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Private military contractors

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Private Military Contractors
Name of Student
Name of University
Introduction
Private Military Contractors or PMCs are very different from mercenaries. The latter traces its origins to the ancient times of human history while the former is considered a rather recent development, originating in 1965, when a group of former SAS officers formed the WatchGuard International. In fact, private military contractors are rarely used in direct combat and mostly used in security work and protecting private property and businesses in violent and unstable regions. There are other contractors who provide training to form more efficient and professional armed forces for different countries. The main use of PMCs are thus peacekeeping and security purposes and rarely has anything to do with the violence in warzones as projected in popular media.
Role of Private Military Contractors in Recent Years
PMCs have been used in recent years over various regions and parts of the world, both in places of conflict and not so violent places (Pelton, 2003). As a matter of fact, PMCs allow the peaceful atmosphere to be maintained by providing a secure environment for business and trade to occur. Sir David Sterling, one of the founders of WatchGuard International, also established KAS International for the protection of wildlife from illegal hunting and poaching activities. In fact a few PMCs have even taken part in rescue and relief efforts during the hurricane Katrina in the United States.
PMCs have played a special role in Africa, which saw it torn into pieces due to repeated and constant civil wars in the post-colonial period.

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By providing adequate and competent security to the government and the businesses that exist there, PMCs often help create a stabilizing effect that brings peace and prosperity to the region. PMCs were also seen to play an effective role in Iraq after the fall of the Saddam Hussain government and acted as a protection against the multiple terrorist organizations that rose into prominence in the region.
Hence, far from being warmongering jingoists that the PMCs are portrayed as, most function in highly professional manner in their day to day operation, providing high quality security to firms and individuals, who are at high risk.
Criticism
PMCs have faced a lot of criticism and flak from various quarters for supporting warmongering tendencies and participating in various war crimes that are committed in the war zones. There is no dearth of blogs, websites and news reports that project the ‘true’ face of the PMCs, who commit heinous crimes in order to profit from the wars that they provoke in the first place. In some cases, unfortunate events of human rights violations, trafficking and other illegal activities like smuggling by the PMCs were shown as representative of their main function in the arena (Singer, 2005). Videos of PMC personnel shooting unarmed civilians often surface over the internet from time to time, sparking public outrage against them. Repeated allegations have even provoked the UN to investigate and led it to conclude that these organizations were functioning virtually as mercenaries. Accusations of torture of prisoners of war and sexual violence on women have been regular against PMCs as well.
The US based firm Blackwater has faced allegations of the massacre of 17 citizens in Baghdad in 2007. This was one among several allegations that the company faced, which led to a ban on it by the Iraq government. In another case two US based companies namely CACI and L-3 stood accused of torture and illegal detention of Iraqi prisoners. Military prisons have been used for this purpose and the methods were used to bypass any law that would lead to the invocation of the Geneva Accords. Among other complaints, the lacks of accountability and transparency within the organizations have also been a major concern for human rights groups.
Responses to the Criticisms
While some of the criticisms against the PMCs are valid, many of the others are uninformed or prejudiced rants. The very first need is to differentiate between PMCs and mercenaries. Mercenaries are essentially private armed forces, which fight for mainly economic motives and do not owe their loyalty to any political group or body. PMCs are mainly used as security guards for individuals or businesses, which are heavily armed in order to act as a deterrent to any threats that the individual may come across. The inability to differentiate between the functions between the two only indicates the lack of awareness of their vastly different natures on the part of the critics.
While it is true that some human rights violations were committed by a few members of some PMCs, it would be unfair and illogical to put the blame of the action of a few on all the PMCs. The sad truth is that almost all armed agencies and groups perform human rights violations to a certain degree. The armed forces of US, UK or any other nation, has been from time to time been accused of human rights violations. The same is true for the police forces around the world, which have also had a terrible record for killing innocents in encounters. In a highly volatile and violent environment, where the risks are always extremely high, unfortunate collateral damage is always a risk. Apart from that, the high degree of stress that the armed personnel undergo in a foreign land may also have a role in these crimes. However, if professional armed forces or the police force is not banned due to the action of a few members, there is no reason to hold PMCs to a double standard.
If members of a PMC commit a crime, they can be tried for the crime. If a PMC is found to be unable to discipline its members repeatedly, action can be taken against the offending organization (Siebels, 2014). In fact a method to bring down the war crimes would be effectively subjecting the armed personnel to the law by properly recognizing the PMCs. A blanket ban would not solve any problem.
Conclusion
It is one of the sad realities of today’s world that one needs protection from heavily armed men. PMC personnel is similar to everyone else as they provide their services for money. To protect someone in return of money is not illegal and it would not be very pragmatic to simply put a blanket ban on the entire system of PMCs can be used for the purpose of peacekeeping where maintaining regular troops would prove to be uneconomical and difficult. The presence of foreign troops on home soil demoralizes a country; PMCs can solve the problem by effectively protecting the important institutions to the functioning of the country while raising no questions about the sovereignty of the country. It would be counterproductive to follow uninformed opinions and take a biased attitude towards PMCs and would in no way help world peace.

References
Pelton, R. (2003). Three worlds gone mad: Dangerous journeys through war zones of Africa, Asia and the South Pacific. New York: Lyons.
Singer, P.W. (2005). Outsourcing War. Foreign Affairs. 84 (2). pp. 119–132.
Siebels, Dirk. (2014). International Standards for the Private Security Industry. RUSI Journal. 159 (5). pp. 76–83.

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