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Mercenaries Flock to Fill Vacuum

Iraq is the global mercenary proving grounds, and many depserate people are joining the ranks.
Mercenaries flock to fill vacuum
April 2, 2004

Private security operators now make up the third largest armed force in Iraq, Paul McGeough writes from Baghdad.

When the doors open at Level 5 of the Palestine Hotel, there's a spit-and-polished Gurkha pointing a high-powered gun into the lift.

The whole floor and another above it have been taken by Kellogg Brown & Root, the construction wing of Halliburton, one of the biggest US firms working in Iraq. And though the linguists of occupation don't allow the word "mercenary", the Gurkha is part of a 15,000-strong private security operation that is the third biggest armed force in Iraq.

Their numbers - and salaries as high as $US1000 ($A1300) a day - attest to the danger of this Arab version of Dodge City.

But when they signed up, few would have anticipated the terrible butchery of four colleagues whose bodies were dismembered and dragged through the streets of the western city of Fallujah on Wednesday.

Television footage of the scene - heavily edited before going to air worldwide - showed their corpses being kicked and stoned before being broken up with blows from steel rods.

At least two of them were strung up on a bridge and parts of the other bodies were stuck on poles and paraded around town.

The barbarity at Fallujah provoked outrage in Washington and elsewhere - but did little to change US rhetoric on the pacification of post-war Iraq.

The ranks of the private armies in Iraq are growing so rapidly that US and British defence officials are at a loss to know how to counter offers to the best of their Special Operations and SAS staff.

In the mayhem, Baghdad has been carved into a series of Western security bubbles. There is the Green Zone, American proconsul Paul Bremer's sprawling bunker for which the Pentagon is about to let a $100 million privatised security contract; foreign embassies are grouping and fortifying; and western business and the foreign media have all but withdrawn behind concrete, wire and guns.

Pity the poor Iraqis. They're outside the walls and at the other end of the guns, unprotected from bombers and criminals who have run amok, robbing and kidnapping in a security vacuum in which it is nigh on impossible for a naive new Iraqi police force to control.

And it's not just the foreigners - South Africans, who know they are breaking their country's laws on mercenary activity; skilled Gurkhas and Fijians who can't resist the dollars; or the Chileans who trained under General Pinochet - who are involved.

Beneath all of that is a dubious layer of Iraqi-run security - hundreds of local firms that have the capacity to become clan-based militias if, as some expect, security worsens after the June 30 hand-back of sovereignty to an Iraqi administration.

This is what happens: An Iraqi working with a new foreign media or business sees the opening, recruits 30 or 50 family and friends to whom he gives guns and the ubiquitous baseball cap and then he bids for the security contract.

Australia is doing its bit for the privatised army. Sydney-based AKE Asia-Pacific has teams on the ground and though Australian troops ride shotgun for Australian diplomats in Baghdad, protection for the rest of the small, non-military Australian contingent has been subcontracted to Control Risk Group, whose 1100-strong private army of former British SAS, Nepalese and Fijian soldiers, also guards 500 British civil servants working here. It's a huge drain on the reconstruction budget.

The Fallujah deaths bring the US civilian toll in Iraq to at least 33. The military toll is three short of 600. The March toll - 50 US troops and a dozen civilians of varying nationalities - made it the second worst month of the occupation.

But despite that, US spokesman Brigadier-General Mark Kimmitt refused to allow his optimism to be dented by Wednesday's killings - which including the death of five US soldiers in a separate attack near Fallujah.

"Despite an uptick in localised engagements, the overall Iraqi area of operations remains relatively stable with negligible impact on the coalition's ability to continue progress in governance, economic development and restoration of essential services," he said.

We have been confronted with such appalling acts of barbarity before. Remember Mogadishu in 1993 - when Bill Clinton cut and ran from Somalia after the carnage that inspired the Hollywood block-buster Black Hawk Down? And the lynching of two Israeli soldiers by a Palestinian mob in Ramallah in September 2000?

First the Americans wanted to blame the remnants of the Saddam regime and then it was associates of al-Qaeda. But it was ordinary Iraqis wielding the steel rods at Fallujah and in broad daylight.

Mercenaries 01.Apr.2004 22:11

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Tombstone Blues: Dying in Vain in Iraq

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This Enemy Worships Death 02.Apr.2004 00:26

Jimmy Breslin

Published on Thursday, April 1, 2004 by Newsday / Long Island, New York

This Enemy Worships Death
by Jimmy Breslin

I am against George Bush going to Fallujah to boost troop morale and try to win the hearts and minds of the mean Iraqis.

I am against this because this place I work for will send me to Fallujah, too.

The four civilians who were carved, burned to a crisp, dragged, with two of them left hanging from a bridge, in Fallujah, were security guards from Blackwater USA, an employment agency in Moyock, N.C., that ships former soldiers and police officers out to anywhere from Outer Banks resorts to Fallujah.

Blackwater is on a 6,000-acre compound and its centerpiece is Are You Ready High. In it, police forces and security guards simulate school standoffs, which in the Blackwater mentality is what happened at Columbine High.

It did not. Columbine consisted of two young degenerates who got their hands on a lot of guns in a town where guns are sold like candy bars and shot so many with them. If they couldn't buy guns, they would have had to go after the students with their hands, and that might not have been fun for them.

