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October 29, 2007

Comments

Here's a post on the same subject from old, missing-of-late-from-here friend jrudkis who's in Iraq as we type. I don't have a well-thought-out opinion of my own that I wish share, but I figured his opinion might be of interest.

The usual argument for privatization invokes the advantages of the market, where inefficiencies are driven out by competition, as many providers compete for the money from many consumers. But here we have a single consumer and a single provider (once the contract is given--and it becomes hard to revoke it and change while fighting). So, monopoly meets monopsony: no market at all.

One of attributes of this administration that's been crippling our war efforts is it's appalling ignorance of history.
"Private" armies have been tried before. It's no coincidence that some of the oldest regiments in European armies date their histories back to the Sixteenth Century when the private-contractor model of raising regiments started to give way to the "royal" model of government-sponsored units.
Likewise, until around 1800, it was common practice to PRIVATIZE hauling artillery to the battlefield. It was considered a great reform to make soldiers out of the teamsters, resulting in much greater battlefield efficiency.
While it may seem attractive to outsource all the support jobs such as mechanics, cooks and clerks to civilians, in the long run it's a mistake. Sure, in routine operations there's no advantage to having solider cooks over cheaper local hire civilians. But the Army has to be able to operate in decidely non-routine, high stress situations, too. And that's when its handy that the cook can also be a rifleman.
All this is even MORE true when one considers actual combat roles. However much it may be open to debate that using a third-country national as a cook may sometimes be worthwhile, it seems clearly inappropriate to use them in combat roles.

"I am all in favor of the private operation of, say, supermarkets, and if they were presently run by the government, I would be all for privatizing them."

hilzoy for Chief of Pennsylvania's Liquor Control Board!

Confederate General Forrest said that the key to winning battles was to get there "Firstest with the mostest." And "mostest" is not just soldiers but food and shelter and all the other support they need. Logistics is not a sideshow but is the heart of warfare.

To "outsource" field logistics strikes me as a bad idea. Imagine a mess-hall or motor-pool contractor saying it was "too dangerous" to send its staff into a certain area. That stops the battle right there. Figuratively-speaking, the military doesn't have to go so far as to own the forests from which it makes masts and spars (as did the British Navy) but how do you like the idea of military bases being run by private enterprise? Or of naval ships in a battle zone being supplied with oil private oil tankers?

It seems to me that if you accept the need for a military then its field operations become as self-contained as possible and subject to military discipline.

There's an ugly parallel between "enemy combatants", who fit no recognized legal category and thus have no legal rights, and "military contractors", who fit no recognized legal category and thus have no legal accountability.

Maybe I'm mistaken, but I understood that the House had passed a version of David Price's legislation on October 4. Erik Prince's Ollie North-like manner in his appearance before the Waxman committee may well have helped move it along.

My impression was that it not only clarified that private contractors (including private military/private security/mercenaries/insert locution of choice) are subject to the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act and thus prosecution in U.S. courts, but also provides for an FBI investigative capacity that would make it somewhat more realistic that such cases would end up being brought.

That the Iraqi government has taken at least the first step in repealing the colonial-occupier edict that gave contractors immunity under Iraqi law should light a fire under the Senate to pass legislation to complete the job begun in the House.

"It seems pretty clear to me that the main problem is not individual trigger-happy contractors but a larger structural point: the absence of any legal framework for holding contractors accountable. "

How do you know that wasn't by design?

@hilzoy: You might want to update to note the House bill's passage.

The link in my comment above goes into specifics. (Found it late in the posting process, so didn't update the 'my impression was' language in the comment).

My plumber arrives at the house accompanied by several Blackwater mercenaries and proceeds to roto-rooter my bank account.

Were I elected President, I would have my "private army" raid Blackwater training sites around the country, just to see what happens.

Then we'll all sit down at a table and discuss how wonderful privatization is.

I would also dismiss the Secret Service and contract the duties out to my own private security force. I would have them give dirty looks to the privatizers in Congress as I entered to tell them what's new in my first State of the Union address.

@The Other Steve: Hilzoy's phrasing doesn't commit her to a position on whether the lack of a framework for holding contractors accountable was by design (made it happen), by default (let it happen), or unfortunate circumstances (it just happened!).

Just as with the invasion itself and the situation now facing the Iraqi people and the region, parceling out the intentions and responsibilities is tough business: lots of support for whatever one's inclined to believe, lots of room for clashing interpretations due to giving different degrees of benefit of the doubt.

I'm with the Blackwater are-stone-cold-killers-because-impunity-was-built-in school, but I'm not expecting anyone here to share that view. Helpful forewarning for reading my blog posts on the subject, though; I don't give paramilitaries the benefit of the doubt no matter who they are and who hires them.

If I were elected president I'd yank the Blackwater contracts so fast Erik Prince wouldn't even have time to curl his lip and stick his jaw out.

As so often, a much-appreciated laugh from JT's vivid, instructive imagery.

If I were elected President, I'd use the Blackwater mercenaries to deliver Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gonzales, and other international criminals, to the International Criminal Court for detention until trial.

The lower ranks - mercenaries and military - could be offered a choice between confessing all, honestly, fully, and openly... or prosecution. But I can't see that working for the monsters at the top.

Introducing mercenaries to the US military efforts brings all of the negative elements that you have raised to the fore.

But these mercenaries bring market forces to bear as well. There is now at work in the US economy, an element that depends upon the use of force to generate income.

Like other elements of our economy, this one forms a new political constituency, located conveniently near Washington for easy access to the halls of power. Mercenaries with lobbyists, and political action committees.

The US mercenaires do 'work' for other governments as well, in the Mideast and elsewhere.

And, if that weren't enough, these entities employ enforcers largely made up of US citizens, who will return to their homes in this country when their tours end. What will they do for a living?

Nightmares in four or five dimensions.

If I were elected President, I'd use the Blackwater mercenaries to deliver Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gonzales, and other international criminals, to the International Criminal Court for detention until trial.

The ICC would have to send them back.

The ICC would have to send them back.

They're all wanted for crimes committed in Afghanistan and in various CIA "black sites" in European countries which are signatory to the ICC. The ICC might want to send them back, but it wouldn't have to. Crimes committed in Bagram Airbase can be prosecuted by the ICC.

"There's an ugly parallel between "enemy combatants", who fit no recognized legal category and thus have no legal rights, and "military contractors", who fit no recognized legal category and thus have no legal accountability."

Are you trying to imply more by that comment or are you only claiming that the problem is they have no legal accountability?

Please correct me if I am wrong, but I thought enemy combatants did have legal accountability? We may not agree with the terms of it but it is there. How many enemy combatants has the US burned and hung up in the streets?

