Beck and Stossel imagine rosy world of private military contractors with no civilian deaths

Blog ››› ››› KATE CONWAY

From the August 5 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Glenn Beck Program:

Glenn Beck hosted staunchly libertarian Fox Business host John Stossel to discuss the idea of using private contractors to wage war instead of military personnel. From the August 5 edition of The Glenn Beck Program:

BECK: What is the closest you came to saying, well, maybe the government should do this?

STOSSEL: Well, I always assumed that fighting wars was a job for government. You didn't want to trust that to a profit-seeking enterprise. But, you know, you've sort of moved my head about that a bit and that if you have a bunch of private contractors like Blackwater going to work and they do it so much more efficiently - the CBO says that it takes three government workers to replace one Halliburton worker, that, you know, maybe they would fight wars better, and if we didn't like what they were doing we could fire them. You can't fire the government, but contractors compete.

BECK: It would be great to say that these guys are private contractors and the war is dragging on, the war is dragging on and being able to have the president say we're getting a new contractor. Because they'll finish the job. They'll finish the job. And you can also hold them responsible for everything. The problem with government is you can never actually hold these people responsible for everything.

STOSSEL: And people will say, "Are you kidding me? A private, for-profit company fighting a war? They'll just kill all sorts of civilians." But they don't think ahead to the fact that this company wants to be hired again by some other country.

BECK: It's exactly right. It's like planes. The only really horribly irresponsible companies say you know we're going to chintz on the repair on the airliner because once one goes down and you've been caught chintzing on it, sure you lose 200 people which is a horrible, horrible tragedy, but the company knows you lose 200 people it's over. We're all out of business and if we really do something wrong we're going to jail.

In their enthusiasm for the idea that the free market would keep contractors from killing civilians, both Stossel and Beck ignored that defense contractor Blackwater (now rebranded Xe) did kill civilians in Iraq.

In 2007, Blackwater employees killed 17 unarmed Iraqi civilians and wounded at least 20 others when, reportedly unprovoked, the security guards opened fire in a public square in Baghdad. Although the Iraqi government called the shootings "deliberate murder" and five Blackwater employees were charged with manslaughter in the U.S., the charges against all five were dropped because of problems with the case.

Not only was Blackwater not held accountable under the law, but the company remains the State Department's largest security contractor, and as late as April 2009 it continued to operate in Iraq.

Glenn Beck, John Stossel
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