Washington’s global mercenary death squads foreshadow what the U.S. will do to its own people

Like previous fallen empires such as Rome, the United States is leaning more heavily onto mercenaries to compensate for the growing inadequacy of its increasingly thin-stretched and vulnerable armed forces. After two decades of steady expansion for the role of private mercenary companies in war, culminating in Trump’s pardoning last year of Blackwater contractors who were jailed for massacring unarmed Iraqi civilians, Biden is privatizing the Afghanistan war — as well as keeping intelligence operatives and special ops — under the guise of “pulling out” of the country. Revolutionaries in U.S. borders should pay attention to this trend towards privatized, totally unaccountable warfare in southwest Asia and elsewhere, because it portends to what the government we live under is going to do to us once imperialism’s internal contradictions call for drastic measures.

Biden’s proliferation of private mercenaries in Afghanistan is ominous not just because it follows Trump’s Blackwater pardon, but because U.S. operations in Afghanistan even without mercenaries have always been rife with death squads who are given impunity to commit war crimes. With the full knowledge and direction of the CIA, the U.S. has executed entire families, burnt down homes with three-year-olds inside of them, and committed other actions which violate the international laws of war. It’s done this all under the pretext of wanting to be ruthless in dealing with those who aid the Taliban, yet the CIA has frequently carried out its killings and property destruction without applying serious investigative standards to their targets.

This hasn’t been counterterrorism, it’s been terrorism. Every arbitrary killing of a defenseless or falsely accused person has taken place under the orders of the CIA for a reason: what the CIA is trying to do is make the general population too afraid to abet the Taliban. Whether or not every person they kill has actually aided the Taliban, or whether they’re even old enough to know what the Taliban is, is irrelevant to this goal. Biden’s mercenaries will abundantly understand this reality about their role in Afghanistan.

It’s the same kind of reasoning that the Israeli army applies when it orders its snipers, with the full knowledge and foresight of the commanding officers, to shoot children, journalists, medics, the disabled, the elderly, and clearly unarmed individuals at the Gaza border; Israel’s goal isn’t merely to kill Hamas assets, it’s to make the Palestinian masses too fearful of retribution to armed resistance. And like how the purpose of the CIA’s death squads is not to counter Washington’s definition of “terrorists” but to crush anti-imperialist movements within Afghanistan so that the U.S. occupation can be fortified, Israel’s goal is not to end “terrorism” (Israel helped create Hamas), it’s to demobilize all facets of the Palestinian liberation movement while classififying it under the label of “the Hamas.” The growing presence of U.S. mercenary companies like Academi and Triple Canopy within Israel’s colonial warfare operations expands this overlap.

The fact that Washington’s haphazard funding within Afghanistan has given the Taliban millions of dollars further shows how the “War on Terror” is really just a larger-scale version of Israel’s genocidal war against the Palestinian people, with the Taliban’s supporters in Afghanistan being treated as irrational terrorists when they’re simply embracing their only practical option for freeing their land from Washington’s reign of terror. It’s like how Israel treats the entire population of Gaza as enemy combatants under the rationale that Hamas has been democratically elected by Gazans, while disregarding the context behind why the Palestinian masses have embraced armed struggle: the occupier leaves them no choice but to wage violent revolt.

Just as in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Gaza, the U.S. empire uses terror to suppress class and national liberation movements across Latin America. Mercenaries are also integral to these Global South terror campaigns. And the communities they seek to repress are simplistically vilified in the same ways the Afghans and Gazans are, and to how the U.S. empire vilifies the colonized communities within its own borders who resist colonial subjugation. These Latin American propaganda and military counterinsurgencies against rebels are especially what foreshadow Washington’s coming reign of terror against the U.S. population.

In Colombia, Washington’s neo-colonial government has been carrying out a propaganda campaign to justify the extreme police, military, and paramilitary brutality against unarmed civilians who’ve been protesting for their freedom from cruel pandemic austerity policies. Guided by the neo-Nazi factions which have seized control over the country’s law enforcement, and by the country’s former narco president Álvaro Uribe, the Colombian ruling class has categorized the demonstrators as all being puppets for a criminal and foreign subversion campaign. By implicating all facets of the opposition to neoliberalism — including Colombia’s human rights organizations and civic society — in this fictitious conspiracy, it’s rationalized atrocities that range from using helicopters to shoot civilians in broad daylight to extrajudicially executing protest leaders to digitally tracking down political dissidents so that they can be arbitrarily detained or worse.

