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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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Scahill: Right. Look, we have President Obama making it a point, regularly, to say, "We're going to have Guantánamo closed by early next year." The fact is that, at Bagram, we see an expansion. They're spending $60 million to expand that prison. You have hundreds of people held without charges. You have people that are being denied access to the Red Cross in violation of international law. And you have an ongoing position, by the Obama administration, formed under Bush, that these prisoners don't have right to habeas corpus. There are very disturbing signals being sent with Afghanistan as a microcosm. Not to mention these regular attacks that we're seeing inside of Pakistan that have killed upwards of 700 civilians using these robotic drones since 2006. Including 100 since Obama took power.

Moyers: Some people have suggested that the increasing reliance on military contractors in Afghanistan underscores the fact that the military is actually stretched very thin. General McChrystal said, this week, he admitted that he doesn't even know if we have enough troops there to deal with the situation as it is now. Does that surprise you?

Scahill: No. It doesn't surprise me. Because this is increasingly turning into a war of occupation. That's why General McChrystal is making that statement. If this was about fighting terrorism, it would be viewed as a law enforcement operation where you are going to hunt down criminals responsible for these actions and bring them in front of a court of law. This is turning into a war of occupation. If I might add about General McChrystal, what message does it send to the Afghan people when President Obama chooses a man who is alleged to have been one of the key figures running secret detention facilities in Iraq, and working on these extra judicial killing squads. Hunting down, quote unquote, insurgents, and killing them on behalf of the U.S. military. This is a man who's also alleged to have been at the center of the cover-up of Pat Tillman's death, who was killed by U.S. Army Rangers.

Moyers: But he apologized for that this week be before Congress.

Scahill: Well, it's easy to apologize when your new job is on the line. It's a different thing to take responsibility for it when you realize that the mistake was made, or that you were involved with what the family of Pat Tillman says was a cover-up.

Moyers: You know, you talk about military contractors. Do you think the American people have any idea how their tax dollars are being used in Afghanistan?

Scahill: Absolutely no idea whatsoever. We've spent 190 million dollars. Excuse me, $190 billion on the war in Afghanistan. And some estimates say that, within a few short years, it could it could end up at a half a trillion dollars. The fact is that I think most Americans are not aware that their dollars being spent in Afghanistan are, in fact, going to for-profit corporations in both Iraq and Afghanistan. These are companies that are simultaneously working for profit and for the U.S. government. That is the intricate linking of corporate profits to an escalation of war that President Eisenhower warned against in his farewell address. We live in amidst the most radical privatization agenda in the history of our country. And it cuts across every aspect of our society.

Moyers: You recently wrote about how the Department of Defense paid the former Halliburton subsidiary KBR more than $80 million in bonuses for contracts to install what proved to be very defective electrical wiring in Iraq. Senator Byron Dorgan himself, called that wiring in hearings, shoddy and unprofessional. So my question is why did the Pentagon pay for it when it was so inferior?

 
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