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Posts Tagged ‘UNITED STATES ARMY’

MERCENARIES: “PATRIOTISM” FOR PROFIT

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on August 27, 2018 at 12:07 am

The United States has been fighting in Afghanistan for almost 17 years—with no end in sight. 

Between 2001 and 2017, America spent an estimated $714 billion on this conflict.

Now Blackwater founder Erik Prince claims he can attain a victory that has eluded the United States Air Force, Army (including Green Berets) and Navy SEALs.  

His proposed solution: His private army of mercenaries—and $3.5 billion in taxpayer monies. 

Erik Prince.jpg

Erik Prince

By Miller Center [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

In 1997, Prince created Blackwater, a private security company providing support to military and police agencies.

In August, 2003, Blackwater got the first of a series of Federal contracts to deploy its forces in Iraq. For $21 million, it would safeguard Paul Bremer, the proconsul running the American occupation in Iraq. 

Ultimately, Blackwater got $1 billion to provide security for American officials and soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

According to human rights organizations, Blackwater abused Iraqis and engaged in torture to obtain information.

In September, 2007, Blackwater guards killed 17 Iraqi civilians and injured 20 more in a Baghdad traffic circle.

Five guards were charged with murder. Three were convicted in October, 2014, of 14 manslaughter charges and in April 2015 sentenced to 30 years in prison. These sentences were deemed unfair upon appeal and await re-sentencing. 

As a result of its highly controversial activities in Iraq, Prince renamed the company Xe Services in 2009 and then Academi in 2011.

Now, against opposition by the Pentagon, Prince is pressing Trump to let Academi privatize the war in Afghanistan. 

Since the end of the Cold War, the American military and Intelligence communities have grown increasingly dependent on private contractors.

In his 2007 bestseller, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA, Tim Weiner writes:

“Patriotism for profit became a $50-billion-a-year business….The [CIA] began contracting out thousands of jobs to fill the perceived void by the budget cuts that began in 1992. 

“A CIA officer could file his retirement papers, turn in his blue identification badge, go to work for a much better salary at a military contractor such as Lockheed Martin or Booz Allen Hamilton, then return to the CIA the next day, wearing a green badge….” 

Seal of the Central Intelligence Agency.svg

Much of the CIA became totally dependent on mercenaries. They appeared to work for the agency, but their loyalty was actually to their private–and higher-paying—companies.

Writes Weiner: “Legions of CIA veterans quit their posts to sell their services to the agency by writing analyses, creating cover for overseas officers, setting up communications networks, and running clandestine operations.”

One such company was Total Intelligence Solutions, founded in 2007 by Cofer Black, who had been the chief of the CIA’s counter-terrorism center on 9/11. His partners were Robert Richer, formerly the associate deputy director of operations at the CIA, and Enrique Prado, who had been Black’s chief of counter-terror operations at the agency.

Future CIA hires followed suit: Serve for five years, win that prized CIA “credential” and sign up with a private security company to enrich themselves.  

This situation met with full support from Right-wing “pro-business” members of Congress and President George W. Bush.

They had long championed the private sector as inherently superior to the public one. And they saw no danger that a man dedicated to enriching himself might put greed ahead of safeguarding his country.

But there are dangers to hiring men whose first love is profit. Recent examples include:

  • Edward Snowden deliberately joined Booz Allen Hamilton to secure a job as a computer systems administrator at the National Security Agency (NSA). This gave him access to thousands of highly classified documents—which, in 2013, he began publicly leaking to a wide range of news organizations. 
  • His motive, he has claimed, was to warn Americans of the privacy-invading dangers posed by their own Intelligence agencies.
  • On March 7, 2017, WikiLeaks published a “data dump” of 8,761 documents codenamed “Vault 7.”
  • The documents exposed that the CIA had found security flaws in software operating systems such as Microsoft Windows, Android and Apple iOS. These allowed an intruder—such as the CIA—to seize control of a computer or smartphone. The owner could then be photographed through his iPhone camera and have his text messages intercepted.
  • According to anonymous U.S. Intelligence and law enforcement sources, the culprits were CIA contract employees. 

But there are those who have offered a timely warning against the use of mercenaries. One of these is Niccolo Machiavelli, the Florentine statesman of the Renaissance. 

