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The business of war and profit: Aren’t we proud?

You know what prostitutes and pimps and drugs and rape and electrocuted soldiers all have in common? You’re paying for it.

There is such a lack of outrage for the way that private military contractors have pillaged and profiteered from our nearly-decade occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan that it leaves one speechless. Almost. Thanks to whistle-blowers — at the threat of their own security, professionally or otherwise — we have been informed  of some of the basest, grossest behavior coming out of the contracting world on the taxpayers’ dime today. Whether it be soldiers electrocuted by cheap, poorly installed showers by KBR and Triple Canopy, the vodka-drug- fueled pimping frat boys from the Armor Group or the gang rape of a female American contractor by her fellow KBR employees, there is seemingly no end to evidence that the proliferation of privatization has created a runaway Frankenstein of venality, arrogance, avarice and corruption and downright evil, with no restraint that I can see, whatsoever.

Take this latest bit about the Armor Group. Thanks to the Project on Government Oversight, which had the wherewithal to FOIA the goods on this group, we now know that there has been unfettered depravity — including, we heard last week, the procurement of imported, unwitting Chinese girls for sex — at our U.S Embassy. Not surprisingly, there has been a ton of finger-pointing about who knew what and when, but the fact remains that the company got its $187 million contract renewed even after allegations began to surface. Not much different than (Blackwater) Xe, which got its contract renewed in Iraq last week even as their former guards stand trial for murder and the company has banned by the Maliki government for ever working there again.

Allegations of misconduct and corruption on this level go way back — Dyncorp was accused of pimping out skinny, war ravaged girls back in Bosnia. No one seems to care. They just got another contract worth up to $7.5 billion in Afghanistan. They have contracts elsewhere in the expanding U.S footprint, including Africa.

Meanwhile, there are earnest, but ineffective attempts by members of congress to put the brakes on Frank. The Democratic Policy Committee held numerous hearings over the Bush years on these and other subjects of contractor malfeasance, to no real avail. The Commission on Wartime Contracting was created last year and has held some truly eyeopening hearings, even published a nifty report on the 240,000 private contractors now overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan and the companies they work for  — but to what end? As for President Obama, who pledged during his campaign to review the troubling inflation of private contracting and to hold contractors accountable — crickets.

I honestly believe private contractors, mercenaries, profiteers — whatever you call them — are one of the most destructive elements in the indefinite foreign military presence in Afghanistan today. Aside from the criminal behavior, the waste and the fraud and the abuse (all well-documented), as “strategic communications” they are a disaster. They shame us, they breed mistrust and fear among the people we supposedly there to help and most importantly, they broadcast with a bullhorn that the bottom line is more valued than honor, respect, ethics or responsibility (kind of like our society back home!) And we are all at fault for letting it happen.

about the author

Kelley Beaucar Vlahos is a contributing editor at TAC and co-host on the Empire Has No Clothes podcast. Follow her on Twitter @VlahosAtQuincy.

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