From the moment I raised my right arm and swore allegiance to my country and the Constitution which has guided us since it was penned, a weight was placed on my shoulders. Although it was a heavy weight, it was not uncomfortable, and something inside me...changed, I guess you could say.
That weight was responsibility. When I joined the Army, I was no longer a "citizen", I became the finger on the hand of the arm of the U.S. Constitution. I also had no doubt that my behavior could either strengthen or weaken that Constitution's influence, even if only to a minute degree. But that understanding was there. My years in service taught me the true meaning of some other words, like: honor, integrity, fidelity, loyalty and many others. But responsibility was an overriding and tangible entity in my mind, and it shaped me into the man I am today.
The reason I spent so much time exploring that link between the Constitution and the Joe (or Jane) toting a rifle in whatever God-forsaken hel...exotic and interesting place our government has decided to send them, is because that link is often the only real evidence foreign peoples can see of the value of our form of Democracy as embodied in our Constitution. We can talk about it until we're blue in the face, but if our behavior contradicts what we're saying, we might as well be grinding that Constitution into the mud under our boot.
Which brings me to the subject of Blackwater U.S.A. and other private mercenary outfits, and how their missing link to the Constitution is eroding the causes of freedom and Democracy in the world, and possibly even here at home. Also—this is not really a "candidate" diary, although I expect it to be treated as such by many who view it as a "dig" at their fave. This is more an attempt to sway the growing number of pragmatists who see the deployment of mercenaries as a necessary evil, and just something that "bears watching".
There appears to be a flap developing between Obama and Hillary over Blackwater etal, and I'm not sure how it will settle out. From an article in the Nation:
A senior foreign policy adviser to leading Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has told The Nation that if elected Obama will not "rule out" using private security companies like Blackwater Worldwide in Iraq. The adviser also said that Obama does not plan to sign on to legislation that seeks to ban the use of these forces in US war zones by January 2009, when a new President will be sworn in. Obama's campaign says that instead he will focus on bringing accountability to these forces while increasing funding for the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security, the agency that employs Blackwater and other private security contractors.
Okay, so this excerpt has already been posted ad nauseum across the Intertubes, and you're probably tired of reading it. But look at the part I bolded. The State Department has already awarded over a billion dollars to Blackwater alone to deploy mercenaries in Iraq, and the guy who I've been steadily leaning towards (sorry) proposes to throw more money in that direction? Hire more Federal security for State that will be directly responsible to the Constitution, but don't just up their funding. Even considering this statement:
Obama's proposed increase in funding to the diplomatic security division would ostensibly pave the way for a protective force composed entirely of US government personnel
the easiest route for State would be to continue business as usual.
On the flipside, this is what Jeremy Scahill has to say about Hillary's (sudden?) anti-Blackwater stance:
A day after this story went live on TheNation.com, Senator Hillary Clinton, whose staff refused for a week to answer my questions about her position on private security forces, released a statement announcing that Clinton is now co-sponsoring legislation to "ban the use of Blackwater and other private mercenary firms in Iraq," saying, "The time to show these contractors the door is long past due."
Why February 28, in the middle of a tough political campaign? Why not after last September's Nisour Square massacre, when Blackwater operatives killed seventeen Iraqi civilians? Or, better, before it? Regardless, this makes Clinton the most significant US political figure to date to issue such a call. We will be monitoring closely how much of a legislative priority this becomes for Senator Clinton.
Frankly, the entrance of Blackwater into the Presidential debate is long past due. But it's here now, and I hope it stays. It is a critical matter, and one that needs to be dealt with decisively.
As a final note, I want to talk about the actual guys filling the boots for Blackwater etal. The vast majority of them came from the elite ranks of our military, and no doubt were imbued with the same sense of responsibility I spoke of earlier. But how long can that sense of responsibility remain without the Constitutional link? I don't know, and I'm sure it varies depending on the individual. I do know that their recruitment into the private sector has weakened our Special Operations capabilites, as those units have historically relied on experienced non-coms to supervise the near-constant training of the younger guys.
This trend needs to be reversed, or we will eventually lose that burden of responsibility that our Constitution relies upon to be more than just a piece of parchment.