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Soldiers of Good Fortune

  1. Apr 1, 2004 #1
    Private companies organize war
    ...
    The four Americans horrifically killed on Wednesday by a mob in Fallujah, Iraq, worked for Blackwater USA, one of a growing number of for-profit companies hired by the U.S. military to to do work traditionally performed by soldiers.
    ....
    The lack of oversight alarms some members of Congress. "Under a shroud of secrecy, the United States is carrying out military missions with people who don't have the same level of accountability," says Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), a leading congressional critic of privatized war. "We have individuals who are not obligated to follow orders or follow the Military Code of Conduct. Their main obligation is to their employer, not to their country."
    ...
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 1, 2004 #2
    Yep, they're mercenaries. Horriffic what happened to them, but something like this was bound to happen eventually.
     
  4. Apr 7, 2004 #3
    Sure. But amazing how the media keep calling them civilians. Sometimes: civilian contractors, and I also found a few time: security guards.
    Of course there also a lot of real civilians there.

    On this Falluja case we can ask why US military didn't go in. Can it be that low payed US military are not so happy with high payed 'contractors'? This is just a question, I have no idea if there are resentiments between them. Someone has experience or information?
     
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2004
  5. Apr 14, 2004 #4
    ... golden opportunities ... paid by the taxpayer

    Under Fire, Security Firms Form An Alliance

    By Dana Priest and Mary Pat Flaherty
    Washington Post Staff Writers
    Thursday, April 8, 2004; Page A01

    Under assault by insurgents and unable to rely on U.S. and coalition troops for intelligence or help under duress, private security firms in Iraq have begun to band together in the past 48 hours, organizing what may effectively be the largest private army in the world, with its own rescue teams and pooled, sensitive intelligence.

    Many of the firms were hired by the U.S. government to protect its employees in Iraq. But because the contracts are managed by the Coalition Provisional Authority and the coordination between the CPA and the U.S. military is limited, and by their accounts inadequate, the contractors have no direct line to the armed forces. Most of the firms' employees are military veterans themselves, and they often depend on their network of colleagues still in uniform for coordination and intelligence.

    "There is no formal arrangement for intelligence-sharing," Col. Jill Morgenthaler, a spokeswoman for the U.S. military command headquarters in Baghdad, said in an e-mail in response to questions. "However, ad hoc relationships are in place so that contractors can learn of dangerous areas or situations."

    The demand for a private security force in Iraq has increased since the war ended, said officials with the CPA, the U.S.-led authority that is running the occupation of Iraq. There are about 20,000 private security contractors in Iraq now, including Americans, Iraqis and other foreigners. That number is expected to grow to 30,000 in the near future when the U.S. troop presence is drawn down after the June 30 handover to Iraqi authorities.

    The presence of so many armed security contractors in a hot combat zone is unprecedented in U.S. history, according to government officials and industry experts.

    In the past, "we've been careful about where and when we arm civilians who accompany the troops because we don't want to inadvertently turn them into soldiers, even by what we have them wear," said Col. Thomas McShane, an instructor at the Army War College.

    As the security situation in Iraq has deteriorated in recent days, the security contract workers have been exposed to some of the same dangers U.S. soldiers face -- and have defended their posts as soldiers would, but without the support of the military with which they share the battlefield.

    While U.S. and coalition military forces fought rebellions in a half-dozen cities yesterday, the body of a contract worker, employed to guard the power lines of the Iraqi ministry of electricity, was extracted from a rooftop in Kut by his firm's Iraqi interpreter after he bled to death, according to government and industry officials.

    The dead man, a Western employee of London-based Hart Group Ltd., had been pinned down on the rooftop of the house he and four colleagues had been occupying Tuesday night when insurgents overran the house. The other four were wounded.

    "We were holding out, hoping to get direct military support that never came," said Nick Edmunds, Iraq coordinator for Hart, whose employees were operating in an area under Ukrainian military control. Other sources said Hart employees called U.S. and Ukrainian military forces so many times during the siege that the battery on their mobile phone ran out.

    That same night, armed employees of two other firms, Control Risk Group and Triple Canopy, were also surrounded and attacked, according to U.S. government and industry sources.

    In all three instances, U.S. and coalition military forces were called for help but did not respond in a timely manner, according to U.S. government and industry accounts. The private commandos fought for hours and eventually were able to "self-evacuate," said one U.S. official, who asked not to be named.

    Asked last night to explain why U.S. and coalition forces had not responded to requests for help, a Pentagon spokesman referred the question to commanders in Iraq, who could not be reached for comment because of the time difference.

