"They travel in armoured SUVs, ostentatiously carrying powerful weapons - assault rifles, sidearms, grenades - and they shoot and arrest people just as the soldiers do but minus the uniform and legal status. They're paid around $1,000 a day, considerably more than the regular soldiers or police officers which they used to be, work six weeks on and three off with paid flights home at the end of each tour. The advantage for the US is that their deaths and injuries don't show up on the figures for troop casualties. They are the bodyguards.
"Jo Wilding said it best in her piece on the incident when four 'contractors' were killed, sparking off the siege of Falluja by US Marines.
""We arrived back just after the incident in Falluja where the contractors were shot, burnt, mutilated and dragged through the streets. The scenes themselves, on satellite TV in a friend's house, were shocking, all the more so because the dead men were described as civilians.
"But what if they were soldiers, armed men who signed up for war and were paid to fight it? They were shot dead in an ambush - what was done to their bodies afterwards was distressing no matter what, but if they were soldiers, they were killed in action. The truth of course is that they were somewhere in between, mercenaries from US firm Blackwater Security, given a contract by USAID to protect contractors".
"And it's not just the US government engaging the services of these private armies, operating on the very edges of legality in the shadowy world of close protection. Britain's own Foreign and Commonwealth Office employs civilian close protection officers from UK firm Control Risks Group amongst others to look after its staff and secondees deployed to Iraq. Global Risk International, another British private military contractor has had as many as 1,200 of its personnel in Iraq making it effectively the sixth-largest contributor to the Coaliton Forces. Most of its uniformed troops are either Nepalese Gurkhas or demobilised Fijian soldiers....
"There exists an uneasy relationship between the various subcultures of close protection officer in Iraq, and I witnessed a diverse range of nationalities and abilities working for different agencies. Senior officials representing the British Governemnt in Iraq such as Sir Jeremy Greenstock or Christopher Segar are protected by the professionals - members of the army's Royal Military Police close protection squads. The rest of the British contingent in Iraq are looked after by amed civillians under contract to private security companies. The British contingent from CRG were for the most part, extremely professional, courteous and low profile. Most were drawn from the various branches of the UK military, with a number of ex- Royal Military Police close protection officers amongst their number. I met at least two who were serving police officers with firearms experience and who had resigned from the police specifically to take up positions in Iraq. They were under no illusions about the longevity of the role, taking the money and flirting with the danger for as long as it was worthwhile.
"The Americans on the other hand - especially those looking after Bremer himself - were the polar opposite - loud, brash and arrogant. They wore a de facto 'uniform' which although it was of their own choosing, looked to have been formed by common consent from a depot of Banana Republic. They parade around wearing Oakley sunglasses, wearing flak jackets and vests laden with ephemera - radios, grenades, spare cartridges and magazines - curly wires trailing to their ears whilst they cradle automatic weapons aggressively in front of them. Beige cargo pants, held up by a gunbelt bearing a personal sidearm seemed to be the order of the day and their attitude made them no friends, especially amongst the soldiers and journalists who their work often brought them into contact with.
""They act like they're God's gift to combat operations" complained one soldier to me, "Swanning around with weapons and equipment every bit as powerful as anything in our armoury, but without any of the legal framework that we have to work within. They're rude, aggressive and to be honest, their attitudes piss us guys off so I dread to think how the Iraqis view them".
Julian Borger in Washington
Friday April 30, 2004
"Graphic photographs showing the torture and sexual abuse of Iraqi prisoners in a US-run prison outside Baghdad emerged yesterday from a military inquiry which has left six soldiers facing a possible court martial and a general under investigation.
The scandal has also brought to light the growing and largely unregulated role of private contractors in the interrogation of detainees.
"According to lawyers for some of the soldiers, they claimed to be acting in part under the instruction of mercenary interrogators hired by the Pentagon.
"US military investigators discovered the photographs, which include images of a hooded prisoner with wires fixed to his body, and nude inmates piled in a human pyramid.
"The pictures, which were obtained by an American TV network, also show a dog attacking a prisoner and other inmates being forced to simulate sex with each other. It is thought the abuses took place in November and December last year.
"The pictures from Abu Ghraib prison have shocked the US army.
"Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, deputy director of operations for the US military in Iraq, expressed his embarrassment and regret for what had happened. He told the CBS current affairs programme 60 Minutes II: "If we can't hold ourselves up as an example of how to treat people with dignity and respect, we can't ask that other nations do that to our soldiers."
"Gen Kimmitt said the investigation began in January when an American soldier reported the abuse and turned over evidence that included photographs. "That soldier said: 'There are some things going on here that I can't live with'."
"The inquiry had centred on the 800th Brigade which is based in Uniondale, New York.
"The US army confirmed that the general in charge of Abu Ghraib jail is facing disciplinary measures and that six low-ranking soldiers have been charged with abusing and sexually humiliating detainees.
"Lawyers for the soldiers argue they are being made scapegoats for a rogue military prison system in which mercenaries give orders without legal accountability.
"A military report into the Abu Ghraib case - parts of which were made available to the Guardian - makes it clear that private contractors were supervising interrogations in the prison, which was notorious for torture and executions under Saddam Hussein.
"One civilian contractor was accused of raping a young male prisoner but has not been charged because military law has no jurisdiction over him...." [more]
"BAGHDAD, April 30 (Reuters) - Iraq has lost the only short-term option to finance oil projects by scrapping a $1.4 billion borrowing plan, raising more doubt about its ability to sustain output, industry insiders said on Friday.
"The occupied country has quietly rejected the debt offer from a U.S.-led banking consortium, which involved mortgaging oil exports, as consensus is lacking on how to invite foreign companies and political instability discourages investment.
""It was a good borrowing plan, based on technical needs and lacking the political interference we usually experience in Iraq," a well-connected Western oil executive told Reuters.
""They basically had no other option. Foreign investors will not come and invest in oil field development until there is an energy law they could rely on," he added.
"Iraq needs to finance dozens of projects designed to help double production to five million barrels per day in the next five years. The plans include setting up a national oil company to run the sector as a new government works out how to invite foreign investment without compromising national ownership.
