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April 03, 2006
Death-for-hire

TomGram is all bloggy today on Frida Berrigan's "Privatizing the Apocalypse."

Tomgram: Frida Berrigan on a For-Profit Nuclear World

In addition, the Pentagon and the Bush administration have been on another kind of binge, privatizing national (and international) security. From New Orleans to Iraq, rent-a-mercenary companies are having a for-profit field day based on the woes of others. According to P.W. Singer, author of Corporate Warriors, for every hundred U.S. soldiers in our first Gulf War, there was one private "security contractor." This time around, it's closer to one in ten. It has been estimated that there are up to 20,000 guns-for-hire, Iraqi and Western, working in that country, the second largest (if also motliest) force in the "coalition of the willing."

Such private companies are above the law in Iraq, and their trigger-happy hirees don't hesitate to create mayhem. In part because their own casualties can largely be kept private, such companies have done much to reduce the political costs of going to war in the United States, while raising the stakes in Baghdad. In a February 2004 New Yorker article, retired Air Force Colonel Sam Gardiner told journalist Jane Mayer, "When you can hire people to go to war there is none of the grumbling and political friction" associated with mustering a larger public fighting force.

The mercenaries fighting in Iraq (and patrolling the streets of New Orleans) have been an off-and-on hobbyhorse of mine.

Me, I think if your country doesn't support the war, you shouldn't be fighting it.

Of course, if you've lied your way into a war, you'll be desperate to keep the official body count as low as possible. Mercenaries are ideal for that. In addition, civilians slaughtered by trigger-happy mercenaries also don't count 'against' official troops. And the govenrment doesn't have to pay medical costs or death benefits (if there are any) for wounded or dead mercenaries.

So, you can see the temptation.

Privatization is reaching nuclear, so to speak, proportions.

How do you feel about nuclear weapons research and security being in the hands of private, for-profit companies?

In a world where even Google bends to the profit motive and censors the internet for China's repressive government, how do you feel about corporations with no such dedication to a "Do No Evil" mantra adding nuclear profits to their bottom lines?

At Los Alamos, the University of California has already been replaced by a "limited liability corporation," says Tyler Przybylek of the Department of Energy's Evaluation Board; and, more generally, the writing is on the containment wall. Nuclear laboratories are no longer to be intellectual institutions devoted to science but part of a corporate-business model where research, design, and ultimately the weapons themselves will become products to be marketed. The new dress code will be suits and ties, not lab coats and safety glasses. Under Bechtel, new management will lead to a "tightly structured organization" that will "drive efficiency," predicts John Browne, who directed the lab at Los Alamos from 1997-2003. "If there is a product the government wants," he concludes, "they will necessarily be focused on that. A lot more money will be at stake."

Los Alamos was the first to go. Now, the management contract for the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, is on the auction block as well.

Read it and worry.

Posted by AnneZook at 01:27 PM


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