Image result for Images of Niccolo Machiavelli

Niccolo Machiavelli

In The Prince, Machiavelli writes:

“Mercenaries…are useless and dangerous. And if a prince holds on to his state by means of mercenary armies, he will never be stable or secure. For they are disunited, ambitious, without discipline, disloyal. They are brave among friends; among enemies they are cowards.

“They have neither the fear of God nor fidelity to man, and destruction is deferred only as the attack is. For in peace one is robbed by them, and in war by the enemy. 

“The cause of this is that they have no love or other motive to keep them in the field beyond a trifling wage, which is not enough to make them ready to die for you.”

Centuries after Machiavelli’s warning, Americans are realizing the bitter truth of it firsthand.

MOVING A BUREAUCRACY: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Self-Help on September 23, 2015 at 10:33 am

On Friday, September 23, 2005, my phone rang at 5 a.m. The caller was James McCoy, a White House liaison specialist.  He had gotten my message last night but had refrained from calling me until he had something to report.

Now he informed me that my request for military honors for my late father was being processed.

But he warned me that the records needed to secure an honor guard might not be available at the U.S. Military Records Center in St. Louis.

A 1973 fire had destroyed many of these records, and if my father’s was among them, it would take too long to “rebuild” a new one for him to get an honor guard within three days.

Later that morning I got a call from the National Personnel Records Center.

A woman named Connie asked me to type up and submit, via fax, a twice-signed statement declaring that, under penalty of perjury, the information I had provided about my father’s military service was true and correct.

Upon receipt of this, she would fax to the funeral home a copy of my father’s service number and Separation Document.

Shortly after faxing this off, I got a call from Ursula, another employee of the National Personnel Records Center.

She said that the above-mentioned items had been faxed to the Richard Pierce Funeral Service Chapel in Napa. All that I now had to do was arrange for the Chapel to make the arrangements with the military.

I called the Chapel around noon and was told that the documents had arrived, but that all of the home’s funeral directors were comforting grieving families.  I said I would call back later.

When I did, at about 1:45 p.m., I was told that the home’s director had been informed. Messages had been left with several military institutions, requesting an honor guard.

The question was: Would they call back in time?

So I called several numbers at Travis Air Force base in Fairfield, finally reaching a chaplain at the Chaplain’s office.

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Travis Air Force Base

He promised to do what he could for me.  He warned me that it might not be possible to assemble an honor guard on such short notice.

The reason: This was hurricane season, and many soldiers had been deployed to the Gulf Coast area to assist the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

His parting words were an expression of sorrow for my loss, and “God bless you.”

Next, I spoke with Jacob Bergholtz, a senior airman at Travis Air Force Base.  He promised to make some calls on my behalf.

He also gave me the number to the Army Honor Guard and I put in a call.

Finally, in late afternoon, I got a call from Tina Patterson, with the Army at Fort Lewis in Washington State, and she assured me that “it’s a go.”

The military has a proud tradition of honoring its dead. Those who have died in combat are held in a special reverence. But even those who have died in peacetime still command respect for having served their country.

It was that tradition that, above all else, I had counted on to make this possible.

I was so caught off-guard by the unexpected good news that at the end I thanked “Miss Lewis” for all her help, then corrected myself and thanked her again.

At about 1:40 p.m. on Sunday, September 25, 2005, the front door to the funeral home opened and in walked three men wearing green military uniforms.

One was a bugler, who held the rank of sergeant.  The second was a sergeant, who would take part in the actual flag-folding.  And the third was a sergeant-major, who wuld preside over the ceremony.  A fourth sergeant was scheduled to arrive, and he soon did.

At 2 p.m., the memorial service began.

When the tributes ended to my father ended, the funeral director introduced the honor guard.  The buglar remained in the back of the chapel, as the other three strode to the front.

The bugler launched into “Taps” and gave it a melancholy feel, letting each note linger.

When the last notes died away, the sergeant-major ordered the two other sergeants to unfold the tri-cornered American flag that had been placed on a stand at the front of the chapel even before the ceremony had started.

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A flag-folding ceremony

They did so, and then slowly re-folded it, in a process that took longer than I had imagined.

The flag folding ceremony now over, the sergeant-major accepted the flag, walked to my sister, Erica, leaned forward slightly, and presented it to her “on behalf of a grateful Nation and the Army” in recognition of the service of her father, Technical Sergeant Gerald A. White, for services to his country.

