June 16, 2007

Iraq Contractors Face Growing Parallel War - washingtonpost.com

In the news again, but never often or prominently enough, here are the military security force contractors, or mercenaries, if you prefer. The "surge" our beloved Congress let go through has, of course, resulted in huge increases in military/security contractor personnel, equipment and costs to the taxpayer, even as their deaths and injuries also grow. We should really think about this issue.

This article notes that these contractors, since 2006, are not even provided with the no-doubt bought-and-paid-for licenses the Iraqi "government" once issued them. They are operating totally outside the constraints of any law, Iraqi or American, and certainly outside of International Law [as is the US government in maintaining its Occupation of Iraq].

If you were a "Jericho" TV show fan, as I was, you know that in case of a national disaster, mercenary contractors - now as large a part of our Federal Emergency Management Administration as they are of our military, and FEMA must now await orders first from Homeland Security, which awaits orders from the President only - can go completely renegade if not catered to. They have great weapons and armor, nicer than our government's/country's own troops! Are you ready to resist a mercenary army on American soil? Is our National Guard ready?

These tens of thousands of contracted soldiers and security guards do not have any of the inadequate but certainly better-than-nothing benefits that our country's soldiers have, such as the retirement, life insurance and education benefits. Most of them are former soldiers who did not retire to get the maximum benefits. As a matter of fact, the contracting companies need so many "security officers" that they are enticing current Army, Marine, Air Force and Navy personnel to quit as soon as their current term is up and sign up as contractors for many times the pay of soldiers. As former soldiers, though they won't have the extra insurance the military provides, they will have access to the Veterans Hospitals, and we will pay for that.

So, we are paying at least double for for these "security officers", most of the profit is going to the company hiring them, then we foot the bill for their healthcare if/when they get injured or their stint as contractor-Veterans results in any long-term health impact. The contractors might be left disabled, mentally unstable, unemployed, homeless, and we will have to take care of all that - not the contracting companies like Blackwater and Halliburton, who will be happily spending our money in places like Dubai in Saudi Arabia to avoid paying US taxes. And if those contracted-then-dumped soldiers decide America hasn't treated them right - who knows, as Rummie so infamously said?

Time to stop paying for contracted mercenaries, um, sorry, "security officers". We're getting ripped off big time, and these lovely contractors will have become accustomed to utter lawlessness, and will have as many problems with mental illness as any of the enlisted soldiers. Write your congress and newspapers: Stop funding military contractors who don't care for their employees, don't obey laws, ignore the legal authority of the US Congress, and profiteer from war and occupation!

Iraq Contractors Face Growing Parallel War
As Security Work Increases, So Do Casualties
By Steve Fainaru
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, June 16, 2007; Page A01

BAGHDAD -- Private security companies, funded by billions of dollars in U.S. military and State Department contracts, are fighting insurgents on a widening scale in Iraq, enduring daily attacks, returning fire and taking hundreds of casualties that have been underreported and sometimes concealed, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials and company representatives.

While the military has built up troops in an ongoing campaign to secure Baghdad, the security companies, out of public view, have been engaged in a parallel surge, boosting manpower, adding expensive armor and stepping up evasive action as attacks increase, the officials and company representatives said. One in seven supply convoys protected by private forces has come under attack this year, according to previously unreleased statistics; one security company reported nearly 300 "hostile actions" in the first four months.

Parallel War
Security contractors employed by private companies are fighting a parallel war in Iraq. The buildup of this private force, which guards convoys, sites and personnel, has mirrored the increase of U.S. troops.
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The majority of the more than 100 security companies operate outside of Iraqi law, in part because of bureaucratic delays and corruption in the Iraqi government licensing process, according to U.S. officials. Blackwater USA, a prominent North Carolina firm that protects U.S. Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker, and several other companies have not applied, U.S. and Iraqi officials said. Blackwater said that it obtained a one-year license in 2005 but that shifting Iraqi government policy has impeded its attempts to renew.

The security industry's enormous growth has been facilitated by the U.S. military, which uses the 20,000 to 30,000 contractors to offset chronic troop shortages. Armed contractors protect all convoys transporting reconstruction materiel, including vehicles, weapons and ammunition for the Iraqi army and police. They guard key U.S. military installations and provide personal security for at least three commanding generals, including Air Force Maj. Gen. Darryl A. Scott, who oversees U.S. military contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"I'm kind of practicing what I preach here," Scott said in an interview on the use of private security forces for such tasks. "I'm a two-star general, but I'm not the most important guy in the multinational force. If it's a lower-priority mission and it's within the capabilities of private security, this is an appropriate risk trade-off."

The military plans to outsource at least $1.5 billion in security operations this year, including the three largest security contracts in Iraq: a "theaterwide" contract to protect U.S. bases that is worth up to $480 million, according to Scott; a contract for up to $475 million to provide intelligence for the Army and personal security for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; and a contract for up to $450 million to protect reconstruction convoys. The Army has also tested a plan to use private security on military convoys for the first time, a shift that would significantly increase the presence of armed contractors on Iraq's dangerous roads.

"The whole face of private security changed with Iraq, and it will never go back to how it was," said Leon Sharon, a retired Special Operations officer who commands 500 private Kurdish guards at an immense warehouse transit point for weapons, ammunition and other materiel on the outskirts of Baghdad.

U.S. officials and security company representatives emphasized that contractors are strictly limited to defensive operations. But company representatives in the field said insurgents rarely distinguish between the military and private forces, drawing the contractors into a bloody and escalating campaign.

The U.S. military has never released complete statistics on contractor casualties or the number of attacks on privately guarded convoys. The military deleted casualty figures from reports issued by the Reconstruction Logistics Directorate of the Corps of Engineers, according to Victoria Wayne, who served as deputy director for logistics until 2006 and spent 2 1/2 years in Iraq.

Wayne described security contractors as "the unsung heroes of the war." She said she believed the military wanted to hide information showing that private guards were fighting and dying in large numbers because it would be perceived as bad news.

"It was like there was a major war being fought out there, but we were the only ones who knew about it," Wayne said.

After a year of protests by Wayne and logistics director Jack Holly, a retired Marine colonel, the casualty figures were included. In an operational overview updated last month, the logistics directorate reported that 132 security contractors and truck drivers had been killed and 416 wounded since fall 2004. Four security contractors and a truck driver remained missing, and 208 vehicles were destroyed. Only convoys registered with the logistics directorate are counted in the statistics, and the total number of casualties is believed to be higher.
Iraq Contractors Face Growing Parallel War - washingtonpost.com

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