"Iraq's oil revenue is under U.S. control and will remain so until a "representative" government is in place as stipulated by a U.N. resolution last year. Most of the oil revenue in the 2004 budget was spent on paying government salaries so far.
"The oil sector has been facing production problems since the 1990 crippling economic embargo. Postwar looting and sabotage compounded the problem.
"Private engineers say problems abound, including more wells becoming unusable from lack of maintenance and power to inject water. Crude oil pumping capacity is also weak...." [more]
"ORLANDO, Fla. - As the insurgency and violence in Iraq intensify, the Department of Defense has proposed a new rule for most of the estimated 70,000 civilian contractors working in the war-torn region: They can't carry guns.
"At the same time, a top Defense Department official this week acknowledged publicly for the first time that the war effort was suffering a "brain drain" of civilian workers who were fleeing Iraq because they didn't feel safe.
"Truck convoys in Iraq are "more like a journey through the wild, wild west," Gen. Darryl A. Scott, the director of the Defense Contract Management Agency, told a conference of government and corporate contracting officials in Orlando, Fla.
""That's a reality there. People leave every day. ... It does make operating in that environment more difficult."
"It's unclear how many civilian contractors have fled Iraq and how many have been killed there because firms aren't required to report their casualties or any defections. Halliburton Inc., however, said 34 of its employees were killed in the region. Five other private security guard deaths have been publicly disclosed.
"On March 23, the Defense Department proposed a rule saying that civilian contractors who accompany the military in battle areas can't carry private firearms unless they received permission by an order from the chief of U.S. forces in the area. That restriction has prompted heated discussions at the 45th annual National Contract Management Association convention.
"Deidre Lee, the Pentagon's director of procurement and acquisition policy, whose office proposed the weapons restriction, said it's designed to settle one of the biggest questions facing contractors: "to arm or not to arm."
"Lee said this is a life-or-death issue because "we don't have the military providing security for our contractors."
"Lee told Knight Ridder Newspapers that the proposed rule could change depending on contractor reaction. The official comment period ends in late May, but there's no timetable for a final regulation. In the meantime, some contractors are carrying guns.
"Many private workers in the region are ex-military personnel and prefer to be armed, said Cathy Etheredge, a contract manager for BAE Systems, which provides information technology in Afghanistan.
"The problem with the rule is that it tells contractors that they're responsible for their security, but then says they can't be armed, said Nick Sanders, who chairs the contract finance committee for the National Defense Industrial Association, a trade group for traditional defense contractors.
""It doesn't appear to be a well-thought-out, coherent policy," Sanders said. "It appears to be a one-way door where contractors will have all the responsibility and cost."
"Supporters of the new rule - including the biggest contractor in the area, Halliburton's Kellogg Brown and Root - said there are three big drawbacks in allowing contractors to carry weapons. Armed contractors would be more likely to be shot at or kidnapped. Also, as civilians, they don't follow the same strict rules of force as the military. And by picking up weapons, contractors could lose any death and accident insurance coverage they may have.
"Stan Soloway, president of the Professional Services Council, a trade organization that represents many top service-oriented contractors, said the proposed rule is "giving structure to what had been a somewhat gray area."
"Dennis Wright, a KBR vice president, said contract employees should be unarmed, but he strongly recommends using armed private security. He said KBR's contract with the Defense Department says the military would provide "adequate security" to the company, but then added that "the question that comes up is, `What is adequate security?' especially with the latest strain on forces."
"The weapons proposal comes as conditions in Iraq deteriorate.
"For much of 2003, Wright said, his employees were welcomed by Iraqis. But no longer...." [more]
"KUWAIT CITY, Kuwait -- Last fall, the U.S. military gave Halliburton Co.'s Kellogg Brown & Root unit a priority order to provide troops in Kuwait and Iraq with ice before summer came around again. The guidelines were minimal: "The contractor shall produce or subcontract and make available potable ice."
"KBR took these vague instructions to their limit. It built a plant in southern Kuwait with a walk-in freezer and delivery dock, and imported two industrial-size ice makers from east Texas that could churn out 40 tons a day. It hired 28 people to run the plant around the clock. And it put its stamp on every bag of ice that gets produced: "KBR Iceworks Inc. Serving the U.S. Military."
"The deluxe ice service shows how KBR has made the most of its unique and powerful role as the sole provider of many support services to the military. But it also suggests why the company faces tough questions from government auditors about overbilling, complaints from suppliers about lost paperwork and missed payments, and a scathing appraisal of its internal controls from KBR's in-house investigative team.
"KBR's contract with the military contains big incentives to deliver goods and services in a hurry to keep Army brass happy -- with little attention to the cost or efficiency of the solution. The intense conditions of wartime, where last-minute orders are a matter of course, only increase the pressure to pay whatever is necessary to complete a job fast.
"At the same time, KBR has been surprised by how quickly its responsibilities expanded as the occupation of Iraq progressed. Many of its systems, from procurement to billing, got overloaded, creating a breeding ground for potential corruption and more inflated prices -- not to mention inefficiency on a huge scale.
"Now the Pentagon's auditing agency is investigating KBR on several fronts, including whether it overcharged the U.S. for fuel purchased in Kuwait and whether it billed for thousands of meals that weren't provided. The problems uncovered so far, says the Pentagon's lead auditing agency, are "systemic."
"In Kuwait, where the bulk of KBR's back-office operations are handled, paperwork is routinely lost and purchased equipment is unaccounted for. Vendors are upset about millions of dollars in payments that are months late. The top U.S. military officer in Iraq complained in March that its operations are being hindered by delayed logistical support. Things have only gotten tougher for KBR during the heavy fighting in Iraq over the past couple of weeks, as the company has been forced to halt convoys and take other safety measures.
"Moreover, because KBR hasn't formally detailed all its expenses, the government has begun withholding some payments to the company. Though Halliburton has billed the government for nearly $3 billion, as much as $1.2 billion hasn't been reimbursed. The company has warned that a move to withhold more payments could hurt Halliburton's liquidity. Further, the stain of its performance woes could keep it from winning contracts in the future...." [more]
"WASHINGTON (AP) Some days, private security guards in Iraq look simply like well-armed rent-a-cops. Other days, they look like soldiers engaged in full-bore combat.
