Right – as long as you’re talking about the 68,000 men and women in uniform that our nation has committed to that war. But what about the larger army deployed there? The Pentagon maintains a massive, privatized army of military contractors in Afghanistan, and this for-hire corporate force greatly outnumbers our troops. In fact, this private army has constituted an average of 65 percent of the total Pentagon force in Afghanistan during the past two years – the highest level of contractors-to-military in America’s long history of war.
Providing everything from military logistics to security, there’s no doubt that most of these private employees serve admirably. But there’s also no doubt that many have performed shamefully, undermining the mission and credibility of our soldiers.
Which raises the question of why the Pentagon has made the military dependent on them – especially on so many of them. The corporations – from Blackwater to Wackenhut – are not there for patriotism, but for profit. They get huge contracts, that have included no-bid sweetheart deals, and they suffer little punishment if they do shoddy work or overcharge us taxpayers.
As personally competent as the contractors’ employees might be, they don’t get the same level of training as military personnel, they are not subject to the same degree of oversight and accountability, and they don’t bring the same commitment to the country that soldiers do – yet, their paychecks are often three or four times higher than what soldiers get for doing the same work.
As we’ve learned from failed experiments ranging from toll roads to social services, privatization of any essential public function is a corporate scam that’s been imposed on us by laissez-faire, anti-government ideologues. But it’s especially abhorrent to push the scam on our military.
"The issue isn't just jobs. Even slaves had jobs. The issue is wages." --Jim Hightower