Yes, the blog has been empty for the past week because my best friend of 40+ yrs. came to visit me and although I thought I would still write, the time with my friend was too precious to give away. She had never seen north Idaho, or the Canadian Rockies before, so you can imagine how difficult it was to pick and choose the places to visit and how the time was to be spent. In short, we had a fabulous time together and I showed her enough that she definitely wants to return. She also would like me to visit her in Arizona, but, I'm just not one of those desert people. Even in winter the heat would kill me. However, best friends aren't that if there's no reciprocity....
Before my break, my friend, Jo, in southern Idaho, asked that I print some comments she made after reading the previous blog entry on how Mike Simpson feels about supporting our troops. She reminded me that the US is actually supporting two sets of troops in Iraq: our military troops, and the privatized mercenaries working for big, government funded corporations like Blackwater.
Jo says, "One angle of this issue is: who are the troops we are supposed to support with our billions of taxpayer funds? I personally do not support these privatized actors in our Iraq war, and see them as a means for continuing the war. The Dems in Congress are now dealing with Bush's Iraq budget with nary a reservation about mercenaries. They should force Bush to provide an itemized budget instead of the vague junk he sends them that they are reviewing right now! In that case they could cut the funding for mercenaries and up the funding for the US military!"
Much of her information comes from a blog by GDAEman, who writes (and note, an article containing a bibliography just in case someone is in doubt) about these privatized mercenaries. It is an article well worth reading. Jo has highlighted some of the important points in the article and I'll include them here (but please read the article in whole).
GDAEman reports, "...Currently in Iraq, more than 40 percent of the total occupying force comprises private contractors. For President Bush and his political allies, war has become just another industry to be outsourced, with contractors providing a backdoor means of expanding the occupation through the deployment of private armies.In his State of the Union address in last month, Bush mentioned a major new initiative in the U.S. disaster response/reconstruction/war machine: a Civilian Reserve Corps. Bush said: 'Such a corps would function much like our military Reserve. It would ease the burden on the armed forces by allowing us to hire civilians with critical skills to serve on missions abroad when America needs them.' But this is precisely what the administration has already done, largely behind the backs of the American people and with little congressional input. Private contractors constitute the second-largest force in Iraq, about 100,000 strong, of which 48,000 work as private soldiers, according to a Government Accountability Office report.
...The problem is that firms such as Blackwater rely primarily on large, taxpayer-funded U.S. government contracts to stay in business, not on the business of private sector customers or clients. Blackwater has a $300-million, no-bid contract (from 2003) with the State Department to guard diplomats in Iraq. Thus, tax dollars are used first to pay to train the troops, then to pay them a lot more to do basically the same job with a private contracting firm, and finally to pay hefty profits to the contracting firm.
...Many of the 48,000 U.S.-funded mercenaries in Iraq are not Americans, and their deaths are not tracked by the Labor Department. Blackwater and other U.S.-based military contractors have created a private military melting pot by hiring not only Americans, but also mercenaries from Bosnia, Chile, Colombia, the Filipeans, and South Africa. Many of these soldiers-for-hire are veterans of repressive military regimes, including that of the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and South Africa’s former apartheid government. Other recruits are impoverished former military personnel desperate for a paying job (Blackwater has a recruitment center in the Philippines)."
So, think about this. We have Rep. Simpson voting not to provide for our troops, yet he consistently votes the Republican party line when it comes to giving money to big corporations, like all those US corporations in Iraq with their private mercenaries. Now if that isn't an indication that something is very, very wrong with our government, then I don't know what is. And the most annoying part is that so many Democrats are in the pockets of those same corporations....so, let me now invite all Progressives to move to Idaho....