Bush's secret army

Meet the American mercenaries of Blackwater, who fight outside of the law and take direction from the radical Christian right
By JEREMY SCAHILL  |  March 21, 2007

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In September 2000, just months before its members would form the core of the Bush White House, the Project for a New American Century released a report called Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century. In laying out PNAC’s vision for overhauling the US war machine, the report recognized that “the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event — like a new Pearl Harbor.” A year to the month later, the 9/11 attacks would provide that catalyst: an unprecedented justification to forge ahead with this radical agenda molded by a small cadre of neoconservative operatives who had just taken official power.

The often-overlooked subplot of the wars of the post-9/11 period is the outsourcing and privatization they have entailed. From the moment the Bush team took power, the Pentagon was stacked with ideologues like Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, Zalmay Khalilzad, and Stephen Cambone, and with former corporate executives — many from large weapons manufacturers — like Under Secretary of Defense Pete Aldridge (Aerospace Corporation), Army Secretary Thomas White (Enron), Navy Secretary Gordon England (General Dynamics), and Air Force Secretary James Roche (Northrop Grumman). The new civilian leadership at the Pentagon came into power with two major goals: regime change in strategic nations and the enactment of the most sweeping privatization and outsourcing operation in US military history — a revolution in military affairs. After 9/11 this campaign became unstoppable.

The swift defeat of the Taliban in Afghanistan emboldened Rumsfeld and the administration as they began planning for the centerpiece of the neoconservative crusade: Iraq. From the moment the US troop buildup began in advance of the invasion, the Pentagon made private contractors an integral part of the operations. Even as the US gave the public appearance of attempting diplomacy, behind closed doors Halliburton was being prepped for its largest operation in history. When US tanks rolled into Baghdad in March 2003, they brought with them the largest army of private contractors ever deployed in a war. By the end of Rumsfeld’s tenure, there were an estimated 100,000 private contractors on the ground in Iraq — an almost one-to-one ratio to active-duty US soldiers. To the great satisfaction of the war industry, before Rumsfeld stepped down, he took the extraordinary step of classifying private contractors as an official part of the US war machine. In the Pentagon’s 2006 Quadrennial Review, Rumsfeld outlined what he called a “roadmap for change” at the DoD [Department of Defense], which he said had started in 2001. It defined the “Department’s Total Force” as “its active and reserve military components, its civil servants, and its contractors — constitut[ing] its warfighting capability and capacity. Members of the Total Force serve in thousands of locations around the world, performing a vast array of duties to accomplish critical missions.”

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  Topics: News Features , U.S. Government, Politics, L. Paul Bremer,  More more >
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