FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Occupiers Spend Millions on Private Army of Security Men

by ROBERT FISK And SEVERIN CARRELL

The Independent

An army of thousands of mercenaries has appeared in Iraq’s major cities, many of them former British and American soldiers hired by the occupying Anglo-American authorities and by dozens of companies who fear for the lives of their employees.

Many of the armed Britons are former SAS soldiers and heavily armed South Africans are also working for the occupation. “My people know how to use weapons and they’re all SAS,” said the British leader of one security team in southern Baghdad. “But there are people running around with guns now who are just cowboys. We always conceal our weapons, but these guys think they’re in a Hollywood film.”

There are serious doubts even within the occupying power about America’s choice to send Chilean mercenaries, many trained during General Pinochet’s vicious dictatorship, to guard Baghdad airport. Many South Africans are in Iraq illegally–they are breaking new laws, passed by the government in Pretoria, to control South Africa’s booming export of mercenaries. Many have been arrested on their return home because they are do not have the licence now required by private soldiers.

Casualties among the mercenaries are not included in the regular body count put out by the occupation authorities, which may account for the persistent suspicion among Iraqis that the US is underestimating its figures of military dead and wounded. Some British experts claim that private policing is now the UK’s biggest export to Iraq–a growth fueled by the surge in bomb attacks on coalition forces, aid agencies and UN buildings since the official end of the war in May last year.

Many companies operate from villas in middle-class areas of Baghdad with no name on the door. Some security men claim they can earn more than lbs80,000 a year; but short-term, high-risk mercenary work can bring much higher rewards. Security personnel working a seven-day contract in cities like Fallujah, can make $1,000 a day.

Although they wear no uniform, some security men carry personal identification on their flak jackets, along with their rifles and pistols. Others refuse to identify themselves even in hotels, drinking beer by the pool, their weapons at their feet. In several hotels, guests and staff have complained that security men have held drunken parties and one manager was forced to instruct mercenaries in his hotel that they must carry their guns in a bag when they leave the premises. His demand was ignored.

One British company director, David Claridge of the security firm Janusian, has estimated that British firms have earned up to lbs800m from their contracts in Iraq–barely a year after the invasion of Iraq. One British-run firm, Erinys, employs 14,000 Iraqis as watchmen and security guards to protect the country’s oil fields and pipelines.

The use of private security firms has led to some resentment amongst the Department for International Development’s aid workers–who fear it undermines the trust of Iraqi civilians. “DFID staff would prefer not to have this,” said one source. “It’s much easier for them to do their job without any visible security, but the security risks are great down there.”

One South African-owned firm, Meteoric Tactical Solutions, has a lbs270,000 contract with DFID which, it is understood, involves providing bodyguards and drivers for its most senior official in Iraq and his small personal staff.

Another British-owned company, ArmorGroup has an lbs876,000 contract to supply 20 security guards for the Foreign Office. That figure will rise by 50 per cent in July. The firm also employs about 500 Gurkhas to guard executives with the US firms Bechtel and Kellogg Brown & Root.

Opposition MPs were shocked by the scale of the Government’s use of private firms to guard British civil servants, and claimed it was further evidence that the British army was too small to cope. Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat’s foreign affairs spokesman, said: “This suggests that British forces are unable to provide adequate protection and raises the vexed question of overstretch–particularly in light of the remarks by the Chief of the Defence Staff, last week that Britain couldn’t stage another operation on the scale of Iraq for another five years.”

Andrew Robathan, a Tory MP on the international development select committee and former SAS officer, said: “The Army doesn’t have the troops to provide static guards on this scale. Surely it would have been cheaper to have another battalion of troops providing guards.”

The UK’s largest private security firm in Iraq, Global Risk Strategies, is helping the coalition provisional authority and the Iraqi administration to draft new regulations. It is expecting to increase its presence from 1,000 to 1,200 staff this spring, and could reach 1,800 this year. However, aid charities are disturbed by the sums being spent on security, since DFID has diverted lbs278m from its mainstream aid budget for Iraqi reconstruction. Dominic Nutt, of Christian Aid, said: “This sticks in the craw. It’s right that DFID protects its staff, but this is robbing Peter to pay Paul.”