For someone reason I thought all US citizens were accountable under US law. Except for Bush and Cheney of course.

Maybe you are just trying to make some kind of ugly comparison between the two. Inquiring minds want to know, are Blackwater employees comparable to enemy combatants to you?


Does anyone know if these "mercenaries" are being forced into this work?

What will the do for a living afterwards is a great question? Possibly just go around killing innocent people? Maybe get a job. Who knows?

Does everyone here believe that the Blackwater employees are just hired mercenaries?

mer·ce·nar·y

1. working or acting merely for money or other reward; venal.
2. hired to serve in a foreign army, guerrilla organization, etc.
3. a professional soldier hired to serve in a foreign army.
4. any hireling.

Which definition fits best. We could apply the first definition but wouldn't that make anyone with a job a mercenary? I don't think they are serving in a foreign army. Hireling does work for them and the rest of us.

Maybe someone smarter than myself could provide a better definition for mercenary.


Do I need to expand on what I said? Very well. People declared enemy combatants by the executive branch are given neither normal Constitutional protections nor those that apply under the Geneva conventions. They can be detained indefinitely, interrogated harshly, even tortured, and have no standing to challenge any of it. The result is an extension of executive power without boundaries.

Military contractors operating in Iraq are not subject neither to the UCMJ nor to American or Iraqi civil law; in fact, as Hilzoy points out, their is no legal framework whatsoever holding them accountable for their actions. Since they work for the military or executive branch departments (e.g. State), the result is again an extension of executive power without boundaries.

They may be subject to U.S. civil suits, actually.

"People declared enemy combatants by the executive branch are given neither normal Constitutional protections nor those that apply under the Geneva conventions."

Mike, you're referring here to the category of "enemy combatants," which is to say, uniformed soldiers, rather than "illegal enemy combatants," about which all the controversy is about.

"Military contractors operating in Iraq are not subject neither to the UCMJ"

Wait, what?

Are you sure?

Is there a post/article/something somewhere that explains in summary form the various categories of belligerent under the laws of armed warfare and compares it to what the Bush administration says it can and can't do?

Hilzoy: "...the absence of any legal framework for holding contractors accountable."

Hilzoy?

This fresh National Law Journal piece seems relevant.

David Luban and Laura Dickinson at Balkinization wrote about contractor accountability and some of the problems in applying the UCMJ, but it does look like Hilzoy has overstated the situation.

The controversy over the prolific use of mercenaries by the US has one enormous elephant in the room. It follows from the fact that we do not have a sufficient number of military personnel to conduct this war, in even the present half-assed manner, without doubling our personnel though contractors.

We have a volunteer military unless a draft is instituted. It is evident that this war does not have enough support from our citizens to either elicit enough volunteers nor provide the political capital necessary to institute a draft.

It seems to me that the use of mercenaries undermines the gravity and sacrifice of military action by obviating the need for an honest commitment by the citizens of this nation. This makes it far too easy to make the decision to go to and remain at war.

On the subject of accountability.

There are Constitutional and other concerns with having contractors, civilian or military, held accountable through the UCMJ, starting with the fact that they aren't connected with the chain of military command.

That's why the recent House legislation (and the prospective Senate version) makes all private contractors, civilian and military/security, subject to the MEJA and U.S. civilian courts.

Hilzoy's characterization of the situation pre-September 16, 2007 is perfect accurate in practice, though: no contractor had ever had charges brought through military courts or in U.S. courts through MEJA, though in theory both applied. (Something asserted on Democracy Now in late September by Doug Brooks, founder and director of the mercs' trade association, the International Peace Operations Assn, in answer to the question "where is the accountability?"

This past January Brooks apparently had a different view, when it came out that a drunk Blackwater off-duty para had killed Iraqi VP Abdel al-Mahdi's bodyguard after a Christmas party in the Green Zone; back then he asserted that neither the UCMJ or MEJA would apply to the Blackwater "contractor".

So I say Hilzoy's got a point; there was certainly no agreed-on legal framework.

The question that has not yet been addressed here is how to replace the contractors and what they do? I am referring less to the egregious Blackwater and their ilk, and more to the service providers who feed the troops and operate the camps and logistical trains.

Previously, all this had been by the troops themselves (KP anyone?), resulting in a rather massive "tail" of noncombatant units. If this aspect of privatization is removed, the already strapped military will have to recruit even more soldiers, very few of whom will be in combat.

"Military contractors operating in Iraq are not subject neither to the UCMJ"

Wait, what?

Are you sure?

No, at this point I'm sure of pretty much nothing. I apparently overstated, but I can't combine all of the articles that have been cited into any sort of agreement. The news article says in so many words that UCMJ has applied to contractors since January. but the one about UCMJ, SMTJ, and MEJA says the UCMJ doesn't apply to civilians, period.

Here's the Democracy Now interview with Brooks of the IPOA, the merc PR and trade association.

Here's Brooks in January after the Green Zone killing, disagreeing that UCMJ would apply (this was after Lindsey Graham pushed through an amendment to do that). Oh, and I misremembered the Iraqi VP's name; it's Adel Abdul Mahdi. I regret to say I haven't yet encountered the name of his murdered guard in English-language coverage.

--The UCMJ thing is not retroactive.

--I doubt it would apply to the state department's contractors.

--There may be serious constitutional issues.

--I'd distinguish between theoretical mechanisms for holding contractors accountable & mechanisms that prosecutors, civilian or military, are willing & able to actually use. There are various theoretical ways to hold contractors accountable but none really has a proven track record.

There was a recent change in the UCMJ to make it apply to contractors, but it's not clear that applying that would withstand constitutional scrutiny or how that really works at all for people who aren't in the chain of command & don't have a commanding officer to initiate proceedings.

There are other criminal laws, like MEJA (others as well--I'm drawing a blank). David Passaro, a CIA contractor in Afghanistan, has been prosecuted & convicted for beating an Afghan prisoner to death. But in general, the track record of federal prosecutors investigating & prosecuting contractors is extremely weak--a lot of cases have languished, due to a combination of unclear jurisdiction, logistical difficulties, & (above all) lack of prosecutorial will. It's impossible to say how much suceess a DOJ not run by Alberto Gonzales could have in using MEJA or other criminal statutes to hold contractors accountable. The State Department running around granting everyone immunity before the FBI investigation begins doesn't help either.

It's possible to try suing them in American courts. The families of U.S. soldiers & contractor employees have filed some wrongful death cases. There are currently suits pending against Titan & CACI by former Abu Ghraib prisoners, and a recently filed case against Blackwater by relatives of those killed at Nisour Square. Whether those suceed, remains to be seen.

