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Archive for the ‘private contractors’ Category

DIY Apocalypse

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on August 29, 2013

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Ah, Yiddish. It’s such an expressive language. With the violent destruction of most of eastern European Jewry, the immigration of those who survived to the United States or Palestine has seen Yiddish threatened by assimilation in the case of the former and by outright disapproval in the case of the latter. I’ve discussed the potential revival of Yiddish with a local book vendor who once recommended I read IJ Singer’s The Brothers Ashkenazi. He contends that without a truly vital large-scale (read “national”) Jewish culture in which Yiddish can be nourished, the language is ultimately doomed.

Be that as it may, consider the variety of Yiddish words for the word penis alone. Putz, schmuck, schmeckel, shlong, shvantz, and the one I’m featuring here, pud. I recently wrote a science fiction story in which PUD features prominently as an acronym for Public or Private Urban Drone. P.U.D., get it?

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In my near future, urban drones are ubiquitous, owned and operated by public or private entities such as the police or corporations. First off, it is perfectly legal for individuals to own their own drones and spy on their neighbors. Then, there’s the potential for corporate ownership of drones, already a reality. The use of police drones is a highly contentious issue, as is the FBI’s use of drones for domestic spying. Perhaps the most interesting, and most scary site I’ve linked to in this post is DIY Drones, which speaks for itself.

DIY?!? Remember when punk rock first started using the term do it yourself? Now we’re talking about DIY drones!

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PS:

Yiddish is discouraged in Israel as a gutter or mongrel language by the Israeli state and the Hebrew speaking Israeli society. Which is why I love this joke:

Retiring from a big corporate job in LA, Marvin moves to Tel Aviv. (So nu, you were thinking maybe he’d move to a kibbutz?)
Wanting to contribute to nation-building somehow he focuses on stock-trading, the only vocation he knows. But, to commute to his new humble penthouse office, he refuses to drive a Mercedes like everyone else so he buys himself… a camel.
Every night Marvin parks his camel in the garage under his Tel Aviv Condo and the next morning he mounts the camel for the commute to his new office in Ramat Gan.
One day Marvin comes down to the parking garage and the camel is gone… stolen!
He calls the police who arrive within minutes. The first question is “What color was your camel?”
Marvin replies he doesn’t remember, “Probably camel colored I guess… sort of brownish-greyish.”
“And how many humps on your camel?’ asks the policeman.
“Who counts humps… one, maybe two, I don’t know for sure.”
“And the height of the camel, sir?”
“What’s with these dumb questions?” Marvin asks. “The camel was about three feet taller than I am. So maybe 9 feet, 10 feet. I can’t be certain.”
“Just one last question to complete my report, sir. Was the camel male or female?”
“Ah, that I know for sure he was a male.”
“How can you be so certain of his sex when you don’t remember anything else about your camel” asks the policeman.
“Well,” says Marvin, “everyone knows he’s a male. Every day I’d ride the camel to work through the streets of Tel Aviv and people would stop and say to each other… ‘Look at the schmuck on that camel!’ “

source

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Posted in Central Intelligence Agency, CIA, corporations, Drones, FBI, life, Military Drones, NSA, police, Police Drones, private contractors, Private Drones, privatization of war, punk rock, security privatization, U2, US military, Yiddish | Leave a Comment »

The privatization of war, part 4 (Foreign policy, privatized)

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on October 6, 2007

Here’s a reprint, in full, from the New York Times. You might be asked to subscribe if you click on the link. The accompanying graphic is excellent.

———

Foreign Policy, Privatized
By ALLISON STANGER and OMNIVORE
Published: October 5, 2007

WHILE most Americans are aware of the controversy over the role of the private security company Blackwater in Iraq, probably few understand that armed contractors in Iraq are just the tip of an iceberg. Across the globe, in everything from diplomacy to development to intelligence, contractors are a major American presence, and only a small fraction of them carry weapons. American foreign policy, to a great extent, has been privatized.

The charts below, based on figures from the Federal Procurement Data System, tell the story. In 2005, federally financed contractors were working in every United Nations-recognized country except Bhutan, Nauru and San Marino.

It has become conventional wisdom to blame the Bush administration for the “hollowing out” of government, but this misses the mark. While contract spending has more than doubled since 2001, serious federal efforts to outsource began under President Bill Clinton.

Nor is contracting necessarily bad: United States money creates jobs for the local population, and humanitarian organizations like Save the Children, CARE and Catholic Relief Services have relied heavily on dollars from Washington. Outsourcing can play to America’s strengths, exploiting our capacity for innovation, flexibility and efficiency.

Yes, as we have seen in Iraq, hiring contractors can lead to severe problems with accountability and fraud. And while steps like making contractors liable for civil penalties may manage some symptoms, they will not cure the disease. We need to devise far better ways of overseeing contractors worldwide.

