Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Privatization of Warfare in Iraq

In my previous post (Contractors Pray for the GWOT) I mentioned that private military contractors also provide personal security for at least three commanding generals, including Air Force Major General Darryl A. Scott, who oversees U.S. military contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan. I could not imagine that a US general would be protected by private contractors. I cannot find any other word than “shame.” I wonder what General Patton would have said if he were alive.

Back to Iraq

There are three coalition armies in Iraq: the official one (fighting the war), the private one (supporting the war), and the official private ones with heavy armors[1] (mostly non-US citizens, fighting and supporting the war).

According to a Washington Post article in December 2006, USCENTCOM census revealed about 100,000 government contractors operating in Iraq (not counting subcontractors), a significant part working as private soldiers,[2] also known as mercenaries.

“The contractor picture is further complicated by the presence of a large number of individuals employed by private security firms under contract to the United States. The Pentagon estimates 6,000 such contractors while Central Command’s database lists 10,800. Both totals are well below the private security company association’s figure of 30,000 in Iraq,” says Colonel (ret) Daniel Smith.[3] Note that contractors are not included in the official US death toll. So, how many contractors have lost their lives in Iraq?

Today more than 180,000 private security personnel and other civilian contractors (hence financed by US taxpayer dollars) are working in Iraq under US contracts. This figure is sometimes estimated to be in the range of 130,000 – 180,000. The most recent official unclassified statistics released by DOD on July 1, 2007, indicate that the United States military personnel in Iraq totaled 156,247 personnel.

Who provides private soldiers?

Blackwater USA is one of the best known ones. The company website tells that Blackwater “is not simply a "private security company." We are a professional military, law enforcement, security, peacekeeping, and stability operations firm who provides turnkey solutions,” whose vision is “to support security, peace, freedom, and democracy everywhere.” Well, well.

Blackwater is able to pay its employees $365,000 per year because the company gets millions of dollars worth contracts from the US government. No wonder Blackwater has the largest base for a private military in the world, a fleet of 20 aircrafts and its own armored vehicle called the Grizzly. Note that the first $80,000 of civilian pay is non-taxable if employees stay a certain amount of day in Iraq. How about bonuses? Well, they are tax-free.

Another company Crescent, with its documented lousy hiring standards, had a reputation for going to the riskiest destinations. Retired Colonel Gerald Schumacher’s book “A Bloody Business” gives more info on that but are private soldiers really unrecognized and unappreciated patriots?

Col. Schumacher says in his book (p. 78) “want to know what it’s like in Iraq? Fill your oven with sand, put a fan inside, turn on the heat full blast, and stick your head in.” Well dear colonel, you describe the miserable situation in Iraq quite well. But your proclaimed patriot private soldiers do not live 24/7 in those conditions but Iraqis do!

Oh well, after all, it’s a booming industry!

Lawless contractors, at least in practice

P.W. Singer, the author of Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry, noted in a Defense Tech article that five words, slipped into a Pentagon budget bill, would make them subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the same set of laws that governs soldiers.

The Pentagon's fiscal year 2007 budget legislation "Paragraph (10) of section 802(a) of title 10, United States Code (article 2(a) of the Uniform Code of Military Justice), is amended by striking `war' and inserting `declared war or a contingency operation'." The bill became a law - P.L.109-364.

He states that “previously, contractors would only fall under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, better known as the court martial system, if Congress declared war….The result is that whenever our military officers came across episodes of suspected contractor crimes in missions like Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, or Afghanistan, they had no tools to resolve them. As long as Congress had not formally declared war, civilians -- even those working for the US armed forces, carrying out military missions in a conflict zone -- fell outside their jurisdiction. The military's relationship with the contractor was, well, merely contractual….Not one contractor of the entire military industry in Iraq has been charged with any crime over the last 3 and a half years, let alone prosecuted or punished.
contractors now can fall under the purview of the military justice system. This means that if contractors violate the rules of engagement in a warzone or commit crimes during a contingency operation like Iraq, they can now be court-martialed. But it has so far gone completely unnoticed….The legal change only applies to the section in the existing law dealing with those civilians "serving with or accompanying an armed force in the field," i.e. only those contractors on operations in conflict zones like Iraq or Afghanistan….While it is apparent that any military contractor working directly or indirectly for the US military falls under the change, it is unclear whether those doing similar jobs for other US government agencies in the same warzone would fall under it as well.”

Nevertheless, the majority of security companies operate outside of Iraqi law.

A recent memorandum (7 July 2007) from the Office of the Secretary of Defense called for application of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions to the Treatment of Detainees in the Department of Defense. It reads “The Supreme Court has determined that Common Article 3 to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 applies as a matter of law to the conflict with Al Qaeda. The Court found that the military commissions as constituted by the Department of Defense are not consistent with Common Article 2…You will ensure that all DoD personnel adhere to these standards.”

Fine, but how about the contractors???

Allowing private contractors to carry heavy armor, and let them go into combat zone is an extremely dangerous policy. A special type of paper, called money, has an immense power over humans. For that paper many people around the world do not hesitate to end the lives of others.

This contracting mania should be limited. Otherwise one day in the near future we will hear on the news that an unknown man made a coup d’etat somewhere in the world by using private military contractors. The CNN will call it “the first outsourced coup d’etat.”

my next subject will be either US Air Force oil conusmption or US Army energy consumption in installations.

[1] See the slide show titled “A Bloody Business” in
[2] By Renae Merle, Census Counts 100,000 Contractors in Iraq, Washington Post, December 5, 2006.
[3] Counting Troops in Iraq, Col. Daniel Smith US Army Ret, Foreign Policy in Focus, July 17, 2007.

Tags: Iraq, Department of Defense, US Military, Private Military Contractors


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