Corporate Social Negligence!

Market & Democracy; Can they co-exist?

Posted in America, blackwater, Iraq, Narayana Murthy, politics, USA, War by clash on June 20, 2007

This is a humble attempt to contradict the usual rhetoric about a self regulating and self correcting “market” which itself is considered as a panacea for democracy. The democracy which, according to many, is not anymore relevant in the age of market. This write up takes a small example to illustrate the contradiction, that a market inside a democracy is a threat to the latter.

Dying during a war fought by your country makes the government liable to answer questions related to deaths. Justice, if prevails, must work in this manner. If credible answers are not given to the relatives and friends of the deceased, this can be utter callousness. But, situations prove that you can sue the relatives and friends to keep their mouth shut. This is possible when private mercenaries fight a proxy war for your country. Iraq has turned out to be another gulag where workers (mercenaries) of a corporation toil under scary situations.

Blackwater Security Consulting is one among the many corporates who is toiling in Iraq. For sure, this adventure would pay you more than an average job in a supermarket. Interesting as it may sound, there is no greater reason for it becoming a well-paid job, because for every dollar spent on war, 40 cents go to corporations. War can be a damn profit-earning venture.

Investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill writes “Blackwater is the elite Praetorian Guard for the ‘global war on terror,’ with its own military base, a fleet of twenty aircraft, and 20,000 private contractors at the ready. Run by a multimillionaire Christian conservative who bankrolls President Bush and his allies, its forces are capable of overthrowing governments. From Iraq to New Orleans, Blackwater has continued to pull in multi-million-dollar government contracts, mostly without accountability and in near-secrecy.”

Ever dreamt of having an own army? Yes, market has answers for all those insatiable and monstrous dreams that you have ever had. Yes, in one way or the other, life is all about dreaming! Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater is a former marine who could envisage the idea of a corporation waging a war and bagging big profits. He needs to be revered; if we can do so with Narayana Murthy or Bill Gates; after all he is doing some serious business. Blackwater, which was groomed under the tutelage of neo-cons might displace Wal-Mart, as one of the most profitable business ever, if things are moving forward the way it is now. This very much explains the urge of America “to offer shock and awe” at various places around the world.

Four war contractors who were employed in Iraq under Blackwater was torched and killed during the infamous Falluja operation. They were butchered and burnt and then were hung from a bridge. You can’t expect anything else from a population who has been discomfited by war fought on false pretexts. The dead four will not be added in the official books of casualties caused to the US army. These sad souls, in pursuit of money, took a risk by joining Blackwater, but sadly, they failed to foresee the impending doom. For ensuring high profits, given a chance any corporation will indulge in any kind of unscrupulous methods. Blackwater did not go so far, they could achieve it by changing some clauses or words in a contract agreement they signed with another corporation of the same kind. Simple manipulations can earn you money in a market driven system and that is what Blackwater resorted to. They signed a contract with two companies Regency and ESS specifying that each security mission should have a minimum of “two armoured vehicles to support ESS movements”. Blackwater insisted on removing the word “armoured” from the contract and they saved $1.5m. So, the vehicles used in Falluja operation were unarmed and they were overwhelmed by an angry mob. This resulted in the sad death of four Blackwater operatives.

Blackwater is liable for an answer for these gruesome deaths, but they say according to the agreement signed they are not liable to any kind of answers and any information regarding the deaths will not be parted with. This led to a stand off between the relatives of the dead and the corporation. Legal methods were sought by the relatives but they got comprehensively defeated in all courts they presented their appeal. This was based on those words, which was inscribed in the agreement signed by the former four employees. Though facts regarding Blackwater’s agreement with other companies and their insistence on removing the word “armoured” which led to the death four innocent men is not challenged anywhere in the court. This fiasco took a bloody turn when Blackwater filed a suit against the bereaving families to keep their mouth shut. This is squared as the right of a profit-earning corporation. If the so called self regulatory market can regulate itself, more and more of these situations impend.