It's possible that Iraq is really serious about revoking immunity, though that would raise its own problems.

Obama's bill seems promising, but there are certain functions that I think just shouldn't be outsourced to anyone not subject to a military chain of command.

Good backgrounder from HRW here.

The State Department promised Blackwater USA bodyguards immunity from prosecution in its investigation of last month's deadly shooting of 17 Iraqi civilians, The Associated Press has learned.

What??!!

Who the hell gave them the power to make any such promise?

Add another seventeen counts to the overloaded off-the-table impeachment.

I remembered meeting someone from the International Peace Operations Association at the open house for the Campaign for America's Future's new offices earlier this year. I thought at the time it was a little strange for him to be there, since it certainly sounded from his description like the association didn't actually have much to do with peace. Now fumbling through the pile of business cards on my desk I see that it was indeed Doug Brooks.

Link for Nell's quote.

Sorry, meant to note that was from Bernard Yomtov's link at 6:14 (same AP story as KC linked).

They're all wanted for crimes committed in Afghanistan and in various CIA "black sites" in European countries which are signatory to the ICC. The ICC might want to send them back, but it wouldn't have to. Crimes committed in Bagram Airbase can be prosecuted by the ICC.

True. But my fantasy is still that they had to account for ALL crimes.

And maybe after that a good investigation into all the missing money. I remember from the 'food for oil' scandal how livid the rightwingers were about the lack of oversight and how they mostly felt that Koffi Annan bore the ultimate responsibility. Knowing how much they care about how all money budgetted should reach Iraqi's they must love a comparison to show how much better the US handled that.

@KCinDC: I cannot recommend strongly enough that everyone read the reporting of David Phinney at http://davidphinney.com and The Rough Cut.

His account of Doug Brooks' founding of IPOA is most intriguing. (I'm disturbed but not surprised to hear of him hanging about at a CAF event. Hell, CAF invited Colombia's Uribe as an honored guest in May; who are they to turn away Doug Brooks as a mere attender?).

Brooks should be kept as far away as possible from the "humanitarian" interventionists who will be coming home to roost in the Clinton administration State and "Defense" Departments.

“The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.”
Karl Marx, the Communist Manifesto, 1848

The progressive tax code now generates 40% of its revenue from 1% of taxpayers. The bottom fifty percent pay just 3% of the burden. The Rangle/Clinton plan would raise the top federal tax rate from 35% to 46%. The 1% of the electorate that would be affected by the increase has little power at the ballot box. Pick your favorite Democratic Senator. He or she is a millionaire tens or hundreds of times over.

If taxation without representation caused some changes, representation without taxation may end up having a similar effect. Just wait till they start playing with capital gains.

The mysterious emergence of private armies.

The left should be careful what they ask for. The real threat to our liberties isn’t Islam itself, it is what Islam could empower.

The progressive tax code now generates 40% of its revenue from 1% of taxpayers.

Always cute when people trot out this statistic without even bothering to note what percentage of the wealth is held by that top 1%.

The 1% of the electorate that would be affected by the increase has little power at the ballot box.

Right, which is why the entire Republican Party is hell-bent to repeal the estate tax, which only affects the super-rich.

Pick your favorite Democratic Senator. He or she is a millionaire tens or hundreds of times over.

Kind of hard to square this with the claim that the Democrats are engaged in class warfare, isn't it?

The mysterious emergence of private armies.

The idea that the super-rich in America are somehow being raped by the redistributionist masses, and may have to resort to some sort of coup to avoid being put out in the street, is among the most laughable bits of hysteria I've seen in a long time.

Oh, those poor, disenfrancised billionaires! How will they ever manage to get by?

"Who the hell gave them the power to make any such promise?"

It's hard to tell what's going on in that article, since the claim about immunity, repeated several times early in the article, is contradicted several times later in the article.

For instance:

[...] Officials said the Blackwater bodyguards spoke only after receiving so-called "Garrity" protections, requiring that their statements only be used internally — and not for criminal prosecutions.

At that point, the Justice Department shifted the investigation to prosecutors in its national security division, sealing the guards' statements and attempting to build a case based on other evidence from a crime scene that was then already two weeks old.

That's not immunity, that's immunity for specific previous statements.

Which contradicts what's said earlier in the piece.

My conclusion is that the piece is incoherent, the reporter confused, and that the various sources consulted and quoted aren't on the same pages themselves yet.

The question is still accurate and appropriate, of course, as regards the limited use immunity.

Pick your favorite Democratic Senator. He or she is a millionaire tens or hundreds of times over.
What if my favorite Democratic senator is, say, Russ Feingold? In fact, there are probably only around 7-18 senators with assets over $20 million, and only about half of those are Democrats. As for "hundreds", probably only around 2 are that wealthy.

Someday someone like Bill will explain (in a thread where it's relevant, not this one) why there wasn't more class stratification and less social mobility in the '50s and '60s, when top rates were much higher. But then evidence would interrupt the mad rush to a preordained conclusion - there is no evidence that will lead a staunch conservative (of some flavors) to any conclusion but that the rich should pay fewer taxes and bear less responsibility for the well-being of the society they profit from.

Meanwhile, back at reality, a realistic accounting would suggest that it'd be cheaper in the long run to pay for a larger armed force that folded support ando ther tasks back under the chain of command. But since mercenaries are easier to hide in the paperwork, justify in emergency spending, and the like, they're less visible costs. It would take a serious crusader for full reckoning in budgeting to make the matter visible to the public, and we don't really have many folks like that in positions of power.

"Pick your favorite Democratic Senator. He or she is a millionaire tens or hundreds of times over."

Russ Feingold? Really?

[...] adjusted gross income in 2003 [...] Feingold and his wife reported, $149,192.

[...]

# He and wife Mary reported a net worth at $220,410 - or less than the stated market value of their heavily mortgaged home. They said their home was worth $246,300 with a first mortgage of just under $194,000 and a short-term note - dubbed a second mortgage elsewhere in the reports - of nearly $45,000.

Subtracting the two obligations from the home's worth, the equity in the property would be $7,435 - or less than the value given for a 6-year-old luxury sedan, a Park Avenue Ultra, $8,000.
# In calculating their net worth, the couple listed $65,000 in personal property (not including the Buick) and $800 in computer equipment.

# Substantial assets they reported were profit-sharing and pension dollars totaling $148,194. The breakdown: a U.S. Senate pension, $24,363; a Wisconsin state pension, $26,258; and a U.S. Senate thrift savings account, $97,573. They also reported a life insurance policy in the senator's name with a face value of $250,000.

