Monday, August 15


Fascinating, and disturbing, article in NY Times Magazine about private security companies in Iraq: "The Other Army." Armed employees of these companies number around 25,000, but the estimates are questionable since no one seems to be really keeping track. Some of the companies weren't even formed until after the Iraq War started, but they're charged with protecting some of our most vital personnel (including four generals) and missions.

Yet it is hard to discern who authorized this particular outsourcing as military policy. No open policy debate took place; no executive order was publicly issued. And who is in charge of overseeing these armed men?

The Pentagon and the security companies don't like the term "mercenaries" and describe their function as "defensive -- we protect." The truth is, though, that they are sometimes fighting a war. Why? Ret. Gen. Jay Garner, former head of the C.P.A., and others, admit that it's at least partially because we just didn't put enough boots on the ground.

It's estimated that between 160 and 200 of these "private security" men have been killed in Iraq -- more than any one of our coalition partners have suffered. Why do they do it? For most and for the most part, it's the money, $400-700 a day for Americans and other Westerners.

No one knows how many innocent Iraqis have been wounded or killed by these men. There are virtually no rules. And "besides, no one in power is watching too closely," so what rules there are are largely ignored.

There are other implications to the unusual-for-the-U.S. hiring of private armies, and the policy raises a number of questions that aren't answered in this article. But it's another good insight into just what's going on "over there."


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