EDITORIAL: Blackwater and privatization

The impact of the privatization of U.S. military forces bubbled to the surface, again, when the Iraqi government announced it was revoking Blackwater USA’s operating license following an incident where eight Iraqi citizens were killed. Of course, Iraq is under heavy pressure from the U.S. occupiers to back off.

On the heels of those headlines, allegations have surfaced that Blackwater smuggled weapons into Iraq.

Congressional investigations into corruption and other outlaw activity by Blackwater and other private contractors are under way.

The question is not who are these guys, although Blackwater’s mercenary profile is the poster child for all the private security corporations that sprang up in the wake of 9/11. The question is how did they get to Iraq and Afghanistan? And should the U.S. military be privatized?

Privatization is not cheap. Blackwater’s contract with the State Department is reported to be $800 million for its “services” in Iraq. Its contract to ferry U.S. troops to Afghanistan is $38.4 million for one year.

When the federal government privatizes any agency — from the post office to the military — it is selling control. It is dispensing with accountability and oversight. Privatization does not just give opportunities for corruption — in fact, it’s embedded in its DNA. Perhaps a better description is giving a license to steal. “Performance” is not the driving force in privatization. It’s not even in the back seat. The driver is corporate cronyism and profits.

Private corporations feeding at the taxpayer-supported Pentagon trough is not new (remember those $100 hammers under Reagan? And can you say “military-industrial complex”?). But this administration has raised it to a new level with no-bid contracts and private contractors doing a host of things that troops used to do. According to the Brookings Institution, half the current Defense Department budget is going to no-bid contractors. “They are taking the taxpayers for many billions of dollars,” one of the institution’s scholars told the World.

Congress needs to not only challenge the privatization of public functions, including defense, but also closely scrutinize the military budget and cut the corporate-profit fat!