I know a fair amount about mercenaries and private military contractors (see my somewhat incomplete Mercenaries & PMFs archive), and have been anticipating with a certain sick feeling of de ja vu that I was going to have to blog how all the usual suspects from Iraq and Africa turn up in New Orleans, the world's newest Third World country, so the sentence New Orleans may well have more mercenaries and National Guards operating in it than there are citizens left at the moment gives me a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.
I have been focusing primarily on the cartography of Katrina and would appreciate reader recommendations for articles on the involvement of Private Military Contractors. No one knows where all of the bodies are buried in that field, but I at least know where some of them are.
- "British security firm AKE Group has three employees on the ground in New Orleans with CNN, a unit of Time Warner Inc. <TWX.N>, and is preparing to send three more." This makes sense to me: CNN should have security people. And it seems to me that security guys accompanying reporters are highly unlikely to turn Rambo. Nonetheless, the Terminator/Robocop graphic to the left comes from their site. AKE is apparently run by a former CIA guy.
- "Security firms Kroll Inc. and Beau Dietl & Associates also said on Friday they have seen a surge in requests for security services and advice in the New Orleans area this week.
Kroll, a unit of Marsh & McLennan Cos. <MMC.N>, has been working to help clients in industries like hotels and casinos to evacuate facilities and implement emergency contingency plans, according to spokeswoman Jodie Rosenblum." This sounds sensible on the face of it, except that it could easily get out of hand. Exactly who is going to prosecute one of their guys if he shoots someone just because the piss him off?
[ADVISORY: Those who came here for the maps and aren't interested in my personal political opinions, stop reading here.]
UPDATE: Josh Marshall gives us a taste of what's to come:
This article from the September 1st edition of the Post noted that Allbaugh was already in Louisiana "helping coordinate the private-sector response to the storm."
Now, if you figure that an article that appeared on the September 1st was probably reported out on Wednesdy August 31st, perhaps this is one of those cases that show how the public sector just can't match the pace of the private sector, seeing as Allbaugh seems to have beaten most of the folks from FEMA, the agency he ran before handing it off to Michael Brown, into the disaster area.
I also must confess that I'd been so focused on Allbaugh's Iraq operation, that I had lost track of what he was up to on the domestic rain-making activities.
First, there's Blackwell Fairbanks, the outfit he set up with Andrew Lundquist, the guy who ran Vice President Cheney's energy policy task force. And then of course there's Allbaugh's main shop, The Allbaugh Company, the one Haley Barbour helped him set up along with New Bridge Strategies, the Iraq venture.
I figure he's in Louisiana wearing the Allbaugh Company hat, seeing as how a few months back he signed on as a lobbyist for Halliburton subsidiary KBR to "educate the congressional and executive branch on defense, disaster relief and homeland security issues."
He links to a post of his from 2003, giving the sales pitch for Allbaugh's company:
Let me introduce you to New Bridge Strategies, LLC. New Bridge is 'Helping to Rebuild a New Iraq' as their liner note says.
Here's the company's new blurb from their website ...
New Bridge Strategies, LLC is a unique company that was created specifically with the aim of assisting clients to evaluate and take advantage of business opportunities in the Middle East following the conclusion of the U.S.-led war in Iraq. Its activities will seek to expedite the creation of free and fair markets and new economic growth in Iraq, consistent with the policies of the Bush Administration. The opportunities evolving in Iraq today are of such an unprecedented nature and scope that no other existing firm has the necessary skills and experience to be effective both in Washington, D.C. and on the ground in Iraq.
A 'unique company'? You could say that. Who's the Chairman and Director of New Bridge? That would be Joe M. Allbaugh, President Bush's longtime right-hand-man and until about six months ago his head of FEMA. Before that of course he was the president's chief of staff when he was governor of Texas and campaign manager for Bush-Cheney 2000.
So let's just change the company name to the whole multi-tentacles octopus and take that one paragraph sales pitch and cross out all the Iraqs and substitute New Orleans and see how it makes us feel:
The Allbaugh Company-New Bridge Strategies, LLC-Blackwell Fairbanks is a unique company that was created specifically with the aim of assisting clients to evaluate and take advantage of business opportunities in the
Middle EastAmerican Southeast following the conclusion of the U.S.-led war in IraqHurricane Katrina. Its activities will seek to expedite the creation of free and fair markets and new economic growth in IraqNew Orleans, consistent with the policies of the Bush Administration. The opportunities evolving in IraqNew Orleans today are of such an unprecedented nature and scope that no other existing firm has the necessary skills and experience to be effective both in Washington, D.C. and on the ground in IraqNew Orleans.
I think that gives us a good start in looking at the problem. Thanks, Josh.
Now, I'm feeling especially cynical this morning, so the scenario that plays itself out in my head is this: The plan for disasters like this was that the FEMA response would be significantly scaled back in order to open the market to the private sector. But that would be mass murder or mass involunatry manslaughter or some such thing, so that can't be what happend. Can it?
But I suppose the question does need to be asked: Was it deliberate policy at FEMA to scale back the asistance offered by FEMA in future disasters and to privatize the response once needs were assessed? This would be consistent with the US practice in Iraq.
A further question: Was there FEMA policy in place bfore the hurricane discouraging FEMA employees from approving assistance of types that would diminish opportunities for private enterprise? That would go a long way toward explaing why FEMA did not make use of much of the domestic and international assistance offered during times when the New Orleans situation was rapidly deteriorating. Perhaps the Powers that Be in Homeland Security and FEMA are merely criminally stupid and there was no attempt to protect commercial opportunities of an unprecedented nature and scope. But the question needs to be asked.
On Your Marks, Get Set . . .
Josh Marshall remarks:
Frankly, if you're looking to nail down some good contracts, I'd definitely try to get into the Shaw Group pipeline, as their site suggests, since they've bought the services of our friend Joe Allbaugh.
Late Update: Everybody gets a taste? Jim Bernhard, CEO of the Shaw Group is chairman of the Louisiana Democratic Party.