By Steve Brown
Long before and ever since the Blackwater Nisour Square massacre, the United States has employed contractors to pursue any particular US military agenda so desired, just about anywhere. However, under US law – depending upon who interprets it and when – US military contractors are not allowed to engage in aggression. Of course, the perception of “armed aggression” versus “self-defense” varies markedly, especially depending upon who or whom – ie which side – is doing the perceiving. The line between mercenary and contractor is indeed fine.
Besides the Nisour Square massacre, plenty of evidence exists that US military contractors do participate in military offensives, and invariably there is no independent observer to determine otherwise. The United States military employs contractors to train and instruct foreign troops in the use of arms and combat too, a technicality not addressed by the Anti-Pinkerton Act.
The presence of the United States military and its contractors in Syria is illegal. It is illegal according to Article 25 of the UN Charter; illegal according to the Syrian government and international law; and illegal according to the historically established principles of Westphalian sovereignty. In other words, the United States government is acting as a terrorist entity and insurgency in Syria.
Furthermore, the United States and its contractors are thieving oil from the Northeast on behalf of the Kurds, and the US has no right to that oil. That’s because the agreement for Syrian oil is between the legitimate government of Syria and Russia… not with the United States.
The Battle for Conoco in Syria occurred on 7 February 2018 when the Syrian government attempted to recover the Conoco gas plant east of Deir Ezzor, from YPG forces and US Special Forces, for Syria. Heavy fighting resulted in casualties on both sides, even though the New York Times denied reports that SDF or US troops or its contractors were killed or injured in the firefight.
Meanwhile the New York Times reported that at least five ‘Russian mercenaries’ were killed in the attack, and possibly dozens more. According to a reliable source, as many as 95 fighters for Syria – some from the Wagner Group – may have been killed or wounded in the Conoco gas plant attack. Whether Russians employed by the Wagner Group were killed or not, the hypocrisy of the major media covering the Wagner Group like some sort of nemesis similar to ISIS is not only astounding, but cannot be ignored.
The western media characterizes the Wagner Group as consisting of Russian mercenaries, but how are we to know that they are Russians? …perhaps some are Americans. Does it matter? After all, mercenaries are mercenaries, and mercenary groups are never strictly homogeneous. In fact, Wagner employs Ukrainians, Serbians, Belorusian, Moldovans, Armenians, and even Kazakhs with military experience as a military force for hire.
Meanwhile the major media characterizes Triple Canopy, Academi, Unity Resources, KBR, BLP, DynCorp, ArmorGroup and a myriad of other paramilitary groups (operating for-profit and for-hire) as “military contractors” and not mercenaries… whether they operate in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan, or Yemen, or anywhere else that the western Axis powers have targeted.
To push the point further, since we’ve established that US military forces and their contractors are in Syria illegally, they are insurgents in Syria by contravention of international law, and by definition. Therefore, those insurgents are fair game for the Syrian government exercising the people’s right to self-determination. That Syrian self-determination is valid not only versus the US insurgency, but versus a terrorist group in the Northeast, claiming its own non-viable non-workable state by violent means.
By that logic, Syria and its allies – whether ‘mercenaries’ or not – have every right to defend themselves versus insurgent US contractors and their erstwhile ally the YPG. To add to the irony, the United States portrays itself as the “shining light” while shamelessly employing such aggression in Syria and Iraq via its own mercenary hires. And that US aggression is still about the oil. The undeniable fact is that the United States has taken the same oil from Northeast Syria that it claims ISIS took. Mr Trump even said so:
‘We’ve secured the oil. If you remember, I didn’t want to go into Iraq. I was a civilian, so I had no power over it. But I always was speaking against going into Iraq. It was not a great decision. But I always said, “If you’re going in, keep the oil.” Same thing here: Keep the oil. We want to keep the oil.’
Thus, at one stroke, Donald Trump just unwound any courageous action he undertook in attempting to remove US troops and mercenaries from Syria. Besides further demonstrating US hypocrisy and the inability of anyone to withstand the Deep State, this move by Mr Trump must alienate a large portion of his base and provides an opening to his opposition.
Meanwhile the Syrian fight continues. Syria continues to resist the occupation of their land that US State so ignominiously began in 2011, and the western media will certainly continue to portray Washington’s vast plethora of for-profit US mercenary corporates there as “military contractors”. Any other entity not within that realm or opposed to it, will be labeled as “Russian mercenaries” to be considered as lowly a group as ISIS.
Back to the Conoco conflict, there is a better explanation. According to accounts, the US checked with Russian partners about Russian forces being present there before engaging in the firefight at the Conoco oil plant. If true, the most probable solution to this mystery is that the Russian military did not know that Wagner contractors were present near the plant that day. In fact, if the US query to the Russian military is true then the foregoing conclusion is the only explanation.
And that’s because the Wagner Group does not report to the Russian military. But yet… with manic Russiagate hysteria ever-present and undying in the western major media, we may never know how events truly transpired at the Syrian Conoco gas plant on 7 February 2018 for certain.
Still the western media falsely portrays the Wagner Group as a contract enforcement arm for Russian foreign policy employing Russian military personnel and officers on a contract basis. Even globalsecurity.org has persisted in promoting this myth, based on half-truths. But the sanctimonious western whine that the Wagner Group is representative of covert Kremlin operations and implementation of Russian foreign policy is less relevant than writing about Blackwater’s Academi embodiment of the same military contractor ideal for the United States.
Since 1960, the United States has built its foreign policy on the use of military contractors and private NGO’s. Grover Norquist even got the Heritage Foundation’s flat tax ideal done in Iraq by that means where Paul Bremer and the Heritage Foundation ruled Iraq subsequent to the fall of Saddam. And It was Donald Trump who assassinated a foreign leader based on the death of one US military contractor in Iraq.
Now ask the question: how many US military contractors have been killed in Iraq since the US invasion of 2003? Like stationing MIM-104’s in Iraq or the US stand down on January 8th when US contractors and service personnel experienced casualties from Iran’s ballistic missile attack in Iraq — Trump lied and said the US had no casualties …it’s all secret. In our ‘free society’ we are not allowed to know.
Meanwhile the west’s obsession with the Wagner Group deflects well from US private contractor militarist ambitions led by the likes of Erik Prince of Blackwater fame. Prince hoped to foment and lead a proxy war versus Iran using his own mercenaries on behalf of Israel and the United States, since 2010 and still maintains that hope.
The shamelessly corrupt corporate-owned western corporate media wants you to forget that Trump’s education secretary is the brother of Blackwater’s Erik Prince, too. Maybe talk about Wagner helps us to forget? Because that’s how the western media works… by corruption, deception, and duplicity.
Steve Brown is the author of “Iraq: the Road to War” (Sourcewatch) editor of “Bush Administration War Crimes in Iraq” (Sourcewatch) “Trump’s Limited Hangout” and “Federal Reserve: Out-sourcing the Monetary System to the Money Trust Oligarchs Since 1913”; Steve is an antiwar activist, a published scholar on the US monetary system, and has appeared as guest contributor to Fort Russ News, Herland Report, and Strategika51.