars in real money spent for no rational purpose. It is time to put those constraints back on our military and live with in them.
The alternative it is to feed a cancer that can lead to a much more dangerous and unstable world.
The floor is yours.