With Haiti’s government “all but invisible” and its repressive security forces collapsed, popular organizations were starting to fill the void. But the Western powers rushing in envision sweatshops and tourism as the foundation of a rebuilt Haiti. This is opposed by the popular organizations, which draw their strength from Haiti’s overwhelmingly poor majority. Thus, if a neoliberal plan is going to be imposed on a devastated Haiti it will be done at gunpoint. (Arun Gupta)

And this is where the mercenaries come in.

IPOA conference in Miami, March 2010, how to capitalize on the Haitian earthquake

On March 9 and 10, there will be a Haiti conference in Miami for private military and security companies to showcase their services to governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working in the earthquake devastated country. (Bill Quigley, Center for Constitutional Rights)

On their website for the Haiti conference, the trade group IPOA (ironically called the International Peace Operations Association until recently) lists eleven companies advertising security services explicitly for Haiti. Even though guns are illegal to buy or sell in Haiti, many companies brag of their heavy duty military experience.

Patrick Elie, the former Minister of Defence in Haiti, told Anthony Fenton of the Inter Press Service that “these guys are like vultures coming to grab the loot over this disaster, and probably money that might have been injected into the Haitian economy is just going to be grabbed by these companies and I’m sure they are not the only these mercenary companies but also other companies like Haliburton or these other ones that always come on the heels of the troops.”

Naomi Klein, world renowned author of THE SHOCK DOCTRINE, has criticized the militarization of the response to the earthquake and the presence of “disaster capitalists” swooping into Haiti. The high priority placed on security by the U.S. and NGOs is wrong, she told Newsweek. “Aid should be prioritized over security. Any aid agency that’s afraid of Haitians should get out of Haiti.”

Security is a necessity for the development of human rights. But outsourcing security to private military contractors has not proven beneficial in the U.S. or any other country.

The U.S. has prosecuted hardly any of the human rights abuses reported against private military contractors. Amnesty International has reviewed the code of conduct adopted by the IPOA and found it inadequate in which compliance with international human rights standards are not adequately addressed.
Contractors like these soak up much needed money which could instead go for job creation or humanitarian and rebuilding assistance. Haiti certainly does not need this kind of U.S. business.
In a final bit of irony, the IPOA, according to the Institute for Southern Studies, promises that all profits from the event will be donated to the Clinton-Bush Haiti relief fund.

Jeremy Scahill reports:

Within hours of the massive earthquake in Haiti, the IPOA created a special web page for prospective clients, saying: “In the wake of the tragic events in Haiti, a number of IPOA’s member companies are available and prepared to provide a wide variety of critical relief services to the earthquake’s victims.”

The current US program under which armed security companies work for the State Department in Iraq—the Worldwide Personal Protection Program—has its roots in Haiti during the Clinton administration. In 1994, private US forces, such as DynCorp, became a staple of US operations in the country following the overthrow of Jean Bertrand Aristide by CIA-backed death squads.

As Scahill reported right after the earthquake:

We saw this type of Iraq-style disaster profiteering in New Orleans and you can expect to see a lot more of this in Haiti over the coming days, weeks and months. Private security companies are seeing big dollar signs in Haiti …

Among the services offered are: “High Threat terminations,” dealing with “worker unrest,” armed guards and “Armed Cargo Escorts.”

From Arun Gupta:

… “Security is not the issue. We see throughout Haiti the population themselves organizing themselves into popular committees to clean up, to pull out the bodies from the rubble, to build refugee camps, to set up their security for the refugee camps. This is a population which is self-sufficient, and it has been self-sufficient for all these years.”

In one instance, Ives continued, a truckload of food showed up in a neighborhood in the middle of the night unannounced. “It could have been a melee. The local popular organization…was contacted. They immediately mobilized their members. They came out. They set up a perimeter. They set up a cordon. They lined up about 600 people who were staying on the soccer field behind the house, which is also a hospital, and they distributed the food in an orderly, equitable fashion.… They didn’t need Marines. They didn’t need the UN.”

These weapons they bring, they are instruments of death. We don’t want them. We don’t need them. We are a traumatized people. What we want from the international community is technical help. Action, not words.”

