WANTED: GUNS FOR HIRE
DAVID H. HACKWORTH
Last month, American troops in Macedonia rescued 400 Albanian rebels who were
members of the 113th UCK (Kosovo Liberation Army) Brigade. This operation didn't
pass the smell test for me. I couldn't stop asking myself why NATO brass would
risk the lives of 80 American paratroopers to save a band of heavily armed cutthroats
bent on overthrowing the established government of a country that our president
and State Department have repeatedly stated they are committed to save.
The act was kind of like an FBI SWAT team rescuing Timothy McVeigh minutes before
the execution. My first thought was, Whose side are we really on? My second was,
What's the objective here -- stabilizing or destabilizing Macedonia?
The UCK brigade -- dug in around Aracinovo, four miles north of Skopje, the capital
of Macedonia -- had been surrounded for two weeks, under heavy attack by Macedonian
government forces and on the verge of destruction. Imagine how we'd feel if one
of our units was about to take out a rebel brigade whose objective was to overthrow
our government, when out of nowhere a Canadian paratroop company swooped in and
saved the enemy force?
Of course, the Macedonians were fit to be tied.
Sources in the U.S. Army in Kosovo familiar with the 3/502nd Airborne Battalion's
rescue operation confirm that the mission was all about saving the "17 'instructors'
among the withdrawing rebels -- former U.S. officers, who were providing the rebels
with continued military education. But that was not enough: The Macedonian security
forces claim that 70 percent of the equipment taken away by the guerrillas had
been U.S. made -- to include even the most modern third-generation night vision
devices," as reported by the German newspaper Hamburger Abendblatt on June
Other sources say the "17 instructors" were members of a high-ticket
Rent-a-Soldier outfit called MPRI -- Military Professional Resources Incorporated
-- that operates in the shadow of the Pentagon and has been hired by the CIA and
our State Department for ops in ex-Yugoslavia. The company, headed up by former
U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Carl E. Vuono, is filled with former U.S. Army personnel,
from generals to senior sergeants, all of whom draw handsome wages on top of their
Army retired salaries.
This is the same outfit that in the early 1990s trained Croatian soldiers for
Operation Storm -- which resulted in the brutal ethnic cleansing of 200,000 unarmed
Serb civilians -- as well as bringing Croatian Gen. Agim Ceku up to speed. Ceku,
who played a central role in the slaughter, is alleged to have killed thousands
of other Serb civilians before joining the KLA in 1999, where he again received
training and assistance from CIA and State Department contractors operating overtly
and covertly throughout ex-Yugoslavia and around the globe.
Retired four-stars don't run out of power until they hear taps. Had Vuono or another
of his compadres such as Gen. Crosbie Saint picked up the phone and suggested
the 502nd be sent to the rescue, that suggestion would have been taken as a virtual
MPRI even has a Web site -- www.MPRI.com -- that boasts, "We serve the needs
of the U.S. government, of foreign governments and of the private sector with
the highest standards and cost effective solutions."
While Ollie North's Contra boys and the mercenaries who botched up the Cuban Bay
of Pigs invasion might not have been so businesslike -- or so blatant -- they
did establish an unfortunate tradition of hired guns sticking our nation into
one minefield after another.
Dozens of ex-Army pals are presently working for the ever-expanding MPRI or other
such military contractors in places like Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, ex-Yugoslavia and
Colombia. We're talking booming business here.
But others have had the moral decency to say, "Take your high-paying mercenary
job and stick it in your ear."
One still-serving three-war vet told me: "A number of contractors have been
pitching me to work for them after I retire. I said no. There's no principles,
no love of country, no honor -- just MONEY. I can't ... sell my soul for a buck."
There are laws on the books that prevent American citizens from serving foreign
governments. It's about time Congress did its duty and enforced them.
Http://www.hackworth.com is the address of David Hackworth's home page. Sign in
for the free weekly Defending America column at his Web site. Send mail to P.O.
Box 5210, Greenwich, CT 06831.
(c) 2001 David H. Hackworth
Distributed by King Features Syndicate Inc.