Thursday, February 19, 2009

Linguistic condottieri

Companies that supply services to military contractors make up the third largest contributors of forces in Iraq, proof that mercenary work is highly profitable. A company like DynCorp will supply national armies with civilian police forces, drug eradication services, and linguists, for whatever cause and for the most pay. Its Global Linguists Solutions division works in Iraq with the US Army, but the company also works for the UAE, Australia, Nigeria, and anybody else it can please.

There are new rewards for ESL mercenaries working for US after recent modifications to US immigration rules. The Pentagon recently announced it will be recruiting from the ranks of immigrants with temporary visas, and "accelerating" mercenary routes to US citizenship. The immigrant recruits are valuable to the military if they speak any of 35 languages, including Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, Igbo (a Nigerian language), Kurdish, Napalese, Pashto, Russian, and Tamil. Immigrant mercenaries can apply to become citizens on the first day of active service, will have all their naturalization fees waived, and they can take an oath of citizenship in as little as six months. But if they do not serve in the military, says the NY Times, citizenship is uncertain and "at best agonizingly long, often lasting more than a decade."

"The Army will gain in its strength in human capital," General Freakley said, "and the immigrants will gain their citizenship and get on a ramp to the American dream." ... If the immigrants do not complete their service honorably, they could lose their citizenship.

The message is, 'fight for us and then you might become citizens.' This is the new bargain. Rather than the CIA paying groups of armed rebels in remote places to fight against enemies of the West, the military instead will hire them from its own backyard, as its own soldiers, on its own payroll.

In Renaissance Italy, wars were fought by mercenary soldiers recruited by the condottieri, partly as a business venture, partly as a political speculation. City-states and principalities had to rely on these recruits because the political culture of the time did not allow for efficient coercion. There were no conscript armies. Essentially, the immigrant recruitment mechanism is efficiently coercive, and a politically acceptable form of conscription today.

It is the perfect political and military solution to US problems with 1) immigration, 2) imperial overstretch, and 3) human capital. New waves of immigrants to the US can be molded into pawns for the empire, easily, and asked to prove their allegiance by going above and beyond. The government does not have to rely on middle class whites to go to war for its own sake. Instead it draws from the poorest, and most vulnerable sections of its population: the most efficient type of coercion imaginable.

But mercenary recruits who fight in wars against successful anti-imperialist, anti-colonialist armies usually get wasted by aftermath courts. This is the take-home message. Recall the Luanda trial of 13 British and American mercenaries towards the end of the successful Angolan war of independence from 1961 to 1974, which ended in death sentences. Americans put ads in papers like Soldier of Fortune - a magazine for mercenaries - declaring their willingness to fight for hire "anywhere in the world" against independence movements and rebels.

The US State Department denied that it had condoned the hiring of any mercenaries. Two US lawyers who attended the trial accused the Ford Administration of violating the Neutrality Act by allowing mercenaries to fight overseas. The prosecutor in that trial, Mr. Montiero, scorned the U.S. as "the home of the CIA and the mother of mercenaries" and Henry Kissinger as "the traveling salesman of the international crime syndicate."

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