"That blurring of lines between active-duty soldiers and contracted security personnel is causing unease in Congress, as violence continues to rise in Iraq. Some lawmakers worry that private security forces operate too far outside U.S. military control and laws. And experts wonder what would happen if a contractor did something tragically wrong, like shoot an Iraqi child.
"Thirteen Democrats wrote Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld this month to argue that providing security in a hostile area is a classic mission for the military.
'"'It would be a dangerous precedent if the United States allowed the presence of private armies operating outside the control of a governmental authority and beholden only to those that pay them,'' wrote the Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota.
"In Iraq, they said, the private armies need proper screening and supervision, or they could increase Iraqi resentment.
"Roughly 20,000 private security contractors from dozens of companies operate in Iraq under contract with the Coalition Provisional Authority, the U.S.-led governing body in Iraq, plus the Defense Department and other U.S. agencies. Thousands more are on assignments for the United States and others worldwide, including in Afghanistan, taking on jobs like guarding officials, protecting buildings and supply convoys, and training police and soldiers.
"Inside the Pentagon, some see these private security contractors as a smart way to plug holes left by post-Cold War downsizing and the added demands of the war on terror. Indeed, many of the security contractors once were in the military, including retired Special Forces and Navy SEALs, who can be dispatched quickly into a variety of missions.
"As the violence swells, the contractors have evolved into supplemental forces and taken on risks as they find themselves in shootouts or targets of the insurgency.
"Citing security concerns, defense officials won't talk about the rules covering contractors' use of force. Although experts say the policy can vary by contract, private contractors generally are allowed to fire in self-defense but not to fire first.
"Even so, they have been involved in several firefights from Mosul in the north to Najaf in the south, and at least a handful of security contractors have died.
'"'It's the Wild West,'' said Peter Singer, an expert on the privatized military industry and a foreign policy fellow at the Brookings Institution think tank in Washington...." [more]
"WASHINGTON -- Ten companies with billions of dollars in U.S. contracts for Iraq reconstruction have paid more than $300 million in penalties since 2000 to resolve allegations of bid rigging, fraud, delivery of faulty military parts and environmental damage.
"The United States is paying more than $780 million to one British firm that was convicted of fraud on three federal construction projects and banned from U.S. government work during 2002, according to an Associated Press review of government documents.
"A Virginia company convicted of rigging bids for U.S.-funded projects in Egypt also has been awarded Iraq contracts worth hundreds of millions. And a third firm found guilty of environmental violations and bid rigging won U.S. Army approval for a subcontract to clean up an Iraqi harbor.
"Seven other companies with Iraq reconstruction contracts have agreed to pay financial penalties without admitting wrongdoing. Together, the 10 companies have paid to resolve 30 alleged violations in the past four years. Six paid penalties more than once. But the companies have been awarded $7 billion in Iraq reconstruction contracts.
""We have not made firms pay the price when they screw up," said Peter W. Singer, a former Pentagon official who worked on a task force overseeing military and contract work in the Balkans.
""But it's not the company's fault if it has a dumb client. I'm not blaming the companies, I'm blaming the government," said Singer, now a fellow at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.
"The contracts are legal because the Bush administration repealed regulations put in place by the Clinton administration that would have allowed officials to bar new government work for companies convicted or penalized during the previous three years.
"Spokesmen for the companies defended the contracts, saying the penalties often were for violations committed years ago or by subsidiaries unrelated to the ones working in Iraq. Spokeswoman Pamela Blossom said AMEC, the convicted British firm, wrote new company ethics rules after its punishment.
""None of the people involved are with the company any more," said Blossom, whose firm paid $1.2 million in fines for contract fraud on projects in California and Missouri. "We're a much better company now."
"Federal regulations require government contractors to have a "satisfactory record of integrity and business ethics." The government can ban unethical companies from getting new contracts through a process called debarment.
"Companies often avoid debarment by agreeing to settle misconduct cases and pay penalties without admitting guilt. AMEC was the only one of the 10 punished Iraq contractors ever debarred, and it was banned for just one year...." [more]
"One senior American officer said that in any urban fight, American troops could turn Falluja into 'a killing field in a couple of days…' One senior American officer said, 'How Falluja is resolved has huge reverberations, not just in Iraq but throughout the entire area.' Or, as another senior officer put it, 'We have the potential to turn this into the Alamo if we get it wrong.'" (Eric Schmitt, U.S. General at Falluja Warns a Full Attack Could Come Soon, the New York Times)...
"Imagine that: The Iraqis of Fallujah in "the Alamo" and a British "security contractor," with previous experience in Northern Ireland, working for the oddly named Custer Battles, a Virginia "security firm," and dying in the Iraqi town of Hit. Custer Battles, by the way, also " has the airport security contract in Baghdad. Airport security in this context does not mean bored attendees standing by an X-ray machine, but rather former Green Berets and Ghurka fighters defending the airport from mortars, rockets and snipers."
"So we now have potential Iraqi Davy Crocketts and Jim Bowies facing off against the modern equivalent of "the Seventh Cavalry," filled with Gurkhas, Chileans of the Pinochet regime, South African former death squad members, former British special forces officers, American ex-Seals and the like amid what Alissa Rubin of the Los Angeles Times calls a "culture of impunity" in Iraq. Though she's referring to the world of Iraqi kidnappers and assassins, the word "impunity," which means "exemption from punishment, penalty, or harm," and has an old-fashioned imperial edge to it, also catches something of the Bush administration stance toward Iraq and the greater world.