That help, however, is coming in the form of neoliberal shock. With the collapse of the Haitian government, popular organizations of the poor, precisely the ones that propelled Jean-Bertrand Aristide to the presidency twice on a platform of social and economic justice, know that the detailed U.S. and UN plans in the works for “recovery” – sweatshops, land grabs and privatization – are part of the same system of economic slavery they’ve been fighting against for more than 200 years.

A new occupation of Haiti — the third in the last 16 years — fits within the U.S. doctrine of rollback in Latin America: support for the coup in Honduras, seven new military bases in Colombia, hostility toward Bolivia and Venezuela. Related to that, the United States wants to ensure that Haiti not pose the “threat of a good exampleby pursuing an independent path, as it tried to under President Aristide — which is why he was toppled twice, in 1991 and 2004, in U.S.-backed coups.

With the government and its repressive security forces now in shambles, neoliberal reconstruction will happen at the barrel of the gun. In this light, the impetus of a new occupation may be to reconstitute the Haitian Army (or similar entity) as a force “to fight the people.”

This is the crux of the situation. Despite all the terror inflicted on Haiti by the United States, particularly in the last 20 years — two coups followed each time by the slaughter of thousands of activists and innocents by U.S.-armed death squads — the strongest social and political force in Haiti today is probably the organisations populaires (OPs) that are the backbone of the Fanmi Lavalas party of deposed President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Twice last year, after legislative elections were scheduled that banned Fanmi Lavalas, boycotts were organized by the party. In the April and June polls the abstention rate each time was reported to be at least 89 percent.

It is the OPs, while devastated and destitute, that are filling the void and remain the strongest voice against economic colonization. Thus, all the concern about “security and stability.” With no functioning government, calm prevailing, and people self-organizing, “security” does not mean safeguarding the population; it means securing the country against the population. “Stability” does not mean social harmony; it means stability for capital: low wages, no unions, no environmental laws, and the ability to repatriate profits easily.

There is far more in Arun Gupta’s article about the connection between, and history of, US military occupation and neoliberal capitalism in Haiti.

Additionally, as Ashley Smith points out:

… the catastrophe in Haiti revealed the worst aspects of the U.S. government and the NGO aid industry.

… As Mike Davis in The Planet of Slums:

Third World NGOs have proven brilliant at co-opting local leadership as well as hegemonizing the social space traditionally occupied by the Left. Even if there are some celebrated exceptions–such as the militant NGOs so instrumental in creating the World Social Forums–the broad impact of the NGO/”civil society revolution”…has been to bureaucratize and deradicalize urban social movements.

Davis argues that NGOs are, in fact, a form of “soft imperialism.” They play a role very similar to the one that missionary religious institutions played in the earlier history of empire. They provide moral cover–a civilizing mission of helping the hapless heathens–for the powers that are plundering the society. And just as religious institutions justified imperial war, many NGOs, abandoning their traditional standpoint of neutrality in conflicts, have become advocates of military intervention.

Nowhere is this pattern more clear than in Haiti.

… “The emasculation of the state is no accident…It is partly the consequence of the neoliberal regime implanted in the country by the major international financial institutions. By advocating the withdrawal of the state from its social and regulating obligations, and by promoting the supremacy of the market, this regime has contributed to an economic, political and social disaster.”

Haitians now commonly refer to their own country as the “Republic of NGOs.” But that is a misnomer, since Haitians have no democratic control over the NGOs. In reality, Haiti has been ruled by an American NGO Raj.

WHILE SOME NGOs like Partners in Health have been set up to develop Haitian grassroots self-organization and control, most major NGOs have been accomplices in the neoliberal catastrophe the U.S. wrought in Haiti.

First of all, the NGOs have reproduced and exacerbated class inequality in Haiti. …
The NGOs themselves are in the business of poverty, not its eradication, and they have proliferated in lockstep with the collapse in the Haitian standard of living. This has led many Haitians to rightly see them as profiting off their crisis.

NGOs aided and abetted the “plan of death”; exacerbated through failure, mismanagement and corruption the impact of neoliberalism on Haiti; and then supported the coup against the democratically elected government.

