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Immunized against the Eschaton

Are you prepared for objective reality?

8.14.2005

 

The secrets of mercenary work in Iraq

This is a short snippet of an article from the NY Times Magazine. It is a long entry, but like I always say, well worth the time to acclimate yourself to some of the hidden realities in Iraq...



The Other Army
By DANIEL BERGNER

Transporting firearms from the United States required legal documents that the company couldn't wait for; instead, in Iraq, it got Department of Defense permission to visit the dumping grounds of captured enemy munitions. The company took mounds of AK-47's and culled all that were operable.

So Triple Canopy had vehicles and it had assault rifles, and when it needed cash in Iraq, to pay employees or buy equipment or build camps, it dispatched someone from Chicago, the company's home, with a rucksack filled with bricks of hundred-dollar bills. ''All the people in Iraq had to say is, 'We need a backpack,''' Mann said. ''Or, 'We need two backpacks.''' Each pack held half a million dollars.

And in this way, one of the largest private security companies in Iraq was born. In this way, Triple Canopy went off to war. Plenty of other companies have done the same, some that were more established before the American invasion, some less. The firms employ, in Iraq, a great number of armed men. No one knows the number exactly. In Baghdad in June, in a privately guarded coalition compound in the Green Zone, I talked with Lawrence Peter, a paid advocate for the industry and -- in what he called a ''private-public partnership'' -- a consultant to the Department of Defense on outsourced security. He put the number of armed men around 25,000. (This figure is in addition to some 50,000 to 70,000 unarmed civilians working for American interests in Iraq, the largest percentage by way of Halliburton and its subsidiaries, doing everything from servicing warplanes to driving food trucks to washing dishes.)

But the estimates, from industry representatives and the tiny sector of academics who study the issues of privatized war, are so vague that they serve only to confirm the chaos of Iraq and the fact that -- despite an attempt at licensing the firms by the fledgling Iraqi Interior Ministry -- no one is really keeping track of all the businesses that provide squads of soldiers equipped with assault rifles and belt-fed light machine guns. Peter's best guess was that there are 60 companies in all. ''Maybe 80,'' he added quickly, mentioning that there were any number of miniature start-ups. He continued: ''Is it a hundred? Possibly.''

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