"The men of Custer Battles guard Baghdad's airport, while the men of Blackwater USA -- if still waters run deep, how do blackwaters run, and where do they get these names? -- four of whom were killed and mutilated in Fallujah, provide the fulltime security team of ten guarding our "administrator" in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, and various members of the Iraqi Governing Council. They are part of a new word and world order taking disheveled shape in what may indeed become the "killing fields" of Iraq, an order that we have no reasonable language whatsoever to describe...." [more]
By Christine Spolar and Vincent J. Schodolski, Tribune correspondents
"BAGHDAD -- Rubar Sandi climbed into an armored car, propped an automatic rifle between his knees, slapped another next to his right thigh and adjusted a pair of aviator sunglasses across his broad face.
"He gave a quick nod to his driver and two bodyguards perched with guns on the front and back seats. Sandi, an Iraqi-American financier working with the U.S.-led coalition, was ready for another workday in this unsettled capital.
""You just try to suit yourself for the environment," said Sandi, cocooned inside a thick-walled Trasco four-wheel-drive vehicle that can "handle everything but a missile."
""Hopefully, it deters the bad guys," he said.
"Sandi's precautions for a trip to a construction site in Baghdad reflect a new level of peril in doing business in Iraq and another threat to the coalition's multibillion-dollar reconstruction effort. Recently insurgents and kidnappers have preyed on foreigners--notably contractors, businessmen and journalists--and have seriously disrupted the economic recovery.
"About 40 foreigners from a dozen nations have been abducted in the past few weeks, according to the U.S. military. At least seven U.S. civilian contractors and a U.S. soldier have died after being caught in ambushes. A Danish businessman and an Italian hostage also were found dead in the past two weeks.
"Reconstruction in Iraq's hot spots from Baghdad to the south stalled this month as attacks surged. Work in relatively calmer cities, such as Mosul in the north and Basra in the south, stuttered but largely recovered.
"U.S. government officials estimate that work has been derailed at 10 percent of Iraq's work sites because of fears, threats of attack and a slowdown of supplies from Kuwait, Jordan and the port of Umm Qasr. Other coalition officials said privately that productivity has been hit much harder.
"U.S.-financed contractors are spending a quarter of their money to protect workers and insure their projects, according to U.S. officials monitoring the work.
""The security issue has caused problems getting subcontractors to projects when they were supposed to be there and supplies when they were supposed to be there," said James Hicks, a coalition senior adviser for electricity. "In this kind of environment, it is hard to move things around."..." [more]
SUPPLY AND COMMAND The Pentagon has been embracing just-in-time delivery, outsourcing and other business 'best practices' for years. But does bottom-line thinking belong on the battlefield?
By Ian Garrick Mason
"IF YOU READ the business press, it's easy to get the impression that the civilian and military worlds are perfectly analogous. In their daily work, CEOs plan "strategies," COOs execute "tactics," and market researchers collect "intelligence." Weak firms are vulnerable to "hostile takeovers," and "guerrilla marketing" was last decade's hot trend. Sun Tzu's "The Art of War" is a perennial presence on the business shelves.
"Yet as the recent news from Iraq attests, the intersection of business and the military is more than metaphorical. Outsourcing has become not just a domestic but a foreign policy issue, as controversy swirls around the Pentagon's dependence on private security firms whose approximately 20,000 employees effectively form the second-largest armed contingent in the US-led coalition. Increasingly, private contractors have become targets of insurgent attacks: The four Americans killed and mutilated in Fallujah earlier this month were employed by the security firm Blackwater USA, and attacks on civilian convoy drivers working for Halliburton contributed to the coalition authority's decision to close major portions of the highways leading into Baghdad.
"For all the dangers, however, the American military's embrace of private business is unlikely to slacken any time soon, particularly in the critical area of logistics -- the unglamorous but all-important job of getting the right materials and supplies to the right people at the right time. The military has been learning from the corporate world and applying business technology and practices to its own logistics challenges for many years now. While the benefits have been real, recent experience in Iraq raises the question of whether this military-business convergence is reaching its practical limits.
"Today, William "Gus" Pagonis, senior vice president for Supply Chain for Sears, Roebuck & Company, is responsible for Sears' logistics functions. But back in 1991, he was Commanding General of the 22d Support Command, responsible for all logistical operations during the Gulf War. "My transition from the military to Sears was a piece of cake," he says. "Instead of moving ammo, I move dresses."
"Pagonis, who wrote "Moving Mountains: Lessons in Leadership and Logistics from the Gulf War" (1992), is emphatic on the parallels between civilian and military logistics. "There's a 100 percent overlap, in my personal opinion," he says. "A soldier carrying a rifle has to kill the enemy, and he's your customer. Everyone else is supporting that person -- the guys that buy the rifles, buy the uniforms, fly the planes. In the civilian world, the consumer is the center, and everything else is based around that."..." [more]
"WASHINGTON - U.S.-financed contractors rebuilding Iraq are spending a quarter of their money to protect workers and insure their projects, according to American officials monitoring the work.
"Coupled with the current instability, the siphoning of resources from reconstruction to security is slowing work on projects like building roads and refurbishing electric plants, the officials said.
"President Bush and Congress approved $87 billion last fall for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. That included $18.4 billion to restore Iraq's economy and government by repairing and building facilities and training Iraqis.
"Stuart W. Bowen Jr., inspector general for the Coalition Provisional Authority, cited estimates that contractors were spending 10 to 15 percent of their money for security costs earlier this year.
"That figure "could go as high as 25 percent" due to the recent anti-American violence, said Bowen, a figure that is in line with estimates by other provisional authority officials.
""All I can say is the substantially increased threat level has obviously added a drag on construction project execution," Bowen told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from Baghdad. The provisional authority is the U.S.-led agency that has been administering Iraq since the downfall of Saddam Hussein.
"In what officials fear could be a vicious cycle, the slowdown in the work means fewer jobs and essential services for the Iraqi people. That, in turn, could feed the dissatisfaction that has helped spawn hostility toward the American occupiers.
""One of the things that would help the security situation is for us to move forward with this work, to employ Iraqis, to provide work for Iraqi contractors and Iraqi suppliers," Navy Capt. Bruce A. Cole, spokesman for the provisional authority's program management office, said from Baghdad.
""The sooner we can provide people an opportunity to support their families and improve their local areas, the faster there will be a positive impact on the security situation here," he said.
