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Old 04-15-2004, 08:08 PM   #1
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Mercinaries in Iraq

3rd largest group of soldiers in Iraq.

I am reading some who were trained by Pinochet.


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Old 04-16-2004, 08:46 AM   #2
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I believe they prefer to be called "consultants". As far as their legitimacy goes I think that there is allways a need for private security in these situations, to guard politicians and VIP's and if there are groups that want to hire them then so be it. This must also be balanced with their actions, if they cause trouble and incite anti-US anger (indirectly e.g. offending townsfolk). Essentially I think that they have a right to be there however if anybody causes trouble then they should leave.

I will just throw this one out, I overheard it at uni last week: "How can the US crackdown on al-Sadr for forming his own private army when they are doing exactly the same thing with Mercenaries" person then went on into some incoherent babble about people having the right to incite violence. So is this persons opinion the credible truth you can find in any Pilger editorial or is it as false as anything you see in all US and Western media?

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Old 04-16-2004, 09:53 AM   #3
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What is the function of these "mercenaries"? Is the Provisional Government using them to conduct operations against Iraqis? Or are they just security detail for various officials?

Should security be provided by regular forces? Is there a conflict of interest? Who is in charge when regular troops play escort for an ambassador or other official?

It is not unusual for former special forces personnel to take positions as security consultants or bodyguards. "Consultants" or "mercenaries" have been used in this role for decades.
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Old 04-16-2004, 11:41 AM   #4
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I heard it is something like 20,000.

They are not bound by the Geneva convention.

The four "civilians" were paid contractors or mercenaies.

This is a mess almost beyond description. Thousands are dying and will die.

Our mercinaies are not "unlawful combatants"?

We write the rules.

Are we the overlords, answerable to no one, to be questioned by no one?
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Old 04-17-2004, 09:30 AM   #5
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Soldiers And Fortune

Barry Lando is a former CBS producer of 60 Minutes, and has also contributed to CBS News, Time magazine and Time-Life.

Who's the United States' major ally today in Iraq? Hint: it may not be part of the "Coalition of the Willing." You might instead label them the "Brotherhood of the Extremely Well Paid": mercenaries working for private security firms in Iraq. Estimates of their number run from 5,000 to 15,000. And while no one really knows how many there are, thousands more are due to join them.

At this extremely critical time, when ill-conceived military action can degenerate into disastrous religious outbursts, who is calling the shots? That question is only now beginning to draw some attention.

For instance, two of the most violent actions in recent days in Iraq were not what we thought they were. A bloody attack by hundreds of Iraqi militia on the U.S. government's headquarters in Najaf last week was defeated not by valiant U.S. soldiers—as the press first was led to believe—but by eight mercenaries from a private American security firm.

According to The Washington Post, that company, Blackwater Security Consulting, even called in its own helicopter to rescue a wounded Marine and re-supply its own men when the U.S. Army failed to show up.

And those four "contractors" who were torn apart in Fallujah a few days earlier? Not hapless civilians, it now appears—they were also hired American mercenaries, also working for Blackwater Security. It currently has some 450 guards working in Iraq, and it is only one of many—which makes Blackwater alone larger than many of the national contingents that comprise the Coalition.

The mercenaries range from South Africans and Philipinos to Iraqis, Indians and Chileans to former U.S. Navy SEALs and Special Forces—carrying out what, in effect, are military services in Iraq, at salaries many times higher than those of the most skilled U.S. soldiers.

It's the United States that, either directly or indirectly, is picking up the tab for most of these mercenaries, but not all. The Japanese, for instance, also have their own private security contractor.

But who is giving the orders?

Under whose military control are those thousands of fighting men? Who tells them when to attack? When to retreat? When to avoid battle? What happens to those private armies after June 30, 2004, when sovereignty is—in theory, at least—transferred to the Iraqi people?

In a firefight, how on earth do Iraqis distinguish between actions of "private civilian contractors" and the U.S. military?

