Outsourced Tyranny:

The Use of Private Companies to do Governments' Dirty Work

By S. Leon Felkins

May 1, 2001

"In the latest incident, three American crewmen -- on contract to the CIA -- and a Peruvian officer were flying surveillance when they spotted the missionaries' Cessna as it headed over the Amazon jungle."

This quote, from one of the news articles about the shoot down of the private plane in Peru and the murder of the mother and her baby by the Drug Warriors [Note 1], while getting little notice by the news media or the public, is the most important piece of information in the whole news report. That is, the fact that three American government contractors were on a surveillance plane accompanying the war planes, exposes the heart and soul of what the Drug War is all about.

Which is money, jobs and control. But you knew that already. You had to know that this massively failed Drug War -- illogically fighting a societal problem that pales in comparison to the damage resulting from alcohol and smoking abuse but which continues to absorb massive funds, manpower, decency, and Constitutional rights -- has to have some logic behind it. It most certainly is not the health and welfare of the citizens of this country and the world.

Eisenhower warned of the "Military-Industrial Complex". He must be doing cartwheels in his grave today for what we had then is insignificant to what has developed since then.

The complex network of contractors, military, politicians, foreign governments, and the drug traffickers will be examined in this essay.

Would any public spirited American corporation stoop so low as to accept these jobs that debase the Constitution and infringe on the rights of citizens? All of them -- in a heartbeat! I personally worked for many years as one of those warm bodies provided by one of the contractors mentioned below (I hastily add, my work was in support of the NASA Space Station program, in some ways a little less sleazy than being an "advisor" in Kosovo and Columbia). The bidding for these kinds of jobs was pursued vigorously!

From what I have seen on the web in preparation of this article it appears that the primary players in the government contracting or outsourcing (commonly known as "Beltway Bandits" because of their locations or major offices are generally on the beltway around Washington, D.C.) are:


Military regimes in Latin American have tended to be the norm. In the old days when we had a government that made some pretense at following the Constitution and supporting human rights around the world, we actually took some actions to help stifle these military and dictatorial regimes and to establish civilian governments there.

Now we support the encourage and military no matter how ruthless. We now have a higher call -- making money!

In particular, the Colombian military is considered one of the most ruthless in the world at this time. Working with and through the very powerful paramilitary force in that country, they have murdered, maimed and otherwise inflicted harm on thousands of Colombian citizens, especially the peasants.

When a twinge of conscience surfaced for some of our legislators, they added provisions in the "Plan Columbia" to require certain conditions to further and protect human rights. But they quickly recovered and quietly added a provision that would allow the President to suspend these provisions.

And he did.

So it all worked out; all the politicians got their fat contributions, the defense industry got to sell a bunch of iron, the Beltway Bandits will keep their macho, former military, employees busy and out of trouble, the Colombian military gets a stockpile of new exotic toys to play with, and the murder and torture of helpless civilians goes on as usual. Oh, I almost forgot: the drug business also goes on as usual, the eradication of the Colombian vegetation having no significant impact (only hurting the peasants that happen to live there) and the guerillas will have had a substantial increase in the support for their cause by the Colombian civilians being further harassed by their evil government -- and the Gringos.

Everybody is happy.


Just as this article was being finished, I received an email from Matthew Gaylor's "Freematt" mail group [Note 4] in which he quoted an article from Jane's Foreign Report , titled "Colombians bypass Plan Colombia". It appears that the devastation of the coca crops and any other vegetation in the area is already underway. Unfortunately, the money to support the native farmers who must now find a new source of sustenance -- hasn't quite arrived yet. You know how these things are -- you can't have everything on time. Here are some quotes:

Vast stretches of southern Colombia now look like desert - crops withered away, the ground parched and brown, vegetation burnt by chemicals. The American-sponsored aerial drug eradication, the biggest in the world, is well under way, destroying every plant that grows over 30,000 hectares in this fragile Amazonian ecosystem. "This is a carefully planned campaign," says James Mack, the American point-man for Plan Colombia, the anti-drugs plan financed by $1.3 billion of American aid. "These crop-dusting aircraft are spraying areas plotted with aerial photographs and are guided by satellite positioning systems."

On the ground, however, there is evidence that legal crops are being destroyed too. Fields of plantain, almost a mile from the nearest drug field, were withered and brown after the passing of a crop- dusting plane. While the fumigation campaign has been going since the end of last year, the other component of Plan Colombia, the $80m to help coca farmers switch to legal crops, has not arrived. "What are we supposed to do?" asks Cecilia Amaya, who heads a peasant association based in Puerto Asis, the largest town in Putumayo province. "The promised help has not arrived, and we suspect it will never arrive. Corrupt politicians have already pocketed it."


Few Colombians believe the American strategy has any chance of success. The street price of cocaine has not changed since the fumigations began. The only visible effects are the ravaged landscape, some 10,000 people displaced since the programme began at the end of last year, and an increase in acts of violence. A kilo of cocaine is worth up to $50,000 in the United States, $80,000 in Europe, and most Colombians believe that as long as the demand remains the supply will feed it.

Leon Felkins, Major, US Army, Retired


1. An interesting quote:
Senator Mitch McConnell (KY) did propose a bill in the summer of 1989 to empower the military to shoot down suspected drug-smuggling aircraft but Congress refused to let it out of committee; see J. Baker, "The 'You Fly, You Die' Debate," Newsweek (October 2, 1989), 26. The executive branch later made it clear that: "consistent with international law and in the interests of aviation safety, no action may now be taken to stop or interrupt the progress of a target aircraft in flight"; see ONDCP, 1989 National Drug Control, 76. ("The Role of the Military" Note 31, from the book, Drugs and Foreign Policy, Westview Press, 1991, edited by Raphael Perl
[This is for those of you, especially you private plane pilots, that think it can't happen here.!]

2. For political reasons, in the U.S. these guerrillas are called "Narco-guerrillas", a term credited to former Drug Czar, General McCaffrey. Per Stan Goff, in the article, "'Narco-guerrillas': alibi for intervention",
White House antidrug chief Gen. Barry McCaffrey (no coincidence that he is the former commander of Southcom, the Theater Command for the U.S. armed forces in Latin America) and Defense Secretary William Cohen are arguing for a massive expansion of aid to Colombia.

"Fighting communists" no longer goes well with the public after the Vietnam disaster.

3. Actually it appears that MPRI may have had a hand in writing the bill. According to Ron Rowe in an article, in an article, "The Privatization of War",
... [MPRI] should be well-placed for a contract, since it also helped the Colombian government devise the official, three-phase "action plan" that was presented to Congress last month outlining how the $1.6 billion would be allocated.
4. To subscribe to Freematt's Alerts: Pro-Individual Rights Issues Send a blank message to: freematt@coil.com with the words subscribe FA on the subject line.