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The Invisible Army
June 22, 2011 1:41 PM   Subscribe

The U.S.'s military bases in Afghanistan and Iraq are mostly staffed by Third Country Nationals (TCN), who are often victims of human trafficking.

Previously discussed on the Blue
posted by reenum (37 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
This was such a horrifying story when I read it last week. I'm so glad our military is a shining beacon of democracy to the rest of the world.

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED
posted by glaucon at 1:43 PM on June 22, 2011


And it wasn't just a horrifying story when I read it last week, it remains that way!
posted by glaucon at 1:44 PM on June 22, 2011


It's ok. Congress will fix it.
posted by TwelveTwo at 1:48 PM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


oh god, that makes me sick. What. The Fuck.
posted by rebent at 1:48 PM on June 22, 2011


Congress will fix it.
There is no problem so bad that it cannot be made worse by Congressional intervention.
posted by spacewrench at 1:50 PM on June 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


oh god, that makes me sick. What. The Fuck.

And I'm proud to be an American, where at least I know I'm free!
And I'll get my lunch from a foreign guy
Who's rights are different than me
And I'll gladly stand up....
So Haliburton can run free
If they pay more taxes, I swear to thee
I'll start a Tea Party!

etc...et al
posted by glaucon at 1:54 PM on June 22, 2011 [10 favorites]


It's bad enough that contractors are being used to disguise the true extent of US military involvement overseas by not having those positions manned by troops, who used to perform all those functions in years past.

But now this... disgusting and outrageous. Some heads ought to roll for this, but here at home we're too fascinated by Weiner's penis and such other "important" issues. Most Americans will never hear of this unless the issue really becomes scandalous somehow. And since it hasn't blown up in the past week since that New Yorker came out, I doubt it will at all.
posted by hippybear at 1:58 PM on June 22, 2011 [10 favorites]


Wouldn't this be a major security hole? If all it costs to get someone into a base is $300 I assume every insurgent group has multiple eyes and ears on every US base in Iraq and Afghanistan.
posted by PenDevil at 2:00 PM on June 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


If all it costs to get someone into a base is $300 I assume every insurgent group has multiple eyes and ears on every US base in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Insurgent groups avoid The New Yorker because of it's liberal bias.
posted by glaucon at 2:01 PM on June 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


The extensive outsourcing of wartime logistics—first put to the test during the Clinton Administration, in Somalia and the Balkans—was designed to reduce costs while allowing military personnel to focus on combat. In practice, though, military privatization has produced convoluted chains of foreign subcontracts that often lead to cost overruns and fraud.

Possibly because the "purpose" of this program was never really to reduce costs but in fact to channel money to various sordid political connections and abolish such social safety net provisions as still applied to military employees.

I was just reading a grad student blog (or at least it seems like a grad student blog, and happened across this:

As has been all too evident lately, the public revelation of what everyone already assumes, even if it is a critique of illegitimate power, can only strengthen it if nothing is done as a result. The critic who speaks from the imaginary position of either the ‘letter’ or the ‘spirit’ of the law thus always risks extending the power of a ruling elite at the expense of democratic legitimacy as a whole. It is in just this sense that the social critic is in league with her target (despite the necessity of her function), a kind of court jester, producing the aura of authority in the very act of ‘speaking truth to power.’

Basically, yes, we all know that our military - like the rest of our government - is a disgusting swamp of cronyism for the rich and exploitation for the poor. We can say that openly in the street, precisely because the more we talk about it the more we feel that it's a great, eternal truth that American government must and will always be corrupt, violent, disgusting - and can no more be changed than tides.
posted by Frowner at 2:09 PM on June 22, 2011 [8 favorites]


There's just no end to it is there? We just couldn't do anything ethically, at all. We couldn't declare the war ethically, we couldn't fight ethically, we couldn't handle prisoners ethically, we couldn't even employ workers ethically. And everyone's in on it, right to the top. Its just a big joke, isn't it?
posted by Slackermagee at 2:11 PM on June 22, 2011 [10 favorites]


The good news about our wars just keeps on coming.