It's an Enron accountant's wet dream: private contractors taking over so much of what used to be considered military duty. How does Congress figure out, not only what the war in Iraq really costs, but what the real troop levels are? Another convenience for the Bush White House is that those contract casualties—and there have been many—are not included in the official military count.

One such private contractor—we'll call him Jerry—just recently returned from a stint in Iraq. He was paid $174,000 a year, he said, more than four times the officer's salary he was pulling down after 27 years with the military. But he was just one small part of the food chain of private contractors who are making billions of dollars a year in Iraq, supporting the Coalition military.

Jerry was hired by a private security company in Louisiana to provide protection for another private company, U.S.A. Environmental, which has been contracted by the Army Corps of Engineers to get rid of captured Iraqi military supplies at a place called Taji, the largest ammunition dump in Iraq. It's a dangerous place, and to do their job in Iraq, the folks at U.S.A. Environmental have to be protected. That's where the company that hired Jerry and scores of other former troops like him comes in.

But they aren't the only ones. Another of the companies supplying security guards was set up by a former Iraqi army colonel, also cashing in on the Coalition bonanza. He's hired 240 Iraqis, all former soldiers, to help patrol the huge ammunition dump. "Each of them makes $300 a month," says Jerry. "If they got paid $60 a month before they were lucky."

According to Jerry, all those former Iraqi soldiers are well vetted before being hired. How difficult would it be to infiltrate them? That's another question.

Now, normally one would think that the U.S. military would take care of destroying captured weapons and providing security for the demolition experts, just as they would normally handle security for an important official like Paul Bremmer. But not in this Brave New Military World: Bremmer has his own private security force: five former SEALs and one Marine.

By turning such messy tasks over to outsiders—at three or four times the normal military salary—soliders are supposedly freed up to do the real business of fighting. Such humdrum tasks as vehicle maintenance are also contracted out to another private firm; catering and laundry, of course, are handled by Halliburton.

And why shouldn't contractors be used? Well, one reason, Jerry claims, is that the people running his security company really knew nothing about security.

"The first week we got there, I said I'd like to see the Security Plan, and your standard operating procedures. They didn't know what I was talking about. They had non-Special Forces guys running security operations. One of our superiors was an Air Force captain in logistics, another, a guy who had worked in tanks. It was ridiculous, the blind leading the blind. They didn't understand anything."

According to Jerry, although the company made big bucks for its contract, it skimped on vital equipment, "We were out every night patrolling with no night-vision devices. You couldn't see a thing. The machine guns they gave us were much too big. I had to shell out $2,400 for my own body armor. We were always short on ammunition. And we were coming under fire every night." Finally, despite the fancy pay, Jerry quit. Several others have also left recently, he says.

What kind of rules of engagement did they have?

"We had a letter of agreement with the military. If a soldier suspects something, he can move in. If a private contractor suspects something, we have to tell the military. We're only to return fire if first fired upon," Jerry said.

That kind of loose control may work for mercenaries protecting a diamond-mining company in Sierra Leone. But how are those rules of engagement enforced in Iraq? By whom?

Indeed, we discover from the Post's account that "The Defense Department often does not have a clear handle on the daily actions of security contractors because the contractors work directly for the coalition authorities, which coordinates and communicates on a limited basis through the normal military chain of command."

And few of the hired guards are grizzled veterans. According to Jerry, another major contractor also provided security at his location. Many of his employees, he says, lacked the right kind of experience: "Navy SEALs and former Marines, a bunch of hot rodders, wild cowboys, all they want to do is kill people. They had their machine-gun mentality. A little too young, a little too green. Not enough combat experience in my opinion. They had launched bullets, but never had bullets coming back at them."

Last week, seven powerful U.S. senators, including Ted Kenney and Hillary Clinton, sent a letter to Donald Rumsfeld asking some pretty basic questions about those private companies, including how big their combined army really is.

