Wednesday, September 16, 2009

America’s Foreign Legion

In post-revolutionary France in 1831, the French Citizen King Louis Philippe needed an Army to fight his developing colonial wars. Emperor Napoleon I had burnt out the Grand Army in endless wars resulting in the terrific slaughter of Frenchmen; there was no taste or fervor in France for further deaths, especially dying in North Africa where the the French Empire was expanding. So the French king created the French Foreign Legion to be led by French officers and senior NCOs, but filled with non-French foreign volunteers.

GW Bush chose a colonial war in Iraq and a punitive war in Afghanistan; both failed because the troop lists did not meet the unfolding, unplanned strategic situation. Despite repeated call-up of guard and reserve units on repetitive tours of duty, the required need for troops was well beyond the capabilities of his peace-time all-volunteer ground forces and troops generated by mobilization of non-active military units. President GW Bush and his generals had bitten off much more than they could chew.

Their response to the dangerous situation was to put the Afghan war on hold and augment the US forces with rented mercenaries, AKA as contractors. The focus and priority of US military effort was to be on Iraq. The US ended up with an interim stalemate in Iraq and an unfolding disaster in Afghanistan with destabilization in Pakistan. Thank GW Bush and his rat neocons for the blunders.

Doubt anyone in the US government really knows how many US paid contractors there are in the Afghan and Iraq theater of operations. We only know for certain what the contracts cost to employ them. Each US agency directly involved in the war zones employ their own private contractors on a separate mission basis. There is apparently no coordination among the US agencies either on a national or theater level. About the only recent exception is in Iraq where the status of forces agreement requires that the contractors there be subject to Iraq law.

The conventional wisdom is that there are about an equal number of contractors in Afghanistan and Iraq as there are US forces. That would mean that there is about 198,000 contractors. This is probably a low estimate, since contractors seem to reproduce faster than rabbits.

Initially the contractors were used to perform logistic tasks and were later expanded from combat service to combat support. They are now even involved in tactical intelligence collection and analysis. As part of GW Bush’s coalition of the willing, these contracts were extended to foreign firms, mainly English. Many of the workers under contract by the contractual companies are low cost, from the Third World. Most certainly this is a potential security threat.

You would think with the impending drawdown in Iraq, one would see an ending of the expanding American foreign legions of contractors – not so fast Mr. & Mrs. America. As the United States withdraws its combat forces from Iraq, the US government is hiring more private guards to protect U.S. installations at a cost that could near $1 billion, according to the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction.

This is unbelievable. The US forces cannot even retreat without a tactical crutch of contractors. Or is it another effort to milk the US taxpayers? What happened to General Saveus Petraeus’ reliable Iraqi troops to do the mission? Especially since these installations will allegedly belong to them if we ever withdraw.

Quoting from the report, "the inspector general's office found that at 19 sites where private guards replaced soldiers, many more guards were needed to do the same job.” It said the task order for Camp Bucca, primarily a detention facility, called for “417 personnel to free up approximately 350 soldiers for combat operations.” At Forward Operating Base Hammer, the task order called for “124 private guards to allow 102 soldiers to take on combat activities."

In some cases, as at Camp Taji, a major supply installation, the report says that “more than 900 private personnel replaced 400 soldiers,” but that the private guards took on additional tasks to address deficiencies in existing site security. Such as?

There is not even a semblance of an American Foreign Legion here or in the future; the guards are mostly from the Third World, with their allegiance based on payday, a dry bunk, chow and free haircuts – at least in Louis Philippe's legion, soldiers swore to die for France and the Legion. If a legionnaire broke this oath, it was off to Devils Island from where few returned. The traditional speech given by a French officer to recruits was, MY DUTY IS TO SEND YOU TO A PLACE TO DIE. YOUR DUTY IS TO DIE. No ambiguity here!

You will have to convince me that US forces really have grip on the redeployment situation. It seems to me more, GEE MOM, I DO NOT WANT TO GO HOME.

The hiring of these extra contractors in Iraq on the eve of US departure really makes little sense unless there is another explanation. Here is one, albeit speculative. On January 12, 2009 the Pentagon created the 6th regional command; the US African Command. It is headed by a black US 4-star general, William "Kip" Ward . Though there are US personnel in Somalia, there are no troops obviously under his command; his role is to synchronize military/political activities in Africa. All these new recruits enlisted as contractors for US installation guards in Iraq must be of military age (18-25) and must speak English, from African nations. Are they to become a nucleus for a US military Africorps?

If President Obama fails to withdraw from Iraq, he commits political suicide; his left wing progressives will attack him and withdraw its support. Additionally, if my speculation on an Africorps is near the mark, the paranoid right wing media will tear him apart as a black president with foreign black troop units that might eventually threaten Dixie. It would at least make the region pray harder and forget about TEA BAGS Colonel Robert E Bartos US Army ret.


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