"Last week, giant construction companies Siemens AG, Bechtel and General Electric said they had suspended work on some projects because of the instability.
"Bowen said those companies' decisions to halt work are "isolated instances." But he added, "If the threat level remains high, they may become more than just isolated instances."..." [more]
"Iraq's Governing Council is investigating fraud claims against Halliburton, the US construction giant which has won the lion's share of contracts to rebuild the bombed-out country.
"The probe centres on allegations that staff working for the Houston-based company took bribes for awarding sub-contracts in Iraq. In January the company, which was run by US Vice-President Dick Cheney between 1995 and 2000, sacked two employees over the allegations and reported the incident to the Pentagon.
"In an exclusive interview with The Independent on Sunday, Iraq's minister of public works, Nasreen Berwari, said: "Members of the Iraqi Governing Council are posing questions. I am worried about any companies having such allegations. I am yet to hear what is the real story. I always look for the real story."
"Asked whether the US-appointed Governing Council would press for Halliburton to be stripped of some of its contracts if it uncovered wrongdoing, Dr Berwari said: "We would take that very seriously and we will pursue that."
"The Pentagon has launched a separate criminal investigation into claims that Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root overcharged for transporting fuel into Iraq from Kuwait. Halliburton and Kellogg Brown & Root have emerged as the biggest winners in the aftermath of the war. Together they have netted $9bn (£5bn) worth of Iraqi reconstruction contracts.
"But in the past few months, Halliburton has been mired in controversy. It is facing another investigation over its business dealings in Iran. The US Treasury Department is attempting to establish whether Halliburton broke trade embargoes...." [more]
"A corporate military monster is being created in Iraq.
"The U.S. government is relying on private military contractors like never before.
"Approximately 15,000 military contractors, maybe more, are now working in Iraq. The four Americans brutally killed and mutilated in Fallujah March 31 were part of this informal army of occupation.
"Contractors are complicating traditional norms of military command and control, and challenging the basic norms of accountability that are supposed to govern the government's use of violence. Human rights abuses go unpunished. Reliance on poorly monitored contractors is bleeding the public treasury. The contractors are simultaneously creating opportunities for the government to evade public accountability, and, in Iraq at least, are on the verge of evolving into an independent force at least somewhat beyond the control of the U.S. military. And, as the contractors grow in numbers and political influence, their power to entrench themselves and block reform is growing.
"Whatever the limitations of the military code of justice and its in-practice application, the code does not apply to the modern-day mercenaries. Indeed, the mechanisms by which the contractors are held responsible for their behavior, and disciplined for mistreating civilians or committing human rights abuses -- all too easy for men with guns in a hostile environment -- are fuzzy.
"It is unclear exactly what law applies to the contractors, explains Peter W. Singer, author of Corporate Warriors (Cornell University Press, 2003) and a leading authority on private military contracting. They do not fall under international law on mercenaries, which is defined narrowly. Nor does the national law of the United States clearly apply to the contractors in Iraq -- especially because many of the contractors are not Americans.
"Relatedly, many firms do not properly screen those they hire to patrol the streets in foreign nations. "Lives, soldiers' and civilians' welfare, human rights, are all at stake," says Singer. "But we have left it up to very raw market forces to figure out who can work for these firms, and who they can work for."
"There are already more than a few examples of what can happen, notable among them accusations that Dyncorp employees were involved in sex trafficking of young girls in Bosnia.
"In general, the performance of the private military firms is horribly under-monitored.
"Sometimes the lack of monitoring is a boon to the government agencies that hire the contractors. Although there are firm limits on the kinds of operations that U.S. troops can conduct in Colombia, Singer notes, "it has been pretty loosey-goosey on the private contractor side." The contractors are working with the Colombian military to defeat the guerilla insurgency in Colombia -- unconstrained by Congressionally imposed limits on what U.S. soldiers in Colombia may do.
"Meanwhile, in Iraq, a problem of a whole different sort is starting to emerge.
"The security contractors are already involved in full-fledged battlefield operations, increasingly so as the insurgency in Iraq escalates.
"A few days after the Americans were killed in Fallujah, Blackwater Security Consulting engaged in full-scale battle in Najaf, with the company flying its own helicopters amidst an intense firefight to resupply its own commandos.
"Now, reports the Washington Post, the security firms are networking formally, "organizing what may effectively be the largest private army in the world, with its own rescue teams and pooled, sensitive intelligence."
"Because many of the security contractors work for the Coalition Provisional Authority, as opposed to the U.S. military, they are not integrated into the military's operations. "Under assault by insurgents and unable to rely on U.S. and coalition troops for intelligence or help under duress," according to the Post, the contractors are banding together.
"Private occupying commandos? Corporate military helicopters in a battlefield situation? An integrated occupation private intelligence network?
"Isn't this just obviously a horrible idea?..." [more]
"Continued violence across Iraq has forced German engineering company Siemens AG to pull its employees out of the war-torn country and U.S.-based General Electric Co. is suspending some of its rebuilding projects, an Iraqi government official said yesterday.
"The sharp increase this month in attacks against civilian contractors by insurgents in Iraq is threatening critical efforts to restore the country's infrastructure, from electricity to water service.
"Siemens refused to confirm the comments by Iraqi Electricity Minister Ayham Al-Samarrai in an Associated Press interview. Siemens spokeswoman Paula Davis would not say whether the company expected to meet its contract deadlines.
"U.S. contractors such as General Electric and Bechtel Corp. have said recently that they suspended some projects temporarily amid the most violent month since the conflict began in March 2003.
"Last month, gunmen killed a Briton and Canadian serving as security guards for General Electric engineers. The Fairfield, Conn., electric and media company is supplying Iraq with power generation and water treatment.
"Bechtel, a San Francisco construction firm that has two Iraqi contracts worth up to $2.8 billion, halted work at 10 percent of its sites, mostly in central and southern Iraq, said spokesman Howard Menaker.
"The attacks this month also have kept 10 percent of the 850 non-Iraqi workers with the U.S. Agency for International Development, part of the State Department that handles some of the reconstruction contracts, out of the country.
