The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Forum features freelance writer

Butch McCartney

About halfway through his Forum presentation Wednesday night, Ken Silverstein told a story about a government-funded explosion of a portable toilet.

One story he told was about an anti-aircraft weapon that a private company funded and was tested at Fort Rucker in Alabama. The weapon was designed to home-in on the whirling blades of the helicopter.

However, the weapon went off before a helicopter even appeared, targeting a ventilation fan at the top of a portable toilet.

The toilet anecdote was one of several examples that Silverstein gave about private businesses selling war supplies and war training to whichever country could afford it.

Story continues below advertisement

In front of a crowd of roughly 500 people in Zorn Arena, Silverstein told about many businesses owned or operated by former military personnel.

Silverstein, a freelance writer whose work has appeared in publications such as Harper’s magazine and The Nation, said that after the Cold War, there were many military personnel who either retired from the military or were given different jobs. Several of these people began mercenary companies, which essentially sold military intelligence and training to countries.

One company Silverstein mentioned was Military Professional Resources, Inc. He said MPRI has assisted a number of Eastern European armies, including training the army of Croatia to improve its human rights practices.

Silverstein said that after receiving MPRI’s training, Croatia’s army engaged in the worst human-rights violation in its war.

Junior Scott Wickizer attended the Forum and said he was especially interested in the story about the Croatian army, because he has friends in Yugoslavia.

“I thought (Silverstein’s presentation) was really good,” Wickizer said. “I’ve looked into this subject a lot. Listening to him really shows how much we don’t know.”

Another thing Silverstein brought up was how difficult it is to get information from companies about these operations or training missions.

If the government had conducted these military operations, Silverstein said it would have to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests. Because they’re private companies, they don’t have to respond to such requests.

“I was surprised to hear how the Freedom of Information Act doesn’t mean anything with these companies,” Wickizer said. “As a private firm, they don’t have to reveal anything.”

Most of these companies need grants from the State Department, and approval from that department for many of their missions, Silverstein said. These companies are doing what amounts to government missions, he said, but with the protection reserved for private companies.

Wickizer said Silverstein’s presentation reminded him of several past military operations.

“The military would help somebody by providing them weapons,” he said, “and then 20 years later they would fight them.”

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

The Spectator intends for this area to be used to foster healthy, thought-provoking discussion. Comments are expected to adhere to our standards and to be respectful and constructive. As such, we do not permit the use of profanity, foul language, personal attacks or the use of language that might be interpreted as libelous. The Spectator does not allow anonymous comments and requires a valid email address. The email address will not be displayed but will be used to confirm your comments.
All The Spectator Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Activate Search
Forum features freelance writer