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The privatization of war

Before being an economic doctrine, neoliberalism is a political project. Wherever it has extended its influence, even the armies have been put through the privatization grinder. As Manlio Dinucci explains, today’s wars are increasingly conducted by private companies and less and less by States. Since neoliberalism is based on the privatization of profits and the socialization of costs, the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and in Libya proved very costly to the States, for little return. Wars in this neoliberal era are not necessarily waged to appropriate foreign resources, but to siphon the wealth of the conquered populations towards the private military sector of the conquering nations.

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What is the most dangerous occupation among the United States / NATO forces in Afghanistan? It is not "soldier", as it may seem, but "subcontractor".

According to official data, more "subcontractors" of U.S. private military companies were killed in Afghanistan last year than U.S. regular army soldiers: 430 as opposed to 418. But undoubtedly many more, since companies are not obliged to publish the obituary of their employees. The same applies to the wounded, whose number exceeds that of the dead.

In 2011, most of the dead (386 out of 430) were operating in Afghanistan for the Pentagon; the rest were working for the State Department and USAID (the federal agency for "international development", but militarized de facto). These data confirm that an increasing number of functions previously performed by official army personnel, have been transferred to private military companies. The "subcontractors" are made up of 22% U.S. citizens, 31% from other countries and 47% Afghans. In the U.S. Central Command, which includes Iraq, the Pentagon "subcontractors" are more than 150,000. To that number should be added those employed by other departments and allied armies, whose number is unknown but is certainly high.

These are provided by an oligopoly of large companies, structured like real multinationals. Among the most qualified is Xe Services (formerly known as Blackwater), which provides "innovative solutions" to the U.S. government and others. The second one is DynCorp International, which presents itself as a "multifaceted global enterprise," specializing in "law enforcement, peace-keeping and stability operations." With a staff of tens of thousands of specialists, this war company has accumulated a wealth of experience in covert operations, since, in the 1980s, it helped Oliver North, on behalf of the CIA, to supply arms to the Nicaraguan contras, and in the 1990s, always on behalf of the CIA, trained and armed the KLA in Kosovo.

These and other companies, notably L-3 Communications, are also involved in military communications, bases construction, "security provisioning" and "interrogation of prisoners." Many "subcontractors" come from special forces and the secret services, while others are brought in as bodyguards, translators, technicians in logistical services.

All are part of these private armies which act in the shadows, alongside regular forces whose actions are also increasingly secretive.

The strategy of privatization, which serves to dismantle the public domain for the benefit of economic and financial elites in whose hands lies the real power, is also applied when it comes to war. With the advantage that blood, like a karst river, flows underground, to save appearances and avoid upsetting public opinion in "major Western democracies."

However, what has not been privatized is the war spending which, covered as it is by taxpayer money, further increases the debt falling on the majority of citizens...compelled to foot the bill for “the innovating solutions” of Xe Services.

Michele Stoddard

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