Both presidential aspirants agree: Let’s get out of the Iraq debacle. But they differ as to how and when — and neither forewarns us that withdrawal without safeguards might result in a Blackwater Company attempt to take over “security.” Given the number of its mercenaries and equipment, Blackwater might well take advantage of resulting chaos and move to fill in the vacuum left by the departure of our military forces. Back in the States, its well-trained “veterans” might also provide the cadre for a political takeover.
Far-fetched? Let’s look at history: When Germany suffered defeat in World War I, disaffected officers and Staatsbeamte (bureaucrats), sure that anti-kaiser and homefront socialists had sold out the country, organized the Freikorps and attempted a putsch, or counter-revolution. Although it failed, it became a precursor and cadre for the Schutzstaffel (SS).
Likewise, when France withdrew from Algeria, a number of ex-Foreign Legion officers and fonctionnaires put together the OAS (Organization Armee Secrete), which tried to depose de Gaulle and did, in fact, assassinate several politicians who were “too far left.”
There are no exact parallels in history, but the ingredients for an effort by this private army to attempt a takeover are present. It operates hand-in-hand, and largely covertly, with officials both in Iraq and Washington. Owned by billionaire Erik Prince, a religious right fundamentalist who is troubled by the rising tide of disenchantment with the war, the influence of “secular humanists,” the acceptance of gays and lesbians and unwed cohabitations, and by other demons of the “cultural revolution,” he has trained and indoctrinated a corps of fighters ready to kill and ask questions afterward. They operate under their own law. Together with Iraqi-contracted counterparts, they almost match our military police in number, and their equipment for urban fighting is almost as good.
What happens if the U.S. suddenly ends the payroll of this mercenary army? Who takes over the weaponry, armored vehicles and stockpiles of supplies if an official order to withdraw came along? What would a cohort of bonded fighters with a charismatic leader do if they had to disband and return to a disenchanted population back home?
I’m raising these questions as a veteran who served in France, Belgium and Germany during World War II and saw firsthand what had happened to their people when corporate-fascist regimes had taken over their countries. I hope both presidential aspirants and members of Congress will also raise such questions as they move toward withdrawal.