"Houston oil conglomerate Halliburton Co., which has $3.6 billion worth of contracts that include putting out oil fires and serving meals to troops, continues operations but has suffered 33 employee deaths in the region...." [more]
"MANISTEE, Mich., April 21 -- Stephen Hulett returned from his Christmas holiday with news for his co-workers at a trucking company here: He was quitting to go make big money in Iraq.
""He said he needed more money to help send his kids to college," said Bonnie Bigalke, president of Kowalski Distributing Co. where Hulett, 48, was a driver. "But we were worried for him. We all talked and said maybe he shouldn't go. I can appreciate that he wanted to make things better for his family, but the price is just so devastating."
"The price became clear this week when Halliburton Co. announced that Hulett was one of three of its employees killed during an attack on a fuel convoy in Iraq earlier this month. The Houston-based company identified the others as Jack Montague, 52, of Pittsburg, Ill., and Jeffery Parker, 45, of Lake Charles, La.
"Here in Manistee, a port town on Lake Michigan, the Rev. Marc Eix at Faith Covenant Church formed a prayer circle for Hulett's family when it was determined that he was missing. "We have prayed about the tragedy and the suffering and difficulty for those who have been" in Iraq, he said.
"Families and friends in each of the men's home towns are grieving. And in Macon, Miss., the community anxiously awaits word on another missing Halliburton worker, Thomas Hamill, who was seen held hostage in video footage after the attack but has not been heard from.
"All the men were described as hard workers who had weighed their options and determined that Iraq, with its six-figure, tax-free salaries, was too good to pass up. Each of the dead men, court records show, had previously filed for bankruptcy.
""Part of the motive may be the adventure of going to a new place and the patriotic motivation of helping out the U.S, with the higher wage compensating for the greater risk and the less pleasant working conditions," said Barry R. Chiswick, who heads the economics department at the University of Illinois-Chicago...." [more]
"The insurgency in Iraq has driven two major contractors, General Electric and Siemens, to suspend most of their operations there, raising new doubts about the American-led effort to rebuild the country as hostilities continue.
"Spokesmen for the contractors declined to discuss their operations in Iraq, citing security concerns, but the shutdowns were confirmed by officials at the Iraqi Ministry of Electricity, the Coalition Provisional Authority and other companies working directly with G.E. and Siemens in Iraq.
""Between the G.E. lockdown and the inability to get materials moved up the major supply routes, about everything is being affected in one way or another," said Jim Hicks, a senior adviser for electricity at the provisional authority.
"The suspensions and travel restrictions are delaying work on about two dozen power plants as occupying forces press to meet an expected surge in demand for electricity before the summer. Mr. Hicks said plants that had been expected to produce power by late April or early May might not be operating until June 1.
""While it's being affected, it's not shutting down," he said of the work. "I think we're still in good shape as far as getting our equipment back up before the summer really hits us."
"Several government and company officials said reconstruction work had rebounded recently after the intense violence of the past few weeks, but experts said they were concerned the delays might affect ordinary Iraqis.
'"What worries me is that, are the insurgents, the terrorists, are they winning the battle this way?" asked Isam al Khafaji, an Iraqi who is director of Iraq Revenue Watch, an initiative of the Open Society Institute, an organization backed by the billionaire George Soros.
"Electricity, he added, "is the most important sector for the Iraqis after security."
""This will be affecting, really, people's everyday lives," he said. [more]
At this hour, no news report I've found has mentioned Northrup Grumman's Vinnell Corporation in connection with the recent bombing in Saudi Arabia (see their site's "Hot Opportunities: Saudi Arabian National Guard Modernization Program.")
But they've been targeted before. Soon, we can hope the reporting will catch up with the news.
"AMMAN, Jordan, April 21 -- A suicide bomber detonated explosives packed in a car Wednesday in front of a heavily guarded building housing the security police in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh, killing at least four people and wounding 148.
"U.S. and Saudi officials said they suspected the powerful explosion that sheared off the facade of the five-story building was carried out by al Qaeda.
""They appear to be striking back at Saudi authorities who have launched a number of raids over the past weeks," said a senior U.S. counterterrorism official in Washington, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
"If it was carried out by al Qaeda, the bombing would signal a new level of audacity and operational success in Saudi Arabia for the group, whose leader, Osama bin Laden, a native of the kingdom, has declared his intent to wage war against the ruling Saud family.
"The assailants "are not who they claim to be: people of Islam," said Prince Nayef, the interior minister, as he toured a Riyadh hospital where victims of the bombing were taken. "They are criminals. Every Saudi citizen should be a security person. For the criminals, they should turn themselves in. The right hand will catch them, today or tomorrow."
"Saudi officials offered differing accounts of how the bomber was able to come within 100 feet of the General Security building, headquarters of police forces that investigate common crimes, traffic accidents, and other minor offenses. One Saudi official described the building as the kingdom's equivalent of the department of motor vehicles.
"The bombing took place in the Nassiriyah neighborhood, which contains government buildings, including the Foreign Ministry, and private homes and businesses...." [more]
"It's one thing for the military to outsource food and laundry services to private firms, as it started doing aggressively in the 1990's, but it's quite another to outsource the actual fighting. That is what the Pentagon is perilously close to doing in Iraq.
"The grisly deaths of four American security contractors in Falluja last month underscored America's troubling reliance on hired guns. After the 130,000 American troops, the nearly 20,000 people employed by private security firms now form the second-largest contingent — surpassing the British — in the coalition of the willing, although a private guard's services cost as much as $1,500 a day.
"The benign term "security guard" does not convey the true role of these armed men, many of them former military commandos lured into retirement by bigger paychecks. They are hardly sitting behind desks and signing visitors into office buildings, and not all of them are doing what would be more appropriate tasks, like guarding oil wells. Hired guns are charged with the security of the occupation authority's headquarters in Baghdad, and of Paul Bremer III, the American proconsul.
"Contractors from Blackwater USA, the employer of the four Americans savagely killed in Falluja, recently fought a full-fledged battle with militants in Najaf, and they were even able to call in a company-owned helicopter for air cover. The Pentagon seems to be outsourcing at least part of its core responsibilities for securing Iraq instead of facing up to the need for more soldiers.