# Feingold said he had $2,736 in his checking account, and his wife had $100.

# The Feingolds reported paying $1,175 monthly for a Washington apartment and $300 to rent a studio.

# Their federal tax return showed $49,652 in itemized deductions, including $17,884 for gifts to charity.

# The Feingolds paid $16,678 in federal taxes and $7,132 in state taxes last year.

# Mary Feingold reported that her primary business, Write Now Business Communications, has her working as a creative writer. Its gross income was $10,425 last year, but after expenses, that left her with a profit of $3,282 - or $273 a month.

She listed three clients and said each paid her more than $1,000: Madison Magazine, Zillman Advertising & Marketing and Alliant Energy Center of Dane County.

Yep, like you say, my favorite Senator is a gazillionaire.

How about a presidential candidate?

[...] Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.
Earned income (includes 2006 Senate salary and income from books): $737,690.
Honoraria: None. (senators must donate to charity.)
Major assets: Morgan Chase Asset Management Checking Account, $100,001-$250,000; Vanguard Wellington Fund, $100,001-$250,000. State of Illinois pension, $50,001-$100,000.
Major sources of unearned income: Vanguard Wellington Fund, $5,001-$15,000.
Major liabilities: None.
Narrative: Besides Obama's $165,200 Senate salary, he received royalties for one book and an advance for a second totaling $572,490. His memoir, "Dreams of My Father," published in 1995 and later reissued, earned $147,490. He received a $425,000 advance against royalties for his latest book, "The Audacity of Hope," published in October.
Obama is committed to publisher Random House to write one more book of nonfiction and a children's book.
His wife, Michelle, is a hospital administrator at University of Chicago Hospitals. She also has assets in her name with Vanguard Wellington Fund and Vanguard Wellesley Income Fund. In their 2006 tax return, made public this year, the couple reported $991,296 in total income.
Plenty of money by my standards, but not "a millionaire tens or hundreds of times over." And it's mostly all book advance, from books which it's my impression have been selling well.

Oh, well.

"The Rangle/Clinton plan would raise the top federal tax rate from 35% to 46%."

Rangel.

Historic maximum tax rates for the highest income:

[...]
1932-33 63%
1934-35 63%
1936-37 78%
1938-40 78%
1941 80%
1942-43 88%
1946-47 86.5%
1950 84.4%
1951-64 91%

The Democrats then commenced cutting taxes:
1965-67 70%

There was briefly a Vietnam surtax:
1968 75.3%
1969 77%

It transitioned down and out:
1971 70%/60%
1972-75 70%/50%
1976-77 70%/50%
1978 70%/50%
1979-80 70%/50%

Then the cuts under Reagan and the Democratic Congress.

I think that absent wartime emergency, as was the case during WWII and Korea, 80% and over is way too high, and generally speaking, 70% seems way too high too me, as does anything much over 50%, loosely speaking.

But I'm not an economist, and my opinion on tax rates isn't worth much. My point is that America felt that such rates were acceptable for a very long time; having far lesser taxes seems unapt to bring on revolt by the mass of Americans, much as it may cause dark threats from those who enjoy implying them.

When I started poking around to write the above comment, KCinDC hadn't yet commented.

"But in general, the track record of federal prosecutors investigating & prosecuting contractors is extremely weak--a lot of cases have languished, due to a combination of unclear jurisdiction, logistical difficulties, & (above all) lack of prosecutorial will."

Is there any possibility that it could be due to lack of a good reasons to investigate? Maybe lack of evidence or actual events where there was a problem?

Or are we sure that this is happening all the time but our government is just turning a blind eye?


" follows from the fact that we do not have a sufficient number of military personnel to conduct this war"

I wonder why don't use troops from Western Europe and Asia, if we need them Iraq so badly.

"Is there any possibility that it could be due to lack of a good reasons to investigate? Maybe lack of evidence or actual events where there was a problem?"

not really, no.

I can't really discuss this further unfortunately.

(Actually, this article isn't a bad start.)

"I wonder why don't use troops from Western Europe and Asia, if we need them Iraq so badly."

I'll give you a dated clue, from 2005:

[...] Of the 37 combat brigades and Armored Cavalry Regiments in the US Army's active component, some 12 are currently deployed (including one from the 2nd Infantry Division in South Korea). Another 10 have recently returned from deployment, including both of the two Armored Cavalry Regiments (it should be noted that press and Army officials tend to lump the ACR's in with the Brigades when counting total combat brigades). A total of 9 Brgiades are slated for deployment over the course of 2005.

Deployed Active Combat Brigades/ACRs
TOTAL 33 37 43/48
Location Pre- 9/11 Current
[As of 01 Jan 05] Planned 2007

SWA/Iraq 1 10 9
South Korea 2 1 1
Afghanistan - 1 1
Kosovo 1 - -
Bosnia 1 - -
TOTAL 5 12 11

Since then, we've had the surge.

For every deployed unit, one has to be in training and preparing to deploy, and one has to be coming off a deployment, and in training. You appear to believe that the U.S. Army has many more brigades than it currently does.

Troops in Europe:

[...] The September 11, 2001 attacks did not directly affect the Seventh Army. However, the campaign in Iraq in 2003 did. The headquarters of V Corps was deployed to Iraq, as did 173rd Airborne Brigade, and after the campaign, 1st Armored Division followed for occupation duties. With parts of 1st Infantry Division also deployed in Iraq, and others on peacekeeping duties in the Balkans, Seventh Army was virtually stripped of combat formations. The return of 173rd Brigade, V Corps and 1st Armored Division in early 2004 was followed by the deployment of the rest of 1st Infantry Division for occupation duties.
Troops in Europe? What troops in Europe?

Troops in Korea:

[...] Lt. Gen. James J. Lovelace Jr., the Army's operations chief, is a kind of circus master responsible for juggling limited units and equipment and prioritizing who does what. Ringed by organizational charts in his Pentagon office, the West Point graduate from Richmond ticked off the far-flung corners from which the Army has had to muster forces.

"We've deployed units of the Old Guard!" he said, referring to the first-ever deployment of the ceremonial guard from Fort Myer, when a company was dispatched to Djibouti last year. "We've reached up inside of Alaska and grabbed the forces up there," he said. "Korea! Who would have ever thought that we would have deployed a combat formation?" he said, referring to a brigade sent from South Korea to Iraq.

Again, that was 2005, pre-surge.

The endlessly reported facts:

[...] The Army's 38 available combat units are deployed, just returning home or already tapped to go to Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere, leaving no fresh troops to replace five extra brigades that President Bush sent to Baghdad this year, according to interviews and military documents reviewed by The Associated Press.

