KARACHI: There are at least 90 Private Military Companies (PMCs) involved in the Business of War and killing innocent people by operating in 110 countries worldwide, says a report by journalist Nasir Mahmood.
These corporate armies, often providing services normally carried out by a national military force, offer specialized skills in high-tech warfare, including communications and signals intelligence and aerial surveillance, as well as pilots, logistical support, battlefield planning and training. They have been hired both by governments and multinational corporations to further their policies or protect their interests.
International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) through its nearly two-year investigation into the business of war has uncovered the existence of PMCs as the new world order’s mercenaries have come to be known, allow governments to pursue policies in tough corners of the world with the distance and comfort of plausible deniability.
This is a new breed of opportunists that has come to dominate the global landscape of conflicts since the end of the Cold War. Gone is the superpower ideological divide that once gave a strange sort of order to the world’s wars. In its place are entrepreneurs, selling arms or military expertise and support, and companies, whose drilling and mining in some of the hottest spots often prolong conflict and instability. Additionally, the military downsizing that followed the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union flooded the market with surplus arms and trained soldiers looking for a job.
This incredible dump of goods and services has made it much easier for non-state actors to fight a war. The ICIJ has found that these non-state actors – despite their appearance of being freelancers—have copious connections to intelligence services, multinational corporations, political figures and criminal syndicates in the United States, Western and Eastern Europe, Russia, Africa and the Middle East. Often they work as proxies for national or corporate interests whose involvement is buried under layers of secrecy.
“Western chancelleries have not renounced their self-proclaimed right to influence the course of events,” the French political scientist Jean-Françoise Bayart wrote in the journal ‘African Affairs’ in April 2000. “But they now prefer to act through private operators, including both commercial companies and non-governmental organizations, and even in the field of defense.”
These companies do not present the underbelly of war commerce and, indeed, their supporters argue that PMCs save lives and bolster security, all while being more cost-efficient than national militaries or international peacekeeping operations. But many operate in the same black hole of information that allows war profiteers to work with impunity.
Much of what has been called war during the past decade –especially in places like Sierra Leone and Angola—is merely an extreme form of criminality. Some of the arms dealers and entrepreneurs tracked in the ICIJ investigation crossed regularly between the secretive worlds of war commerce, organized crime and terrorism. One measure of their influence is the deadly trade in arms.●
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