The New Praetorians, II
By John Taylor; 2008 Feb 29, 4 Ayyam-i-Ha, 164 BE
In yesterday's "New Praetorians" I talked about the special elite soldiers who guarded the Roman emperor. They ended up getting so greedy that they murdered and decapitated the emperor, Pertinax, and when a successor suggested himself, in Gibbon's words,
"the more prudent of the Praetorians, apprehensive that, in this private contract, they should not obtain a just price for so valuable a commodity, ran out upon the ramparts, and, with a loud voice, proclaimed that the Roman world was to be disposed of to the best bidder by public auction." (Decline and Fall, 58)
The results were less than satisfactory, to say the least, leading eventually to the accession of Septimus Severus, one of the most bloodthirsty tyrants ever to graduate from run-of-the-mill murder to what we now call genocide.
I woke this morning with an idea, a connection that I had not thought of before. I recalled that a couple of months ago I asked the following question on this blog:
"'Abdu'l-Baha's advice shows how to keep owner-worker relations from becoming politicized. He ends with a story of a Turkish worker's revolution that took place in `ancient times.' Does anybody know what specific event He is talking about?" (Badi' Blog Essay; 2007 Dec 13, 2 Masa'il, 164 BE; Housing and World Federation, My Story of Stuff)
I was referring to this passage, from a conversation that the Master had while visiting the
"... They (workers) will strike every month and every year. Finally, the capitalists will lose. In ancient times a strike occurred among the Turkish soldiers. They said to the government: `Our wages are very small and they should be increased.' The government was forced to give them their demands. Shortly afterwards they struck again. Finally all the incomes went to the pockets of the soldiers to the extent that they killed the king, saying: `Why didst thou not increase the income so that we might have received more?'" (Foundations of World Unity, pp. 43-44)
I thought, boy, the angels that whisper in my ear in my dreams sure are stupid, since He says that it was a bunch of Turkish soldiers. But then I thought, hey, there was no such a thing as a Turk back in ancient times, and is not the Persian word for Turk "Rumi," meaning Roman? This is in recognition of the fact that
Anyway, since I brought this up yesterday, let us follow it through. As I see it, the comparison between Blackwater and the Praetorians is a symptom; it is just the latest form of political corruption in the West. It is being called the "demilitarization of the military," which sounds like an oxymoron, I know, but I am not making this up. Privatization has already taken over the spy industry (today's CIA has more private contractors than employees) and is creeping into other branches of the protective professions. A privatized army is known as a mercenary force, private soldiers hired by a foreign government to fight its battles. Mercenaries, of course, are not there for the good of their nation, nor are they after anybody else's good, except that of their own wallets, hence the term "soldiers of fortune."
Mercenaries are not exactly new. Niccolo Machiavelli helped bring about the modern nation state by his tirades against mercenaries. Had he not done so it is unlikely that government as we know it would have come about. Until Machiavelli, the widespread use of mercenaries in war had choked the vitality of governments, which had to constantly wrestle with the old question of Juvenal, "Quis custodiet ipsos custodiens?" Who will guard the guards? In fact this is where we get the adjective "mercenary," meaning someone dedicated to his own interest and callously destructive of all that opposes it. As Gibbon said, the use of mercenaries brought about the fall of the
Today the same leaders who eliminated financial restraint simply by borrowing unlimited funds from future generations have come up with another slam-dunk solution. They hired hundreds of thousands of mercenaries to fight the war in
This is all documented in last year's book, "Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army." This Wikipedia article about the book has links to several audio interviews with the author, investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill.
Scahill calls Blackwater the "Praetorian guard of the war on terror." Unfortunately, he does not have time in the interviews linked here to explain to his history-challenged compatriots what this means. Still, what Scahill does point out is scary enough.
What got him interested in Blackwater was an incident that took place on
He found out that the Bush administration has outsourced the war on terror by diverting money from the military budget into the State Department, who then hire mercenary corporations like Blackwater. No need to start a pesky and unpopular draft; these soldiers are already trained, armed and ready, for a price. And because they are secret and unrestrained by bothersome considerations like accounting for their actions, leaving paper trails, or even obeying laws like those against murder, this gives the modern day mercenaries many specious advantages over open, legal, governmental ways and means. Most notably, privately-owned corporations like Blackwater, unlike government departments, pay a percentage of their profits right back into the political campaign coffers of the politicians who smooth their way to fortune. This was all planned and executed by Dick Chaney and Donald Rumsfeld, whose entire careers are dedicated to this initiative.
In fact, though Scahill only hints at this, an argument could be made that the entire insurgency in
Scahill mentions his many interviews with real soldiers, who all say that as soon as they got things under control and started cooperating with the Iraqis in rebuilding, in would come the mercenaries, guns blazing, killing anything that moved; then suddenly hatred boiled up around them and the insurgency was back in full flame.
Why stabilize when you can make 750 million dollars just to guard officials and diplomats from the chaos when they visit the area? Use the regular army as the broom and mercenaries as the scoop, and the result: bursting moneybags. Forget "give peace a chance," war is profitable. Hmm, I always wondered why Saddam's massive stores of munitions were not confiscated and destroyed right away by the "responsible" authorities. This insurgency is not a "mistake," it is central to the Rumsfeld-Chaney plan for success. How mercenary of them! As Gibbon might have said, "A spirit of profit-making spread among the populace..."
The mercenary business has a wonderful future, what with climate change just over the horizon. Mercenaries are rapidly expanding their operations all around the world. They have the perfect business plan, and are even broadening out to crisis management. They are being hired to protect the lives and property of the filthy rich during emergencies like hurricanes, riots, famine, and so forth. They even offer to save your house if there is a forest fire -- yours stays standing while all your neighbors walk around homeless. How long will it be before they frag Smokey the Bear and start chasing up business by lighting fires on their own? And, in view of what the Master said at the start, how long will it be before there is a mercenary's union, and they start really getting greedy.