War and Business

In total, $138 billion was awarded in federal funds to private contractors for the Iraq War, with Halliburton receiving more than $39.5 billion of the federal contracts related to the Iraq military invasion and occupation between 2003 and 2013. There were three other primary contractors in Iraq: Blackwater Worldwide, a mercenary army responsible for countless murders and massacres of Iraqis; CACI International, which received $66.2 million in state funds while being accused of the beating, starvation, sexual assault, sleep deprivation and torture of detainees in Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad; and Titan Corp., which supplied interpreters to Abu Ghraib and also was implicated in human rights abuses at the prison.

KBR was not alone in these kinds of dealings. The Carlyle Group, a Washington-based private equity firm and defense contractor, has had its hand in bringing together private investment and war, largely orchestrated by former heads of state. In a 2001 Guardian article, Oliver Burkeman and Julian Borger document what they call the “ex-presidents’ club,” naming former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker, former British Prime Minister John Major and one-time World Bank treasurer Afsaneh Masheyekhi.

While Carlyle was the focus of numerous exposés around the time of the U.S. invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, major media has provided limited follow-up coverage, and the company has been allowed to “rebrand” itself as an “investment group.” Some might argue “coincidence,” with so many specialized contractors making deals and forming policy with the U.S. government, but it does look suspicious when, for instance, on Sept. 11, 2001, The Carlyle Group was set to hold an investor meeting in Washington with the guest of honor being Shafiq bin Laden, brother of Osama bin Laden. …

More recently, Bannon, when he was a Trump adviser in the White House, pushed the proposal of Erik Prince, Blackwater’s founder, to deploy private military contractors in Afghanistan, where 6,000 contractors plus U.S. special operations troops and support personnel would embed with local Afghan units. Beyond this, we have the Trump administration also considering Prince’s plan to build a mercenary force in Syria, despite Prince’s conflicts in the United Emirates, where he brought into the country several hundred Colombians posing as construction workers to fight in Yemen. When it emerged that Prince has collaborated with Oliver North and former CIA officer John R. Maguire to develop a plan to create a private spy network to circumvent the CIA, the White House opened its doors. All this plus a 2017 meeting in the Seychelles with the United Arab Emirate’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund Kirill Dmitriev and Prince that ended in a House Intelligence Committee hearing.

Journalist Josh Marshall, from Talking Points Memo, has noted how Prince regularly uses “ex-military and intelligence operatives to build parallel national security forces that operate for profit and outside the rule of law.” However, operating outside the law seems to be more the rule than the exception if we are to honestly approach the common pattern repeating itself wherein U.S. foreign policy and private industries collaborate. We cannot ignore that SCL/Cambridge Analytica (which could be reborn under a new name after announcing it is shutting down) works on the tracking, analysis and manipulation of popular opinion abroad related to both U.S. and U.K. military and diplomatic services, any more than we can negate the questionable ties between SCL and Republican billionaire Robert Mercer, his daughter Rebekah Mercer and Bannon (Mercer’s business partner), who later became Donald Trump’s de facto campaign manager.