In late March, I was taken aback by a news story about a drone attack on American troops at a joint base with Kurdish forces in Syria. Though five U.S. soldiers were wounded, there was only one death and, as Eric Schmitt reported in the New York Times, that soldier was actually a private military contractor. (Weeks after his death, we still have no idea what company he worked for.) Another contractor was also wounded. Consider that a grim reminder of a reality of American war in this century that its been all too easy to ignore, one that TomDispatch regular, co-founder of the Costs of War Project, and military spouse Andrea Mazzarino highlights in todays piece. As large and staggeringly well-funded as the U.S. military is, this country also has a humongous shadow military of private contractors who are a crucial component of its ongoing, if ever less noticed, war on terror.
Let me put this in context. If you remember, President Trump actually tried to withdraw American troops from Syria but failed to do so. Since he left office, its regularly been estimated that about 900 of them remain there. But that figure only counts the official military force in place in that devastated land, not the private contractors who provide them with support, some of it armed. Heres a reality of this American moment: we have no way of knowing how many troops are actually in Syria, only that in addition to the official figure, there are at least uncounted hundreds more. At certain moments in this countrys little- noticed war there, there could have been four times as many.
Similarly, two decades after George W. Bush so disastrously invaded Iraq, about 2,500 U.S. troops are still officially stationed there but again that count doesnt include who knows how many private contractors. (Back in 2006, when the conflict was at its height, there were an estimated 100,000 of them!) In other words, in this century, a Pentagon funded to the teeth by American taxpayers has developed a new form of privatized war that leaves Americans knowing all too little about whats actually being done in their name.
With that in mind, let Mazzarino take you into the nightmarish private world that our post-9/11 conflicts have bred. ~ Tom Engelhardt
The Private Soldiers Who Fight in Americas Name By Andrea Mazzarino
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