That presents the Pentagon with several painful choices if the U.S. wants to maintain higher troop levels beyond the spring of 2008:

_Using National Guard units on an accelerated schedule.

Breaking the military's pledge to keep soldiers in Iraq for no longer than 15 months.

_Breaching a commitment to give soldiers a full year at home before sending them back to war.

For a war-fatigued nation and a Congress bent on bringing troops home, none of those is desirable.

In Iraq, there are 18 Army brigades, each with about 3,500 soldiers. At least 13 more brigades are scheduled to rotate in. Two others are in Afghanistan and two additional ones are set to rotate in there. Also, several other brigades either are set for a future deployment or are scattered around the globe.

The few units that are not at war, in transformation or in their 12-months home time already are penciled in for deployments later in 2008 or into 2009. Shifting them would create problems in the long-term schedule.

(AP) In this image released by the U.S. Army, soldiers of 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 3rd...
Full Image
Most Army brigades have completed two or three tours in Iraq or Afghanistan; some assignments have lasted as long as 15 months. The 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, has done four tours.

Two Marine regiments - each roughly the same size as an Army brigade - also in Iraq,- bringing the total number of brigades in the country to 20.

When asked what units will fill the void in the coming spring if any need to be replaced, officials give a grim shake of the head, shrug of the shoulders or a palms-up, empty-handed gesture.

"The demand for our forces exceeds the sustainable supply," the Army chief of staff, Gen. George Casey, said last week. "Right now we have in place deployment and mobilization policies that allow us to meet the current demands. If the demands don't go down over time, it will become increasingly difficult for us to provide the trained and ready forces" for other missions.

Casey said he would not be comfortable extending troops beyond their 15-month deployments. But other military officials acknowledge privately that option is on the table.

Pentagon leaders hope there is enough progress in Iraq to allow them to scale back at least part of the nearly 30,000-strong buildup when soldiers begin leaving Iraq around March and April.

There are 162,000 U.S. troops in Iraq now, the highest level since the war began in 2003. That figure is expected to hit 171,000 this fall as fresh troops rotate in.

That was last August.

As I said, this has been endlessly reported. You can also, as I just did, look it up. There's not much excuse for the ignorance of "wondering," rather than finding out for yourself with ten minutes effort, or reading a daily newspaper and keeping up with the news of recent years, rather than making other people do the work of answering your questions regarding these deep, unsolvable, mysteries.

RE: Taxes Rates

While I'm not an expert on the 1954 or 1939 tax code, I'm fairly certain that the top marginal rate on either ordinary income and capital gains hardly tells the whole story when it comes to how much was actually paid in taxes vs. the rich's economic income.

The current proposed individual tax increase will have, IMHO, close to zero effect on the economy in this country.

Gary Farber;

No dark threats intended, just observations and the human genome. 46%, plus 3.5% (Medicare), plus 13% (self-employed Social Security when the cap is lifted), plus State (~5%), plus local. That's around 70% for the financial achievers. Not even coming close to addressing our unfunded entitlement promises. Compared with around zero taxes to the south (Bloomberg-Bahamas; Gates-Belize; Clinton-Domincan Republic; Bush-Paraguay; on and on). These people just have to flip the switch.

5,000 young English professionals leave Great Britain every week, blaming the tax burden and problems associated with immigration. They are being replaced with immigrants from North Africa and Pakistan, among other places.

Nobody’s going to march on the Pentagon. The tax base will just leave. And the democratic cycle will play itself out.

"Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths. Theoretic politicians, who have patronized this species of government, have erroneously supposed that by reducing mankind to a perfect equality in their political rights, they would, at the same time, be perfectly equalized and assimilated in their possessions, their opinions, and their passions."
--James Madison, Federalist 10

p.s. I stand corrected on Russ Feingold. I also didn’t realize that Tom DeLay’s reported net worth was between negative one million dollars and negative two million dollars. He said so.

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1736536/posts

No dark threats intended, just observations and the human genome. 46%, plus 3.5% (Medicare), plus 13% (self-employed Social Security when the cap is lifted), plus State (~5%), plus local. That's around 70% for the financial achievers.

Um, no.

Given that the vast majority of new wealth in this country is coming from appreciated assets, where the capital gains tax is appreciably lower, citing the 46% figure is not appropriate.

No dark threats intended, just observations and the human genome. 46%, plus 3.5% (Medicare), plus 13% (self-employed Social Security when the cap is lifted), plus State (~5%), plus local.

Not to pick a nit, but that 46% is a hypothetical marginal tax rate. Nobody will pay 46% on their entire gross.

Of course, if you're making millions, you'll be liable for 46% on, by far, the majority of your earnings.

And, of course, if you're making millions, you will structure your compensation so that it doesn't come to you as straight salary, specifically so that you will avoid the tax consequences.

I'd be interested in an all-in analysis of the tax burden proportional to income. By "all-in", I mean an analysis that includes not only income tax but some of the less progressive, or even regressive, taxes that you name. It would also be useful if it reflected the taxes that folks actually paid, rather than those they were liable for on paper.

I believe we'd find that taxes here are in fact progressive, but no more than mildly so. Just a hunch.

Thanks -

"No dark threats intended, just observations and the human genome."

You intend the human genome? What does that mean?

"Compared with around zero taxes to the south (Bloomberg-Bahamas; Gates-Belize; Clinton-Domincan Republic; Bush-Paraguay; on and on). These people just have to flip the switch."

What does this mean?

"5,000 young English professionals leave Great Britain every week, blaming the tax burden and problems associated with immigration."

Cite?

Then might you explain how that isn't a non-sequitur? Your paragraphs seem unconnected.

"I also didn’t realize that Tom DeLay’s reported net worth was between negative one million dollars and negative two million dollars. He said so."

Are you accusing DeLay of lying in his federal financial disclosure forms, and violating federal law?

"p.s. I stand corrected on Russ Feingold."

And on the fact that, as KCinDC pointed out, fewer than 22 out of 100 Senators "is a millionaire tens or hundreds of times over" and at most, it's eleven Democrats.

That is, since the figures are given in maximum and minimum ranges, the poorest Senator who might qualify as having at least $10,000,000 is Mark Dayton (D-Minn), whose wealth in 2005 was 22nd highest in the Senate, between $4,446,429 and $13,082,001. But, of course, he may have had only $5,000,000.

The lowest on the list whom we know for a sure thing to meet Bill's criterion is, yes, at 14, Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), who reported in 2005 a minimum of $10,080,005, and a maximum of $50,200,000. There are only six wealthier Democratic Senators.

