Privatizing War: Mercenaries in Africa and South America

1] Rights groups implicate mining industry in Africa
   by Christian Huot, Globe and Mail, Monday March 6, p. A3

"The use of mercenaries in Africa is on the rise, and Canadian mining
firms are in the front lines, according to a report released today by a
coalition of human rights organizations.

Three groups

--Canadian Catholic Org for Development and Peace
--Mining Watch
--Entraide Missionaire
are presenting documentation to Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy that
points to 'the grave implications posed by the tendency in the mining
industry to rely on private security firms in certain regions of Africa
where the state is already weakened, delegitimised, and in a process of

snip~ snip~

"Canadian firms are playing an increasing role in Africa.  According to
the human-rights coalition, the amount of African property held by
Canadian firms has grown 50% every year from 1992 to 1998 [i.e. by more
than a factor 10 in this period].  Canada is the world leader of mining
financing.  Because of their strong presence and the help of government
bodies such as the Cndn Intl Development agency (CIDA), 'Canadian
companies occupy a particular position in the restructuring of the African
mining sector [previous quotes that indicate the nature of this
'restructuring' include: 'the context in which these companies operate
opens the door to grave human-rights violations', and 'the risk of war and
civil unrest has only a minimal impact on investment', and finally the
financial rewards, 'for the primary sector in Africa the returns in 1996
were 36.9% - enough to explain why mining companies are interested in the
continent despite violent conflicts']
  "The document notes that 'many ex-federal and provincial ministers are
linked to mining companies as advisers or administrators.'"

2] Contractors playing increasing role in U.S. drug war
From: Int'l Network on Disarmament and Globalization <>
More information on the privatization of war - in this case "outsourcing"
of US military aid to Colombia. Already, a half dozen "military companies"
have located in Colombia in anticipation of US military contracts to
administer and the deliver the Pentagon's $1.6 billion contribution to the
"war on drugs."
Steve Staples

DALLAS MORNING NEWS        Sunday, 27  February 2000

Contractors playing increasing role in U.S. drug war
   By Tod Robberson

BOGOTA - Alex B. Pinero's resume reads like that of a man looking for a
lot of action and maybe even a little trouble. A former member of the U.S.
Army Special Forces, Mr. Pinero has served in three combat theaters,
speaks three languages and specializes in field medicine,
intelligence-gathering and psychological operations. "I am also
well-acquainted with and can operate in virtually any hostile (geographic,
literal or temporal) environment," his resume boasts.

Mr. Pinero is working in Colombia on a noncombat, private contract with the
U.S. government. Because he is a contract employee, he said, the government
would bear no responsibility should he run into trouble while helping wage
a rapidly escalating U.S. war on drugs in a land where more than 20,000
leftist guerrillas are gunning for people like him every day.

Thousands of highly qualified former U.S. service members such as Mr.
Pinero could be the answer to a big riddle dogging the Clinton
administration: How can Washington send $1.6 billion in mostly military aid
to Colombia without sharply increasing the current level of U.S. military
staffing needed to support that aid?

The answer, military officials and other specialists say, is a
well-established private business practice called "outsourcing," in which
companies that employ skilled specialists like Mr. Pinero take on the jobs
that the U.S. military either cannot or will not do. In private business,
outsourcing can be something as simple as hiring a free-lance computer
whiz to design a company Web site or specialized software. In a military
context, outsourcing is an increasingly popular alternative for the
government to provide counterinsurgency trainers, pilots for surveillance
aircraft or to staff intelligence-gathering outposts in hostile territory
without putting active-duty military personnel at risk.

This is not mercenary work, according to specialists in the field. U.S. law
strictly limits such consultants to providing nonlethal service.

Firms await business
Neither the U.S. nor Colombian government has stated publicly how big a
role outsourcing will play if Congress approves the White House's proposed
$1.6 billion, two-year aid package to Colombia. Most of the aid would pay
for 63 combat helicopters along with the pilot training and logistical
support those aircraft will require, as well as the training and
outfitting of two Colombian army counterinsurgency/counternarcotics

At least six U.S. military-specialty companies have set up operations in
the region, apparently in anticipation of future Colombia-related
contracts, according to U.S. military sources. Two Virginia-based
companies, DynCorp Inc. and Military Professional Resources Inc., or MPRI,
are completing contracts related to logistical support and training of
Colombian police and counterinsurgency forces, officials of those
companies say.

DynCorp, which has employed Vietnam-veteran helicopter pilots in Colombia,
provides maintenance and support for drug-crop eradication flights, often
over guerrilla-dominated territory.

