After Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, the sinister private security company (PSC) Blackwater was hired to provide armed mercenaries with a licence to kill in order to protect stores and private residences.
Meanwhile the sick and elderly were dying in the streets. Now PSCs are queuing for contracts to "safeguard" incoming aid and what's left of Haiti's valuable stock.
Just hours after the earthquake, the International Peace Operations Association (IPOA) launched a website which announced, "In the wake of the tragic events in Haiti, a number of IPOA's member companies are available and prepared to provide a wide variety of critical relief services to the earthquake's victims." Some of these "relief services" might involve aid work but a substantial part won't. Haiti-security.com promises services such as "high-threat terminations", dealing with "worker unrest" and "armed cargo escorts".
This shows the extent to which the vital functions of imperialism have become privatised. During the 1994 military intervention on the island Bill Clinton pioneered the use of PSCs. Now large parts of the money destined for aid will be diverted into their pockets.
Recent scandals demonstrate the fragility of PSCs' public image and income. Now they present themselves as a winning ticket for the local population, states and the PSCs themselves. But this is a different win-win process - PSCs get more business and wipe out their bad reputation through acting for the UN, major NGOs and foreign rescue operations.
Patrick Acureuil and Pepijn Brandon
Haiti coverage in this month's Socialist Review:
Haiti - the making of a catastrophe, by Mike Gonzalez
The taking of Haiti, by John Pilger
Haiti - Repression and Resistance, by Mike Gonzalez
Haiti - who are the real looters?, by Patrick Acureuil and Pepijn Brandon