September 2, 2009

Face of America: Mercenaries Still Out Front

The top U.S. envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke, in a blue shirt, is escorted by security guards and Pakistani police officers during his visit to a refugee camp in Mardan, northwest Pakistan, Thursday, June 4, 2009. Holbrooke visited Pakistani refugees who have fled fighting between their country's military and Taliban guerrillas and told them Thursday that the United States can't offer them security, but it can offer them aid.  (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

This morning’s NYT details the historic and eye-popping percentage of mercenaries and outside contractors running America’s war in Afghanistan. (The article doesn’t mention how much those contracting firms are shelling out for lobbying and political contributions.)

One has only to scan the newswire pics under the search term “Afghanistan” to turn up a specimen like this.

The photo was taken on June 4th and shows U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke visiting a refugee camp in northwest Pakistan. After all the trouble in Iraq with “the company formerly known as Blackwater,” you would think our celebrated envoy — if strictly out of PR concerns — would be a little more circumspect about his photo-ops, ideally using official U.S. personnel or, at least, Pakistan’s finest.

In the foreground, however, you not only see hired guns but in the t-shirt far right (and yes, I excuse you if you first mistook this for something you’d see at an Obama health care rally), we encounter something far more toxic. The problem with Mr. Commando and his/ “our” commando friends is that it’s a flat-out advertisement for the cowboy/wild west/posse approach.

And then, do you really think for a minute — especially with evidence emerging our boy Karzai threw the election — this kind of a mindset is lost on the locals?

…Adding to the tragedy and insanity of the Asia campaign, I should add, this picture was taken by AP photographer Emilio Morenatti who lost his foot a few weeks ago when the military vehicle he was riding in ran over an IED.

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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