Sunday, December 13, 2009

Blackwater Guards Tied to Secret Raids by the C.I.A.

Blackwater Guards Tied to Secret Raids by the C.I.A. by James Risen and Mark Mazzetti (NYT) via VotersForPeace.

Private security guards from Blackwater Worldwide participated in some of the C.I.A.’s most sensitive activities — clandestine raids with agency officers against people suspected of being insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan and the transporting of detainees, according to former company employees and intelligence officials.

Lets stop and think about 'force' and who's had it and controlled it in the history of the United States.

Our Founding Fathers were very suspicious of force that could get out of control. They'd just lived under the King of England arbitrarily using mercenaries and conscripts against them. So, one of the cornerstones of our early democracies that they created was that the power of 'force' remained in the hands of the people.

Our early democracy did not have this plethora of local, state and federal police forces and their thousands upon thousands of officers. Instead, there was a local sheriff, usually an elected office, and maybe a very small handful of deputies. If the sheriff needed to use more 'force' than that, he called for citizen volunteers. Anyone who's seen an old western movie where a posse is formed knows how this worked.

For defense against foreign enemies, our founding fathers were very distrustful of 'standing armies'
In time of actual war, great discretionary powers are constantly given to the Executive Magistrate. Constant apprehension of War, has the same tendency to render the head too large for the body. A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty. The means of defence agst. foreign danger, have been always the instruments of tyranny at home. Among the Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt was apprehended. Throughout all Europe, the armies kept up under the pretext of defending, have enslaved the people.

* Speech, Constitutional Convention (1787-06-29), from Max Farrand's Records of the Federal Convention of 1787, vol. I [1] (1911), p. 465

Instead, they kept a very small number of regular army, really just enough to man some forts along the coasts and frontiers. When war came, when the government needed more 'force' than this, they called for volunteers.

When Lincoln called this a nation with a 'government of the people, by the people, and for the people', this is at least in part of what he referred to. In those days, when the government needed to use 'force', it relied upon volunteers from the people.

The effect of this was that government officials did not have 'force' available to them without the participation of the citizenry. Under the original system of democracy created here in America, there was tight control over whether the government could fight an unpopular war. The citizenry had the final say, as it would be very hard to fight a war that no one volunteered to fight.

This is a very different system than today where any mayor has thousands of armed police officers at their beck and call, and the President can order millions of paid soldiers who are sworn to obey his orders as commander in chief.

World War II was largely the dividing line. Lincoln had a draft and of course a huge army to fight the Civil War, but that was disbanded at the end of the war, and the nation largely returned to the original system afterwards. It was the end of World War II that marked the change to a permanent army numbering in the millions.

Maybe that was needed to fight the Soviets, although that threat was always massively exaggerated in the intelligence estimates. But, whether it was really needed or not, by the end of the Cold War in 1991, the concept of a huge permanent army had become a permanent feature on the American landscape.

A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty

But, at least that force was still at least nominally under popular control. Now we are moving to the next phase. Private armies. That's what's been built in this era of 'privatisation'. The US government has paid companies like Blackwater huge fees in the millions upon millions of dollars to build vast private armies. The bean counters in the government apparently think this is a good idea since we only hire the armies when we need them.

But the problem is this. Those private armies don't just disappear when the government isn't using them for missions. They'd be available of other missions. Maybe an oil company has a problem with protesters near an overseas oil field. Or, if things get really nasty, the private armies can start to act on their own. Maybe someday a mercenary company gets tired of those protesters near its facilities and turns loose its own CIA-used snatch and grab teams on them.

Not saying that this has happened yet. But the point is that we are taking another very dangerous step AWAY from the system and the protections that our Founding Fathers tried to erect to create a free nation. We've already gone from force being under the direct control of citizens to a system where force is under the relatively uncontrolled power of the state. Now we are seeing this force move from within the government, where there was at least some chance that the people might control it, off into private companies that are completely out of public control. And these private armies are being created with public tax money being paid out in contracts.

Paying public tax money to create private armies that are not under popular control is not right. In fact, it is a very dangerous thing to do. Having private armies around is never good for peace and stability.

If Madison considered a standing army under control of the government a threat to liberty, I wonder what he would think of a private standing army that's only under the control of its owner?

So, there are these guys that were trained and had the skills to go with the CIA on these raids. Wonder what they are doing today?


David Scott said...

Although, I personally am so far to the left that even the democrats appear to me to be "right-wing," I consider myself to be a strict constitutionalist. It is my opinion that since its inception there has been an organized and systematic assault by the conservatives in the United States (and in the other industrialized nations) on the civil liberties written into the US Constitution. The “War on Drugs”; “War on Terror”; “War on Communism” and a host of other wars waged by the right wing are really nothing more than a War on People--an excuse to erode civil rights to the point of non-existence. I invite you to my website devoted to raising awareness on this puritan attack on freedom:

Samson said...

LOL ... I like the political description of yourself!

Of course, since to me, the Democrats are to the right of Nixon, and nearly as far right as Reagan these days, I guess I'm another that views the Democrats as 'right wing'.

To me, the political spectrum loops around like a mobius strip. Right-wing Libertarian isn't all that different from Anarchist. Of course, members of each group would die before they'd admit that. :)

Somewhere in Chomsky's writings, he makes the point that the nature of the assault doesn't change, just the names they use. He takes it all the way back to the post WWI 'Red Scare'.

Thanks ... I'll have to come check out the site.