It's kind of hard to trash talk mercenaries when The A-Team made it clear that next to being an astronaut fireman, there's just about nothing as cool as being a soldier of fortune. Still, it's one thing to hire a four-man army of mercenaries to get your watermelon crop to market, but it's quite another to hire over 100,000 private contractors to run everything from security detail to weapons training to air surveillance of your enemies.
Guarding opium harvests.
When the U.S. military is stretched too thin, private firms like Blackwater and DynCorp have graciously offered to fill in the gaps. They're kind of like substitute teachers, except instead of kicking up their heels, reading trashy romance novels and snacking on CornNuts, these substitutes are kicking up their heels and doing some Abu Ghraibing, accidental murdering and sex slave trafficking.
Since 2000, Blackwater alone has received at least $600 million in contracts from the CIA and over a billion dollars from the federal government. In all, 90 percent of their total revenue comes from United States government contracts. So what do they do with all that money? The exact same thing the military does -- security, training, humanitarian aid and jogging in time to singsong rhymes.
And buying wicked cars for their phat cribs.
The problem, though, is oversight. Normally, the military is accountable to the government; the minute a marine screws up, a whole can of procedural hell is opened up.
Not so with private security companies, which was why when Blackwater contractors killed 17 unarmed civilians in September 2007, no one was quite sure what to do about it. And why when a former employee was accused of murder, Blackwater founder Erik Prince said all they could do was fire him. And probably why the same accused murderer was free and available for other private contractors to get him armed and back in the Middle East within months of the incident.
Ahhhh, good times, guys. Good times.