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A new class of corporate warriors Print

M. Abdul Hafiz - 2008-05-12

A new class of combatants emerged in the US forces with the proliferation of what has been come to be known as war services industries. It was essentially necessitated by the country's military involvement in Iraq one of the longest conflicts in the US history, shorter only than the Vietnam war.

Over 500,000 troops moved into Iraq since the invasion started in March 2003, and continue to stay there in occupation of the invaded country. About 200,000 troops committed in Iraq were deployed there more than once something dampening to the morale of any soldier. The Bush administration is not oblivious to the fact, and the president himself is genuinely concerned about it and wants to handle it more tactically by reducing the period of deployment of the US troops from 15 to 12 months. But the Pentagon, exasperated with an overstretched military, failed to make it work. A privatised military industry, however, came to the rescue.

Former US president Eisenhower warned the Americans about military industrial complex. Such a complex, if any, now fades into insignificance and has been totally over-shadowed by the development of war services industries. A book, titled Corporate Warriors: The Rise of Privatised Military Industry, has made an interesting revaluation about the mushrooming of privatised military firms and their work abroad.

These firms provide war-related services, which range from consulting services delivered by retired military officers to trans-national corporations that lease out battalions of commandos if requisitioned. With hundreds of this type of firm operating in several countries, the Pentagon perhaps finds it handy now to grapple with some of its acute military problems in Iraq and elsewhere.

According to a report last year in the Christian Science Monitor, the number of private security personnel and civilian contractors has now swelled to something between 126,000 to 180,000. The military, or military- related activities of these personnel, the paper claimed, should be added to the activities of the regular troops operating there.

It is, however, not known if it enabled the Pentagon to translate Bush's plan of handling the US troops tactically into reality. However, an interesting aspect of military-related activity at private level is that a large number of these security-related personnel are not American. They are brought from different countries like South Africa. Pakistan, Fiji and Brazil making them a truly heterogeneous lot.

The Christian Science Monitor also reported that over 4000 private security forces of the same category were brought from South Africa to operate in Iraq. Although these hired forces are highly paid certainly much more than what they can expect in their own country for the same job they are looked down upon as hired killers without the motivation and noble cause of a professional soldier. Any attempt to equate these mercenaries with the professionals can be done only with a measure of compunction.

The American forces are not drafted. They are a so-called volunteer army. There are significant differences between the two. During the Vietnam war, for instance, draft calls were 30,000 or more each month. During 1966-68, a total of 882,390 were drafted into the army. When one analyses the motivation of the Americans joining the army that has been engaged in a bloody war for several years, one is bound to find a lurking desire in those “volunteers”a streak of financial interest and not just patriotism. Many tend to label the volunteer army personnel as “soldiers of fortune,” meaning that they join the army for money- related benefits.

A study of modern army recruiting methods in the US shows that new recruits focus on “perks rather than patriotism,” because incentives such as health coverage, housing allowance and money for college enrolment inspire many young people to join the army, notwithstanding the risks involved. An ordinary American volunteering for the army comes generally from the lower-middle class, who, and whose family, cannot afford higher education and have few job opportunities.

The Pentagon raised the tax-free cash benefit for volunteer army personnel from $15,000 to $20,000 for a three-year enlistment. To bolster recruitment, the Pentagon hired a professional firm to collect data about high-school and college students so that it knows the background of those students with recruitment potential.

Against such a backdrop, it is only expected that the military industry in American would only flourish with more fronts opened in its military engagements abroad, and with the longevity of the conflicts. In the process, we will be witnessing many more dimensions of modern warfare hitherto unknown to mankind.

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