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New Internationalist

The Next Western Front

There's a lot of spotlights shining on the privatization of armed forces in Iraq, but little attention being given to the fact that this is just the tip of a very large iceberg. All over the world, governments are contracting-out war and peace work to private companies. Military forces are now being called 'security forces'. What used to be done by publicly controlled armies is now being done by private companies. It's a lucrative market, worth hundreds of billions (the Pentagon alone pays private security providers around $270 billion each year).

And why not? Water and energy are being privatized. All of our public services are up for grabs. Isn't our army just another public service? Well, not really. Up until recently, it's been thought that when it comes to the legitimate use of violence, then our governments and the bureaucracies that they control should have a monopoly. Because when it comes to the privatization of security, what we're talking about is contracting out the use of force - contracting out the right to kill.

Today we're examining the results of this contracting. Starting with a case study from the Pacific, Nic Maclellan - who has recently written a report on the high number of Fijians who are now working for private security companies overseas - joins Radio New Internationalist's Chris Richards as we investigate this global phenomenon and how it is affecting our international landscape.

  • Caroline Holmqvist - previously a researcher for the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute - gives us an overview of the private security companies that are now operating in around 100 countries worldwide, and how to regulate them.
  • Around 70 per cent of the income needed by the Indonesian military to operate comes from providing security to private companies. Damien Kingsbury - author of Power, Politics and the Indonesian Military - reveals how this practice has become deeply entrenched across Asia.
  • One of the leaders of the most famous mercenary operation in the Pacific, which failed, was Lieutenant Colonel Tim Spicer. He's prominent again in Iraq. Pratap Chatterjee - managing editor of CorpWatch - gives us a colourful portrait of Tim Spicer and some of the Wild West people he's recruited along the way.

Lightening the dark of war, today's CD is Lumiere, performed by Bob Brozman - an amazing album, combining musical influences of a range of Asian and the Pacific countries. Bob and his colleague Rene Lacaille are also the mastermind musicians of our theme song, Dig Dig.

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