"Increasingly relying on these loosely accountable contractors is bound to backfire. As the United States prepares to hand the sovereignty of Iraq back to its people, the fact that the Iraqi Army and police force are now being trained by a private company risks sending the message that loyalty is owed not to one's country, but to whoever gets the contract. It is difficult to coordinate the dozen or so private firms in Iraq, and there is little regulation of their training and recruitment.
"Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has pledged that the Pentagon will keep looking for ways to "outsource and privatize." When it comes to core security and combat roles, this is ill advised. The Pentagon should be recruiting and training more soldiers, rather than running the risk of creating a new breed of mercenaries."
"HOUSTON - Three of four bodies found near an attack on a fuel convoy in Iraq earlier this month were contract workers for Halliburton Co., the company said Tuesday.
"Stephen Hulett, 48, of Manistee, Mich.; Jack Montague, 52, of Pittsburg, Ill.; and Jeffery Parker, 45, of Lake Charles, La., "were brave hearts without medals, humanitarians without parades and heroes without statues," Houston-based Halliburton said in a statement confirming the identities of the workers.
"Thomas Hamill of Macon, Miss., the Halliburton worker seen on video after the convoy attack, remained unaccounted for.
"The fourth body has not been identified, Halliburton spokeswoman Wendy Hall said. In Baghdad, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said one of the four bodies had been identified as a non-American. He would not give the nationality or further details.
"Hulett, Montague, Parker and Hamill were among seven employees of Halliburton subsidiary KBR, formerly known as Kellogg, Brown & Root, missing since an April 9 attack on their convoy west of Baghdad. The bodies of Hulett, Montague, Parker and the unidentified victim were found near the site of the attack.
"Two military men, Pfc. Keith M. Maupin and Sgt. Elmer C. Krause, also were unaccounted for, and Maupin, like Hamill, has been seen on video footage...." [more]
"ALEXANDRIA, Va. (Reuters) - A tearful former U.S. Air Force acquisitions official on Tuesday pleaded guilty to conspiracy for discussing a job with Boeing Co. (NYSE:BA - news) while still overseeing its business dealings with the Air Force.
"Darleen Druyun, 56, who retired as the Air Force's No. 2 acquisition official in November 2002 and took a job with Boeing two months later, agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, who are still investigating Michael Sears, the former Boeing chief financial officer who hired her.
""I deeply regret my actions," an emotional Druyun told Judge T.S. Ellis III in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.
"Druyun has been under investigation for possible conflicts of interest in a $23.5 billion Air Force plan to lease and buy 100 Boeing 767s as refueling planes, a deal sharply criticized by the Pentagon (news - web sites) inspector general and other agencies.
"Boeing fired Druyun and Sears on Nov. 24, saying the two violated company ethics rules by discussing a Boeing job for Druyun while she was still working on Boeing-related Air Force programs and then trying to cover it up. Boeing Chief Executive Officer Phil Condit resigned a week later.
"Druyun on Tuesday admitted negotiating the Boeing job while still at the Air Force and then trying to conceal the talks.
"She faces a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine and could be ordered to pay restitution.
"Under the terms of the plea agreement, Druyun has agreed to provide any information she has about criminal behavior and submit to a lie-detector test.
"The government agreed not to prosecute Druyun's daughter, Heather McKee -- who is still employed by Boeing -- for her role in facilitating communications between Druyun and a senior Boeing official who was not named in the plea agreement...." [more]
David R. Baker, Chronicle Staff Writer
Saturday, April 17, 2004
"One year after winning a $680 million contract to rebuild Iraq, San Francisco's Bechtel Corp. hasn't met some of the job's most important original goals.
"Drinkable water should be flowing in every Iraqi city by now, according to the contract. Instead, much of the country still drinks from rivers fouled by raw sewage. Iraq's power plants should be churning out 50 percent more electricity than they did before the war. Instead, power generation levels remain roughly the same.
"The U.S. government, however, won't hold Bechtel to those goals. The 12- month benchmarks included in the contract Bechtel signed last April 17 were abandoned as unrealistic soon after the company's engineers arrived in Iraq.
"Faced with a reality far different from what they expected, Bechtel and its government overseers reduced expectations of what could be fixed, how long repairs would take and how much money would be required.
""I'd almost call it a wish list," Cliff Mumm, head of Bechtel's operations in Iraq, said of the original contract in an interview from Baghdad. "To do that wish list, that probably would be $18 billion."
"Not all of the goals were ditched.
"Bechtel completed, on time, an immense survey of the country's infrastructure, which shaped all the work that followed. The company repaired Iraqi airports, although insurgents armed with rocket-propelled grenades keep them closed to most flights.
"Bechtel refurbished more than a thousand schools, although shoddy work by subcontractors at 80 of them required a second round of repairs.
"But much of the original contract bears little relation to Iraq's turbulent present. Instead, it illustrates the wide gulf between Washington's prewar expectations and the conditions reconstruction workers found on the ground.
""There were some fairly rosy predictions of what it might take to get things done," said Bathsheba Crocker, a reconstruction expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank who visited Iraq in July. "I think there was some expectation that it would be quite easy."..." [more]
* * *
Thanks, Simbaud, for the heads up.
"Darleen Druyun, former Boeing Deputy General Manager for Missile Defense Systems
ALEXANDRIA, Va. - A former Air Force official who took a job with Boeing is expected to plead guilty to a conspiracy charge in federal court in Virginia.
"Darleen Druyun could face up to five years in prison. She's been under investigation for her role in a $23 billion Air Force contract for 100 Boeing air tankers. At the time, in 2002, she also was talking with Boeing about a job with the company.
"Druyun was fired along with chief financial officer Mike Sears in November because of the contact.
"The air tanker contract has been on hold for the investigation.
"Druyun also has been accused of following improper procedures while negotiating a $1.3 billion contract with Boeing to upgrade NATO radar planes. Boeing has said it will renegotiate that deal."
