So, as some may know, the Bush administration has chosen to secure many assets in the Iraq war by relying on thuggish companies like Blackwater Worldwide, a group that has its own definition of Rules of Engagement (I.e., gun down the enemy, and the 14 civilians standing next to him). Many American soldiers have also complained that Blackwater's reckless tactics have made their own jobs even more difficult, costing them good will with local communities. Blackwater agents have been involved in everything from weapons smuggling to drinking on duty (resulting in "accidental" fire).
Meanwhile, Blackwater guards make some nice salaries-six figures-for their work. Their operations in Iraq have been limited by Congressional law and they are now subject to a variety of other "checks". But I'd like to see the new administration take things a step further and end reliance on private security contractors completely...or at least in combat zones. Or, is use of private firms and "mercenaries" the new direction in US combat operations? Maybe I'm overlooking some benefits?
Oh yes, soldiers get great benefits to make up for the low pay. But ONLY the soldiers that make the military a career. My son was in special forces. He was injured in Iraq to the point that he received a discharge. He now is the proud recipient of $426 per month with a VA disability of 62%. He has basically no use of his left arm and all of the muscles in his left chest are detached. He is 29. His knees are blown from the many jumps he made as an airborne ranger. The only free treatment he receives at the VA is anything related to his disability. The rest he pays for. He recently had to inform a congressman of the lack of medical service he was receiving to force the military into getting a specialist to repair his arm. The army agreed only upon threat of going public and sent him to a private physician and a private hospital for the arm surgery. He was in surgery for over 5 hours where they performed a bone, tendon and muscle reconstruction. He now has 26 pins in his arm and they took tendons from one arm and transplanted them. The military would not pay for him to stay in the hospital after the surgery. So I went to Mobile and moved into a hotel and brought him there still groggy from the anesthesia. I stayed for 2 weeks and helped him. Both arms were disabled. The VA isn't going to pay for rehab. I will foot the bill for that. Yep, the benefits the soldiers receive certainly makes up for the lack of pay. And as for the educational benefits. Soldiers must have part of their pay deducted to go into their educational plan. A world class retirement program? My son, twice decorated, begged to stay in. They said he was broken and gave him a glowing medical discharge. Do not be fooled. The military is only great if you live long enough or if they allow you to stay in until retirement.
As for pivate contractors, yes, this practice should be stopped. Then investigated.
The salaries of active-duty enlisted are a fraction of private contractors, and I don't think the benefits make up the difference. Many junior enlisted families are on WIC. Military "free" medical care received in hospitals is poor quality. And as for the retirement plan...yeah, you can retire after 20 years, but not only do you need to live that long, in proper physical condition, through multiple deployments as utopia points out...but unless you're a Field Grade Officer, you can't expect to live and support a family on that retirement pay...not even close. I've actually never heard of someone retiring from the military and then never working again. Education is a benefit, yes, but there are drawbacks...taking classes on active duty is tough, and using the GI Bill is tough because you're still on inactive reserve for a while after you get out.
Anyway, it is true that active duty military have sometimes engaged in reckless behavior. However, there are clear guidelines dealing with US soldiers...rules of engagement, law of armed conflict, the Geneva accords, UCMJ, etc. There is next to nothing governing the actions of private contractors. Up until a year ago, they answered to nobody. And when one of their guys does get in trouble, they often refuse to cooperate with either US or Iraqi authorities. Their operations are shrouded in secrecy, as are their records. If we are going to rely on mercenaries, we need to completely reform the policy. But I'd rather not, at all.
I don't really see a problem with private contracts like that. The issues you raised exist in the public armed services as well. No organization is going to be angelic in a war zone.
As to their salaries, six figures seems reasonable to me to risk your life. Soldiers don't make that much, but they get other benefits that make up for it; educational programs, a world class retirement program unheard of in the private sector, etc.
Amblessed, we are talking about private contractors, not soldiers. There are cases where the contractors have placed the soldiers in harm's way. I heard that directly from my son.
I think the first step should be, to take action to ensure Victory - not wave the white flag - so those who sacrificed and gave all, will not have done so in vain.
oh utopia, you can't give amblessed facts that contridict his preconceived notions. His brain isn't wired that way. He might blow a circuit...
amblessed, please define "Victory"? In order for their to be a victory, someone would need to surrender. Who exactly is that going to be?
Thank you utopia - the first steps Obama takes should be to ensure Victory, then deal with other matters/private contracts, etc.
abso-f_cking-lutely. And these companies should be investigated by the new justice department.