It’s a more severe version of the counterinsurgency that the U.S. police state has carried out in the last year against the Black Lives Matter movement. BLM has also been vilified by the reactionary media as being part of a broad-ranging, shadowy conspiracy. The human rights abuses that this demonization effort has justified, from deliberate police maimings of the faces of protesters to the deployment of unmarked DHS officers who’ve black-bagged protesters and put them into mysterious vehicles, are going to become more egregious as the U.S. government reacts to near-future uprisings. And throughout these repressive campaigns, it’s going to take example not just from the CIA deaths squads in Afghanistan or Israel’s terror against Palestinians, but from Washington’s prized neo-colony Colombia. As France24 has reported, mercenaries are a major part of Colombia’s death squad network:

Colombia said on Friday that at least 17 ex-soldiers are believed to have been involved in the attack at [Haitian president] Moise’s home. Some were killed by Haitian police and the majority were captured. But the participation of Colombian mercenaries highlights the lucrative transnational mercenary market. “There is great experience in terms of irregular war… the Colombian soldier is trained, has combat experience and on top of that is cheap labor,” Jorge Mantilla, a criminal phenomenon researcher at the University of Illinois in Chicago, told AFP. It’s not just retired soldiers that leave Colombia’s borders — already so porous to the export of cocaine — as guns for hire. In 2004, Venezuelan authorities detained “153 Colombian paramilitaries” they accused of taking part in a plan to assassinate then-president Hugo Chavez.

The facts that Colombian mercenaries are also used to assist the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Yemen, and that Israel provides ample military technologies and repressive training to Colombia’s death squads, further reveal the overlapping global killing machine that U.S. imperialism has cultivated. If the accusations about Colombian mercenaries being behind Moise’s assassination are true, it’s apparent that the U.S. has used these proxies to take out a dictatorial neo-colonial leader whose immense unpopularity had become an inconvenience for the empire’s attempts at maintaining control over Haiti and the Carribean.

Now that Biden is using the unrest from the assassination as an excuse for pursuing new interventions and occupations within the country, mercenaries are again showing up as ever more of a tool for the empire’s machinations. As the Miami Herald has reported:

Over the past four years Haiti has faced waves of anti-government protests against Moïse’s leadership and disarray in its weak national police force. It has seen a growing number of private security contractors and soldiers for hire in the midst of its own forces. The growing presence of these soldiers of fortune coincided with the 2016 election of Moïse after a tumultuous presidential vote that had to be re-run because of fraud allegations…The trend has worried Haiti watchers and the U.N., which had made strengthening the police a key focus of its 15-year presence in the country in the wake of increasing gang violence and political instability. “With the disintegration of the [Haiti National Police], which had its own internal splits, to the explosion in gangs, which I now call ‘armed militias,’… the next logical step is escalation in an arms race to secure even more firepower and expertise than can be found on the local market: foreign mercenaries,” said William O’Neill, a Haiti security expert and international human rights lawyer who was involved in the rebuilding of the country’s police force.

The precedents are being set for the importing of mercenaries to the U.S. empire’s internal repressive efforts, something that’s already occurred to an extent; at the Standing Rock indigenous water rights demonstrations, the police used the mercenary company TigerSwan to set up an entire de facto intelligence center for monitoring and infiltrating the protest encampment.

In South Africa, the rise of private policing forces has been taken much further, and has consequently created a re-emergence of apartheid-era racial inequalities as these neo-colonial law enforcement officers carry out discrimination. One could easily imagine such police forces getting brought into U.S. borders. All of the worldwide examples I’ve cited make this prospect feel inevitable; of course the mercenaries are going to come to our communities, the imperialists have been putting mercenaries wherever imperialism’s contradictions have grown big enough to demand a more aggressive military approach.

At some point, the contradictions of imperialism within the U.S. will reach the same proportions that they’ve reached in neo-colonies like Haiti and Colombia. When this happens, we know what to expect as we build our revolutionary organizations: wanton murders of non-combatants just to make people scared of the government, extrajudicial executions of rebel leaders, the use of mobile device surveillance to find those fleeing political persecution, intensive spying on demonstrators, propaganda tactics which paint the rebels as agents of Washington’s adversaries. All assisted by corporations that have been brought in as bandages for the growing wounds of the empire.

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