Some are tempted to turn back the clock and reassert traditional government authority, denouncing private-sector greed and the “coalition of the billing.” But that would be a terrible mistake, for outsourcing is in part a rational response to the new possibilities of the information age. The challenge will be to manage creative forms of collaboration between government and the private sector in ways that serve the public interest.

Allison Stanger, a professor of political science at Middlebury College, is writing a book on the privatization of American power. Omnivore is a graphic design firm in New York City.

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Posted in Allison Stanger, Blackwater, government contractors, Iraq, Iraq War, military contractors, military privatization, New York Times, news, Omnivore, politics, private contractors, private security contractors, Private Security Firms, PSFs, security privatization, The privatization of foreign policy, US military | 3 Comments »

The privatization of war, part 3.7 (Business as usual)

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on September 21, 2007

This should come as no surprise, but Blackwater is back at work in Iraq. The US government is allowing Blackwater operations “limited to essential missions only outside Baghdad’s heavily-fortified Green Zone.” This is being done in consultation with the Iraqi government, according to the BBC. Wonder who and how much the US had to bribe to get this deal?

Posted in Baghdad, Blackwater, Blackwater back at work, Blackwater banned, Business as usual, Green Zone, Iraq, Iraq War, military contractors, military privatization, politics, private contractors, private security contractors, Private Security Firms, PSFs, security privatization | Leave a Comment »

The privatization of war, part 3.5 (CIA shut down in Iraq)

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on September 19, 2007

Movements of key CIA station personnel in Baghdad—along with most State department diplomats and teams building police stations and schools—have been frozen for the second day in a row, according to a State department source who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Essentially, the CIA, State department and government contractors are stuck inside the International Zone, also known as “the Green Zone,” in Central Baghdad. Even travel inside that walled enclave is somewhat restricted.

So reads an article by Richard Miniter on Pajamasmedia.com. Apparently, the CIA, State Department, and government contractors all rely on Blackwater for security.

“By jamming up Blackwater, they [the Iraqi government] shut down the movements of the embassy and the [CIA] station,” a State department source told Pajamas Media. He is not cleared to talk to the press. 

Posted in Blackwater, Blackwater banned, Central Intelligence Agency, CIA, government contractors, Iraq, Iraq War, military contractors, military privatization, Pajamas Media, Pajamasmedia, politics, private contractors, private security contractors, Private Security Firms, PSFs, security privatization, State Department, US military | Leave a Comment »

The privatization of war, part 3.2 (Blackwater banned)

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on September 18, 2007

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The Iraqi government has suspended Blackwater’s license to operate, and demanded that the company leave the country, as a result of a firefight in which several civilians and a police officer were killed (story here). Blackwater contractors (read mercenaries) were protecting a convoy of US State Department officials when they supposedly came under attack and, according to the Iraqis, started firing indiscrimately at surrounding civilians. The Iraqi government has said it is considering prosecuting Blackwater employees for the deaths, and that it will review the status of all Private Security Firms in the country as a result of the incident. Here’s a profile of Blackwater from the BBC.

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Posted in Blackwater, Blackwater banned, Iraq, Iraq War, military contractors, military privatization, politics, private contractors, private security contractors, Private Security Firms, privatization of war, PSFs, security privatization, US military | 2 Comments »

The privatization of war, part 3

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on July 18, 2007

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Here’s a collection of recent articles and stories, all on private contractors becoming more prominent in Iraq as that war is progressively privatized.

First off is an On The Media radio story, “Have Gun Will Travel,” that comes with four related newspaper articles.

Then there is this quite extensive Christian Science Monitor story, “Silent surge in contractor ‘armies'” by Brad Knickerbocker, about private contractors in Iraq, and how their role will likely grow more prominent as the US draws down its troops.

Finally, The Monthly Review offers a very long Marxist analysis by James M. Cypher of the privatization of the US military that sees it as part of the shift from Keynesianism to Global Neoliberalism in the US economy.

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Posted in Blackwater, Brad Knickerbocker, Christian Science Monitor, From Military Keynesianism to Global Neoliberal Militar, Have Gun Will Travel, Iraq, Iraq War, James M. Cypher, Keynesianism, military contractors, military privatization, neoliberalism, NPR, On The Media, private contractors, private security contractors, privatization of war, Silent surge in contractor armies, The Monthly Review, US military | Leave a Comment »

The privatization of war, part 2

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on July 4, 2007

I’m reprinting this article from the LA Times in its entirety, because it’s that revealing. The online version makes you register. It can be read on the Common Dreams website here.

