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Drinking from a Blackwater trough

The Webster Retort
By Stephen Webster
Investigative Reporter
Publication date: May 26, 2006
For: The News Connection, The Lone Star Iconoclast

Drinking from a Blackwater trough

Image from Common Dreams by photographer David Adame, taken as police attacked a group of peaceful protesters in Miami on November 20, 2003.

When corporate power and state interests converge -- when the private sector discovers a way to vote its self access to the people's treasury and usurp its military power -- democracy breaks down. Benito Mussolini, the fascist dictator of Italy during World War II, knew this type of governance well. He once said that the first stage of fascism would be better known as corporatism: a perfect merger of corporate and state power.

Ted Koppel, in a recent New York Times editorial, called for the formation of a number of private, corporate armies. Formerly a power only held by the state, and the public if you count militias, is now being undertaken by our corporations to be used to further their own interests.

"Just as the all-volunteer military relieved the government of much of the political pressure that had accompanied the draft, so a rent-a-force, harnessing the privilege of every putative warrior to hire himself out for more than he could ever make in the direct service of Uncle Sam, might relieve us of an array of current political pressures," says Koppel.

"So, what about the inevitable next step a defensive military force paid for directly by the corporations that would most benefit from its protection?" he continues. "If, for example, an insurrection in Nigeria threatens that nation's ability to export oil (and it does), why not have Chevron or Exxon Mobil underwrite the dispatch of a battalion or two of mercenaries?"

He arrives at a frightening conclusion: "The United States may not be about to subcontract out the actual fighting in the war on terrorism, but the growing role of security companies on behalf of a wide range of corporate interests is a harbinger of things to come."

Immediately, one private army-for-hire in particular comes to mind: The Blackwater Group.

Formed in 1997 by an ex-Navy S.E.A.L., The Blackwater Group began as a training center for our nation's SWAT police forces, then moved up the rope a notch or two when it started dealing high-tech weaponry to police, and training them how to use it. One example of this is the ultrasonic weaponry employed by the New York Police Department during the 2004 Republican National Convention protest. These weapons are also used in Iraq to disperse crowds. They are known as "less lethal," and have developed a reputation for shattering eardrums. But there is so much more than just that.

Blackwater scored with all the right people when they sent forces into New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Unbound by that pesky Posse Comitatus law (which Bush argued against), Blackwater imposed a strange brew of corporate-style law enforcement and state-sponsored pseudo-martial law, placing their mercs in front of homes owned by the rich, and sending teams into the projects to confiscate weapons and “keep the peace.” Some say most of the reports of gunfire can be tracked back to these guys, but all the chatter is little more than hearsay. (Purely speculative: wouldn’t it make sense if it was just a practice-run for a larger operation, and the government’s lack of intervention afterward was intentional; perhaps allowing or encouraging this type of corporate criminality? After all, there are still thousands missing after the storm. We may never know.)

Since then they've been getting no-bid contract after no-bid contract providing support and security for corporate interests in Iraq and Afghanistan. Present-day Blackwater maintains a ‘for hire to the highest bidder’ mantra. They are conflict-neutral. They are American Hessians.

Now, a major figure in the media has come out in support of this. What types of rules govern a military beyond the oversight of our oversight-phobic government? And what will become of our military when the hardened, four-tours in Iraq, career soldiers realize that their fortunes will not be made in service to their country? What could happen to our police and National Guard if this mentality really gains momentum?

Perhaps Koppel is right when he says this is "a harbinger of things to come." Imagine, a decade from now, America having disbanded the National Guard and police. Corporations bid on city, state and federal law enforcement contracts, and neighborhoods are split into sections, each controlled by one group or another. It would be the perfect merger of state and corporate interests. And it makes a sort of twisted, economic sense. Hey, smoke some pot and you’ll answer to the Phillip-Morris peacekeepers. Jaywalk and you'll be picked up by some GMC mercs. And God forbid you try to evade the public security cameras on every street corner. Fujifilm's eye in the sky (another RNC 2004 protest holdover) will make sure Motorola’s boys in black swoop down on you in no time. And we’ll all get wonderful tax cuts! Hooray!

I'm just hypothesizing. No Need to Panic, right? But considering the revolutionary changes we've seen over the last decade -- let alone the last five years -- I think it is important to be one step ahead of the fascists. Well, perhaps fascism is too strong a word for this stage in the game. But I find it hard to dismiss subversive evil as a ‘prank’ of Beelzebub.

Should major disaster strike again, as it surely will, you can count on hearing more and more about The Blackwater Group. And not much of it will be good. Keep an open mind here, my friends and readers. We're looking at a double-edged sword. But in my small amount of life experience, the wielder of such a weapon always ends up injured.

Stephen Webster is an Investigative Reporter with The News Connection, Staff Writer with George W. Bush’s hometown weekly The Lone Star Iconoclast, and a former Contributor to The Dallas Morning News’ Science & Technology section. For more of Webster’s musings, visit GonzoMuckraker.BlogSpot.com.

i'm sure they were entirely 'peaceful'

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