In so doing, they undercut the sovereignty of Haitian people, all under the gloss of helping people overcome their poverty–poverty that they, in fact, helped create.

Haiti led the world out of slavery, from the Boston Globe in 2004:

Historian Laurent Dubois thinks the world indeed owes something to Haiti. “Anyone who lives in a democratic society in which race doesn’t equal a denial of rights has some debt to the Haitian revolution,” he reflected in an interview. “The very notion of democracy that we consider commonsense emerged because of that revolution. If that’s something we cherish then we owe that to Haiti, which has suffered more for its victory rather than been rewarded for it. That is how I would picture the restitution.”

Haiti deserves help that actually helps, or deserves to be left alone. The Haitian people are enterprising and can take care of their country and their people. We all owe Haiti a debt, moral and monetary. Instead Haiti is treated to exploiters and thieves. The country that led us out of slavery is having neoliberal neoslavery imposed on it at gunpoint, by the US and the international community, with mercenaries as the enforcers.

Chinese Contingent of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) during a medal ceremony held today (06/20/2008) in the Liberian capital, Monrovia. UN Photo/Eric Kanalstein

Chinese Contingent of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) during a medal ceremony held June 2008, in the Liberian capital, Monrovia. UN Photo/Eric Kanalstein

The Human Security Brief 2007 reports:

… the extraordinary, but largely unnoticed, positive change in sub-Saharan Africa’s security landscape. After a surge of conflicts in the 1990s, the number of conflicts being waged in the region more than halved between 1999 and 2006; the combat toll dropped by 98 percent.

… Between 2002 and 2006 the number of campaigns of organized violence against civilians fell by two-thirds.

During the first 6 years of this century peace and stability have improved in Africa, largely due to pressures from within Africa, and with help from the UN. With increased stability, Africa has become a better prospect for investment, and business and markets are starting up and taking off.

Then the Bush administration dreamed up AFRICOM.

From Michael Klare:

American policymakers have long viewed the protection of overseas oil supplies as an essential matter of “national security”, requiring the threat of – and sometimes the use of – military force. This is now an unquestioned part of US foreign policy.

… Although department of defence officials are loath to publicly acknowledge any direct relationship between Africom’s formation and a growing US reliance on that continent’s oil, they are less inhibited in private briefings. At a 19 February meeting at the National Defence University, Africom deputy commander Vice-Admiral Robert Moeller indicated that “oil disruption” in Nigeria and West Africa would constitute one of the primary challenges facing the new organisation.

AFRICOM is about oil. It is a combatant command. There has been lots of talk about its humanitarian role, lots of photo ops in African countries, and lots of talk about working with the State Department and USAID. But the State Department and USAID are just tools for AFRICOM to insert itself into target countries such as Nigeria. The Pentagon can kill lots of people, or arrange for others to kill lots of people. It can devastate the environment. But it will not be able to secure the oil.

The Pentagon intends most of the actual fighting to be done by African surrogates, hence the AFRICOM emphasis on training. Or have it done by mercenaries, who are unregulated and unaccountable. And that is one reason the Cheney Bush administration likes them so much. They are subject to the laws of no nation. The mercenary corporations are looking to AFRICOM for their next contracts.

Theresa Whelan, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for African Affairs, and frequent spokesperson for AFRICOM addressed a dinner of the IPOA, the association of military contractors.

Contractors are here to stay in supporting US national security objectives overseas.

… some times we may not want to be very visible.

The US is investing more money in the IPOA, the International Peace Operations Association, for “peacekeeping” and “stability operations. At the same time, just before Bush visited Africa this year, he he made huge cuts to the US peacekeeping contribution to the UN.

But to think the US or any country can secure the world’s oil by use of military force is to live in Dick Cheney’s own version of cloud cuckoo land.

As Klare concludes:

After all, other than George Bush and Dick Cheney, who would claim that, more than five years after the invasion of Iraq, either the US or its supply of oil is actually safer?

Contrast this with China’s approach. China’s interest is at least as self serving as the US. It wants and needs Africa’s oil and other resources. But so far it is behaving in a far more practical manner.

