- Registration time
- Last login
- Online time
- 4899 Hour
- Reading permission
The Guardian, Wednesday 10 December 2003|
The privatisation of war
$30bn goes to private military
Fears over 'hired guns' policy
British firms get big slice of contracts
Deals in Baghdad, Kabul and Balkans
Private corporations have penetrated western warfare so deeply that they are now the second biggest contributor to coalition forces in Iraq after the Pentagon, a Guardian investigation has established.
While the official coalition figures list the British as the second largest contingent with around 9,900 troops, they are narrowly outnumbered by the 10,000 private military contractors now on the ground.
The investigation has also discovered that the proportion of contracted security personnel in the firing line is 10 times greater than during the first Gulf war. In 1991, for every private contractor, there were about 100 servicemen and women; now there are 10.
The private sector is so firmly embedded in combat, occupation and peacekeeping duties that the phenomenon may have reached the point of no return: the US military would struggle to wage war without it.
While reliable figures are difficult to come by and governmental accounting and monitoring of the contracts are notoriously shoddy, the US army estimates that of the $87bn (£50.2bn) earmarked this year for the broader Iraqi campaign, including central Asia and Afghanistan, one third of that, nearly $30bn, will be spent on contracts to private companies.
The private sector is even more deeply involved in the war's aftermath. A US company has the lucrative contracts to train the new Iraqi army, another to recruit and train an Iraqi police force.
But this is a field in which British companies dominate, with nearly half of the dozen or so private firms in Iraq coming from the UK.
The big British player in Iraq is Global Risk International, based in Hampton, Middlesex. It is supplying hired Gurkhas, Fijian paramilitaries and, it is believed, ex-SAS veterans, to guard the Baghdad headquarters of Paul Bremer, the US overlord, according to analysts.
It is a trend that has been growing worldwide since the end of the cold war, a booming business which entails replacing soldiers wherever possible with highly paid civilians and hired guns not subject to standard military disciplinary procedures.
The input from the US military has been so important that the US experts can credibly claim to have tipped the military balance in a region ravaged by four wars in a decade. But the American officers, including several four-star generals, are retired, not serving. They work, at least directly, not for the US government, but for a private company, Military Professional Resources Inc.
"In the Balkans MPRI are playing an incredibly critical role. The balance of power in the region was altered by a private company. That's one measure of the sea change," said Mr Singer, the author of a recent book on the subject, Corporate Warriors.
The surge in the use of private companies should not be confused with the traditional use of mercenaries in armed conflicts. The use of mercenaries is outlawed by the Geneva conventions, but no one is accusing the Pentagon, while awarding more than 3,000 contracts to private companies over the past decade, of violating the laws of war.
The Pentagon will "pursue additional opportunities to outsource and privatise", the US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, pledged last year and military analysts expect him to try to cut a further 200,000 jobs in the armed forces.
It is this kind of "downsizing" that has fed the growth of the military private sector.
And in Baghdad or Bogota, Kabul or Tuzla, there are armed company employees effectively licensed to kill. On the job, say guarding a peacekeepers' compound in Tuzla, the civilian employees are subject to the same rules of engagement as foreign troops.
But if an American GI draws and uses his weapon in an off-duty bar brawl, he will be subject to the US judicial military code. If an American guard employed by the US company ITT in Tuzla does the same, he answers to Bosnian law. By definition these companies are frequently operating in "failed states" where national law is notional. The risk is the employees can literally get away with murder.
Or lesser, but appalling crimes. Dyncorp, for example, a Pentagon favourite, has the contract worth tens of millions of dollars to train an Iraqi police force. It also won the contracts to train the Bosnian police and was implicated in a grim sex slavery scandal, with its employees accused of rape and the buying and selling of girls as young as 12. A number of employees were fired, but never prosecuted. The only court cases to result involved the two whistleblowers who exposed the episode and were sacked.
"Dyncorp should never have been awarded the Iraqi police contract," said Madeleine Rees, the chief UN human rights officer in Sarajevo.
Of the two court cases, one US police officer working for Dyncorp in Bosnia, Kathryn Bolkovac, won her suit for wrongful dismissal. The other involving a mechanic, Ben Johnston, was settled out of court. Mr Johnston's suit against Dyncorp charged that he "witnessed co-workers and supervisors literally buying and selling women for their own personal enjoyment, and employees would brag about the various ages and talents of the individual slaves they had purchased".
There are other formidable problems surfacing in what is uncharted territory - issues of loyalty, accountability, ideology, and national interest. By definition, a private military company is in Iraq or Bosnia not to pursue US, UN, or EU policy, but to make money.
The growing clout of the military services corporations raises questions about an insidious, longer-term impact on governments' planning, strategy and decision-taking.
The article has been shortened.
Although this is a 2003 article this situation is actually expanding in the war zones with $50 billion and more budgeted this year.
The charge is that the wars are being turned over to contractors to escape army HR violations.
A new type of warfare of private insurgency counter measures and assassinations.