————————

Published on Wednesday, July 4, 2007 by the Los Angeles Times
Private Contractors Outnumber US Troops in Iraq
by T. Christian Miller

The number of U.S.-paid private contractors in Iraq now exceeds that of American combat troops, newly released figures show, raising fresh questions about the privatization of the war effort and the government’s capacity to carry out military and rebuilding campaigns.

More than 180,000 civilians – including Americans, foreigners and Iraqis – are working in Iraq under U.S. contracts, according to State and Defense department figures obtained by the Los Angeles Times.

Including the recent troop buildup, 160,000 soldiers and a few thousand civilian government employees are stationed in Iraq.

The total number of private contractors, far higher than previously reported, shows how heavily the Bush administration has relied on corporations to carry out the occupation of Iraq – a mission criticized as being undermanned.

“These numbers are big,” said Peter Singer, a Brookings Institution scholar who has written on military contracting. “They illustrate better than anything that we went in without enough troops. This is not the coalition of the willing. It’s the coalition of the billing.”

The numbers include at least 21,000 Americans, 43,000 foreign contractors and about 118,000 Iraqis – all employed in Iraq by U.S. tax dollars, according to the most recent government data.

The array of private workers promises to be a factor in debates on a range of policy issues, including the privatization of military jobs and the number of Iraqi refugees allowed to resettle in the U.S.

But there are also signs that even those mounting numbers may not capture the full picture. Private security contractors, who are hired to protect government officials and buildings, were not fully counted in the survey, according to industry and government officials.

Continuing uncertainty over the numbers of armed contractors drew special criticism from military experts.

“We don’t have control of all the coalition guns in Iraq. That’s dangerous for our country,” said William Nash, a retired Army general and reconstruction expert. The Pentagon “is hiring guns. You can rationalize it all you want, but that’s obscene.”

Although private companies have played a role in conflicts since the American Revolution, the U.S. has relied more on contractors in Iraq than in any other war, according to military experts.

Contractors perform functions including construction, security and weapons system maintenance.

Military officials say contractors cut costs while allowing troops to focus on fighting rather than on other tasks.

“The only reason we have contractors is to support the war fighter,” said Gary Motsek, the assistant deputy undersecretary of Defense who oversees contractors. “Fundamentally, they’re supporting the mission as required.”

But critics worry that troops and their missions could be jeopardized if contractors, functioning outside the military’s command and control, refuse to make deliveries of vital supplies under fire.

At one point in 2004, for example, U.S. forces were put on food rations when drivers balked at taking supplies into a combat zone.

Adding an element of potential confusion, no single agency keeps track of the number or location of contractors.

In response to demands from Congress, the U.S. Central Command began a census last year of the number of contractors working on U.S. and Iraqi bases to determine how much food, water and shelter was needed.

That census, provided to The Times under the Freedom of Information Act, shows about 130,000 contractors and subcontractors of different nationalities working at U.S. and Iraqi military bases.

However, U.S. military officials acknowledged that the census did not include other government agencies, including the U.S. Agency for International Development and the State Department.

Last month, USAID reported about 53,000 Iraqis employed under U.S. reconstruction contracts, doing jobs such as garbage pickup and helping to teach democracy. In interviews, agency officials said an additional 300 Americans and foreigners worked as contractors for the agency.

State Department officials said they could not provide the department’s number of contractors. Of about 5,000 people affiliated with the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, about 300 are State Department employees. The rest are a mix of other government agency workers and contractors, many of whom are building the new embassy.

“There are very few of us, and we’re way undermanned,” said one State Department official who spoke on condition of anonymity. “We have significant shortages of people. It’s been that way since before [the war], and it’s still that way.”

The companies with the largest number of employees are foreign firms in the Middle East that subcontract to KBR, the Houston-based oil services company, according to the Central Command database. KBR, once a subsidiary of Halliburton Co., provides logistics support to troops, the single largest contract in Iraq.

Middle Eastern companies, including Kulak Construction Co. of Turkey and Projects International of Dubai, supply labor from Third World countries to KBR and other U.S. companies for menial work on U.S. bases and rebuilding projects. Foreigners are used instead of Iraqis because of fears that insurgents could infiltrate projects.

KBR is by far the largest employer of Americans, with nearly 14,000 U.S. workers. Other large employers of Americans in Iraq include New York-based L-3 Communications, which holds a contract to provide translators to troops, and ITT Corp., a New York engineering and technology firm.

The most controversial contractors are those working for private security companies, including Blackwater, Triple Canopy and Erinys. They guard sensitive sites and provide protection to U.S. and Iraqi government officials and businessmen.

Security contractors draw some of the sharpest criticism, much of it from military policy experts who say their jobs should be done by the military. On several occasions, heavily armed private contractors have engaged in firefights when attacked by Iraqi insurgents.