    On Monday, eight commandos from Blackwater Security Consulting repulsed an attack by the militiamen of Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr against the Coalition Provisional Authority headquarters in Najaf. After hours of calling the U.S. military and CPA for backup, Blackwater sent in its own helicopters -- twice -- to ferry ammunition in and carry a wounded Marine to safety, according to U.S. government and industry sources familiar with the incident.

    A week ago, four Blackwater commandos -- former members of U.S. Special Forces working on a contract to protect a private food company in Iraq -- were killed and mutilated in Fallujah. U.S. government and industry sources believe a member of the Iraqi police helped set up the ambush of the two unarmored cars the men were using.

    ?The U.S. military does not have enough specially trained troops or Iraqi police officers to guard its civilian employees, said defense and CPA officials. As a result, the U.S. government has turned increasingly to private firms. Blackwater even provides personal security to U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer.

    The Bremer detail, said Peter W. Singer, a private military expert at the Brookings Institution, illustrates the extent to which the military is breaking new ground, even amending its long-held doctrine that the "U.S. military does not turn over mission-critical functions to private contractors," Singer said. "And you don't put contractors in positions where they need to carry weapons. . . . A private armed contractor now has the job of keeping Paul Bremer alive -- it can't get much more mission-critical than that."

    Some Defense Department officials are concerned that private commandos are not subject to adequate oversight. There is no government vetting of contract workers who carry weapons. "The CPA has let all kinds of contracts to all kinds of people," said one senior Defense Department official who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the subject. "It's blindsided us."

    The CPA's program management office has sought bids for a project to coordinate security among the 10 largest prime contractors and their subcontractors working on U.S.-backed reconstruction projects worth $18.4 billion. But the bids are still under review. In the meantime, the office is "trying to get at least some level of intelligence sanitized from the military that could be given to contractors," said Capt. Bruce A. Cole, spokesman for the program management office in Baghdad. That has not happened yet.

    The firms, stunned by the casualties they suffered this week and by the lack of a military response, have begun banding together to share their own operations-center telephone numbers and tips on threats, as well as to organize ways to rescue one another in a crisis.

    "There is absolutely a growing cooperation along unofficial lines," Edmunds said. "We try to give each other warnings about things we hear are about to happen."

    "Each private firm amounts to an individual battalion," said one U.S. government official familiar with the developments. "Now they are all coming together to build the largest security organization in the world."

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A59516-2004Apr7.html
     
  6. Apr 14, 2004 #5
    I assume "security personnel" in an occupied country count as combatants, don't they?
     
  7. Apr 14, 2004 #6
    I am sure there are many names for them. But there is more:

    Can you imagine ... Mercenaries ... tasked to protect US troops like if it are little kids.
    Count as 'combatants'?

    Deaths of scores of mercenaries not reported

    By Robert Fisk and Patrick Cockburn

    April 13 2004: "The Star" Baghdad - At least 80 foreign mercenaries - security guards recruited from the United States, Europe and South Africa and working for American companies - have been killed in the past eight days in Iraq.

    Lieutenant-General Mark Kimmitt admitted on Tuesday that "about 70" American and other Western troops had died during the Iraqi insurgency since April 1 but he made no mention of the mercenaries, apparently fearful that the full total of Western dead would have serious political fallout.

    He did not give a figure for Iraqi dead, which, across the country may be as high as 900.

    At least 18 000 mercenaries, many of them tasked to protect US troops and personnel, are now believed to be in Iraq, some of them earning $1 000 a day. But their companies rarely acknowledge their losses unless - like the four American murdered and mutilated in Fallujah three weeks ago - their deaths are already public knowledge.

    The presence of such large numbers of mercenaries, first publicised in The Independent two weeks ago, was bound to lead to further casualties.

    But although many of the heavily armed Western security men are working for the US Department of Defence - and most of them are former Special Forces soldiers - they are not listed as serving military personnel. Their losses can therefore be hidden from public view.

    The US authorities in Iraq, however, are aware that more Western mercenaries lost their lives in the past week than occupation soldiers over the past 14 days.

    The coalition has sought to rely on foreign contract workers to reduce the number of soldiers it uses as drivers, guards and in other jobs normally carried out by uniformed soldiers.

    Often the foreign contract workers are highly paid former soldiers who are armed with automatic weapons, leading to Iraqis viewing all foreign workers as possible mercenaries or spies.*

    http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article6031.htm
     
  8. Apr 14, 2004 #7

    russ_watters

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    I'm still unsure of what exactly these guys are tasked to do, and I think it would depend on the task. If they are just security guards, then no, I don't think they count as combatants. If they take part in an assault, yeah, that makes them combatants.

