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Bill Moyers: The Rise of Private Armies -- Mercenaries, Murder and Corruption in Iraq and Afghanistan

Journalist Jeremy Scahill warns against the growing power of corporate private armies and the "disintegration of the nation state apparatus."

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All of these things are a step in the right direction. But, ultimately, I think that we have to look to what Jan Schakowsky, the congresswoman from Illinois, says. We can no longer allow these individuals to perform what are inherently governmental functions. And that includes carrying a weapon on U.S. battlefields. And that's certainly not where President Obama is right now.

Moyers: But many people will say of course, the truth, which is he inherited a quagmire from the Bush administration. What's he to do?

Scahill: Well, there's no question that Obama inherited an absolute mess from President Bush. But the reality is that Obama is escalating the war in Afghanistan right now. And is maintaining the occupation of Iraq. If Obama was serious about fully ending the occupation of Iraq, he wouldn't allow the U.S. to have a colonial fortress that they're passing off as an embassy in Baghdad. Bill, this place is the size of 80 football fields. Who do you think is going to run the security operation for this 80 football field sized embassy? Well, it's mercenary contractors.

Moyers: So we're supposed to be withdrawing from Iraq. But you're suggesting, in all that you've written, that I've read lately, that we will be leaving a large mercenary force there.

Scahill: Absolutely. In fact, you're going to have a sizable presence, not only of U.S. forces, certainly in the region, but also in Iraq. These residual forces… I mean, Bill, you remember, during Vietnam, the people who were classified as military advisors. Or analysts. And, in reality, the U.S. was fighting an undeclared war. So, in Iraq, I think that we've seen reports from Jim Miklaszewski, NBC News' Pentagon correspondent. He's quoting military sources saying that they expect to be in Iraq 15 to 20 years in sizable numbers. Afghanistan, though, really is going to become Obama's war. And, unfortunately, many Democrats are portraying it as the good war.

Moyers: Let me show you a snippet of what he said in Cairo on Thursday. Take a look:

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Make no mistake. We do not want to keep our troops in Afghanistan. We seek no military bases there. It is agonizing for America to lose our young men and women. It is costly and politically difficult to continue this conflict. We would gladly bring every single one of our troops home if we could be confident that there were not violent extremists in Afghanistan and now Pakistan determined to kill as many Americans as they possibly can. But that is not yet the case.

Scahill: Well, I mean, we have two parallel realities here. We have the speeches of President Obama. I'm not questioning his sincerity. And then you have the sort of official punditry that's allowed access to the corporate media. And they have one debate. On the ground though, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, you hear the stories of the people that are forced to live on the other side of the barrel of the gun that is U.S. foreign policy. And you get a very different sense. If the United States, as President Obama says, doesn't want a permanent presence in Afghanistan, why allocate a billion dollars to build this fortress like embassy, similar to the one in Baghdad, in Islamabad, Pakistan? Another one in Peshawar. Having an increase in mercenary forces. Expanding the US military presence there.

Moyers: Walter Pincus is an old friend of mine, an investigative reporter at "The Washington Post" for, you know, 30 or more years now. A very respected man. He reported in "The Washington Post" last fall that these contracts indicate how long the United States intends to remain in Afghanistan. And he pointed, for example, to a contract given by the Corps of Engineers to a firm in Dubai to build to expand the prison, the U.S. prison at Bagram in Afghanistan. What does that say to you?

 
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