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The Invisible Soldiers: How America…

The Invisible Soldiers: How America Outsourced Our Security

by Ann Hagedorn

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Having worked with Iraq via the Foreign Military Sales program this book was of particular interest to me. Ms. Hagedorn gives a history of private military and security companies, formerly known as mercenaries. The companies that were linked to the term "mercenary" needed a new image. They continued to hire former military personnel, but they wanted to present themselves as being more professional. Thus, they marketed "military skills" as a commercial product. Given that we are now engaged in military actions in multiple regions, unless the draft were re-instated, we do not have enough military personnel to do the job. Privatization fills the gap between what the American military was trained and equipped to do – fight conventional wars – and what was needed in current unconventional wars.

The war in Iraq became known as the “first contractors’ war”. Contractors were beating a path to Iraq in order to get a portion of those billions of dollars in contracts that were being awarded by the US Government. Paul Bremer, who led the Coalition Provisional Authority of Iraq for a year, was himself a contractor. A private contractor was, for the first time, running the military occupation of a nation.

Contractors now provide everything from logistics and engineering services to food prep, laundry, housing, construction, and security. Contracts being awarded often required a specified number of personnel to be in place quickly. Ms. Hagedorn revealed that companies often hired third-country nationals as subcontractors because they were cheaper and could be deployed quickly. However, many of the personnel were not properly trained. I saw a lot of third-country nationals in security positions when I was in Baghdad, especially in the Green Zone.

In Afghanistan, Blackwater hired unqualified personnel as pilots and this resulted in a crash
killing several people, including a US military pilot with an exemplary safety record. No flight plan had been filed. The lone survivor died from exposure several hours after the crash. Since no flight plan had been filed, it took search crews a long time to locate them.

Ms. Hagedorn writes of incidents where numerous innocent Iraqi civilians died as a consequence of privatizing war. There were incidents of unnecessary use of lethal force by security contractors. These incidents not only undermined the US mission in Iraq but also affected US relations in the region in general and jeopardized the safety of our soldiers. Blackwater was a prime example of these callous disregard for Iraqi lives, and even American soldiers' lives. Early in the war, there were no laws to reign the security contractors in or to hold them accountable for their actions.

Jan Schakowsky, a congresswoman from Illinois, questioned the use of these private military and security contractors (PMSCs). American taxpayers were already paying to fund the military, considered the world’s most powerful, so why pay a second time to privatize the military operations? Contractors are not required to follow the same rules as active duty military. So who was overseeing them? Schakowsky tried but failed to ban private contractors’ from being involved in the supervision and interrogation of prisoners. The CEO of one of the largest contractors had been implicated in a number of human rights abuses around the world.

Some of these contractors showed an arrogance and disrespect for the military troops. A topic Hagedorn did not address was one I encountered. Often the military personnel did not understand contracting resulting in them not being aware of what the contractors were actually responsible for.

The book provides a good insight into the pros & cons of using private security forces. Most Americans probably do not realize that when US troops pulled out of Iraq the end of 2011, many were replaced by contractors.

Another area for privatization is maritime security – the guard against piracy. With so much water to patrol it is difficult for international naval forces to protect every commercial vessel.

I think the book makes a case revealing that the US Government, especially the State Department, was in over their heads. So they often stepped aside and let the private sector take over.

This book is very well written making it easy to read. ( )
  BettyTaylor56 | Oct 4, 2014 |
This is a stunning exposé from a highly respected writer who examines the growing use of PMC's (Private Military Contractors) that have been used in recent wars. These organizations are often shady, unorganized, unvetted and outside the legal and political controls and oversight that holds them accountable for mistakes, killings and international blunders. They have been used for security purposes, and to "hide" the actual number of U.S. troops being sent into war torn countries. This is a disturbing trend that the author feels must be contained before PMCs have more control than our own government while they rake in egregious payments for their services. This is a sobering and well documented account of a growing problem.

This book was received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  mldavis2 | Sep 26, 2014 |
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"The story behind the ultimate American privatization, which has taken place gradually and almost invisibly: how we privatized our national security"--

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