From Elaine Wu at the University of Southern California comes this report:

China’s Presence Increasingly Important in Cooling the World’s Hot Spots

China, which has long been wary of foreign entanglements and has historically had a policy of nonintervention, is playing an increasingly prominent role in U.N. peacekeeping operations and other humanitarian aid undertakings. …

In efforts to expand its role as a global leader, China has increased diplomatic ties and economic linkages with resource-rich regions of the world, including … Africa

Currently, of the five permanent members on the U.N. Security Council, China and France are the two largest contributors to peacekeeping missions.

However, China continues to shy away from any form of direct military involvement. Most of China’s peacekeepers are non-military personnel. Some serve as military observers, advisors and liaisons, but the majority of Chinese forces deployed are involved with engineering, transportation, medical and other civilian projects.

According to 2007 statistics released by the Peacekeeping Affairs Office of China’s Ministry of Defense, Chinese peacekeepers have built more than 7,300 kilometers of roads, constructed over 200 bridges, treated more than 28,000 medical patients, performed over 230 surgical operations, and have cleared more than 7,500 explosives.

China has never deployed any military troops in any of its missions,” Wen Long told US-China Today. Wen is a Chinese counter-terrorism unit officer and a former member of a Chinese peacekeeping delegation. “China’s attitude towards peacekeeping missions is one of giving help and aid, not to take any kind of aggressive stance. We want to show we care about humanitarian crises.”

It’s not easy for a Chinese police officer to be chosen to go on a mission,” Wen said.

China sets rigorous standards for selecting and training its peacekeepers. In order to be selected for the government’s intensive training program, officers must be at least 25 years old, have an associate degree from an institution of higher education and at least five years of professional work experience in public security fields. In addition, they must have proof of proficiency in English, two years of driving experience and be in top physical and mental condition. In the government’s 2004 screening examination only about 10% of the 500 candidates were accepted, according to a statement by Guo Baoshan, deputy director general of the international co-operation department of the Ministry of Public Security.

In 2002, China built Asia’s largest peacekeeping civil police training center on the outskirts of Beijing. The center trains its cadets in physical and technical skills, as well as in extensive foreign language proficiency and other areas of expertise required for specific missions. In addition to being trained and screened by the Chinese government, all peacekeeping candidates must pass a strict selection examination organized by the U.N., which tests cadets on their knowledge of and skills in U.N. field procedures.

China is very careful to send its best-trained troops, the cream-of-the-crop, to foreign countries,” said Daniel Lynch, an associate professor of international relations at the University of Southern California. “They’re very concerned with projecting a good image.”

“China is under a lot of pressure to be seen as a responsible power as its economic and military power is growing,” Lynch said. “It’s taking small steps, but it wants to prove that it’s a non-threatening, benign power.”

Most China experts agree that as long as China’s economy continues to grow, it will continue to become increasingly involved in world affairs. However, a heated discussion persists in academic, business and political fields over whether China’s rising influence will be a detriment to the current world order or a balancing force for a more stable global system.

And John Taplin writes regarding oil that the:

… Chinese have locked up supply all over Africa, just with a piece of paper, a contact stating they will buy all of the oil output at whatever the prevailing spot price is, for 10 years. They then introduce the local oil company to their local banking partners which lend the driller money against the Chinese contract. So while we have spent six years getting our ass shot off in Baghdad, the Chinese have been busy locking up much more oil than us without even writing a check and without getting their soldiers killed.

To recap, the US creates the Africa Command, trains surrogates, and employs mercenaries to secure oil resources by military force in Africa, damaging prospects for peace and stability.  China writes contracts to buy the oil at the going price, and helps build infrastructure.

Which approach looks more like the approach of a responsible world citizen and benign world power? Which approach looks like the best business practice and best investment? Which approach looks the most patriotic, benefiting the citizens at home while saving lives and money?

I have a new post up on at the African Loft: The Vultures are Gathering – Mercenary Corporations look to AFRICOM for new Contracts. The IPOA, the orwellianly named International Peace Operations Association is looking to AFRICOM and Africa for their next contracts. Take a look.


UPDATE July 18, 2008: Google Alerts once again included an AFRICOM related post from Crossed Crocodiles on July 17, 2008. I hope this signals a change and we’ll see more from Crossed Crocodiles in the Google Alerts on AFRICOM. I’ll report on what I observe.

