A leading congressional opponent of the Iraq war welcomed the formal end of US combat operations on Tuesday but warned of the increased reliance on private mercenaries.
“The President is rightly celebrating that less American troops are in harm’s way,” Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) said Tuesday night. “I join the President in that celebration.”
“We need to dispense with the fiction, though, that this announcement in any way diminishes our financial or resource commitment to Iraq,” he continued.
“Fifty thousand ‘non-combat’ troops will remain, and that number does not include the State Department’s plan to double the amount of mercenaries through next year–whose only loyalty is to the highest bidder–and fortify numerous ‘enduring presence posts’ throughout the country. This fortification will include the recent State Department request for Black Hawk helicopters, mine-resistant ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicles, and advanced surveillance systems.
Such a substantial reliance on mercenaries amounts to a privatization of war.”
The State Department is planning to rely on 6,000 to 7,000 private security guards, according to The New York Times.
These private security contractors are expected to “operate radars to warn of enemy rocket attacks, search for roadside bombs, fly reconnaissance drones and even staff quick reaction forces to aid civilians in distress.”
Private security firms such as Xe, formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide, have received harsh condemnations from Iraqi officials for killing civilians.
Two Blackwater employees have been indicted for the unprovoked murder of two Afghan civilians in 2009 and will appear before a grand jury for trial on September 14.
A similar incident occurred in 2007, when Blackwater security workers shot and killed Iraqi civilians in Baghdad.
The five guards were charged with killing 14 unarmed Iraqi civilians and wounding 18 others during an unprovoked attack at a busy traffic circle using gunfire and grenades.
The men had faced up to 10 years in jail on each of 14 manslaughter counts, but a judge dismissed the case.
US officials have had reason to complain, too. In August, the security firm agreed to pay 42 million dollars in fines to settle 288 alleged violations “involving the unauthorized export of defense articles and provision of defense services to foreign end-users” in a number of countries between 2003 and 2009.
Kucinich warns that regardless of the official end of combat operations in Iraq, the United States will continue to spend billions of dollars “with absolutely nothing to show for it.”
“We must admit that our mere presence there undermines any hope for a peaceful and stable Iraq. We need to remove all American forces – military and otherwise – and commit to working diplomatically for a viable government.”
Republicans are treating voters like ‘children’ with their defense of Trump: Ex-presidential adviser
On Thursday's edition of CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360," former presidential adviser David Gergen laid into Republican lawmakers for claiming that the impeachment probe is only based on "hearsay."
"The Republicans are treating us like idiots," said Gergen. "They just — they say you're only bringing forth hearsay. You don't have any firsthand information. We know there are three people who know exactly what happened. One is named [Rudy] Giuliani. One is chief of staff [Mick] Mulvaney and the third is [John] Bolton. And what's happened here? They all three have been called. The president said no, you must not talk. So the Republicans then come up and say, well, you only have hearsay."
Roger Stone’s health in question as prosecutors have him ‘dead to rights’: NBC reporter
Jurors deciding the fate of longtime Donald Trump political advisor Roger Stone did not reach a verdict during their deliberations on Thursday and will reconvene on Friday morning.
But there were fascinating details from the courtroom revealed by NBC News correspondent Ken Dilanian.
"What about Roger Stone, does he look like he’s about to burn here?" MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews asked. "Does he look like he’s going down?"
"He does," Dilanian replied.
"And also, physically, he doesn't look well at this trial. He’s walking around the courthouse kind of unaccompanied, shambling around," he continued. "He doesn't look like a happy warrior, which is usually his persona."
GOP lawmaker smacked down after suggesting impeachment is only for capital crimes
On Thursday's edition of MSNBC's "All In," Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY) tried to argue that impeachment is only intended for when presidents commit capital crimes — and was immediately corrected by anchor Chris Hayes.
"I saw an earlier interview you gave to Chuck Todd where you didn’t think this was, so far, from what you’ve heard of, the level of impeachable behavior," said Hayes. "I’m curious what you view the standard as the Constitution sets out for you as being high crimes and treason and misdemeanor."
"Crimes that are subject to the penalty of death is essentially what the Constitution is to me indicating with impeachment," said Reed. "And this whole claim of bribery, the American people aren’t stupid, Chris. This is not going to sustain the review of the American people, and they’re the ultimate ones who are going to judge this because I don’t see this becoming an impeachable subject to the removal of the president."