    Not that it matters either way: the other side in this fight doesn't follow the Geneva Conventions anyway.
     
  9. Apr 14, 2004 #8
    Geneva convention says that anyone who openly aligns themselves with a military force is subject to the same rules (including POW status).
    There are multiple section defining this, most under the idea of the populous or militias fighting, that seem to point that if you clearly show that you are fighting them, then you are fair game. This is the crux of some cases concerning the illegal combatants in Cuba who fire from crowds of civilians, drop weapons, and run away.

    If the people are just protecting a shipment of food, then there is a major grey area, and that my friends is where lawyers who like to argue, even more than us, come in :)
     
  10. Apr 14, 2004 #9

    Just to reiterate the article on what I think many of you are forgetting here - these mercenaries are often ex, and sometimes present (soldiers), special forces members who have entered the private sector.
    We aren't talking about joe bob redneck who joined his local militia and is now out protecting soldiers who can't fend for themselves.
    We are talking about highly trainer soldiers who are doign what the rest of the soldiers are doing....protecting troops.
     
  11. Apr 15, 2004 #10
    Well get used to what we saw in Fallujah, because it looks like the mercs don't have reliable US military support, and I guess the principle is to privatize everything- keeps the casualties "low" and prolongs the draft.
     
  12. Apr 15, 2004 #11

    Trust me,I think things could stand to be restructured. I'll go into it more later, I'm off to bed, but I just don't want anyone getting the idea that these contractors have not been soldiers before now.
     
  13. Apr 15, 2004 #12
    Interesting...you are making a case for them to be attacked. I'm sure it is because you feel that they get POW status...but can they count as "illegal combatants", and treated in the same manner as the Gitmo prisoners?
     
  14. Apr 15, 2004 #13
    I have made no such blanket statements. I am fairly inline with Russ. Depending on their role, then yes, they may be fair game. A driver of a food truck obviously does not fall inline with that, anymore than a redcross driver does.

    I need to leave for a bit. Will add my thoughts on restructuring troops in a while :smile:
     
  15. Apr 15, 2004 #14
    Who's behind the smoke screen?

    Another question can be: Who's behind those private war companies?

    Don't believe it are some small private investors or venture capitalists investors. It are 'professional' people with insight and heavy connections. For sure some companies are cover-ups for secret services like CIA and Mossad, or international corporations interested in new 'niches' (cfr Haiti). For Mossad it's very easy to operate by such US cover in various Arab countries. They are American civilian contractors. Candy time. They receive officially special tasks from US government and have at the same time free access to all kind of official documents (ie. Iraqi birth registers, offical stamps, ...) and telecommunication systems, and they can develop/set-up new intelligence networks they control and infiltrate or self-organize 'enemy' cells.

    Waauw ... for those type of guys is must be candy time.

    Maybe this is one of the reasons some US Senators reacted? The situation goes to far?

    Senators call for better control of civilian security workers in Iraq

    By LOLITA C. BALDOR
    Associated Press Writer

    WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Pentagon needs to take better control of the civilian security contractors working in Iraq, members of the Senate told Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Thursday.

    In a letter to the secretary, Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., said the security companies need to be properly screened and must operate within guidelines set up by the U.S. government. And he said the presence and number of security personnel in Iraq raises questions about the adequacy of U.S. troop levels there.

    "Security in a hostile fire area is a classic military mission," said Reed, who circulated the letter and got signatures from 12 other Democratic senators, including Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts.

    Last week four civilian security contractors were killed in Fallujah, Iraq, in an ambush, and their charred bodies were mutilated and dragged through the streets. The contractors were working for Blackwater Security Consulting when their vehicle was hit by rocket-propelled grenades.

    The senators asked Rumsfeld to detail how many private, non-Iraqi security workers are in Iraq, and requested that he adopt written guidelines for the contractors and how they should coordinate with the military and the Coalition Provisional Authority.

    "Unless these forces are properly screened by United States authorities and are required to operate under clear guidelines and appropriate supervision, their presence will contribute to Iraqi resentment," the letter said.

    The senators also said Rumsfeld should make it clear how the civilian security contractors will operate after June 30, when control of the country is turned over to the people of Iraq.

    Reed, a West Point graduate and former Army Ranger, has been to Iraq three time since last July."
    http://customwire.ap.org/dynamic/st...IOL-?SITE=CTDAN&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT
     
  16. Apr 15, 2004 #15

    Njorl

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    I just don't understand how it can be cheaper to pay these guys $1000 a day than to use US troops. Bremer and Abazaid are not making that much. Somebody is screwing up royally.