"It would be a dangerous precedent," they wrote, "if the United States allowed the presence of private armies operating outside the control of governmental authority and beholden only to those who pay them."

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Old 04-19-2004, 04:26 PM   #6
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This one is really long, but it's worth reading:

I qote it completely because you have to have a login/password for the nytimes page

[quote]Security Companies: Shadow Soldiers in Iraq

Published: April 19, 2004

This article was reported by David Barstow, James Glanz, Richard A. Oppel Jr. and Kate Zernike and was written by Mr. Barstow.

They have come from all corners of the world. Former Navy Seal commandos from North Carolina. Gurkas from Nepal. Soldiers from South Africa's old apartheid government. They have come by the thousands, drawn to the dozens of private security companies that have set up shop in Baghdad. The most prized were plucked from the world's elite special forces units. Others may have been recruited from the local SWAT team.

But they are there, racing about Iraq in armored cars, many outfitted with the latest in high-end combat weapons. Some security companies have formed their own "Quick Reaction Forces," and their own intelligence units that produce daily intelligence briefs with grid maps of "hot zones." One company has its own helicopters, and several have even forged diplomatic alliances with local clans.

Far more than in any other conflict in United States history, the Pentagon is relying on private security companies to perform crucial jobs once entrusted to the military. In addition to guarding innumerable reconstruction projects, private companies are being asked to provide security for the chief of the Coalition Provisional Authority, L. Paul Bremer III, and other senior officials; to escort supply convoys through hostile territory; and to defend key locations, including 15 regional authority headquarters and even the Green Zone in downtown Baghdad, the center of American power in Iraq.

With every week of insurgency in a war zone with no front, these companies are becoming more deeply enmeshed in combat, in some cases all but obliterating distinctions between professional troops and private commandos. Company executives see a clear boundary between their defensive roles as protectors and the offensive operations of the military. But more and more, they give the appearance of private, for-profit militias — by several estimates, a force of roughly 20,000 on top of an American military presence of 130,000.

"I refer to them as our silent partner in this struggle," Senator John W. Warner, the Virginia Republican and Armed Services Committee chairman, said in an interview.

The price of this partnership is soaring. By some recent government estimates, security costs could claim up to 25 percent of the $18 billion budgeted for reconstruction, a huge and mostly unanticipated expense that could delay or force the cancellation of billions of dollars worth of projects to rebuild schools, water treatment plants, electric lines and oil refineries.

In Washington, defense experts and some leading Democrats are raising alarms over security companies' growing role in Iraq.

"Security in a hostile fire area is a classic military mission," Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, a member of the Armed Service committee, wrote last week in a letter to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld signed by 12 other Democratic senators. "Delegating this mission to private contractors raises serious questions."

The extent and strategic importance of the alliance between the Pentagon and the private security industry has been all the more visible with each surge of violence. In recent weeks, commandos from private security companies fought to defend coalition authority employees and buildings from major assaults in Kut and Najaf, two cities south of Baghdad. To the north, in Mosul, a third security company repelled a direct assault on its headquarters. In the most publicized attack, four private security contractors were killed in an ambush of a supply convoy in Fallujah.

The Bush administration's growing dependence on private security companies is partly by design. Determined to transform the military into a leaner but more lethal fighting force, Mr. Rumsfeld has pushed aggressively to outsource tasks not deemed essential to war-making. But many Pentagon and authority officials now concede that the companies' expanding role is also a result of the administration's misplaced optimism about how Iraqis would greet American reconstruction efforts.

The authority initially estimated that security costs would eat up about 10 percent of the $18 billion in reconstruction money approved by Congress, said Capt. Bruce A. Cole of the Navy, a spokesman for the authority's program management office.

But after months of sabotage and insurgency, some officials now say a much higher percentage will go to security companies that unblushingly charge $500 to $1,500 a day for their most skilled operators.