 

January 18, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
The Destabilizer: Trump’s Escalating Threats Against Iran
John W. Whitehead
Silence Is Betrayal: Get Up, Stand Up, Speak Up for Your Rights
Andrew Day
Of “Shitholes” and Liberals
Dave Lindorff
Rep. Gabbard Speaks Truth to Power About the Real Reason Korea Has Nukes
Barbara G. Ellis
The Workplace War: Hatpins Might Be in Style Again for Women
Binoy Kampmark
Corporate Sickness in May’s Britain
Ralph Nader
Twitter Rock Star Obama’s Silence Must Delight Trump
John G. Russell
#Loose Lips (Should) Sink … Presidencies … But Even If They Could, What Comes Next?
David Macaray
The “Mongrelization” of the White Race
Ramzy Baroud
In Words and Deeds: The Genesis of Israeli Violence
January 17, 2018
Seiji Yamada
Prevention is the Only Solution: a Hiroshima Native’s View of Nuclear Weapons
Chris Welzenbach
Force of Evil: Abraham Polonsky and Anti-Capitalist Noir
Thomas Klikauer
The Business of Bullshit
Howard Lisnoff
The Atomized and Siloed U.S. Left
Martha Rosenberg
How Big Pharma Infiltrated the Boston Museum of Science
George Wuerthner
The Collaboration Trap
David Swanson
Removing Trump Will Require New Activists
Michael McKinley
Australia and the Wars of the Alliance: United States Strategy
Binoy Kampmark
Macron in China
Cesar Chelala
The Distractor-in-Chief
Ted Rall
Why Trump is Right About Newspaper Libel Laws
Mary Serumaga
Corruption in Uganda: Minister Sam Kutesa and Company May Yet Survive Their Latest Scandal
January 16, 2018
Mark Schuller
What is a “Shithole Country” and Why is Trump So Obsessed With Haiti?
Paul Street
Notes From a “Shithole” Superpower
Louisa Willcox
Keeper of the Flame for Wilderness: Stewart “Brandy” Brandborg
Mike Whitney
Trump’s Sinister Plan to Kill the Iranian “Nukes” Deal
Franklin Lamb
Kafkaesque Impediments to Challenging Iran’s Theocracy
Norman Solomon
Why Senator Cardin is a Fitting Opponent for Chelsea Manning
Fred Gardner
GI Coffeehouses Recalled: a Compliment From General Westmoreland
Brian Terrell
Solidarity from Central Cellblock to Guantanamo
Don Fitz
Bondage Scandal: Looking Beneath the Surface
Rob Seimetz
#Resist Co-opting “Shithole”
Ted Rall
Trump Isn’t Unique
January 15, 2018
Rob Urie
Democrats and the End(s) of Politics
Paul Tritschler
Killing Floor: the Business of Animal Slaughter
Mike Garrity
In Targeting the Lynx, the Trump Administration Defies Facts, Law, and Science Once Again
Thomas Hon Wing Polin
Hong Kong Politics: a Never-Ending Farce
Uri Avnery
Bibi’s Son (Or Three Men in a Car)
Dave Lindorff
Yesterday’s ‘Shithole Countries’ Can Become Classy Places Donald, and Vice Versa
Jeff Mackler
Lesser Evil Politics in Alabama
Jonah Raskin
Typewriters Still Smoking? An Interview with Underground Press Maven John McMillan
Jose-Antonio Orosco
Trump’s Comments Recall a Racist Past in Immigration Policy
David Macaray
Everything Seems to Be Going South
Kathy Kelly
41 Hearts Beating in Guantanamo
Weekend Edition
January 12, 2018
Friday - Sunday
George Burchett
Wormwood and a Shocking Secret of War: How Errol Morris Vindicated My Father, Wilfred Burchett
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail