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Bush’s Mercenary Army

by Open-Publishing - Friday 18 June 2004

Wars and conflicts International USA Stewart Nusbaumer

Stewart Nusbaumer

Until the first bomb landed on the center of Baghdad, I insisted, although my friends insisted I was nuts, we were not going into Iraq. Not my best predication.

What went wrong, with me? I underestimated George Bush’s stupidity. My friends are better at stupidity than I am.

My firm belief that our military was not going into Iraq was based upon a certainty on my part that a U.S. occupation of Iraq would turn out to be an utter disaster, for both Iraqis and Americans. Although I was wrong about invading Iraq, I was dead right about it becoming a disaster.

Years ago, a well traveled acquaintance told me, “You want to see hate, real hate? Go to the Middle East.” Like all failed people, they thrive on the fight, not the victory. And to continue the fight year after year, decade after decade, only an abundance of hate can keep the fight going.

There was no way the Arab world, including Iraqis, regardless of how inept they are in the modern world and how cowardly in fighting their own brutal dictators, would allow American troops to walk in and just take over. It didn’t work in Vietnam, and it hasn’t worked in Iraq.

“A recent poll commissioned by the Coalition Provisional Authority,” says yesterday’s New York Times, “showed that a majority of Iraqis want American soldiers to leave their country immediately.”

Not only have a significant number of Iraqis resisted the occupation of their country, not only have a larger number been actively supporting their “freedom fighters,” now a majority of all Iraqis want U.S. troops out of their country and immediately!

Having hung around wrecked countries for many years, I know it is surprisingly simple to wreck a country. Sabotage and violence can undermine most of them faster than government troops can protect the infrastructure and deliver security. Two days ago, major Iraqi oil pipelines were blown up, again. The amount of electricity in the country is still less than when Saddam Hussein was in power. The national economy remains dead, without investors and without hope. More than a year of incompetence by foreign occupiers and destruction by local guerrillas has created a stalemate that can continue for decades. That is exactly what the Iraqi people voted against when they said out with American troops now!

Beyond Capability

The Bush Administration not only grossly underestimated the Iraqis, it also widely overestimated the capability of the U.S. military. Rigidly hierarchical, excessively bureaucratic with a narrowly trained force, an elitist organization that pampers and squanders resources on its upper managerial class, the U.S. military lacks the ability to control and run Iraq, a country of 25 million frustrated people whose median age is an explosive 19 years old, a country with a long history of failure and brutality. It is ludicrous to think our military could whip Iraq into shape and on the “cheap.” But that is what the Administration thought.

The expertise of the U.S. military is to blow things up, and then get out. Everything else is beyond its level of competence. Anyone who has served in the military, and still remembers the reality, can attest to this.

In fact, the military in the Pentagon pretty much knows this, and consistently opposes deployment for nation building and peace keeping. Vietnam taught the military brass a valuable lesson: although their military is the most powerful in the world, more powerful than all the other militaries in the world combined, there are still limits to its power. And its most difficult opponent is the one who doesn’t play by the traditional rules of war, such as the Iraqi resistance to U.S. occupation.

It was the civilian hawks, in the White House and the Pentagon, who overruled the Pentagon and insisted the military charge into Iraq. It was they who were certain that U.S. troops would be embraced as “liberators,” and it was they who were emphatic that “shock and awe” firepower would cow the remaining “criminals.” It was they who dogmatically insisted that the strongest military in the world could quickly subdue and rebuild Iraq, and this would produce a domino effect with democracy and freedom spreading throughout the Middle East. It was a grand dream.

Desperation and Deception

With “shock and awe” intimidation a total flop—more than a year later, the armed resistance in Iraqi continues to grow and spread—the Bush Administration has turned to what we can call “desperation and deception”: desperation because George Bush’s poll numbers continue to drop, and the election is beginning to look very dicey for the Republicans; deception because George Bush has implemented a subterfuge on a massive scale in Iraq.

To reduce American causalities, U.S. troops are now being garrisoned so that the "friendlies" won’t kill their "liberators." With the military pulling back, the vacuum is being filled not by Iraqi troops—who are as willing to die for an American dream as the South Vietnamese were—but by hired mercenaries. When killed or wounded, they’re not counted as U.S. causalities. There is no political backlash; in fact, no one seems to care. This is an attempt to fight an increasingly unpopular war and be free of the political costs of our soldiers being killed.

The esteemed Jane’s ( http://www.janes.com/ ), in an article titled “Bush’s secret army—The USA hires contract soldiers to fight in Iraq,” reports that more than 10,000 civilian men and women perform various jobs for the U.S. military in Iraq, and out of the $85 billion allocated for the military, over a third is now targeted for private contractors. “A reality check: this figure is greater than the defense budgets of most countries.”

Civilian contract workers provide logistical support such as transportation, food services, and housing for U.S troops. They provide technical expertise for maintenance and technological upgrades of weapons. They are central in the effort to rebuild Iraq and to train a new Iraqi army and police force. They protect high officials, even the civilian administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer. They are interrogators and interpreters, and as we now know, even abusers of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad.

But all of this has been happening for years, since President Reagan opened the floodgates of the U.S. military to private contractors. Maybe some of it is new, but only a stretch from past practices. What is qualitatively different is that private soldiers are now patrolling the country, with their own powerful arsenal and helicopters, and engaging Iraqis. Increasingly they are the troops fighting the war in Iraq: a private army bought and paid for by U.S. taxpayers, our very own mercenary force, fighting a war in our name. This is something that empires do, and normally when on the wane.

Military contractors fix equipment and serve food for money; mercenaries kill people for money. The distinction between contractor and mercenary may not always be clear, but what is clear is that the U.S. military is relying more and more not only on contractors to service Americans but also on mercenaries to kill and be killed.

Our national economy slowly became dependent upon foreign oil; now our national military is quickly becoming dependent upon private soldiers. Both oil and the military are crucial for national security, yet few seem to notice what is happening, and those who do, don’t seem to care. While some Americans scream that the draft is returning, other Americans are picking up fat paychecks to be our soldiers. Bush’s America has taken another step to become Empire America.

Stewart Nusbaumer is editor of Intervention Magazine. You can email Stewart at