"I believe that it was expected that coalition forces would provide adequate internal security and thus obviate the need for contractors to hire their own security," said Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the new inspector general of the authority. "But the current threat situation now requires that an unexpected, substantial percentage of contractor dollars be allocated to private security."

"The numbers I've heard range up to 25 percent," Mr. Bowen said in a telephone interview from Baghdad. Mark J. Lumer, the Pentagon official responsible for overseeing Army procurement contracts in Iraq, said he had seen similar estimates.

But Captain Cole said that the costs were unlikely to reach that level and that the progress of reconstruction would eventually alleviate the current security problems.

Still, in many ways the accelerating partnership between the military and private security companies has already outrun the planning for it.

There is no central oversight of the companies, no uniform rules of engagement, no consistent standards for vetting or training new hires. Some security guards complain bitterly of being thrust into combat without adequate firepower, training or equipment. There are stories of inadequate communication links with military commanders and of security guards stranded and under attack without reinforcements.

Only now are authority officials working to draft rules for private security companies. The rules would require all the companies to register and be vetted by Iraq's Ministry of Interior. They would also give them the right to detain civilians and to use deadly force in defense of themselves or their clients. "Fire only aimed shots," reads one proposed rule, according to a draft obtained by The New York Times.

Several security companies have themselves been pressing for the rules, warning that an influx of inexperienced and small companies has contributed to a chaotic atmosphere. One company has even enlisted a former West Point philosopher to help it devise rules of conduct.

"What you don't need is Dodge City out there any more than you've already got it," said Jerry Hoffman, chief executive of Armor Group, a large security company working in Iraq. "You ought to have policies that are fair and equal and enforceable."

Company executives argue that their services have freed up thousands of troops for offensive combat operations.

But some military leaders are openly grumbling that the lure of $500 to $1,500 a day is siphoning away some of their most experienced Special Operations people at the very time their services are most in demand.

Pentagon and coalition authority officials said they had no precise tally of how many private security guards are being paid with government funds, much less how many have been killed or wounded. Yet some Democrats and others suggest that the Bush administration is relying on these companies to both mask the cost of the war and augment an overstretched uniformed force.

Mr. Rumsfeld has praised the work of security companies and disputed the idea that they were being pressed into action to make up for inadequate troop levels.

Still, the government recently advertised for a big new contract — up to $100 million to guard the Green Zone in Baghdad.

"The current and projected threat and recent history of attacks directed against coalition forces, and thinly stretched military force, requires a commercial security force that is dedicated to provide Force Protection security," the solicitation states.
Danger Zones: Rising Casualties and Deal Making

The words did not match the images from Iraq.

At a Philadelphia conference last week, a government official pitched the promise of Iraq to dozens of business owners interested in winning reconstruction contracts.

William H. Lash III, a senior Commerce Department official, said Baghdad was flowering, that restaurants and hotels were reopening. He told of driving around Baghdad and feeling out of place wearing body armor among ordinary Iraqis. In any case, he joked, the armor "clashed with my suit," so he took it off.

But the view from Iraq is considerably less optimistic, with contracting companies and allied personnel alike hunkering down in walled-off compounds. "We're really in an unprecedented situation here," said Michael Battles, co-founder of the security company Custer Battles. "Civilian contractors are working in and amongst the most hostile parts of a conflict or postconflict scenario."

One measure of the growing danger comes from the federal Department of Labor, which handles workers' compensation claims for deaths and injuries among among contract employees working for the military in war zones.

Since the start of 2003, contractors have filed claims for 94 deaths and 1,164 injuries. For all of 2001 and 2002, by contrast, contractors reported 10 deaths and 843 injuries. No precise nation-by-nation breakdown is yet available, but Labor Department officials said an overwhelming majority of the cases since 2003 were from Iraq.

With mounting casualties has come the exponential growth of the little-known industry of private security companies that work in the world's hot spots. In Iraq, almost all of them are on the United States payroll, either directly through contracts with government agencies or indirectly through subcontracts with companies hired to rebuild Iraq.

Global Risk Strategies, one of the first security companies to enter Iraq, now has about 1,500 private guards in Iraq, up from 90 at the start of the war. The Steele Foundation has grown to 500 from 50. Erinys, a company barely known in the security industry before the war, now employs about 14,000 Iraqis.

In many cases companies are adapting to the dangers of Iraq by replicating the tactics they perfected on Special Forces teams. One, Special Operations Consulting-Security Management Group, has recruited Iraqi informants who provide intelligence that helps the company assess threats, said Michael A. Janke, the company's chief operating officer.

The combination of a deadly insurgency and billions of dollars in aid money has unleashed powerful market forces in the war zone. New security companies aggressively compete for lucrative contracts in a frenzy of deal making.

"A lot of firms have put out a shingle, and they're not geared to operate in that environment," said Mr. Hoffman, the Armor Group chief executive.

One security company, the Steele Foundation, recently turned down an $18 million contract for a corporation that wanted a security force deployed within only a few days; Steele said it simply could not find enough qualified guards so quickly. Another company promptly jumped at the contract.

"They just throw bodies at it," said Kenn Kurtz, Steele's chief executive officer.

Early on in the war, private security contractors came mostly from elite Special Operations forces. It is a small enough world that checking credentials was easy. But as demand has grown, so has the difficulty of finding and vetting qualified people.

"At what point do we start scraping the barrel?" asked Simon Faulkner, chief operating officer of Hart, a British security company. "Where are these guys coming from?"

When four guards working for a subcontractor hired by Erinys were killed in an attack in January, they were revealed to be former members of apartheid-era security forces in South Africa. One had admitted to crimes in an amnesty application to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission there. "We were very alarmed," said Michael Hutchings, the chief executive of Erinys Iraq. "We went back to our subcontractors and told them you want to sharpen up on your vetting."

Troops and Guards: Distinctions Are Hard to Keep

For private security contractors, the rules of engagement are seemingly simple. They can play defense, but not offense. In fact, military legal experts say, they risk being treated as illegal combatants if they support military units in hostile engagements.

"We have issued no contracts for any contractor to engage in combat," Mr. Lumer, the Army procurement official.

What has happened, Mr. Lumer said in an interview, is that the Pentagon has, to a "clearly unprecedented" degree, relied on security companies to guard convoys, senior officials and coalition authority facilities.

No one wants regular troops "standing around in front of buildings," he said. "You don't want them catching jaywalkers or handing out speeding tickets."

But in Iraq, insurgents ignore distinctions between security guards and combat troops. And what is more, they have made convoys and authority buildings prime targets. As a result, security contractors have increasingly found themselves in pitched battles, facing rocket-propelled grenades, not jaywalkers..

It is in those engagements, several security executives said, that the distinctions between defense and offense blur most. One notable example came two weeks ago, when eight security contractors from Blackwater USA helped repel a major attack on a coalition authority building in Najaf. The men fired thousands of rounds, and then summoned Blackwater helicopters for more.

In an interview, Patrick Toohey, vice president for government relations at Blackwater, grappled for the right words to describe his men's actions. At one moment he spoke proudly of how the Blackwater men "fought and engaged every combatant with precise fire." At another he insisted that his men had not been engaged in combat at all. "We were conducting a security operation," he said.

"The line," he finally said, "is getting blurred."

And it is likely to get more blurred, with private security companies lobbying for permission to carry heavier weapons.

"We will keep pressing for that," said Mr. Faulkner, the Hart executive — especially after four of his men spent 14 hours on a roof of their building in Kut fighting off 10 times as many insurgents. Another Hart employee was killed in the assault, his body later dismembered by the mob.

"I cannot accept a situation where four of our people are being besieged by 40 or 60 Iraqis, where they're talking to me on a telephone saying, `Who's coming to help?' " Mr. Faulkner said.

They are also seeking ways to improve communications with military units.