Others worry that the private security contractors lack accountability. Although scores of troops have been prosecuted for serious crimes, only a handful of private security contractors have faced legal charges.

The number of private security contractors in Iraq remains unclear, despite Central Command’s latest census. The Times identified 21 security companies in the Central Command database, deploying 10,800 men.

However, the Defense Department’s Motsek, who monitors contractors, said the Pentagon estimated the total was 6,000.

Both figures are far below the private security industry’s own estimate of about 30,000 private security contractors working for government agencies, nonprofit organizations, media outlets and businesses.

Industry officials said that private security companies helped reduce the number of troops needed in Iraq and provided jobs to Iraqis – a benefit in a country with high unemployment.

“A guy who is working for a [private security company] is not out on the street doing something inimical to our interests,” said Lawrence Peter, director of the Private Security Company Assn. of Iraq.

Not surprisingly, Iraqis make up the largest number of civilian employees under U.S. contracts. Typically, the government contracts with an American firm, which then subcontracts with an Iraqi firm to do the job.

Stan Soloway, president of the Professional Services Council, a contractors’ trade group, said the number of Iraqis reflected the importance of the reconstruction and economic development efforts to the overall U.S. mission in Iraq.

“That’s not work that the government does or has ever done…. That’s work that is going to be done by companies and to some extent by” nongovernmental organizations, Soloway said. “People tend to think that these are contractors on the battlefield, and they’re not.”

The Iraqis have been the most difficult to track. As recently as May, the Pentagon told Congress that 22,000 Iraqis were employed by its contractors. But the Pentagon number recently jumped to 65,000 – a result of closer inspection of contracts, an official said.

The total number of Iraqis employed under U.S. contracts is important, in part because it may influence debate in Congress regarding how many Iraqis will be allowed to come to the U.S. to escape violence in their homeland.

This year, the U.S. planned to cap that number at 7,000 a year. To date, however, only a few dozen Iraqis have been admitted, according to State Department figures.

Kirk Johnson, head of the List Project, which seeks to increase the admission of Iraqis, said that the U.S. needed to provide a haven to those who worked most closely with American officials.

“We all say we are grateful to these Iraqis,” Johnson said. “How can we be the only superpower in the world that can’t implement what we recognize as a moral imperative?”

The back story

Information in this article is based in part on a database of contractors in Iraq obtained by The Times under the Freedom of Information Act, which allows the public access to government records.

The database is the result of a census conducted earlier this year by the U.S. Central Command.

The census found about 130,000 contractors working for 632 companies holding contracts in Iraq with the Defense Department and a handful of other federal agencies.

The Times received the database last month, four months after first requesting it. Because the Freedom of Information Act law requires an agency to provide only information as of the date of the request, the census is based on figures as of February. During interviews, Pentagon officials said the census had since been updated, and they provided additional figures based on the update.

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Contractors in Iraq

There are more U.S.-paid private contractors than there are American combat troops in Iraq.

Contractors: 180,000

U.S. troops: 160,000

Nationality of contractors*

118,000 Iraqis

43,000 non-U.S. foreigners

21,000 Americans

Top contractors

Company: Kulak Construction Co.

Description: Based in Turkey, supplies construction workers to U.S. bases

Total employees: 30,301

Company: KBR

Description: Based in Houston, supplies logistics support to U.S. troops

Total employees: 15,336

Company: Prime Projects International

Description: Based in Dubai, supplies labor for logistics support

Total employees: 10,560

Company: L-3 Communications

Description: Based in New York, provides translators and other services

Total employees: 5,886

Company: Gulf Catering Co.

Description: Based in Saudi Arabia, provides kitchen services to U.S. troops

Total employees: 4,002

Company: 77 Construction

Description: Based in Irbil, Iraq, provides logistics support to troops

Total employees: 3,219

Company: ECC

Description: Based in Burlingame, Calif, works on reconstruction projects

Total employees: 2,390

Company: Serka Group

Description: Based in Turkey, supplies logistics support to U.S. bases

Total employees: 2,250

Company: IPBD Ltd.

Description: Based in England, supplies labor, laundry services and other support

Total employees: 2,164

Company: Daoud & Partners Co.

Description: Based in Amman, Jordan, supplies labor for logistics support

Total employees: 2,092

Company: EOD Technology Inc

Description: Based in Lenoir City, Tenn., supplies security, explosives demolition and other services

Total employees: 1,913

Note: Data are as of February, which is most current available.

*Approximate – numbers rounded

Sources: U.S. Central Command, Times reporting

Paul Duginski Los Angeles Times

Copyright 2007 Los Angeles Times

Posted in Blackwater, Iraq War, Los Angeles Times, military contractors, private contractors, privatization of war, T. Christian Miller | 1 Comment »