This kind of a situation questions the legitimacy of the so called self regulating and self correcting “market”. Democracy which is supposedly a system by the people, of the people, and for the people, will be deluged by something called a market if we proceed this way ahead, where the market gurus envisage a world that will be regulated and corrected by the market. When we envisage such a world, we forget that some people earn a whole lot out of this market and market obviously doles out an outrageous advantage for the already rich, making them more and more rich. The rest of the contingent is viewed as a mass who are potential buyers and market prefers them, than anyone who is not capable of buying. For sure, on earth there will be a lot who cannot “buy” everything, who will be at the mercy of this market honchos. Then comes the manipulation to make the business more robust and that is where corporations like Blackwater emerge, they will explore avenues which were conventionally considered to be out of the reach of the market. Wars for sure were not a profit earning business for decades, it was a matter of national pride, but Blackwater made it clear that war is also an avenue for profits.

When democracy and market go hand-in-hand, we see corporations funding the parties and earning innumerous concessions which will help their business. Jeremy Scahill writes about Blackwater, “Run by a multimillionaire Christian conservative who bankrolls President Bush and his allies, its forces are capable of overthrowing governments.” So what is the importance of a democratic government, which is supposed to work for the people who vote them in to power? When Katrina hit America, many Blackwater personnel descended in New Orleans under the pretext of “join[ing] the hurricane relief effort.” But conclusive evidences show that they were there for “securing neighborhoods” and “confronting criminals.” They claimed “We can make arrests and use lethal force if we deem it necessary.” Some were under Federal contracts but some other private security firms were brought in by the rich to protect their property. Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights says, “These private security forces have behaved brutally, with impunity, in Iraq. To have them now on the streets of New Orleans is frightening and possibly illegal.” Yes, these monstrous private armies who are capable of overthrowing governments can be an effective crowd control machinery. The poor in New Orleans bore the brunt of Katrina; the rich had private armies to protect their coveted assets.

This is an unequal world, thinking of equality might be something of a distorted illusion but these kind of instances make it clear that market on its own will never be a panacea. Markets will be lethal for a democracy if allowed to rule their roost. This is what happened in the case of Blackwater, they never bothered to answer the relatives of the deceased, and in fact they went ahead and filed a case against them! The government which is liable to make corrective measures did nothing. Yes, the biggest functioning democracy, that is what they refer the USA as. If so, why is the government turning its back to the relatives of the deceased Blackwater employees, who just need answers to the deaths, not even compensations!

Self-regulating and Self-correcting, huh?

4 Responses

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  1. operibusanteire said, on June 20, 2007 at 6:27 pm

    People will always be out for money, sadly, and this is another case. I remember reading an article on this issue earlier, and your analysis and application to free market ideals is interesting to see. While I don’t entirely believe Blackwater to be completely at fault (as, after all, a contract was signed to travel to a high-risk war-zone), many corporations lack traditional ethics and morals.

  2. jubin george said, on June 22, 2007 at 9:12 am

    US will be another west africa? Imagine, all the global ‘players’ in security services coming to ‘protect’ weak nations! Scary!

  3. P. Ravindran said, on June 9, 2009 at 6:18 pm

    Soooory for the late comment, I’m just in.

    ‘Democracy’ in itself is not an absolute entity, it is only a mechanism or tool in the hands of the class which rules to establish its rule. So, ‘democracy’ can at the best be a willingness of the class which rules to ‘accomodate’ the ‘ruled’ within the framework of its rule. When I say ‘class’, it means not only the capitalist class, it also means the working class or any other class which happens to rule. So, in a democracy of the rich you have the freedom to go hungry, jobless or even to die without a question asked. Democracy is of the class, by the class and for the class! aaaand Market is always of itself, by itself and for itself

    oh clash! you have showcased an excellant example of ‘democracy’ which gives unlimited freedom to its citizen to die a death of unprecedented civility and with no questions asked. Is it marketing of democracy or the democracy of the markets? May someone (or at least god!) help the fortunate American ‘civilisation’.

    NOTE: As per the ‘illiterate’ philosopher called Karl Marx, ‘commodity’ is an object outside us, a thing that by its properties satisfies human wants of some sort or another. He is actually ignorant. He was not intelligent enough to know that there is at least one thing inside us, i.e., “d e a t h” which is a ‘commodity’. He didn’t know that there will be ‘market specialists’ who will determine the ‘use value’ and ‘exchange value’ of a commodity called “d e a t h”. What a short sight!!!

  4. clash said, on June 9, 2009 at 6:26 pm


    Is it really a short sight? i feel he was a bit wayward when thought of of the narcissism that exists in all of us.

    Thanks for the comment though 🙂

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