The people responsible for this are going to prison. Right. Right?                   Guys........?
posted by schmod at 2:12 PM on June 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


schmod I am pretty sure the people responsible will be (already are) owning and running our prisons so you'd better stay on the right side of the law!
posted by supermedusa at 2:20 PM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


The people responsible for this are going to prison. Right. Right?

Yes. Yes, they are. If by "going to prison" you mean going to luxury resorts staffed by imprisoned workers.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:22 PM on June 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


It's odd that you are still expecting your military to be better than this. Because from the outside this is business as usual for a country that has made war into one of the most lucrative ventures on the planet.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 2:26 PM on June 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


There's a country somewhere that I can move to where I won't be funding this kind of thing, right?
posted by Roman Graves at 2:35 PM on June 22, 2011


Surely this ...




What?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 2:36 PM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's a country somewhere that I can move to where I won't be funding this kind of thing, right?

Sounds like they're hiring in Fiji.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:38 PM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


One of the most horrible things I have ever read. My heart just sunk lower and lower with every indignity on these people.
posted by Danila at 2:40 PM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


btw, this is just the beginning. We haven't seen anything yet. Remember, for capital, borders no longer exist. Capital makes its own rules, and buys power where it needs to. It's working right now, to increase its power, and reduce yours. In every enterprise - war (defense?!?), transportation, medicine, finance, housing, education, etc. there it is, looking for a way to keep the double bottom line on the plus side. As for the double bottom line of short-term, near-long-term, and long-term social costs? Heck, screw 'em! "I am Capital - made invincible by my materialist-seeking slaves - watch me roar!

Essentially, we are operating inside a box of assumptions that doesn't pay attention to black swans, massive human misery, or long-term consequence. What's truly ironic about the path we're on is that Capital will swallow itself, and not like the self-regenerating Ouroboros; rather, we are looking at a long-term dissolution of our excess, with "us" a primary part of that excess. This will take some time; there will be great pain and distress in the interim. Maniacs and political wannabes will take advantage of the fear generated (as they have already begun to). What follows is anyone's best guess.
posted by Vibrissae at 2:41 PM on June 22, 2011 [12 favorites]


ditto vibrissae.
posted by lalochezia at 2:44 PM on June 22, 2011


Sounds like they're hiring in Fiji.

Yes! I fuckin love the wat...wait a minute.
posted by Roman Graves at 2:47 PM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Nationals" is such a weird noun. Not 'citizens,' but 'nationals.'
posted by Eideteker at 2:52 PM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't curse often, but jesus fucking christ:

Amid the slow withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, T.C.N.s have become an integral part of the Obama Administration’s long-term strategy, as a way of replacing American boots on the ground.

There's no good news anywhere in regard to these wars, is there? Even the good news brings horror.
posted by jbickers at 2:54 PM on June 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Outsourcing saves the taxpayers money!
posted by T.D. Strange at 2:55 PM on June 22, 2011


At some point we Americans are going to have to start asking ourselves, "are we the baddies?"
posted by Salvor Hardin at 3:02 PM on June 22, 2011 [10 favorites]


Outsourcing saves the taxpayers money!

Cite?
posted by hippybear at 3:02 PM on June 22, 2011


their occupations were listed as “Sales Coördinator.”

Ugh. I hope some day I'll be able to read about a serious issue like this and not be distracted by the New Yorker's goofy style guide.

/derail
posted by Sys Rq at 3:08 PM on June 22, 2011


"Nationals" is such a weird noun. Not 'citizens,' but 'nationals.'

I feel like they like using "nationals" instead of "citizens" because the latter seems to imply that these people have a standard of rights guaranteed to them by some government somewhere, and lord knows the us military doesn't want any truck with that sort of thing.
posted by elizardbits at 3:12 PM on June 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


I hope some day I'll be able to read about a serious issue like this and not be distracted by the New Yorker's goofy style guide.

That should be easy to cause for yourself. Read more New Yorker articles, and make the conscious decision to not be bothered by their style guide.

