The Pentagon’s Invisible Third-World Army

iraqWhen enlistment is down, what’s the military to do? Outsource. Seventy thousand of the people in the Pentagon’s war effort in Iraq and Afghanistan are not U.S. soldiers, but “third-country nationals” — Filipinos launder our soldiers’ uniforms, Bosnians repair electrical grids, Indians serve up iced lattes. Many say they are being held in conditions resembling indentured servitude by subcontractors who operate outside the law, the New Yorker reports:

In the morning of October 10, 2007, the beauticians boarded their flight to the Emirates. They carried duffelbags full of cosmetics, family photographs, Bibles, floral sarongs. More than half of the women left husbands and children behind. In the rush to depart, none of them examined the fine print on their travel documents: their visas to the Emirates weren’t employment permits but thirty-day travel passes that forbade all work, “paid or unpaid”. And Dubai was just a stopping-off point. They were bound for U.S. military bases in Iraq.

Lydia and Vinnie were unwitting recruits for the Pentagon’s invisible army: more than seventy thousand cooks, cleaners, construction workers, fast-food clerks, electricians, and beauticians from the world’s poorest countries who service U.S. military logistics contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Army and Air Force Exchange Service (aafes) is behind most of the commercial “tastes of home” that can be found on major U.S. bases, which include jewelry stores, souvenir shops filled with carved camels and Taliban chess sets, beauty salons where soldiers can receive massages and pedicures, and fast-food courts featuring Taco Bell, Subway, Pizza Hut, and Cinnabon. (aafes’s motto: “We go where you go.”)

The wars’ foreign workers are known, in military parlance, as “third-country nationals,” or T.C.N.s. Many of them recount having been robbed of wages, injured without compensation, subjected to sexual assault, and held in conditions resembling indentured servitude by their subcontractor bosses. Previously unreleased contractor memos, hundreds of interviews, and government documents I obtained during a yearlong investigation confirm many of these claims and reveal other grounds for concern. Widespread mistreatment even led to a series of food riots in Pentagon subcontractor camps, some involving more than a thousand workers.

Read the rest at the New Yorker

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  • MoralDrift

    Remove all the 21st century trappings and what you are left with is Empire. No justifications, no explanations necessary or worthwhile, the US is an empire. An empire of the worst kind, desperately clinging to power while seeking more and becoming less relevant to the rest of the world every day.

  • Anonymous

    Remove all the 21st century trappings and what you are left with is Empire. No justifications, no explanations necessary or worthwhile, the US is an empire. An empire of the worst kind, desperately clinging to power while seeking more and becoming less relevant to the rest of the world every day.

  • Hadrian999

    i met some of these workers when i was in Kuwait, it’s slavery pure and simple, they get paid next to nothing and have their passports seized until their contract is up, every time someone finds out how bat the contract companies treat the foreign workers it gets shoved off on a outside staffing contractor. anyone who owns stock in these kbr or halliburton should be ashamed of themselves.

  • Hadrian999

    i met some of these workers when i was in Kuwait, it’s slavery pure and simple, they get paid next to nothing and have their passports seized until their contract is up, every time someone finds out how bat the contract companies treat the foreign workers it gets shoved off on a outside staffing contractor. anyone who owns stock in these kbr or halliburton should be ashamed of themselves.

  • oil pump

    the army is a cancer 

    • Hadrian999

      if you think it’s the army that drives things like this you aren’t paying attention, militaries and governments are just pieces in a game.

  • oil pump

    the army is a cancer 

  • oil pump

    the army is a cancer 

  • Hadrian999

    if you think it’s the army that drives things like this you aren’t paying attention, militaries and governments are just pieces in a game.

  • SF2K01

    Also happened many times in history where a country would hire mercenaries to fight the wars for them, often against the mercenaries of other countries. Happened here in the revolutionary war where you had french and germans fighting each other to settle the American/British conflict.

    • GoodDoktorBad

      Our entire armed forces are mercenaries. How many soldiers would there be if they didn’t get paid money or 
      other “perks” like college tuition etc? Probably not too many. Certainly not enough to fight the wars were presently involved in. 