    Njorl
     
  17. Apr 15, 2004 #16
    Somebody is screwing up royally

    Indeed Njorl. Your always a sharp guy with good analyses. I am sure you have the answers.
    Bush is a for-profit president. That's why he loves bribe Sharon. Two of a kind.

    I am really 'fascinated' by the social passivity of the US people about the whole and visual corruption happening in US. Is 80% on Prozac?
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2004
  18. Apr 15, 2004 #17
    Prozac? I would say that a higher % of the public (American) do not want the potential not even a .2% chance of of Americans bring killed especially mass killing and its a matter of fact it just came up in the 911 hearings that some of the people involved in terror attacts were taken refuge in Iraq with the government lending a hand. Now I may getting off track, passive the military had a big spike in people enlisting in the armed services after and scince 911. Profit? what profit I do agree that before Bush was president he was involved in profiteering he has a family to support whats wrong with that some people need to work. And as far as Sharon I say that the world should let him fend for himself and let his neighbors take back there land. Sorry to go on and on but I had to say something being just a citizen who has no pitty for brutal Dictators who gas woman and children. Also the security companies I think are garding trucks.
     
  19. Apr 18, 2004 #18
    Dreaming of George ...

    Dreaming of George by Tom Engelhardt

    http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=40&ItemID=5343

    ....

    Although some kidnapped foreigners have been released, others are being taken constantly. On Wednesday an Italian guard -- for, as it turns out, a "security firm" by the name of DTS (Sydney Morning Herald, 4/14/04) that's actually based in the United States -- was murdered by one group and the threats to other foreigners, including the 10,000-18.000 gun-toting "contractors" who make up the second largest armed force in the "coalition," and the thousands and thousands of foreign workers, continue to escalate. Some have begun fleeing the scene.

    Many of the rest are locked down at the moment. Ariana Eunjung Cha and Jackie Spinner offer this quote in the Washington Post (4/15/04): "'We can't work. We can't go outside. We live like in a jail,' said Luma Mousawi, director of Nurses-Doctors Care Organization, which is working on the rehabilitation of Iraq's health care system."

    Along with this, various NGOs and care-giving groups are pulling out. The Russian government has begun airlifting Russian workers out. The French and German governments have "advised" their citizens to leave. In the wake of the murder of the Italian security guard, the Italian government is offering to fly any citizen wanting to leave out, including employees of the state media. Danish aid workers are being pulled out (Guardian, 4/12/04). According to Rahul Mahajan, "Bridges to Baghdad, an Italian group that has done amazing work for years to help the Iraqi people, is pulling out -- with an Italian military contingent here, they are natural targets for kidnappers. The Christian Peacemaker Teams, who also have a very well-organized operation over here, are thinking of pulling out." The British Foreign Office "is advising Britons against 'all but the most essential travel' to Iraq as a result of the escalating hostage-takings" (Independent, 4/14/04) and the editors of the British Telegram are considering whether the situation is too dangerous to report on and the paper's reporters should be withdrawn. ("On his last drive outside of Baghdad -- to Najaf -- [Telegram reporter] Hider said he and his colleagues had had to run the gauntlet of burning vehicles and shooting on either side of the road. 'The danger has been being mistaken for a contractor. The number one rule is, don't be driven around in a big white 4x4 like the ones used by contractors, because they are basically bullet magnets.'" Guardian, 4/14/04)

    Individual Bulgarian troops are begging to be sent home (Sydney Morning Herald, 4/13/04). Thailand, the Philippines and other "coalition allies" are waffling about their troop commitments and so on and so forth. In Washington and Baghdad they can announce that much of Iraq is "stable" and "progressing," getting ready to have "sovereignty" returned to it via the UN, but it's obvious that "reconstruction" -- even as defined by the Coalition Provisional Authority -- has in fact ground to a halt. The reconstructors are beginning to vote with their feet. This is undoubtedly another definition of democracy.

    And these departures include some closer to the heart of the American operation, as the Post's Cha and Spinner report: "In the past week, several USAID contractors and subcontractors, including D.C.-based Creative Associates International and Arlington-based International Relief and Development Inc., which are working on school projects, have moved employees out of Iraq." And some of the folks "leaving town" are Iraqis. As Paul McGeough of the 4/11/04 Sydney Morning Herald describes it: "By some estimates, as many as 25 per cent of the new Iraqi security forces, on which the US is depending to impose law and order after June 30, has quit or simply melted away. "

    Mercenaries

    And here's the thing, the "contractors" are starting to leave town too. That very word muffles one's responses, doesn't it? A contractor sounds like somebody you'd hire to put siding on your house or build those bookshelves in the den. And, of course, some of the "contractors" in Iraq are exactly that. This is, after all, where privatization in Iraq meets the Bush privatizing economy back home and men driven out of work here find themselves driving to work there for tantalizing sums under what turn out to be the most dangerous of conditions. But many of the "contractors" over there, the "security guards," are simply out-and-out mercenaries -- a word that seems to have been ripped from American media dictionaries now that being a "mercenary" means being in a $100 billion boom business largely connected to the Pentagon. Maybe you just don't call the "Silicon Valley" economic miracle of the armed early years of the 21st century by a name associated with all manner of evils.