Two weeks ago, a team of private security guards fought for hours to defend a coalition authority building in Kut. They later complained that allied Ukrainian forces had not responded to their calls for help.

Even routine encounters between allied forces and private security teams can be perilous. Mr. Janke, the security company executive and himself a former Navy Seal, said that in a handful of cases over the last year, jittery soldiers had "lit up" — fired on — security companies' convoys.

No one was killed, but standard identification procedures might have prevented those incidents, Mr. Janke said.

Sorting out lines of authority and communication can be complex. Many security guards are hired as "independent contractors" by companies that, in turn, are sub-contractors of larger security companies, which are themselves subcontractors of a prime contractor, which may have been hired by a United States agency.

In practical terms, these convoluted relationships often mean that the governmental authorities have no real oversight of security companies on the public payroll.

In other cases, though, the government insists that security companies abide by detailed rules. A solicitation for work to provide security for the United States Agency for International Development, for example, contains requirements on everything from attire to crisis management.

"If a chemical and/or biological threat or attack occurs, keep the area near the guard post clear of people," the document states, adding in capital letters, "Remember, during the confusion of this type of act, the guards must still provide security for employees or other people in the area."

The words are emphatic, but empty.

Government contracting officials and company executives concede that private guards have every right to abandon their posts if they deem the situation too unsafe. They are not subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, nor can they be prosecuted under civil laws or declared AWOL.

Scott Earhart said he left Iraq because he was disgusted at the risks he was asked to take without adequate protection or training.

Mr. Earhart, 34, arrived in Iraq in October to work as a dog handler for a bomb-detection company hired by Custer Battles. A former sheriff's deputy in Maryland, he said that there were not enough weapons and that his body armor was substandard.

"If you didn't get to the supply room in time you wouldn't have a gun," he said.

Mr. Earhart said the breaking point came when he was asked to drive unarmed to Baghdad from Amman, Jordan. "I felt my safety was in jeopardy," he said.

Mr. Battles, of Custer Battles, said that it had taken longer than expected to get weapons shipments, and that the company had had "growth issues, like everybody else." But, he emphasized, "under no circumstances did we let people out into the field without proper equipment."

Clearer Rules: Search for Standards, Even a Philosophy

For more than a decade, military colleges have produced study after study warning of the potential pitfalls of giving contractors too large a role on the battlefield. The claimed cost savings are exaggerated or illusory, the studies argue. Questions of coordination and oversight have not been adequately resolved. Troops could be put at risk.

Several senior American commanders in Iraq and Kuwait, or who have recently returned, expressed mixed feelings about the use of private security companies.

"The key thing is there are many requirements that are still best filled with combat units that can call on gunship support — Apache and Kiowa Warriors overhead — medevac, and just plain old reinforcements," one senior Army general wrote in an e-mail message to The Times. "Our task is to outsource what MAKES SENSE given the enemy situation."

In an unusual reversal of roles, the push for industry standards is coming from security executives themselves. In Washington, Pentagon lawyers are reviewing the rules governing security companies. At the same time, coalition authority and Iraqi officials are drafting operating rules for the private security companies.

The draft rules urge the use of "graduated force" — first shout, then shove, then show your weapon, then shoot. And they spell out when the guards may use deadly force. But they do not cover precisely how security operators will be screened and trained.

For now, companies are often writing their own rules and procedures for Iraq.

"It's an industry that if it's not careful could easily blend into what is usually referred to as war profiteers or soldiers of fortune or mercenaries," "It is a very ill-defined operating space right now," Mr. Battles said. "We draw the lines."

Custer Battles went so far as to hire an expert in military ethics, Paul Christopher, who taught philosophy at West Point. Mr. Christopher is helping the company define its place and policies in the chaos of Iraq.

"He's the anti-Rambo," Mr. Battles said. "This is a deep thinker."