MPRI spokesman Ed Soyster, a retired Army lieutenant general and former
director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said his company is gearing
up for new business in case the new aid package is approved. The company
should be well-placed for a contract, since it also helped the Colombian
government devise the official, three-phase "action plan" that was
presented to Congress last month outlining how the $1.6 billion would be
allocated. "We're a military company. We're able to hand-pick our people
from a select group of guys who like to come into this type of
environment.  They have an established code of ethics and code of
conduct," Mr.  Soyster said. "A guy works in this business and works for
us because he can continue to do the things he likes and does well. He's
happy because he's doing what he's trained to do." Mr. Soyster said MPRI
maintains a database of 11,000 retired officers and enlisted service
members available to work on temporary assignment. The company also has
provided training and logistical support for military operations in the
Balkans, Middle East and Africa, he said. "I am unabashedly an admirer of
outsourcing. . . . There's very few things in life you can't outsource,"
said retired Army general Barry McCaffrey, director of the White House
Office of National Drug Control Policy.

'Deliver the goods'
He said he did not anticipate a large-scale buildup of active-duty troops
to supplement the 80 to 250 U.S. military personnel serving in Colombia,
but he stopped short of saying that any additional training spots would be
given to private contractors. "It's not my job to design the U.S. support
effort to conduct logistics, maintenance, training support for this $1.6
billion over the coming five years. I personally do not anticipate a
significant U.S.-enhanced footprint in this country," he said. "Clearly we
must have a U.S. representation adequate to deliver the goods, to make
sure that we know what we're doing. . . . It's a huge package compared to
what we've done in the past."

Colombian Defense Minister Luis Fernando Ramirez acknowledged that private
U.S. military companies already are providing assistance to the armed
forces and that more probably would be contracted if the U.S. aid package
is approved. "We must put in place the best people to manage these
resources," he explained, adding that private military companies often
provide personnel "with much more experience . . . at a lower cost" than
either his government or Washington can provide. He revealed that the U.S.
Southern Command is considering upgrading its staffing levels in Colombia
and bringing in a general full-time to manage the military-aid package.
Even that job, he suggested, could be outsourced. "Probably, it is more
costly to send an active-duty general to be present full-time in Colombia
than it is to send a retired officer" working for a private company, Mr.
Ramirez said.

The wrong hands
Serious questions of accountability are raised, however, when private
contractors replace active-duty troops in the field, even if it is just in
an advisory capacity, said Carlos Salinas, Latin America program director
for the human-rights group Amnesty International. There must be monitors
on the advice and training that Colombian soldiers receive to ensure that
those are not passed on to known human-rights violators, such as army
units linked to paramilitary groups. "The Defense Department itself, in
its training, has to comply with certain human-rights guidelines because
they are mandated by law to do so," Mr. Salinas said. "But it is unclear
how far that mandate extends when one is talking about, essentially,
private actors."

James Woods, a Washington lobbyist and former deputy assistant secretary
of defense, said the political risks of using active-duty troops in such
dangerous places as Colombia often outweigh the advantages. The use of
retired military personnel under contract, by contrast, generally provides
a higher level of expertise with lower overall costs and minimal political
risks. "If the U.S. government wants to pursue a major security-assistance
component - and I think it must - do you do it with a major buildup of
U.S. troops on the ground? I think the answer is no," he said.

Outsourcing has allowed Washington to provide an important military
presence in such war zones as Bosnia, Colombia and the Persian Gulf at
times when manpower shortages, budgetary constraints or political
pressures prevented the Pentagon from deploying active-duty military
personnel, said Georgetown University professor Herbert Howe, a specialist
in military outsourcing. "The military has dropped over 40 percent in
manpower and budget since the late 1980s. . . . The U.S. government is
increasingly shifting over to outsourcing," Mr. Howe said. "I think we'll
be seeing that more in Colombia as well."

In addition, Mr. Howe said, there is inevitably a public outcry whenever
U.S. troops are injured or killed in a foreign conflict, whereas less
attention is paid when privately contracted military trainers or
specialists suffer the same fate. The government has minimal reporting
requirements regarding casualties suffered by private contractors.

3 died in crashes
DynCorp has lost three private-contract aviators in fatal crashes over the
last three years. Outsourcing specialists noted the minimal attention paid
in the United States to those deaths compared with the days of front-page
news generated last July when a spy plane carrying five active-duty U.S.
service personnel crashed in southern Colombia.

A former U.S. military officer who was responsible for outsourcing various
counternarcotics operations in Colombia said the "exposure risks for Uncle
Sam" are greatly reduced when private contractors take over the dangerous
assignments. "The life is certainly just as important, whether it's a
contract employee or a soldier. But exposure-wise, whoa, it's much less,"
the retired officer said, asking not to be identified. "If something goes
wrong, it's important for Washington to be able to say, 'There wasn't a
soldier killed.' It still gets attention with a private contractor, but to
the public, it has nowhere near the same impact," the retired officer

Mr. Pinero, a contract employee with DynCorp, agreed to be interviewed on
condition that details of his mission in Colombia not be discussed.  He
said he does not feel threatened working in Colombia's hostile
environment. He is, however, looking for another job. "There is a lot of
danger in Colombia. I'm aware of it in an abstract sense. But then again,
I spent 10 years in the Army, so this is basically an extension of what I
did in the Army," he said. "If you're not jumping out of airplanes in the
middle of the night or getting shot at all the time, it's not that bad."