"In a rare piece on the subject in a major newspaper, last December as Saddam entered our offshore prison world, James Risen and Thom Shanker of the New York Times wrote of 'what has developed into a global detention system run by the Pentagon and the CIA...a secretive universe...made up of large and small facilities scattered throughout the world...Officials described the network of detention centers as a prison system with its own unique hierarchy, one in which the most important captives are kept at the greatest distance from the prying eyes of the public and the media. And it is a system in which the jailers have refined the arts of interrogation in order to drain the detainees of critical information.'Coincidently(if you believe in coincidences), it makes a great lead in for the post below.
Ah, those 'arts of interrogation.' You would want to keep them from 'prying eyes,' wouldn't you? And the Bush administration has done so with remarkable success. It seems that, for them, even Guantanamo is too exposed and so, oddly enough, that ultimate lockdown facility seems to hold no significant al-Qaeda or Taliban figures. They are held 'elsewhere.'
Around us, as Americans, the shadows have been deepening. They weren't first cast by this administration, but its powerful urge to scare us all into 'preventive wars' and unparalleled global domination has caused them to deepen immeasurably. Every now and then, as with Richard Clarke's testimony or in Fallujah recently, something in those shadows is, unexpectedly, sometimes horrifyingly illuminated, whether we care to exercise our prying eyes or not. Under an assault of almost unbelievable brutality, lit up last week was the semi-secret world of private armies in Iraq -- those four dead and mutilated men, working for a firm called Blackwater USA, part of a $100 billion global-boom business for which our government is the largest customer.
Just for a second, that business sat in the spotlit glare and we learned that the second largest force in our Iraqi "coalition of the willing" was not the British military contingent of 8,000-plus in southern Iraq but the 15,000 well-armed, well-paid mercenaries who protect everyone from U.S. and British officials to private business contractors. Some of them learned their skills under the old South African Apartheid regime, some under the brutal Pinochet dictatorship in Chile; some are Gurkhas from Nepal (reminders of a British colonial past), some islanders from Fiji, and some like the four who were dismembered in Fallujah had backgrounds in the U.S. Special Forces. As a legion, they truly make up a "coalition of the billing."