      Some are patriots or want to challenge themselves and some might do it just for the camaraderie or free food and shelter. But money is the main reason most joined. Not that it pays much, but with free food and shelter you can send most of your pay back home to family or just save it. Assuming you don’t get yourself killed (and that’s a big assumption), it’s really seen as a good deal for many folks -especially the poor.

      Soldiers are seen as patriots -and some ARE. But, that is largely an illusion. Money is the initial motivation and that means they are essentially mercenaries with an official status.  

      • SF2K01

        Getting paid does not automatically make you a mercenary. Mercenaries by definition demand compensation because they have no connection to the fight at all except that they are brought in by money to serve a foreign power. Historically, the people wouldn’t fight if the warlord doesn’t promise them treasure and forcing people to fight against their will would make them terrible soldiers but the soldiers connection to the fight is by virtue of being nationals, not whether they are paid or not.

        We are lucky enough that people are not drafted into the army, but as being part of that fight is not mandatory, people often need some other incentive to join up, but they are a far cry from professional soldiers who will serve anyone that pays them.

  • Anonymous

    Also happened many times in history where a country would hire mercenaries to fight the wars for them, often against the mercenaries of other countries. Happened here in the revolutionary war where you had french and germans fighting each other to settle the American/British conflict.

  • Guest

    Perhaps you’ve forgotten there is a World that exists outside of your Country.

    I support the idea of a united humanity aka New World Order, which is what this article is pointing out in different words. In theory it can work, although the issue remains that this isn’t a NWO. Waht you’re witnessing is 500 years of Manifest Destiny in the name of God coming to a head. Their building a Western Centrist World Religious Army and in all likelihood its crowned secretly by the Vatican. That would explain what all the Confession has been about, its the worlds oldest form of an Intelligence Agency.

    Hint: the Financial and Societal collapse happening all over the world …. that’s what’s happening. I have a hard time believing its a Jewish Conspiracy or a Masonic Conspiracy (as some say), they would be the perfect patsies though wouldn’t they. Whatever the case may be, we’re all about to find out in the coming years.

  • Guest

    Perhaps you’ve forgotten there is a World that exists outside of your Country.

    I support the idea of a united humanity aka New World Order, which is what this article is pointing out in different words. In theory it can work, although the issue remains that this isn’t a NWO. Waht you’re witnessing is 500 years of Manifest Destiny in the name of God coming to a head. Their building a Western Centrist World Religious Army and in all likelihood its crowned secretly by the Vatican. That would explain what all the Confession has been about, its the worlds oldest form of an Intelligence Agency.

    Hint: the Financial and Societal collapse happening all over the world …. that’s what’s happening. I have a hard time believing its a Jewish Conspiracy or a Masonic Conspiracy (as some say), they would be the perfect patsies though wouldn’t they. Whatever the case may be, we’re all about to find out in the coming years.

  • Anonymous

    Our entire armed forces are mercenaries. How many soldiers would there be if they didn’t get paid money or 
    other “perks” like college tuition etc? Probably not too many. Certainly not enough to fight the wars were presently involved in. 

    Some are patriots or want to challenge themselves and some might do it just for the camaraderie or free food and shelter. But money is the main reason most joined. Not that it pays much, but with free food and shelter you can send most of your pay back home to family or just save it. Assuming you don’t get yourself killed (and that’s a big assumption), it’s really seen as a good deal for many folks -especially the poor.

    Soldiers are seen as patriots -and some ARE. But, that is largely an illusion. Money is the initial motivation and that means they are essentially mercenaries with an official status.  

  • Anonymous

    Getting paid does not automatically make you a mercenary. Mercenaries by definition demand compensation because they have no connection to the fight at all except that they are brought in by money to serve a foreign power. Historically, the people wouldn’t fight if the warlord doesn’t promise them treasure and forcing people to fight against their will would make them terrible soldiers but the soldiers connection to the fight is by virtue of being nationals, not whether they are paid or not.

    We are lucky enough that people are not drafted into the army, but as being part of that fight is not mandatory, people often need some other incentive to join up, but they are a far cry from professional soldiers who will serve anyone that pays them.

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