    Right now, some of the more or less straightforward "contractors" are beginning to bolt and who would blame them. If you want to check out the account of one man who left, read about 61 year old Jerry Kuhaida, a "contractor helping local governments." ("'I wanted ... out of there. It was getting too nasty,' he said... 'I started ignoring gunshots. Then, I started ignoring little explosions, and then I began to ignore the big explosions...' Kuhaida said he quickly discovered that there had been no postwar plan by the United States. 'There was no plan at all after the war,' he said. 'In spite of what [U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld said, there was absolutely no plan. The whole thing was running on a whim, basically. There wasn't even a bad plan out there.' What few accomplishments there were, were 'fluffed up... We kept getting pressure to make reports look as positive as possible.'")

    You remember that old saying: What if they gave a war and no one came? Well, the Iraqi equivalent may be: What if they gave a war and everyone left? After all, in Donald Rumsfeld's leaner, meaner military, in an America where everything is to be privatized (meaning dumped free into the hands of corporate cronies), the Pentagon is now dependent for much in Iraq on those "private contractors." And while the military can't simply leave town of their own accord, our private military and civilian "armies" can. One of them, our vice president's former company Halliburton, actually "suspended some convoys delivering supplies to the military in Iraq due to escalating violence, U.S. Army and company officials said Monday, raising the danger of shortfalls in food, fuel and water supplies if the situation continues." (LA Times, 4/13/04)

    Though the convoys seem since to have resumed, it's a situation that could make a deteriorating military position in Iraq far worse for the U.S. military in the future. This gives the concept of an "overextended military" (much discussed) or of an "overextended empire" (seldom mentioned), a new twist in our 21st century dreamworld which vast and growing private armies may someday threaten to turn into a mercenary and feudal planet.

    Give the Bush administration two terms and, I swear, dystopia creators and scifi writers, however imaginative, won't be able to keep up. But the deeper problems, the problems of our global militarized stance, as Senator Kerry continues to signal, will evidently, like the Pentagon budget, outlive Bush administrations and Kerry administrations alike. Let's hope they don't outlive us all.
     
  20. May 16, 2004 #19
    http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/Co...373&call_pageid=968332188854&col=968350060724

    The privatization of Abu Ghraib
    Civilians named in abuse scandal can't be charged Iraq war ramps up Pentagon's use of private contractors

    (snip)

    Going private also allows the Pentagon to avoid scrutiny of its actions, critics say. It has been alleged, for instance, that put private soldiers were sent to Colombia to boost the number of regular U.S. troops authorized by Congress.

    The catch, say analysts, is that when military and private meet up — when low-paid loyalty to country has to work with high-paid loyalty to company — resentments can breed.

    Bill Hartung, a senior fellow at the World Policy Institute in New York, says regular troops in Iraq resent the two civilians in the abuse scandal getting off without reprisal, while the reservists face courts martial.

    And they were furious last winter when Vinnell, a subsidiary of defence giant Northrop Grumman, so badly botched the job of training the new Iraqi military that the Jordanian army had to be rushed in to finish the job.

    The military also had qualms when DynCorp, the firm involved in the prostitution scandal in Bosnia, was brought in to train the Iraqi police force.

    It's already in Afghanistan, providing security for President Hamid Karzai.

    "Their guys are seen as too swaggery, waving their guns around, full of Texas testosterone," says Hartung.

    Those guys wouldn't be there if the administration hadn't underestimated the amount of troops needed for the war and the bloody aftermath, he says, "but ramping up the numbers would have been an unacceptable admission of error.

    "There will be some sort of reckoning after this. Contractors have to be regulated, yes, but they also have to be kept out of intelligence and out of the front lines — not that there are well-defined front lines in this kind of war."

    ...
     
  21. May 16, 2004 #20
    "these guys" are actually cheaper than regular troops. regular troops have an awsome retirement package. uncle sam pays for their medical and dental care, their college (or graduate) education, and many other things. the civillian contractors dont receive any of that.
     
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