Note the 25 poorest. As you note, some have negative assets, aka "debt," such as my Senator, Ken Salazar (D-Colo), who has between ($377,996) and ($717,000) in debt.

The four poorest are all Democrats, for whatever that's worth: Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del), between ($131,981) and ($113,000).

Byron L. Dorgan (D-ND), between ($33,968) and $255,000.

Russ Feingold (D-Wis), between ($18,997) and $16,000.

"Pick your favorite Democratic Senator. He or she is a millionaire tens or hundreds of times over."

There are currently 51 Democratic Senators; your statement turns out to be true of between 7 and 11 of them.

That leaves you having made a false statement about between 40 and 43 Democratic Senators.

This is not usually considered accuate.

OT: Hil, Katherine, CC, Nell et al: have you read this powerful, unequivocal condemnation and rejection of waterboarding, written by former SERE training chief Malcom Nance? Apologies if someone else has already pointed to this - have been out of the ObWi loop for the past several days.

(h/t Perry Como in Balloon Juice comments).

"There are currently 51 Democratic Senators; your statement turns out to be true of between 7 and 11 of them."

That's, of course, taking the extremely generous step of redefining "tens of millions" to mean only "ten million," rather than the twenty million it actually means in English, in which case you'd be correct about only five Democratic Senators, but I'm happy to be generous in interpretation.

matt--I had, but it's a great piece & worth linking to. Everyone, go read it!

But Gary, if you're being generous, maybe you shouldn't exclude senators who have 0.01 tens of millions, or -0.05 tens of millions.

Gary,

"Troops in Europe? What troops in Europe?"

Are the 44,000 US troops currently in Europe not worth counting?

The 37,000 in South Korea and the 45,000 in Japan count for nothing also?

You can also, as I just did, look it up. There's not much excuse for the ignorance of "wondering," rather than finding out for yourself with ten minutes effort, or reading a daily newspaper and keeping up with the news of recent years, rather than making other people do the work of answering your questions regarding these deep, unsolvable, mysteries.

Yes, I could if I needed. But I am moving on and now and wondering why your obvious ability to do thorough research would fail to find an over 100,000 soldiers?

Btw: thanks to everyone who pointed out inaccuracies. I have updated.

Mattt, I hadn't seen it, thanks.

It seems to me that one of the biggest problems with Blackwater and the like is their narrow mission. They are supposed to keep some particular individual safe. they are not charged with winning hearts and minds, expanding oilspots, awakening former enemies, or whatever we're calling it. That's someone else's job. They just get the diplomat from point A to point B unharmed. And if some bystanders get shot on the way, well that's not a relevant yardstick for determining whether or not the days mission was a success.

"The 37,000 in South Korea and the 45,000 in Japan count for nothing also?

You're just ignoring the figures I presented. That's not an encouraging sign.

Let's nonetheless repeat, and ask what your response is to this?:

The Army's 38 available combat units are deployed, just returning home or already tapped to go to Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere, leaving no fresh troops to replace five extra brigades that President Bush sent to Baghdad this year [....]

In Iraq, there are 18 Army brigades, each with about 3,500 soldiers. At least 13 more brigades are scheduled to rotate in. Two others are in Afghanistan and two additional ones are set to rotate in there. Also, several other brigades either are set for a future deployment or are scattered around the globe.

The few units that are not at war, in transformation or in their 12-months home time already are penciled in for deployments later in 2008 or into 2009.

What combat brigades, specifically, do you believe are in Europe, Japan, or South Korea, which can be spared from readiness against North Korea or other contingencies?

"The 37,000 in South Korea and the 45,000 in Japan count for nothing also?"

South Korea?

[...] The United States announced plans in May 2004 to shift 3,600 troops from South Korea to Iraq, the first time the United States had reduced its armed forces in South Korea since the end of the Cold War. On 07 June 2004 a US delegation, led by Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Lawless, met with South Korean officials and reportedly proposed withdrawing up to one-third of the 37,000 US troops in South Korea. The two-day talks also covered plans to move about 7,000 US troops from their bases near the border with North Korea to a new military camp well south of Seoul.

On 06 October 2004 the Department of Defense announced that after several months of close consultations, the United States and the Republic of Korea had reached final agreement regarding the June 2004 US proposal to redeploy 12,500 US troops from Korea.

* The first phase was conducted in 2004 and included the 2nd Brigade Combat Team that was sent to Iraq in August 2004, and associated units. The redeployment in 2004 totaled about 5,000 troops.
* During the second phase, 2005-2006, the United States will redeploy a total of 5,000 troops (3,000 in 2005, 2,000 in 2006), comprising combat units, combat support and combat service support units, units associated with mission transfer areas, and other support personnel.
* In the third and final phase, 2007-2008, the United States will redeploy 2,500 troops consisting primarily of support units and personnel.

[...]

Prior to 2004 there were normally about 37,500 military personnel stationed in the USFK area of responsibility, including about 225 aircraft of all types. The number of troops deployed in the area does not normally fluctuate. With the 2nd Brigade Combat Team going to Iraq in August 2004, the total number of troops declined by 5,000, to a total of 32,500 military personnel.

Beginning on 21 March 2004 there were an additional 8,500 military personnel in the AOR as part of RSOI/FE 2004. Those personnel departed the region by April 2004.

Ground forces include a variety of units that are normally deployed in the region. Forces in the region include Patriot missile batteries, Apache helicopter squadrons, a mechanized infantry brigade, an air assault brigade, various support, intelligence and other units. Prior to 2004 the total Army presence in the region was nearly 27,500 soldiers, of which 13,753 were assigned to the 2nd Infantry Division. However, it is important to point out that the Department of Defense indicated during a briefing on July 23, 2003 that the United States Army had some 4,000 additional soldiers in South Korea than what had been previously disclosed by the military. It was not clear is this is a mistake or not. If true, this would have brought the total number of soldiers in South Korea to 31,460. In any event, with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team going to Iraq in August 2004, the total number of troops declined by 5,000, to a total of 22,500 Army soldiers.

Subsequently, in July, 2006:
[...] Today, U.S. forces in Korea number 29,500, of which 15,000 are in the Second Infantry Division and 10,000 in the Seventh Air Force. The rest are in logistics, communications, and intelligence, and small Navy and Marine Corps units. The Pentagon has announced that those forces will be cut to 25,000 by September 2008.

Now under consideration is a further reduction to a small token force or possibly a total withdrawal sometime after 2008. As a senior U.S. military officer, pointing to the U.S. commander in Korea, General B.B. Bell, said: "Bell's mission is to turn out the lights in South Korea."

