"There's a War Going On You Know"
And then there’s the war, or rather the rapacious U.S. military activity worldwide, which reflects what the since disbanded Washington think-tank (whose members included key members of the U.S. administration) Project For a New American Century (PNAC) called “total war — the ability to wage multiple simultaneous wars around the globe to achieve American ends.” Betty Stockbauer summarises the 80-page document Rebuilding America’s Defenses, the blueprint of the PNAC plan for U.S. global hegemony, which some have likened to Hitler’s Mein Kampf. The plan dovetails with Brzezinski’s book The Grand Chessboard - American Primacy And It's Geostrategic Imperatives, the principles and recommendations of which can be seen at action in Eastern Europe and the Middle East.
Despite the fact that thousands of soldiers have died on the battlefield, or afterward due to the effects of America’s very own weapon of mass destruction, depleted uranium (DU), despite the civilian casualty in Iraq being more than a million innocent people, the highest percentage of whom are women and children; despite international law being broken and war crimes committed every week for the past four years in Afghanistan and Iraq, a curiously relatively small response against the war is being seen and reported. Compare that to the reaction against the war in Vietnam in the 60’s and 70’s, a war with many disturbing parallels to the current war in Iraq.
The reaction to the Vietnam War was in large part due to the media coverage of the time bringing the horrors into people’s sitting rooms (‘…children running down the road skin on fire…’). As Danny Schecter points out in the excellent documentary WMD-Weapons of Mass Deception (‘A comprehensive and devastating critique of the TV news networks' complacency and complicity in the war on Iraq...brilliantly argued and scrupulously documented... a must see’ – Chicago Reader) “to understand why people rally round the flag the way they do you have to consider the information that shapes their opinions and impressions. How wars are covered, and covered up, is key”. Today’s combination of sanitised war ‘coverage’ (as opposed to ‘reporting’) and people’s perception that what they see on television is real, factual and all there is to a story, has contributed to the chronic apathy toward ongoing events that is both depressing and dangerous.
As you should know by now, the aim of Psyclone is to connect people with important information that's being kept from them. As the above documentary points out, and as the journalist character Alex says in Psyclone, 'it’s no wonder people don’t understand what’s going on in the war zone.' The following videos revealling some of the military activities and attitudes in Afghanistan and Iraq help to understand the anti-imperialist feeling in the majority of the population of those countries as well as the determined resistance to the occupation.
The second-biggest military force in Iraq - more than twice that of the UK - consists of mercenaries, recruited by the U.S. government. There are over 100,000 mercenaries in Iraq and Afghanistan who can be paid as much as $1,500 a day, who are there, in the words of the Washington Post, to perform tasks "too messy, too dull and too questionable" for the military itself to undertake.
Because the ‘civilian contractors’ theoretically perform only security duties, which in many cases escalate into deadly gunfights, the U.S. authorities can claim that they are not, in fact, mercenaries. But the relevant international convention defines a mercenary as someone who "is specially recruited locally or abroad in order to fight in an armed conflict . . . [and] is motivated to take part in the hostilities essentially by the desire for private gain [and is paid] substantially in excess of that promised or paid to combatants of similar rank and functions in the armed forces of that party".
The private companies do not just fly helicopters, guard bases and provide reconnaissance for the US forces, they also have contracts to maintain an array of weapons systems, including the B-2 bomber, F-117 stealth fighter, Apache helicopter and unmanned spy planes. For-profit military companies have an estimated $100bn in worldwide business every year, with much of the profit going to conglomerates such as Halliburton, DynCorp, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, all of which are heavily involved in Iraq. The Steele Foundation, the world's fifth-largest security firm, has 500 mercenaries in Iraq. Global Risk Strategies, based in Middlesex, has as many as 1,500 private guards in Iraq.
The situation in Iraq has led some private companies to work more with each other. Each firm amounts to an individual battalion, and in Iraq they are coming together to form the largest security organisation in the world.
Possibly because there is no central oversight for the companies, nor any uniform rules of engagement, or possibly due to the nature of mercenary forces and individuals generally, there are regular incidents
José L. Gómez del Prado is a member of the UN Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries, serving in his personal capacity as a human rights independent expert. As President of that Group, he has presented a number of reports to the UN Human Rights Council and the General Assembly.
In 2008 he reported that in Iraq there were more than 180 private military and security companies (PMSC) providing services to the multinational forces employing 48,000 “private security guards”. In Afghanistan it was estimated that there were some 60 PMSC employing between 18,000 and 28,000 employees. The outsourcing of a number of basic functions traditionally carried out by national armies or police forces, known as the “top-down” privatisation, has blurred the borderlines between the public services of the State and the private commercial sector creating a dangerous “grey zone”. In situations of armed conflict the employees of transnational private military and security companies, contracted as civilians but militarily armed, operate in these “grey zones”. The status of these persons is elusive as to whether they are combatants or civilians. The development of private military and security companies has produced a new type of private soldiers operating in war torn countries and high-risk insecurity areas under murky legal restraints. These new modalities have absorbed the use of traditional individual mercenaries.
Private “guards”, “private soldiers” or “private contractors” perform military and quasi-military tasks in situations of armed conflict such as Iraq. PMSC employees often find themselves working in a situation of armed conflict where they are constantly exposed to “great risk and immediate danger” in a “hostile environment” including but not limited to “the threats inherent in a war situation” as indicated in the contracts they sign. Recruited by PMSC these individuals often operate with limited oversight or army control. Most of them are neither nationals of one of the parties to the conflict nor residents of the country in conflict. Although they were not “specifically recruited to take part in hostilities”, neither did their contracts specify either that they would receive military training and would be militarily armed. Recruited in their respective countries from all over the world as “private security guards” to provide protection, most of them have in fact taken part in internal low-intensity armed conflicts.
Most of them are not members of the armed forces of a party to the conflict and they have not been officially sent by their respective States. All of them have been essentially motivated by private gain. Although these are characteristics of the mercenary-related activities and modalities of the conflicts of the twenty-first century, they are in fact, extremely difficult to prove. These situations together with the loopholes in international law permit PMSC to operate in a grey zone.
“Private contractors” working for PMSCs may commit abuses and human rights violations while fulfilling their activities in situations of violent or low-intensity conflict. The potential for human rights abuses in such situations is an ever-present threat, and it is nearly impossible to hold PMSC employees accountable for their actions. In a conflict area with active hostilities fought in the heart of cities with unclear distinctions between combatant and non-combatant, it is impossible to distinguish defensive from offensive roles.
PMSC personnel in Iraq are involved in exchange of fire with insurgents on a daily basis. Security provisions necessarily involve military engagement. There is no perceptible difference between regular soldiers and the private contractors protecting convoys (transporting ammunitions and fuel), material, buildings or persons. Providing security in such an environment necessitates being armed and ready to shoot, often under uncertain circumstances where combatants and civilians are difficult to separate. As observed in many incidents, PMSC employees can use excessive force and shoot indiscriminately resulting in civilian casualties. There are cases where PMSC employees have used forbidden arms or experimental ammunition prohibited by international law.
The following video provides evidence consistent with the above report. Once hosted on the website of the PMSC Aegis as their ‘Trophy’ video, it has since been removed, but still features on the website Abuse of Power