Thursday, December 11
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
Ian Traynor, The Guardian, December 10, 2003
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. [...more]
When America launched its invasion in March, the battleships in the Gulf were manned by US navy personnel. But alongside them sat civilians from four companies operating some of the world's most sophisticated weapons systems.
When the unmanned Predator drones, the Global Hawks, and the B-2 stealth bombers went into action, their weapons systems, too, were operated and maintained by non-military personnel working for 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 biggest US military base built since Vietnam, Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo, was constructed and continues to be serviced by private contractors. At Tuzla in northern Bosnia, headquarters for US peacekeepers, everything that can be farmed out to private businesses has been. The bill so far runs to more than $5bn. The contracts include those to the US company ITT, which supplies the armed guards, overwhelmingly US private citizens, at US installations.
In Israel, a US company supplies the security for American diplomats, a very risky business. In Colombia, a US company flies the planes destroying the coca plantations and the helicopter gunships protecting them, in what some would characterise as a small undeclared war.
In Kabul, a US company provides the bodyguards to try to save President Hamid Karzai from assassination, ... [...more]