Eric Schmitt contributed reporting from Washington for this article.[quote]
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Old 04-22-2004, 09:16 AM   #7
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Privatization in Iraq: ‘Contractors’ With Guns

by Nicholas Von Hoffman

04/21/04 "New York Observer" -- Newspapers and TV outlets were condemned for showing the bodies of four Americans identified as "contractors" who were brutally killed, burned and then gleefully put on display in Iraq. As if Americans were not capable of acting exactly as the Iraqis did. Individuals and peoples remember what they want to remember and forget what they want to forget. For those who have forgotten, or the millions of Americans who are too ignorant to have known, our libraries are full of pictures of white people dancing and eating Southern-fried chicken as they partied around the burnt corpses of lynched African-Americans. So please spare us the shock and awesome indignation at Iraqi behavior.

Who were the "four U.S. contractors" who met their deaths in Fallujah? They were described in The Washington Post as "elite commandos … hired by the U.S. government to protect bureaucrats, soldiers and intelligence officers."

The contractors were employees of Blackwater Security Consulting, four of some 400 Blackwater employees in Iraq who are making up to $1,000 a day.

American news organizations are not doing the truth a favor when they call these hired guns "U.S. military contractors." They are not even being accurate: The men were not contractors to the government, but Hessians or mercenary soldiers in the employ of a corporate warlord, namely Blackwater Security Consulting. Let’s call these people what they are, even though Americans have yet to feel completely comfortable with the idea of killing for money.

Perhaps to help us get over any queasiness we might be experiencing in that department, a number of stories about the Blackwater mercenaries have stressed that they were former members of elite units of the American military. It has even been said that they gave their lives for "freedom." Whose freedom is left unsaid, but surely no more overused and abused word can be found in contemporary American English. The patriotic crap aside, if these men’s primary motives for being in Iraq were flag and country, they’d still be in the armed services. At a pay grade of $350,000 a year, we know why they were there.

Does that justify killing them? No, nothing can justify taking human life—but if you take one-third of a million dollars a year to walk around in somebody else’s country with a machine gun, and you get wasted by the locals, I don’t think you deserve a very big or elaborate funeral. They were there for the money, and these men—elite ex-soldiers that they were—knew the risks, and they took them. So be it.

Evidently, thousands of mercenaries have been put to work in Iraq, and this raises some troublesome questions. Is all this stuff we are fed on TV and in the newspapers about the new and democratic Iraqi Army and constabulary just lies? Why aren’t Iraqis guarding "bureaucrats, soldiers and intelligence officers"? Why aren’t soldiers guarding themselves?

Sooner or later, the American troops are going to find out about this. Is it going to occur to the young gung-ho guys, who volunteered right out of high school, that they are risking life and limb for chump change while other men (and probably a few women) with the same skill sets are getting rich? What will be the reaction of the middle-aged reservists and National Guard people serving for a few hundred dollars a month, at the risk of job and mortgage, when they find out about the thousands of mercenaries being paid a king’s ransom to do for money what they do for country? If there is a morale problem now, as these stories about suicides among our service people suggest, what, pray tell, will be the state of morale then?

What will be the morale of the members of Congress who worry about where the money is coming from when it gets through to them that the United States is fighting this war with $1,000-a-day soldiers? As with all formulae offered as automatic and invariably successful solutions to difficult problems, privatization works only sometimes. It works with garbage collection, where it saves money. It does not save money with Medicare, and it certainly does not save money waging war.

Not only does privatization not save money waging war, it creates problem after problem, only some of which are visible at this juncture. If captured, are these mercenaries prisoners of war and subject to the Geneva Convention, or can they licitly be shot as spies and saboteurs?

We know that there are thousands of mercenaries now loose in Iraq. Only some of them work for Blackwater. Apparently, there are a number of companies who hire these people, so the question arises about how much control the American authorities have over the irregulars running about the country. Dyncorp mercenaries in the former Yugoslavia were accused of rape and robbery. The point is that they are not subject to military discipline, and even if they commit no acts universally regarded as criminal, they may still do things that offend the Iraqis: They might drink alcohol, use insulting gestures, whistle at women or find a dozen ways to get into trouble doing things which are innocent enough if done in Indiana, but which are incendiary acts if done in Basra.

