The Rise Of Private Military Companies: The Corporate Army
Immigrants, mercenaries and the new military service
Troops deployed by the thousands, adorned with camouflaged combat wear, tough boots ready to tread the ground of conflict territories and hands at one with a military-grade rifle – This is the image we often see when nations instigate war, but do we ever really think about exactly who is fighting it?
It seems this vision has become more blurred in recent decades as reports have surfaced recently highlighting that immigrants, some illegal, are recruited to the service by mercenaries – what are now referred to as Private Military Companies or contractors (PMC). Fear of the companies have once again been affirmed by the newest installment of the Call of Duty franchise, Advanced Warfare, which follows mercenaries who have turned against the US Government.
But are these fears and events simply fabricated fictional narratives, or is there a dark reality lurking behind the plot?
The Military Times reports that the Department of Defence (DoD) have unveiled a new policy which will allow undocumented immigrants to join the military, and is deemed a new path for gaining citizenship in the US. Estimates have shown that between 1.2 and 2.1 million children; teenagers and young adults do not have legal immigration status, yet qualify for the program – known as Military Accessions Vital to National Interest (MANVI).
The national interest in these cases is the ability to speak languages vital to national security such as Arabic and Chinese; but as well as foreign language expertise, the recruits may also have specialised health care training. MANVI is open to young immigrants without a VISA who immigrated to America with their parents before they were 16. But most importantly of all they must be approved under Obama’s DACA program, which Immigration Equality explains calls for ‘deferred action’ for undocumented young people - a discretionary benefit by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) meaning that after a background check and subsequent approval, the immigrant can apply for employment authorisation but this does not guarantee legal permanent residence and the rights can be revoked.
Military Times reports that an average of 5,000 ‘noncitizens’ are recruited a year, with a majority of them being permanent residents or hold ‘green cards’. In 2006, the DoD began to recruit individuals with temporary visas, such as students and tourists, as they had highly-valued skilled such as proficiency in foreign languages.
But some officials are doubtful that the immigrants may still bear these skills, as living in the US for so long may have lost them their mother tongue. “We’re just not sure how many within that existing population of DACA would have the linguistic skills to quality”, said a defence official.
The new policies have certainly sparked controversy, for some because they simply don’t like the thought of immigrants bearing the national shield, but for others the concern lies on the concept that PMC soldiers are ‘discount’ fighters to fill the gaps.
One of the most high-profile military contractors is Academi, formerly known as Blackwater. Article 13 reports that recently sent 400 troops into Eastern Ukraine to help control the separatist conflict.
Yet the firm gained worldwide notoriety as a contractor for US forces during the Iraq war. But what sent shockwaves across the globe was a shooting incident in September 2007, when 17 civilians were killed and 24 wounded in Nisoor Square, Baghdad. In addition, a congressional report found that between 2005 and 2007, Blackwater employees were involved in at least 195 shootings in Iraq – 163 of those incidents where Blackwater guards had fired first.
Britain’s lead military contractor Aegis has also come under scrutiny, as List Verse points out that in 2005 a ‘trophy video’ was posted on a website unofficially affiliated with Aegis, showing Scottish or Irish men massacring innocent Iraqi civilians. The sickening footage caused a media outcry and strong condemnation of the military service, stamping them with the reputation of abusing and killing civilians with little to no provocation. Charges were never pressed against the soldiers, although Aegis was carrying out internal investigations into the incident, investigative files have not been disclosed to the public.
PMC fighters have also attempted to overthrow governments. How Stuff Works reports that South-African founded military contractor Executive Outcomes, led a coup to topple the president and thus overthrow the government in Equatorial Guinea. Ex British Army officer Simon Mann, who ran the company, was arrested in Zimbabwe and was slammed by international communities and the media for leading a team of mercenaries.
But most shockingly of all are links between contracted soldiers and sexual assault and human trafficking. List Verge details that DynCorp, one of the world’s most powerful PMCs received allegations from two whistleblowers that employees stationed in Bosnia had been abusing civilians, engaging in intercourse with minors and even selling them as slaves to each other. One was former Nebraskan police investigator Kathryn Bolkovac, employed by DynCorp as a UN peacekeeper, who exposed the sex trafficking ring and an elusive cover-up of it by bosses.
The company reacted by sacking Bolkovac and the other whistleblower, who both then took DynCorp to court and won both cases – resulting in the lid being lifted on the scandalous activities of employees and 2010 Hollywood blockbuster thriller The Whistleblower, starring Rachel Weisz, depicting the events.
How Stuff Works claims that although it’s easy to see why many critics slam PMCs as mercenaries, a majority of contracts rarely engage in conflict. The term mercenary, from its Latin roots, essentially means someone who serves merely for wages. And the worldwide average base pay for a contracted militant is $165,000 (over £101,000), says Article 13.
Yet although the use of mercenaries is strongly condemned, it is increasingly becoming the norm. With the new announcements from the DoD of policies to deploy more contracted soldiers and the changing face of war.
“The United States has relied and continues to rely heavily on private military and security contractors in conducting its military operations”, writes human rights expert Jose L. Gomez del Prado for Global Research.
“The human rights violation perpetrated by private military and security companies are indications of the threat posed to the foundations of democracy itself by the privatization of inherently public functions such as the monopoly of the legitimate use of force”.