Tuesday, March 02, 2004

CORPORATE MERCENARIES IN PRACTICE


Last month I wrote about the rise of private military corporations and the conundrums of legitimacy, authority and autonomy posed by the use of PMCs.

As it turns out, ousted Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's security detail was contracted to a US-based multinational PMC, the Steele Foundation (comprised largely of former members of US special forces--read Pentagon and CIA--and the State Department's protection services), when Aristide disbanded the army in 1998.

The potential conflicts of interest in this situation raises some thorny questions and provides a case study in the pitfalls of outsourcing military capabilities.

International NGOs and the US State Department have long condemned Haiti for its human rights abuses. What role might Steele have played in training police, arming thugs, or even in perpetrating such abuses? What evidence of human rights abuses might they have suppressed in the interest of maintaining their service contract with Aristide?

To whom was Steele accountable? When Aristide sought to hire more private forces last month in the face of growing resistance, the US State Department stepped in to block their deployment. Did Steele troops work with the US government to orchestrate Aristide's ouster?

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