The reasons for the coming phaseout:

* The U.S. Army and Air Force are stretched thin because of Iraq and Afghanistan. All U.S. forces elsewhere must be prepared to respond to contingencies now unseen. Some U.S. troops from Korea have already served in Iraq and more are likely to deploy there as that conflict goes on.

So that was under 15,000 ground troops, back in 20006, considerably less than half of your "37,000."

I've not specifically tracked if the surge has affected the number and made it lower.

47,000 in Japan?

Setting aside the considerable number of logistics units, HQ units, and the like, the bulk of the fighting forces in Japan is the 3rd Marine Division. I wonder where they are?

Currently, the Division plays a large role in the Global War on Terrorism with battalions rotating in and out of Iraq, while Embedded Training Teams strengthen Afghanistan’s developing security forces.

Additionally, the Division supports humanitarian operations throughout the Pacific.

Closing the ceremony, Maj. Gen. Robert Neller, commanding general of the 3rd MarDiv, spoke about where the Division is headed.

“Our future priorities are to continue to conduct humanitarian and high intensity operations,” said Neller. “With our deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan and other theaters in the Pacific, I would match the operational tempo of this unit against any in the Marine Corps.

Who could have predicted?

44,000 in Europe? 7th Army and Eucom's page is full of news of Iraq deployments.

Back in 2004, Phil Carter explained:

[...] Today, the military units stationed in Germany spend most of their energy on Iraq. Ramstein Air Base and the U.S. Air Force units there serve as a logistics and transportation hub for operations; the Landstuhl military hospital at Ramstein takes care of serious U.S. casualties from Iraq. The 1st Armored Division deployed to Iraq shortly after the end of major combat operations in April 2003 and just returned home to Germany after more than a year in combat. The 1st Infantry Division is currently in Iraq, approximately halfway through its yearlong tour of duty.
Back in 2005, the BBC pointed out:
The US has 26,000 combat personnel and 34,000 military support and administration personnel on 294 military installations in Europe.

The US Army had planned to move two fighting divisions from German garrisons to smaller bases in Eastern Europe.

But the demands of the war on Iraq have put those plans on hold.

And the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, paradoxically, have reinforced the importance of the European bases, which have provided large amounts of personnel, armour and expertise for these conflicts.

In short, until the entire system of bases is redesigned, the European bases will remain vital to US operations in the Middle East and Central Asia.

Hard to move them, when they're vital to the current wars where they are.

More recently, in April, 2007:

[...] "I am very apprehensive about how low we are taking capabilities of the US Army in Europe," says one senior defense official in Europe, who asked for anonymity because of the sensitivity of the ongoing discussions.

[...]

Russia's democratic reforms have moved in reverse, and Iran has emerged as a potentially serious threat. In addition, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have lasted longer than expected, which has tapped American forces based in Europe who would otherwise be engaged in European Command missions such as building "partner nation" capacities. That has made it difficult for European Command to pursue a new, more active strategy with these nations and potentially prevent problems before they occur. Indeed, exercises and other military engagements across Europe and in Africa have had to be canceled because the command has or will have fewer troops.

[...]

Army Gen. Bantz Craddock, newly minted as both head of US European Command and senior military commander of NATO [...] Last month during congressional testimony in Washington, Craddock indicated tentatively that he has reservations about the plan, without saying he would undo it altogether. While acknowledging that US forces across the Defense Department are strapped, Craddock indicated that the war is making it difficult to conduct other operations.

"We have very little capacity left after we source the global force pool, if you will, for these ongoing [operations]," Craddock said. Roughly 75 percent of the US force in Europe is either deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq, is about to go, or just returned, according to the defense officials.

"Our ability to do that now is limited because we don't have the forces available since they are in the rotation to [Iraq or Afghanistan]," said Craddock.

HTH.

So, are you calling General Casey a liar?

And if you would like to name specific brigades or units you feel the Army or Marines have to spare, hey, please do so. Otherwise, it's good to check if one is using out of date figures.

Mattt, thanks for that link; I hadn't seen it. Have to confess that the ambience of the Small Wars Journal creeps me out, though.

@for: No, the lack of investigations has nothing whatsoever to do with lack of incidents to spark further inquiry. Without breaking a sweat, I put together a list in the week after the Nisour Square massacre of a dozen fatal or criminal incidents involving Blackwater just since December 2006. As early as 2005, State Department emails show, they were discussing how to deal with or ignore fatal shootings by Blackwater.

And these are just the confirmed deaths that eventually made it into the media record. It's clear from the pattern of behavior involved that there are many more serious injuries for every death.

General comment on contracting. Maybe everyone is aware of this already, but the use of contractors is not just a bad idea from the Bush administration.

There are over 170,000 contractors in Iraq performing a variety of missions, including security functions. The majority are performing various logistics support missions. These include the KBR personnel who who perform food services, facility support, water, power, and engineering support to the FOBs and other bases all over Iraq. Less then 20% (app 30,000) are performing security missions.

The main reason for using contractors is the lower life-cycle cost. The military committed over 500,000 troops to the Gulf War (Desert Storm). Many of those were in the support roles that could be performed by contractors. After that war, military downsizing meant a similar sized force was not possible, so civilian contractors were sought to fill the gaps.

In peacetime, the main difference between contractors and the military is that the contractors do not have to be paid. The military can set up a set of contracts with companies like KBR that pay KBR a small amount now to be ready to provide support services in the future. If the services were to be performed by the military, the military would have to be significantly larger. To replace the 170,000 contractors in Iraq would probably require at least 300,000 additional military personnel, since the military needs to rotate personnel to maintain retention and avoid burnout. Contractors can just pay more, since unlike the military, they can easily downsize as soon as their services are no longer needed.

http://www.defenselink.mil/comptroller/defbudget/fy2007/index.html

Assuming those 300,000 extra personnel cost an extra $30 billion a year, the costs add up. Also, military personnel would need to be paid for their whole careers. We would need that extra $30 billion a year for the next 20-30 years. Now the costs really start to add up.

In short, we can either pay a lot to maintain the capability to perform a mission without contractors, or we can save all that money in peacetime by relying on contractors in wartime. In wartime it may cost us more to use contractors for these support services, but the lifecycle costs are much less.

The real question is just what services we want to contract out. I think the support services are a good idea (food services, facility maintenance, power, water, etc). Security is really where it starts to get problematic. Some security work is probably still ok, static guard operations in quiet areas (yes, there are some, even in Iraq). However, the State Department should have bitten the bullet years ago and said to Congress, we need our Security budget tripled, because we need to double the size of our Diplomatic Security Service. Instead, they went with Blackwater because of various reasons, one of which was probably that they couldn’t figure out what they would do with a DSS that was twice its required size once the war was over.