Erica accepted the flag, and I–sitting on her right side–saw her show emotion as she did so.

At 2:45 p.m., the four sergeants then strode out of the chapel, and the memorial service was over.

MOVING A BUREAUCRACY: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Self-Help on September 22, 2015 at 11:53 am

It’s widely assumed that bureaucracies are so cumbersome they simply cannot be managed–by their own members or by anyone else.

But this isn’t always true.

The key ingredients to obtaining what you need from a bureaucracy–whether a public or private one–are:

  • Patience;
  • Perseverence;
  • Professionalism; and
  • A wilingness to go to the top of the organization’s hierarchy.

On September 21, 2005, I learned that my father, Gerald White, had died at 83, less than a month short of his 84th birthday.

He had been an artist, photographer and art director, including work for Playboy in the 1950s and the Mondavi Winery in the 1980s and 90s.

During World War 11 he had been posted in the Pacific Theater, serving in Burma, China and India.  He had held the rank of technical sergeant and worked as an official U.S. Army photographer.

On Wednesday, September 21, my sister, Erica, called me to say that Jerry had died of natural causes in a nursing home at 1:57 a.m.

She was driving up on Saturday to pack up his belongings and to preside over a memorial service for him in Napa. I told her that, as a veteran (1942-1945) he was entitled to a military funeral, or at least an honor guard.

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World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.

I expected Erica to object–she tended to do that reflexively when I made a suggestion.  To my surprise, she didn’t, and she and I set out separately to explore the process of obtaining proof of his military service in time to qualify him for an honor guard.

But here we faced two problems:

  1. Neither of us had his Army serial number; and
  2. Neither of us had a copy of his Document of Separation, which all those leaving military service receive.  This lists all their ranks, postings and honors received.

Complicating matters still further: He had died on a Wednesday–and the memorial service was to be held that coming Sunday. That gave us only two days–Thursday and Friday–to try to arrange such honors.

Erica soon found the process a waste of time.  Calling the Veterans Administration (VA) she was told that there wouldn’t be time enough to get the paperwork approved.

I reached a different conclusion–after repeatedly getting only recorded messages when calling the VA. Even the office of my Congressman failed to get any closer to success than I had.

I decided that it might still be doable–but not through conventional channels. The next day, I would fall back on what has always been classic Standard Operating Procedure for me.

Tomorrow I wouldn’t waste any more time on going through regular channels.  Instead, I would create my own, starting at the very top–the White House.

The White House

I called the White House at 9 a.m. Eastern Standard Time on Thursday, September 22. I was quickly put through to the Military Office, which referred me to the office of the Army Chief of Staff.

This, in turn, referred me to the Human Resources Casualty Assistance Department. But this got me nowhere–I was urged to call the VA office in Napa and ask them to deal directly with the funeral home.

This would ensure that the required documents reached the mortuary within the next 12 days!

Reflexively, I found myself quoting a favorite line of my father’s: “The operation was a success, but the patient died.”  The woman on the other end of the line wasn’t thrilled, but that was the least of my concerns.

Next, I called the U.S.National Personnel Records Center, where records are held for all current and former members of the armed services.

National Personnel Records Center

An official there was so empathetic that I took heart.  Only later did I blast myself for having failed to ask for her name or extension, so I could reach her again.  As the day wore on, I assumed this would prove a lost cause.

In the evening–Washington, D.C., time, that is–I again called the White House Military Office. A Marine gunnery sergeant said that someone was trying to process a records request, but he didn’t say specifically that it was my case being worked on.

He gave me the name of James McCoy, a White House liaison specialist, and I tried to reach him before 5 p.m. closing time at the White House.

Unfortunately, my call wasn’t returned, and, once again, I assumed the effort was almost certain to end in failure.

On Friday, September 23, my phone rang at 5 a.m. with word from the White House Military Office that my request was being processed.

The caller was McCoy, who had gotten my message last night but had refrained from calling me until he had something to report.

But there was a possible catch: I was warned that the records needed to secure an honor guard might not be available at the U.S. Military Records Center in St. Louis.

A 1973 fire had destroyed many of these records, and if my father’s was among them, it would take too long to “rebuild” a new one for him to get an honor guard within three days.

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