It is astonishing that a military establishment which has poured billions upon billions into the development of communication technology that allows for close command and control never before dreamt of by military commanders can have sanctioned such a use of mercenaries. They have armed mercenaries all over the country over whom they can exercise no effective supervision and whom they cannot even communicate with. In a situation where the Americans know they are walking on egg shells, where innocent but explosive misunderstandings can occur at any minute, the introduction of swaggering, overpaid and undersupervised commando types is little more than idiotic.

Another question hanging in the air is why the Bush administration has resorted to the wholesale use of mercenaries. What you may lose in command and control with military operations of one sort or another carried out by commercial contract, you gain in secrecy and, as John Dean is making a point of, we have an administration in Washington of secrecy fetishists. It is much harder to dig out what the corporate warlords, who are immune from the Freedom of Information Act and most other forms of inquiry, are up to. We know, for example, that the State Department has hired a war corps to carry out various military duties in Colombia, but precise knowledge of what they are doing is gained only by a reporter risking life and safety—and even then, the facts may remain hidden.

The administration may be using mercenaries because it does not have enough troops, enough "boots on the ground," as the tough guys like to say. President Bush et al. were warned, you may remember, before they launched us into their Iraqi folly, that they would need twice the number of soldiers they had committed to the operation. The warning was laughed off, and the general who did the warning was retired from active duty.

Hiring mercenaries is one method of trying to make up for the gap between troop strength and troop requirements. Hiring mercenaries enables the administration, it hopes, to fill the gap without having to admit it was wrong. Moreover, it seems that the administration was so wrong on its troop estimates that there is no other way to make up the deficit except by the use of hired guns. This alliance of 34 countries contributing troops is a joke. The United Kingdom has 11,000 troops in Iraq. No other country has more than 2,700, and that’s Italy. The Spanish have 1,300 and they’re leaving. Twenty-six countries have less than 500 soldiers, and of that group 10 nations have fewer than 100 soldiers. Moldova has 24 men there and Estonia has 55, so they are both dwarfed by Japan, which has a grand total of 75 troopers in Iraq. How many American soldiers does it take to guard the Japanese and Moldovians? Or are we to assume that the 121 Latvian soldiers can speak Arabic and can get on by themselves?

So other than going out on the market and buying soldiers, where can Mr. Bush find them? He could make a speech imploring our best young people to enlist to fight the evil-doers and weapons-of-mass destructioneers and then see what that gets him at the recruiters. Or let’s go back to conscription. It will not be easy for George Bush to lose the November election, but proposing to reinstate the draft is one way he can.

So it’s mercenaries or nothing, but aside from the money, there will be hell to pay for this.
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Old 04-27-2004, 06:52 PM   #8
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Apartheid assassins meet match in Iraq
By Gavin du Venage in Cape Town
April 27, 2004
SOME of the worst human rights violators of the apartheid era, including a man who helped kill 14 civilians while they slept, have been employed as security contractors in Iraq.

A South African killed in Iraq two weeks ago once worked for a secret apartheid death squad known as the Civil Co-operation Bureau. The CCB specialised in assassinating civilians who sympathised with black liberation movements.

Gray Branfield, 55, was the latest South African casualty with a record of human rights abuse to have obtained lucrative employment with one of the many private security companies operating in Iraq. His decapitated and mutilated body was found after a gunfight between Shi'ite radicals and Ukrainian forces in Kut, 185km southeast of Baghdad.

Author Peter Stiff says Branfield spent most of his life working for various covert units and developed a fearsome reputation.

He began his career as a policeman in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, where he joined an elite paramilitary unit. His colleagues called him "hound dog" because of his talent for sniffing things out. His enemies called him "bushman" because of his tenacity in hunting guerillas in the toughest terrain.

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