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Issue #1656      September 17, 2014

Culture & Life

Outsourcing lies and propaganda

Outsourcing, which has plagued the Australian clothing industry (amongst others), is all the rage with capitalists everywhere. They detest state enterprises because they make no money from them. They assiduously push instead the idea that somehow it is better for a country’s economy if private enterprise (which seeks to make a profit) takes over the provision of services and facilities instead of the government (which doesn’t).

Major General Smedley Butler.

In the USA, observers have been startled by the revelation that the country’s Special Operations Command is outsourcing many of its most sensitive activities, including its clandestine counter-terrorism and other overseas operations.

Integrating for-profit corporations with the Pentagon’s global military and surveillance apparatus is producing billions of dollars in profitable rewards for those corporations lucky enough to score one of these Special Ops contracts.

Jon Queally, writing in the US on-line publication Common Dreams, commented that a report entitled US Special Operations Command Contracting: Data-Mining the Public Record shows that the US has outsourced such sensitive activities as “flying drones and overseeing target acquisition, facilitating communications between forward operating locations and central command hubs, interrogating prisoners, translating captured material, and managing the flow of information between regional populations and the US military”.

The report was written by researcher Crofton Black and commissioned by the UK-based Remote Control Project. Explained Black in a statement: “Remote warfare is increasingly being shaped by the private sector.”

Caroline Donnellan, manager of the Remote Control project, said, “This report … reveals the extent to which remote control activity is expanding in all its facets, with corporations becoming more and more integrated into very sensitive elements of warfare. The report’s findings are of concern given the challenges remote warfare poses for effective investigation, transparency, accountability and oversight.”

Commenting on the report’s findings in The Intercept, Ryan Gallagher rightly described it as a “corporate bonanza” for the four contractors (Tennessee-based Jacobs Technology and Virginia-based Booz Allen Hamilton, CACI-WGI, and SRA International). The contract with Special Operations Command is worth a cool US$1.5 billion. It starts innocuously enough, with the contractors required to provide support with “Psychological Operations related to intelligence and information operations.”

But then it starts to go into details: Prospective contractors were told they would have to provide “military and civilian persuasive communications planning, produce commercial quality products for unlimited foreign public broadcast, and develop lines of persuasion, themes, and designs for multi-media products.”

The contract suggested that the aim of these “persuasion” operations would be to “engage local populations and counter nefarious influences” in parts of Europe and Africa.

As Jon Queally points out, “while some 3,000 contractors provided service in some capacity to USSOCOM [US Special Operations Command], just eight of the contractors earned more than 50 percent of the $13 billion total identified in Black’s report. Those were: Lockheed Martin, L-3 Communications, Boeing, Harris Corporation, Jacobs Engineering Group, MA Federal, Raytheon, and ITT Corporation.”

That’s an awful lot of money to be spent on “persuasion”. No wonder they can aim to turn out “commercial quality products for unlimited foreign public broadcast”.

It’s a pity that the Pentagon doesn’t spend some of its billions on publicising things like the following extract from a speech delivered in 1933 by Major General Smedley Butler, of the US Marine Corps. The plain-spoken General Butler told his audience: “War is just a racket. There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defence of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights. War for any other reason is simply a racket.

“It may seem odd for me, a military man to adopt such a comparison. Truthfulness compels me to. I spent 33 years and four months in active military service as a member of this country’s most agile military force, the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from Second Lieutenant to Major-General. And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. I suspected I was just part of a racket at the time. Now I am sure of it.

“Like all the members of the military profession, I never had a thought of my own until I left the service. My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of higher-ups. This is typical with everyone in the military service. I helped make Mexico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys.

“I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested. During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.”

Commented reader Terry Evans: “Poverty plus propaganda = increased enlistments. The Army will make a man out of you. Be all you can be. The Marines need a few good men. We must fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here. It is your patriotic duty. Become a hero. Become a Warrior. Kill inferior subhuman beings. Kill evil doers. … You are fighting to preserve our freedoms. … It goes on and on and it is everywhere.”

It sure is. And yet US Special Ops doesn’t think there’s enough of it. With corporate help they are going to dream up more sophisticated forms of it – but still with the same basic message: “Do the right thing – the patriotic thing – lay down your life for Wall Street.”

To which working people can only respond “No!”.

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