Blackwater gets a lot of money for security guards to go to Fallujah, but not quite enough for what happened yesterday. The company executives were under the desks yesterday and thus the amounts Blackwater guards in Fallujah were paid was unavailable.

The dead security guards are a symbol of the deep ignorance that runs through this country as we find ourselves in the first war in American history that is not being fought against another country.

Al-Qaida is not a nation. It has nothing to do with the country of Iraq or of Afghanistan or Yemen or Bali or Saudi Arabia or the Sudan or the other places around the world where it exists. Al-Qaida makes explosives in those countries and it arms members and plans how to kill, and it worships. The last is perhaps the most important of all. In this war, ideology and religion are the enemies. There is no Germany or Russia. There is only our enemy, beliefs of others. You don't fight these opponents by using a map and planning attacks by air and land. The opponents are everywhere. You attack and come up against a bucket of steam.

"A danger to us is technological hucksterism," the book "Technology and War" notes. William S. Lind of a group of active army officers who write papers warning of our useless armaments, writes. "Coming up with Madison Avenue slogans to sell new weapons proclaiming that they fundamentally change warfare is a delusion. The enemy cannot be overcome by simply killing them. Their deaths mean martyrdom. Where they fall, dozens and hundreds spring up to take their places. They cannot be overcome solely through firepower attrition. Waging conflict with massive firepower and high technology are the hallmarks of the Great Satan to the Islamics."

If more attention would have been given to the fighting in Northern Ireland, it might have been noted that the Irish Republican Army, or Provos, or whatever the title they used, had three-man cells, one not knowing what the other was doing, and the operation had its most success with perhaps 75 members. Mitchell McLaughlin, who was the third in charge, said that "Twelve people can hold down Northern Ireland."

They fought on beliefs. The desire for a country of their own was at the bottom of it, but the British troops, who could not win, were not fighting against a country. They were in with the worst enemies, religion and ideology.

George Bush, who more and more appears incapable of enough thought to lead this nation, talks about Operation Iraqi Freedom and how we have placed on the field the greatest army known to man. He and those around him seem oblivious to guerrillas. What is Iraqi freedom to them? They are Islamic and they want us slaughtered wherever we are. The American answer is weapons, Bush says. The generals acquire in delight. They cannot wait to spend more billions on tanks and bombers that are useless.

And except for yesterday's news, the deaths in Iraq have gone on, day by day, virtually unnoticed in the reporting of the day's news in newspapers and on television. The names of the five soldiers and four civilian security guards were unavailable as this was being written.

We list the names of some of the last dead to be reported. From now on, the list here will be kept faithfully.

Sgt. Tracy L. Laramore, 30, of lst Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, Schweinfurt, Germany, died March 17 of injuries when his Bradley Fighting Vehicle flipped into a river. Home, Okaloosa, Fla.

Pfc. Brandon C. Smith, 20. Home, Washington, Ark.

Pfc. Ricky A. Morris Jr., 20. Home, Lubbock, Texas.

Both assigned to 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, lst Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Twentynine Palms, Calif.

Staff Sgt. Wentz Jerome Henry Shanaberger III, 33, Army's 21st Military Police Company, 16th Military Police Brigade, XVIIIth Airborne Corps, Fort Bragg, N.C. Died March 24 when he came under attack by small arms fire and an improvised explosive device. Home, Naples, Fla.

Lance Cpl. Jeffrey C. Burgess, 20, Marine Wing Support Squadron 373, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Marine Corps Air Station, Miramar, Calif. Died March 25 from enemy fire at Fallujah. Home, Plymouth, Mass.

Lance Cpl. Andrew S. Dang, 20, lst Combat Engineer Battalion, lst Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif. Died March 22 of hostile fire near Ar Ramady, Iraq, Home, Foster City, Calif.

Sgt. Ivy L. Phipps, 44, 1544th Transportation Company, Illinois Army National Guard, Paris, Ill. Died March 17 in Baghdad in a mortar attack. Home, Chicago.

Pfc. Jason C. Ludlam, 22, of 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, lst Infantry Division, based in Vilseck, Germany, died March 17 when he was electrocuted while laying telephone wires in Ba'qubah, Iraq. Home, Arlington, Texas.

Pfc. Christopher E. Hudson, 21, of 2nd Squadron, 12th Armored Cavalry Regiment, Fort Hood, Texas. Died March 21 in Baghdad when his vehicle was hit with an improvised explosive device. Home, Carmel, Ind.

Cpl. Andrew D. Brownfield, 24, Marine Wing Support Squadron 374, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Twentynine Palms, Calif. Home, Summit, Ohio.

Cpl. David M. Vicente, 25, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Twentynine Palms, Calif. Home, Methuen, Mass.

Pfc. Leroy Sandoval Jr., 21, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif. Home is Houston.

URL Link for Originally Posted Article 02.Apr.2004 17:58



Mercenaries Have a Choice 02.Apr.2004 21:56

North Portlander

Although what happened to the "contractors" in Fallujah was horrific, call me zany but I can't muster as much sympathy for them as I can for members of the National Guard who have no choice about being in Iraq. These mercenaries have a choice and are going to Iraq presumably with their eyes wide open, voluntarily exposing themselves to risk for higher pay than any US soldier can dream of. Worst of all, we get to pay for it . . . and pay . . . and pay.