Friday, May 11, 2007

Forget Blackwater, Stick with the National Guard

Something I read on Libby's blog - The Impolitic - caught my attention. She was talking about Kansas' crippled efforts to conduct a proper search and rescue attempt after their tornado because of their strapped National Guard units, and she concluded with this:
Our National Guard should be here at home doing the job they signed up for, rendering service on the homefront, rather than being sent thousands of miles of away for years on end in the name of imperialistic follies. Instead, when the next disaster strikes a major metro area, the taxpayer will be footing the bill for Blackwater mercenaries at ten times the price.
Libby may be onto something with her comment about Blackwater. Consider this article:
Increasingly a magnet for controversy, Blackwater USA has encountered a bumpy road implementing its national and international expansion plans.

The Moyock, N.C.-based private military company's plans to open an Asian branch in the Philippines have been scrapped and one stateside proposal has drawn considerable heat.

"We are no longer pursuing a facility in the Philippines," Anne Tyrrell, a company spokeswoman, said this week. [...]

Closer to home, Blackwater's drive to open a West Coast outpost has run into a buzzsaw of public opposition. More than half the registered voters of a tiny rural community east of San Diego, the proposed site of "Blackwater West," have signed a petition opposing the project. [...]

Meanwhile, Blackwater's new northern base in Illinois - where the company had no local regulatory hurdles to overcome - opened quietly this week, offering a variety of courses in firearms use, law enforcement and military tactics.
It is curious that the company quietly goes around expanding their facilities when according to an article in the Metro Times they have an extensive training facility in North Carolina.
Blackwater has a private fleet of more than twenty aircraft, including helicopter gunships and a surveillance blimp division. Its 7,000-acre headquarters in Moyock, North Carolina, is the world's largest private military facility. It trains tens of thousands of federal and local law enforcement agents a year and troops from "friendly" foreign nations.
Maybe they're positioning themselves to be accessible as emergencies arise in the south, out west or in the heartland in order to secure government contracts like they did after Hurricane Katrina. Privatization is a big, big story, according to what Jeremy Schahill told Metro Times:
[...] "Blackwater is a company that's engaged to tell a much bigger story. We are living right now in the middle of the most radical privatization agenda in the history of this country," Scahill tells Metro Times. "The Bush administration has used the private sector to essentially double the size of the occupation using troops whose deaths don't get counted in the official death toll and are operating outside the official system of law."

Scahill was reporting on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 when he met several Blackwater "operatives" as he calls them. The company originally said its services were "donated" to the relief effort, but then it was awarded a no-bid contract with the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Protective Services to defend reconstruction projects and several private businesses, Scahill reports. [...]

"I feel like Hurricane Katrina provided us a window into the future of what could happen in this country with natural disasters or national emergencies," Scahill says. "Training and putting arms into the hands of private contractors who are accountable to no one, to me, is a very disturbing trend in this country."
If you don't find that disturbing, consider this statement from Metro Times:
"As one U.S. Congressmember observed, in strictly military terms, Blackwater could overthrow many of the world's governments."
I don't have a problem with privatization if it saves the taxpayer money, provides equal or better service, and is bid on in an open and honest matter. I do have a problem with no-bid contracts that end up costing us more. In Blackwater's case, the company has cost the taxpayers lots more money as I've posted before, and here's another example from Metro Times:
In contrast to active-duty soldiers who are poorly paid, Blackwater's guards were given six-figure salaries. "Standard wages for PSD (personal security detail) pros [in Iraq] were previously running about $300 [per man] a day," Fortune magazine reported at the time. "Once Blackwater started recruiting for its first big job, guarding Paul Bremer, the rate shot up to $600 a day."
I'm not sure what Blackwater's motivation is, but we don't need their services. We have National Guard troops available to help us in national emergencies that could use an infusion of cash to replace their missing equipment. Oh, and if the Bush administration really wants to spend more money, give the National Guard members a raise. They need it more than Erik Prince, millionaire owner of Blackwater.

4 comments:

Adrian said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Robert Preiss said...

I've been in the National Guard for more than 20 years and I can say absolutely that those who say things like "the National Guard should be at home" have no idea what they are talking about. Virtualy every moment we spend on duty weekends, annual training and more -- is spent preparing to fight America's combat OVERSEAS. We are ready to use that preparedness to help out our fellow citizens in times of crisis and disaster here at home, of course, and are proud of our capability to do so BUT our main focus and PURPOSE is to be militarily ready to deploy overseas. We never think otherwise and others need to understand this well. We are a joint force for combat operations not strictly a homeland asset. Members of the National Guard and others who support them can show their pride by wearing the new National Guard joint logo on t-shirts and other items available at http://www.cafepress.com/guardlogostore

abi said...

robert, apparently the National Guard's web site also doesn't know what it's talking about.

It mentions a federal mission and a state mission, and that it trains for both. It says nothing about the main focus and purpose you cite.

In wartime, the National Guard is sometimes called to help the branches of the military whose exclusive job is to fight wars. That's not to belittle the Guard's role at all. But the Guard is also trained to deal with a variety of problems at home (if its web site is to be believed). And if there aren't enough Guard troops available to deal adequately with an emergency at home, who can be called on to help the Guard (the way the Guard is sometimes called on to help the other branches of the military)?

Oh yeah, organizations like Blackwater.

BTW, you might remember that during Vietnam, lots of young men (like our president) fell all over themselves trying to enlist in the Guard to minimize their chances of being sent to war.

Kathy said...

Robert, I have to say I appreciate the service of the Nat'l Guard, but the Guard was established for the purpose of being a reserve or backup force. It's great that you can be there to help our full-time troops, but the states shouldn't suffer because we're involved in a long, protracted war like the current one. We should have a draft to supplement troop levels.

Abi, excellent point about the men who enlisted in the Guard to avoid going to war. :-)