Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well wisher to his posterity, swear by the blood of the Revolution, never to violate in the least particular, the laws of the country; and never to tolerate their violation by others.

As the patriots of seventy-six did to the support of the Declaration of Independence, so to the support of the Constitution and Laws, let every American pledge his life, his property, and his sacred honor; let every man remember that to violate the law, is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the charter of his own, and his children's liberty.

Let reverence for the laws, be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap; let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be written in Primers, spelling books, and in Almanacs; let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and Let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues, and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars.

While ever a state of feeling, such as this, shall universally, or even, very generally prevail throughout the nation, vain will be every effort, and fruitless every attempt, to subvert our national freedom.

- Abraham Lincoln, January 27, 1838
  Address Before the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois

Monday, April 30, 2007

Is Blackwater a 'Standing Army?'

Is Blackwater a 'standing army?'

If we ever manage to extract ourselves from Iraq, what will become of this new army of corporate mercenaries - and who will they report to? What will be their chain of command? Will they be disbanded? Or will they be integrated into the U.S. Army and subjected to the same rules and laws that govern our own armed forces?

At the moment they are under no one's jurisdiction but that of the Executive Branch and their own CEO - and if I may make a dubious connection here, Hitler demanded that the Gestapo take a vow of allegiance to himself directly, and not to 'the Motherland.' I think we can do without this sort of 'private, presidential army' - or worse, an unaccountable corporate army - if we plan to remain a free democracy.

And what of Blackwater's founder, Erik Prince, brother of Betsy DeVos, former chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party? According to a recent Associated Press article, his Moyock, N.C.-based company has received at least $800 million in federal contracts over the past five years, according to government records.

Deborah Avant, professor of political science at George Washington University, said Prince and others like him share an interest in proving the legitimacy of their companies' services. But some qualities set Blackwater and its founder apart from other military services companies, she said.

"Blackwater is owned by one guy, who is very rich," Avant said. "He's very connected. He's very tied to the Christian right."

So who does this mercenary army really answer to - and who will they report to when they finally come home from Iraq? Will they report only and directly to their CEO, an avowed neocon conservative and fundamentalist Christian?

Perhaps we should give this some thought.

Our forefathers had a lot to say about standing armies, although unfortunately there is scant mention of them within the Bill of Rights (only the third amendment, and it is rather cryptic on the subject.)

Amendment III: No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

I think the answer becomes a little clearer when you take the third amendment in context with the rest of amendments, and the entire Constitution. Our forefathers were talking about freedom from oppression: safeguarding liberty in the fledgling United States, and hopefully throughout its future.

Today, other amendments within our Bill of Rights have been 'bent' for political purposes - and this should be reason enough for every American to read the Bill of Rights and keep close watch on governmental practices. One could easily argue that our fourth amendment was broken when the NSA, under George Bush's executive orders, began spying on American citizens' phone calls and electronic messages.

Amendment IV: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

In our day and age, 'papers and effects' can easily include electronic documents and emails. Unreasonable searches and seizures would easily include spying on law-abiding citizens without their knowledge by siphoning off their private emails and storing them in a secret database.

So what about the third amendment?

Obviously no one is 'quartering troops' in anyone's houses these days. But what about in their backyards? What about these new Blackwater military training installations that are springing up all over our country? And what happens when these mercenary troops come home from Iraq? Will they constitute a corporate, standing army on our soil?

There are warnings throughout history about the dangers of standing armies, and especially armies of mercenaries that are not answerable (or accountable) to the ruling government of the land. Even Machiavelli, author of 'The Prince,' believed that standing armies - and especially mercenaries - were a danger to society. Machiavelli wrote of mercenaries that they were "disunited, ambitious, without discipline, faithless, bold amongst friends, cowardly amongst enemies, they have no fear of God, and keep no faith with men."

Additionally, Machiavelli warned that their lack of patriotism left "no motivation beyond wages, which were not enough to motivate men to die; and, more fundamentally, any mercenary army powerful enough to defend a state must be more than powerful enough to subjugate it."

Machiavelli spoke of mercenaries again in the 'Art of War,' warning that any prince who relies on mercenaries within his army, must either remain embroiled in wars forever, or risk overthrow when the mercenaries became unemployed with the advent of peace. By the way, one has only to see the trouble Roman rulers had with their own legions to see how this plays out.

I am specifically referring to Machiavelli's words, because his is a manifesto that every neocon has undoubtedly read - and likely worships in secret. 'The Prince' is all about gaining and holding power; whatever the costs. If Machiavelli was against mercenary armies, we as a free nation should be concerned.

We also have the words of our forefathers to consider: and they had direct experience with British standing armies in the early American colonies. According to a nice list of quotes provided by Jacob G. Hornberger in his article "The Bill of Rights: Antipathy to Militarism:"

Henry St. George Tucker, in Blackstone’s 1768 Commentaries on the Laws of England:
"Wherever standing armies are kept up, and when the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any color or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction."

Patrick Henry:
"A standing army we shall have, also, to execute the execrable commands of tyranny; and how are you to punish them? Will you order them to be punished? Who shall obey these orders? Will your mace-bearer be a match for a disciplined regiment?"

The Commonwealth of Virginia, as it ratified the Constitution in 1788:
"...standing armies in time of peace are dangerous to liberty, and therefore ought to be avoided, as far as the circumstances and protection of the community will admit; and that in all cases the military should be under strict subordination to and governed by the civil power."

North Carolina, in its Declaration of Rights, 1776:
"...that the people have a Right to bear Arms for the Defence of the State, and as Standing Armies in Time of Peace are dangerous to Liberty, they ought not to be kept up, and that the military should be kept under strict Subordination to, and governed by the Civil Power."

The Pennsylvania Convention:
"...standing armies in time of peace are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be kept up; and that the military shall be kept under strict subordination to and be governed by the civil power."

Our forefathers believed the best and perhaps only protection of liberty in a free society was safeguarded not by an enormous standing army but by the individual, "citizen-soldier" protecting his and his family's rights and freedom. This 'militia' would translate today to our own National Guard. Our National Guard was never intended to be a tool of foreign invasion, but rather as a local militia to serve and protect our own citizen liberties and freedoms here at home.

So what would our forefathers have thought of Blackwater USA?

I think we as American citizens had better give this some serious thought. I have yet to get my hands on a copy of Jeremy Scahill's 'Blackwater," so I don't know if he addresses the subject of standing armies. I do know that I watched "Iraq for Sale" last night - I rented the DVD from Netflix, and I highly recommend that every American with even a shred of patriotism and decency watch this documentary.

After seeing Blackwater in action (along with Halliburton's 'KBR', and the other war profiteers who are plundering our economy, our armed forces and the people of Iraq,) I was immediately concerned about this 'standing army' issue. Blackwater in Iraq is bad enough - these armed soldiers are not accountable to our government or our military chain of command, and can kill anyone - Iraqi or otherwise - with immunity.

Now, imagine Blackwater operating here, on American soil. If allowed to continue their mercenary ways, with no accountability or oversight, they could easily pose a direct threat to our free society, especially if they eventually outnumber our own National Guardsmen - our 'militia.'

Just ask our forefathers...

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