August 13, 2007

The Mercenary Revolution

Flush with profits from the Iraq war, military contractors see a world of business opportunities

by Jeremy Scahill

If you think the U.S. has only 160,000 troops in Iraq, think again.

With almost no congressional oversight and even less public awareness, the Bush administration has more than doubled the size of the U.S. occupation through the use of private war companies.

There are now almost 200,000 private "contractors" deployed in Iraq by Washington. This means that U.S. military forces in Iraq are now outsized by a coalition of billing corporations whose actions go largely unmonitored and whose crimes are virtually unpunished.

In essence, the Bush administration has created a shadow army that can be used to wage wars unpopular with the American public but extremely profitable for a few unaccountable private companies.

Since the launch of the "global war on terror," the administration has systematically funneled billions of dollars in public money to corporations like Blackwater USA, DynCorp, Triple Canopy, Erinys and ArmorGroup. They have in turn used their lucrative government pay-outs to build up the infrastructure and reach of private armies so powerful that they rival or outgun some nation's militaries.

"I think it's extraordinarily dangerous when a nation begins to outsource its monopoly on the use of force and the use of violence in support of its foreign policy or national security objectives," says veteran U.S. Diplomat Joe Wilson, who served as the last U.S. ambassador to Iraq before the 1991 Gulf War.

The billions of dollars being doled out to these companies, Wilson argues, "makes of them a very powerful interest group within the American body politic and an interest group that is in fact armed. And the question will arise at some time: to whom do they owe their loyalty?" . . .


Jeremy Scahill is author of The New York Times-bestseller "Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army". He is a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at the Nation Institute.

Smedley Darlington Butler, "War is a racket," 1933

APPARENTLY NOT SIGNED BY THE U.S.--"International Convention Against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries," December 4, 1989,

Enver Masud, "A Clash Between Justice and Greed, Not Islam and the West," The Wisdom Fund, September 2, 2002

Richard T. Cooper, "General Casts War in Religious Terms," Los Angeles Times, October 16, 2003

Ian Traynor, "The Privatization of War," Guardian, December 10, 2003

[The US government is on a 'burning platform' of unsustainable policies and practices with fiscal deficits, chronic healthcare underfunding, immigration and overseas military commitments threatening a crisis if action is not taken soon, the country's top government inspector has warned.--Jeremy Grant, "Learn from the fall of Rome, US warned," Financial Times, August 14, 2007]

[Baghdad's "Bloody Sunday" has become a test of sovereignty between the powers of the Iraqi government and the US.--Kim Sengupta, "The real story of Baghdad's Bloody Sunday," Independent, September 21, 2007]

Tom Griffin, "From Bengal to Baghdad: Three Centuries of Corporate Warriors,", October 16, 2007

Frank Rich, "Suicide Is Not Painless," New York Times, October 21, 2007

[Mr Prince, aside from his work in Iraq, set up America's closest forward operating base to the Pakistani border in Afghanistan, and helped to train a CIA assassination team that hunted an alleged senior al-Qaeda financier in Germany, and included A. Q. Khan, a Pakistani nuclear scientist, on its list of targets--"Erik Prince, head of US security firm Blackwater, 'was CIA operative'," Times, December 5, 2009]

[Mr. Prince, who resettled here last year after his security business faced mounting legal problems in the United States, was hired by the crown prince of Abu Dhabi to put together an 800-member battalion of foreign troops for the U.A.E. . . .

The former employees said that in recruiting the Colombians and others from halfway around the world, Mr. Prince's subordinates were following his strict rule: hire no Muslims.--Mark Mazzetti and Emily B. Hager, "Secret Desert Force Set Up by Blackwater's Founder,", May 14, 2011]

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