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The Business Of War
Center For Public Integrity, January 2, 2003
National armies -- like the United States military -- are not the only people fighting in today's wars. In fact, the Center for Public Integrity has found at least 90 companies that are providing services normally performed by national military forces -- but without any public oversight -- have operated in 110 countries worldwide in recent years, providing everything from military training, logistics, and even engaging in armed combat.
Their activities belie the truism that 'the Cold War has ended' and militaries are down-sizing. If anything there has been an increasing number of small conflicts following the end of the Cold War, and governments have turned increasingly to these private military companies to intervene on their behalf around the globe, the Center has found.
With the ongoing international military presence in Afghanistan and a possible war in Iraq on the horizon, the issue of military privatization has taken on new relevance.
Since 1994, the U.S. Defense Department has entered into 3,061 contracts with 12 U.S.-based private military companies, a review of government documents showed. Not every contract was for military services; although records obtained from the Pentagon were not specific enough to determine the purpose of each of the contracts.
But private military companies -- a recently coined euphemism for mercenaries - are just one face of the increasing trend of the privatization of war, the investigation found. A small group of individuals and companies with connections to governments, multinational corporations and, sometimes, criminal syndicates in the United States, Europe, Africa and the Middle East have profited from this business of war.
Arms dealers have profited from a massive unregulated sell off of low price surplus armaments into the most fragile, conflict-ridden states and failed states. The weapons, mostly from state-owned Eastern European factories, have found their way to Angola, Sudan, Ethiopia, Colombia, Congo-Brazzaville, Sri Lanka, Burundi and Afghanistan -- where conflicts have led to the deaths of up to 10 million people during the past decade.
The investigation profiles arms dealers like Victor Bout and Leonid Minin, both of whom were born in the Soviet Union and, after its breakup, became involved in the profitable trade in arms to Africa.
Bout, a Russian pilot, allegedly supplied arms to the Taliban, and was dubbed "the Merchant of Death" for supplying weapons to a series of African conflicts. Minin, a Ukrainian, was charged with supplying weapons that fueled a bloody war in Sierra Leone. Both have been accused of having ties to international criminal syndicates by various international authorities.
Natural resources including oil, diamonds, timber and the mineral coltan -- used in the manufacture of modern conveniences like cellular telephones -- have played a central role in the economics of war. Mercenaries, multinational companies, and private investors have conspired with legitimate governments, brutal dictators and bloody rebel leaders to turn the natural wealth of poor countries into the currency of war commerce.
Drawing on classified intelligence files, government reports, court records and public documents, the investigation identifies the non-state actors in this growth industry and explains how they often influence the turn of world events. The nearly two-year investigation, conducted by 35 writers, researchers and editors working on four continents, follows in 11 installments:
1. Making a Killing: The Business of War - An overview of privatization of combat since the end of the Cold War. The copious connections of 'non-state' actors who work as 'proxies' for national or corporate interests in 'regional' conflicts or wars.
2. Privatizing Combat, the New World Order - A look at the world of private military companies, and the issues raised by the trend of outsourcing war. The revolving door between 'retired' military men and their new careers.
3. Marketing the New "Dogs of War" - How mercenaries, with the aid of public relations professionals, rebranded themselves as private military companies. The "new kind of mercenary ... an advanced army for commercial interests wanting to exploit the world's mineral resources."
4. Greasing the Skids of Corruption - A case study of how the pursuit of oil in the Third World fuels corruption and war. A profile that follows the money trail in the development and profit-taking from Angola's rich offshore oil fields.
5. The Curious Bonds of Oil Production - The U.S. government and a private military company court an oil rich state whose government has been accused of serious human rights violations. The curious story of Equatorial Guinea.
6. Conflict Diamonds are Forever - Poor controls in the international diamond industry - even in South Africa - are undercutting attempts to clamp down on conflict diamonds that fuel wars in Africa and, possibly, fund terrorists.
7. The Adventure Capitalist - While Africa's wars have brought untold misery to millions, such as in Sierra Leone and Liberia, some 'businessmen' have seen conflict in the region as an opportunity for power, prestige and profits.
8. The Influence Peddlers - A profile of an entrepreneur with global ties to arms smuggling, resource exploitation and private military companies epitomizes the business of war. (And he still gets to shaker prominent politicians hands).
9. The Field Marshal - Jacques Monsieur is an arms trader who admitted to breaking a U.N. arms embargo. He's also claimed ties to French intelligence, the Iranian government, and the former French state-owned oil company, Elf Aquitaine.
10. Drugs, Diamonds and Deadly Cargoes - When he was arrested on a drug charge in Milan, Leonid Minin, an arms trader under investigation across Europe, had his business records with him, providing a detailed look into the world of war commerce.
11. The Merchant of Death - Victor Bout, who has been accused of fueling Africa's bloodiest conflicts, ran a global transportation network with bases and front companies in Europe, the Middle East, Afghanistan, South Africa, Equatorial Guinea, and even the United States.
The Center for Public Integrity is a Washinton, D.C.-based, non-profit, non-partisan organization that provides the public with findings of its investigations and analyses of public service, government accountability, and ethics-related issues.
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