Either one of those things should solve your problem. Both together and you'll never be distracted again.
posted by hippybear at 3:15 PM on June 22, 2011


Outsourcing saves the taxpayers money!

Cite?


T. D. Strange meant to say "Outsourcing the taxpayers' money saves."
posted by milarepa at 3:38 PM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Disclaimer: haven't read the article yet.

The description in the FPP doesn't match my first-hand experience. During 2006 and early 2007 I spent maybe a month in aggregate on Bagram Airfield doing details while waiting for flights to the three different FOBs I spent my deployment on. The detail that I always got on BAF was "Local National Guard," i.e.: wandering around the post with 8-10 Afghanis doing things like paving, building huts, etc. All the cooks/mechanics/etc that weren't military were Americans working for KBR.

Actually, now that I think about it, the people on BAF doing things like cutting hair and running the cash registers in the Giant POG Giftshop (aka the BAF PX) seemed to be Eastern Europeans of some sort. I'm sure I couldn't tell a Ukrainian from a Lithuanian from a Georgian, though. Or even from a Czech or a Bulgarian.

They seemed ok? They cut hair and gave massages to service members of various militaries, and the signs posted around the massage place made it clear that so much as hinting about a handjob was going to result in a world of shit for the hinter. I always figured that, like the KBR guys, they were offered outlandish sums of money to come do menial shit in Afghanistan for 6-12 months. Heh. There was one KBR guy - he did generators or something? - that I chatted with at the first FOB I was placed it. He was planning his upcoming six month vacation, because that was what he did: worked in Afghanistan for six months, then spent the next six spending most of the $100,000-$200,000 he'd made. I later got moved to a spot in the Korengal valley, and later yet I got moved to a place in Zabol province. The same damn guy showed up at that last place and told me about all the shit he'd done in Europe while I'd been in-country.

Of course this was all BAF - up in the mountains you got your haircuts from another Soldier or you didn't get them, and the cooks were either LNs or Army. Same with all the other labor - you either did it yourself or locals did it. There was absolutely no one on any of the remote FOBs that wasn't military or Afghani.

I have no idea what Iraq is like, never went. And I was never further from the Pakistani border than about 50 miles, so maybe in the quieter North and West of the country they have different staffing on the bases.

Anyway, anecdata.
posted by kavasa at 3:45 PM on June 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


That should be easy to cause for yourself. Read more New Yorker articles, and make the conscious decision to not be bothered by their style guide.

You could also use an app like Readability.
posted by sweetkid at 4:04 PM on June 22, 2011


Upon having read the article, perhaps it does match my experience and I simply had no idea, which wouldn't be too surprising: I didn't have a great deal of time to investigate how the masseuses and what have you ended up in Afghanistan. I sure hope they weren't "recruited" by the sort of pondscum that charge "recruiting fees" (ugh). But I have no way to know.

Sigh.
posted by kavasa at 4:10 PM on June 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


It's ok. Congress will fix it.

Yeah, just like last time the GOP was in charge of Congress and we had a quasi-legal off-shore slave labor industry.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:23 PM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Video footage from the BBC of just another day at the Beauty Spa at Bagram airbase in September 2004 (scroll down to the first video).
posted by Bwithh at 8:37 PM on June 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Upon having read the article, perhaps it does match my experience and I simply had no idea, which wouldn't be too surprising: I didn't have a great deal of time to investigate how the masseuses and what have you ended up in Afghanistan. I sure hope they weren't "recruited" by the sort of pondscum that charge "recruiting fees" (ugh). But I have no way to know.

kavasa, of course you didn't have any idea or time to think about it. That's how this game works. If you're going to commit a crime, the best place to hide the evidence is in plain sight. It operates on the mass assumption that a strictly-controlled culture like the American Military couldn't possibly be this outlandishly hypocritical.

(And to be clear, I don't think you're culpable in the slightest. I don't investigate the personal employment circumstances of the cafeteria workers at my employer, either.)
posted by desuetude at 11:15 PM on June 22, 2011


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