The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Military contractors:
The hidden face of a dirty war

Jan 19, 2004

As the war in Iraq rages, the use of secret operations is increasing – both by the U.S. military's own "Special Forces" and by private military contractors, that is, hired mercenaries.

According to The New York Times, private military contractors have 20,000 mercenaries stationed in Iraq, and their numbers are growing.

In recent years, the presence of military contractors in U.S. wars and military operations has increased significantly. During the Persian Gulf War of 1991, one in every 50 people on the battlefield was an American mercenary, fighting under a contract. In Bosnia in 1996, that ratio was one in 10.

Government officials say they use private military contractors because it's cost-effective. That's a blatant lie – one thing military contractors aren't is cheap. Precise figures are difficult to find due to the secretive nature of the industry, but figures that are known give an idea. The Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root, for example, received 2.2 billion dollars to provide "logistics support" to U.S. troops in Bosnia. DynCorp's annual income is nearly two billion dollars. The global mercenary market is estimated at 100 billion dollars.

But using private contractors instead of enlisted troops does offer the U.S. government many advantages. The mercenaries don't show in official troop figures, for example, which is very important for Bush in an election year when he keeps repeating that more U.S. troops will not be needed in Iraq. Nor do mercenaries show in death figures when they get killed.

The government can use private contractors in situations where it would be embarrassing to use regular military personnel. In 1995, for example, the U.S. government referred Military Professional Resources Inc. (MPRI), a military contractor which employs dozens of retired U.S. generals, to the Croatian government. MPRI was hired to train the Croatian militia – which the U.S. government was officially not allowed to do due to a U.N. ban on aiding the warring parties.

Soon afterwards, the Croatian militia carried out "Operation Storm," one of that war's most notorious acts of ethnic cleansing, driving over 100,000 ethnic Serbs from their homes and killing hundreds, if not thousands, of civilians in the process. Later on, MPRI was hired by the Bosnian Muslim government also. The money came from Muslim governments such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates and Malaysia, who deposited the money in the U.S. Treasury for MPRI to draw against. In Afghanistan, DynCorp has been providing security for President Hamid Karzai. DynCorp gained some publicity in the 1990s, after its employees were found to be running a sex-slave ring of young women and teenage girls in Bosnia.

Everything indicates that the U.S. will be relying more and more on such private contractors and their mercenaries in Iraq.

They will fit in very well with the vicious campaign the military is carrying out against civilians, like "Operation Iron Hammer," which involves bombings of neighborhoods, nighttime raids and mass arrests. And they'll get along well with increasing numbers of Saddam Hussein's secret police, whom the U.S. has also enlisted in this war against the population.

The Bush administration has been using mercenaries in Iraq not because they are cheap, but because they are very well-suited for the type of war being carried out against the Iraqi people.