I think the commercial concept on out-sourcing is that you try to out source all of the routine stuff that makes sense, but you do not outsource your core capabilities. Security is very close to the military’s core capability and should be outsourced very carefully. Operating the DFAC on a FOB is not a much of a core capability and can be outsourced more readily.

The really scary part is when government agencies outsource their core capabilities to such an extent that they can no longer function without the contractors. This is becoming a real problem in several areas, especially in the intelligence community. Here it has gotten so bad that the government personnel are in danger of becoming just contracting specialists, with no ability to perform their missions without the contractors. See RJ Hillhouse for further information on this.

http://www.thespywhobilledme.com/the_spy_who_billed_me/


The argument that outsourcing to contractors saves money depends on at least two questionable assumptions: (1) that we don't pay contractors more than military personnel, which doesn't correspond to the figures I've seen, and (2) that "peacetime" is going to represent a significant amount of our time in the future, which seems unlikely now that we're in the endless "war on terror" and especially now that we have a large and growing private military industry whose profits depending on maintaining a state of war and whose existence makes it politically easier to go to war.

We do pay contractors more, but we only have to pay them while we are using them. We do not have to provide a 20-30 year career path for them, so the overall costs are lower. Your second point is well taken. Contractors are a means of saving money by having a support capability that is virtual rather then real in peacetime. In wartime they probably cost more, although their greater individual cost is offset by not requiring two personnel for each job to allow for rotation. The contracting company just releases any individuals not working in theater, so it can get by with fewer personnel.

As for how long the war will last, good question. I tend to doubt that the security contractors themselves have enough pull to keep it going. KBR might, but they make money in peacetime by supporting oil field development so they do not require conflict, the way the security companies do. If worldwide peace breaks out, KBR will be largely unaffected while Blackwater will be out of business.

Again, this is where privatization in intelligence is even more troublesome than in the security area. Contractors who depend on finding threats will probably find them, regardless of how threatening they were before being looked at by the contractor.

Yes, privatized intelligence is also a huge problem. So is the private prison industry, which has had a bit longer to do its damage. Privatization of all three areas is a recipe for a nightmarish future.

Nell: I haven't yet encountered the name of [the Iraqi VP's] murdered guard

Just did, on another blog: Raheem Khalif.

Interesting Q&A between the blogger and Karen DeYoung:

Austin, Texas: In your article today, there is a puzzling paragraph about Andrew Moonen, the Blackwater guard who killed Raheem Khalif, President Maliki's [sic] bodyguard, last Christmas. Condi Rice seems to claim that the case has languished not because of an absence of law but because of "a question of evidence." But do we have any evidence that the Justice Department even has questioned Moonen after he was sent back to the U.S.?

And if Moonen is prosecuted for the murder of Raneem Khalif -- which seems like an open-and-shut case to me -- will they prosecute Margaret Scobey, the acting ambassador in Iraq at the time, as an accessory? After all, she knew that Moonen killed Khalif while drunk and apparently approved -- or even decided -- the day after to help him escape back to the States.

I would think that this case is tailor-made for a special prosecutor, given that there were many people at the State department involved in covering up Moonen's crime. ...

Karen DeYoung: Although we now know a lot about what happened in this case and actions of Blackwater and the U.S. Embassy in the immediate aftermath, we know practically nothing about the status of the Justice investigation into it or the likelihood of any prosecution. Although I've been told by many here that the problem is one of "what law can be used for prosecution," Rice did, indeed, say the other day that that was not the problem--that it was a lack of evidence.

Apparently it is both--there were only two people present when the event occured, and only one of them is still alive.

Huh. Well, I guess we just have to throw up our hands, then. The shots in the victim [rumored to be twelve], the people who saw Moonen and Khalif before and afterwards, etc. etc.; all this is the kind of evidence that's been used to prosecute killers in a million other situations. But those are situations in which something like the pretense of the rule of law is maintained.

OT -- As if Iraq does not have enough other problems, there may be a catastrophic dam collapse in the near future.

A Time story pegs it at three shots. Can't find the story or link at the moment.

Patrick Cockburn reported on the dam collapse possibility in early August, but I guess all the big-paper editors were in Martha's Vineyard mode then.

Today:

All State Department security convoys in Iraq will now fall under military control, the latest step taken by government officials to bring Blackwater Worldwide and other armed contractors under tighter supervision.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates agreed to the measure at a lunch on Tuesday[....]

[...]

Military coordination of contractor convoys will include operations of not only Blackwater, formerly known as Blackwater USA, but also those of dozens of other private firms that guard American diplomats, aid workers and reconstruction crews.

It's now also clear that it was only use-immunity granted, not full immunity.

Re Russ Feingold, I can definitively confirm that he sometimes eats Chinese takeout straight from the paper box. He even invited us into his house to share it with him but we didn't want to impose, as he was in a t-shirt and sweatpants and we didn't want to impose.

Not really related, but I thought I'd share :)

Reading through this thread, the arguments in favor of contractors seem to be:

1. They're less expensive because you don't pay for them all the time, only when you need them.

2. They will do stuff uniformed service people don't want to do -- logistical support, guard duty

3. They fill in the gaps when there aren't enough service people to do certain kinds of specialized duty, for instance personal security details

All of this seems to treat military service like some kind of mall cop job.

What makes a service person different from a contractor is precisely this:

If someone in a service person's chain of command says "Jump", the service person jumps.

If someone in a contractor's chain of command says "Jump", the contractor decides whether they're being paid enough to jump, or not.

"Jump" in this context is some task that is critical to the success of a military mission.

There are roughly as many contractors involved in Iraq as there are military personnel. That means that about half of the people that we are relying on for our success there can, on any given day, turn around and tell the folks who are relying on them to piss up a rope.

For "tell them to piss up a rope", read "take their bat and ball and go home", "ignore protocol because it's inconvenient", or "renegotiate terms before proceeding". It's hard for me to imagine any savings we might be getting out of outsourcing military functions as being worth that kind of risk.

Outsourcing military functions is, IMVHO, insane. What it tells me is that we've committed to military adventures that the population as a whole is simply not that invested in.

Thanks -

It's now also clear that it was only use-immunity granted, not full immunity.

But that's all Ollie North had, isn't it? And look how well that turned out.

"But that's all Ollie North had, isn't it? And look how well that turned out."

I didn't suggest that it would now turn out well. I merely clarified the facts, and drew no conclusions.

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