Starting in late February or in March, Crossed Crocodiles disappeared from Google Alerts on AFRICOM.

I posted the following at crossedcrocodiles.blogspot.com, but thought I would duplicate it here. Since I seem to be experiencing some censorship on Google’s Blogspot, I thought I’d see what happens if I post here.

From February 2007 through sometime in February or March 2008 the Google Alerts on AFRICOM included ALL Crossed Crocodiles articles on AFRICOM. Since some time in late February or in March 2008 NONE of Crossed Crocodiles stories on AFRICOM have been included in the Google Alerts. It was an abrupt change. First they were there, now they are not. That looks like censorship to me.

For awhile I thought they were just overlooking some posts, that Google was not as efficient as it would have us believe. But the stark contrast of all posts being included suddenly switching to none being included tells me the change is deliberate. This blog is not a large blog, but it has reported on AFRICOM longer and more consistantly than any other blog I know of. I use a number of Google Alerts to get news. Mostly I set the alerts for comprehensive, so I get notices of blog posts, as well as news articles.

Crossed Crocodiles began publishing posts on AFRICOM in February 2007, when the command was announced, and has been following its progress since then. For the first year of this coverage, February 2007 into February 2008, every blog post I wrote on AFRICOM was included in the comprehensive Google Alerts, News Alerts News Alerts, on AFRICOM. Sometime in February this year, 2008, there was a flurry of attention to Crossed Crocodiles blog from .mil sites. I get fairly regular hits from the US military and the contractors. They are more than welcome and I hope they learn something positive for the citizens of the US and the citizens of African countries when they visit. So I didn’t think too much about it. Then this blog got a visit from Google itself, google.com in Mountain View California, the first such visit to this blog to my knowledge. But I didn’t think about it much or record the details. Soon after that, in late February or early March, Crossed Crocodiles posts on AFRICOM disappeared from the Google Alerts on AFRICOM.

It is not as if there are so many blog and news stories on AFRICOM that it would be difficult for Google comprehensive Alerts to be comprehensive on the subject. The AFRICOM Alerts do not even come every day, and mostly there are very few stories listed when they do arrive, sometimes only one.

More recently I set up a comprehensive Google Alert on the International Peace Operations Association, the IPOA, the trade association of the PMCs, private military corporations. I have recently written two posts, dealing with the IPOA. Neither post was picked up by the Google Alert on the International Peace Operations Association, although a couple of posts on other blogs that linked back to the two posts on Crossed Crocodiles did get listed in the Google Alerts on the IPOA. That made me wonder if Crossed Crocodiles is being censored from the Google Alerts on the IPOA as well.
And who knows what other subjects covered here, or on other blogs, may be censored from Google Alerts? If you subscribe to Google Alerts you may not be getting the most relevant results and information you need on your topic, especially if someone regards it as a politically sensitive topic. I will still subscribe, but I’m not relying on them to keep me informed.

So far, Crossed Crocodiles posts do turn up in Google Searches. Although if you want to be sure of getting the most relevant hits, I’d use more than one search engine. Ask.com has a Blog Search, and you can try Bloglines. There are a number of possibilities.

As I said in a previous post, I write about AFRICOM because I am old enough that I observed the post independence western interference, and the rivalries and proxy wars of the cold war in Africa, when the US and Russia poured “military assistance” onto the continent, and the death and devastation that created. Friends and I used to joke about applying to Reagan and Bush 1 for military assistance to help us in our petty arguments with each other. It appeared all you needed to get military assistance was to call your enemy a Communist (now call them a Terrorist.) AFRICOM seems designed to make it all happen again, only this time it could cause infinitely more suffering. This time it is driven far more by greed for oil than ideology. I decided this time I would record what I see, what I learn, and what I think, hence the focus on AFRICOM in this blog.
Here are a couple of posts that have received a lot of attention from .mil sites and the contractors:

AFRICOM, US military bases, and Ghana

US State Department recruiting mercenaries to work in Africa

You can read my article on mercenaries in Africa over at the African Loft: The Rising Mercenary Industry and AFRICOM.