'SPOILS OF WAR': Marketplace Series Airing April 20-23 Documents the Hidden Charges to Taxpayers of Corruption in Iraq
The Public Radio Business Program and the Center for Investigative Reporting
Document the Bribes, Thefts and Price Gouging Afflicting the Reconstruction
"LOS ANGELES, April 19 /PRNewswire/ -- Americans are spending $22 billion for the reconstruction of Iraq, the largest postwar reconstruction effort ever undertaken. But the lack of independent investigators -- both in the United States and in Baghdad -- has fueled corruption and inflated the cost to taxpayers. In a four-part series that will air this week, the public radio business program Marketplace highlights the bribes, thefts and price gouging that have marred the reconstruction project and threaten the future of Iraq.
"Reporting from Baghdad, Marketplace's Middle East Correspondent Adam Davidson tells the story through interviews with Iraqis who witness the corruption every day -- businessmen, accountants, shopkeepers, health officials and others. Reporting from Washington, Mark Schapiro of the Center for Investigative Reporting documents the failure of the U.S. government to effectively oversee expenditures in a reconstruction effort that is costing 10 times more per capita than the Marshall Plan.
"Marketplace, the national business program that is produced by Minnesota Public Radio, will air the segments from Tuesday, April 20, through Friday, April 23, during its regular half-hour program, which is carried during afternoon drive time on more than 300 public radio stations across the county.
"Among the disturbing revelations featured in the series:
"-- Iraqi private companies routinely pay bribes to get reconstruction contracts -- often to Iraqi officials but sometimes to employees of U.S. contractors. Accountant Hekmet Ali-Khalil tells Marketplace that every ledger book he signs is a fiction, designed to hide bribes. At least 20 percent of U.S. spending in Iraq is lost to corruption, says Charles Adwan of the Lebanon arm of Transparency International.
"-- With little or no oversight, senior Iraqi ministry officials regularly pocket reconstruction money from the Central Bank, according to a bank official.
"-- Iraqi Ministry of Health officials sell hospital supplies on the black market, depriving sick people of vital equipment. Dr. Ali Rajeb, a young Iraqi cardiologist, takes Davidson to Sa'adoun Street in Baghdad,where a row of medical supply shops offer stolen goods. A version ofthis is happening in virtually all the ministries: Electricity Ministry officials sell equipment, too. Justice Ministry judges demand bribes for favorable rulings and the Housing Ministry workers take money to assign homes.
"-- Translators who work for Iraq's Coalition Provisional Authority or U.S. contractors have become among the most powerful and corrupt figures in the rebuilding of Iraq. At least a dozen Iraqi businessmen told Davidson that translators had visited them at their homes or offices and promised to provide contracts for a sizable cut. Some ask for as much as 50 percent of the deal.
"-- In Washington, congressional initiatives that would have sent a strong anti-corruption signal to contractors in Iraq were derailed by the House Republican leadership and the White House. These included amendments to the Iraq appropriations bill last fall that would have criminalized war profiteering and required ongoing audits by the General Accounting Office of contracts over $25 million. "The fact [those measures] were made and defeated signaled, 'We don't agree [this] oversight is necessary'," says Jeffrey Jones, former head of the Defense Energy Support Center, in charge of purchasing fuel for the Pentagon. Jones watched as gasoline bills doubled when part of his job was outsourced to Halliburton. "So, it's laissez faire. That's the message that was sent."
"-- Over the last three months, Congressional and Defense Department investigators have disputed at least $1 billion worth of Iraqi contracts for inflated charges, incompetence, lack of documentation to support invoices and kickbacks related to subcontract awards.
"-- The Pentagon's solution to the "oversight crisis" has been to outsource: private firms have just been awarded $120 million to oversee other contractors -- raising serious questions of potential conflict of interest. "You could easily imagine one private contractor having other business dealings with the company over which they're supposed to be conducting oversight," Congressman Henry Waxman tells Schapiro.
"To find out when Marketplace airs in your market, or to listen to the Iraq series online, see http://www.marketplace.org...." [more]
This article was reported by David Barstow, James Glanz, Richard A. Oppel Jr. and Kate Zernike and was written by Mr. Barstow.
"They have come from all corners of the world. Former Navy Seal commandos from North Carolina. Gurkas from Nepal. Soldiers from South Africa's old apartheid government. They have come by the thousands, drawn to the dozens of private security companies that have set up shop in Baghdad. The most prized were plucked from the world's elite special forces units. Others may have been recruited from the local SWAT team.
"But they are there, racing about Iraq in armored cars, many outfitted with the latest in high-end combat weapons. Some security companies have formed their own "Quick Reaction Forces," and their own intelligence units that produce daily intelligence briefs with grid maps of "hot zones." One company has its own helicopters, and several have even forged diplomatic alliances with local clans.
"Far more than in any other conflict in United States history, the Pentagon is relying on private security companies to perform crucial jobs once entrusted to the military. In addition to guarding innumerable reconstruction projects, private companies are being asked to provide security for the chief of the Coalition Provisional Authority, L. Paul Bremer III, and other senior officials; to escort supply convoys through hostile territory; and to defend key locations, including 15 regional authority headquarters and even the Green Zone in downtown Baghdad, the center of American power in Iraq.
"With every week of insurgency in a war zone with no front, these companies are becoming more deeply enmeshed in combat, in some cases all but obliterating distinctions between professional troops and private commandos. Company executives see a clear boundary between their defensive roles as protectors and the offensive operations of the military. But more and more, they give the appearance of private, for-profit militias — by several estimates, a force of roughly 20,000 on top of an American military presence of 130,000.
""I refer to them as our silent partner in this struggle," Senator John W. Warner, the Virginia Republican and Armed Services Committee chairman, said in an interview.
"The price of this partnership is soaring. By some recent government estimates, security costs could claim up to 25 percent of the $18 billion budgeted for reconstruction, a huge and mostly unanticipated expense that could delay or force the cancellation of billions of dollars worth of projects to rebuild schools, water treatment plants, electric lines and oil refineries.
"In Washington, defense experts and some leading Democrats are raising alarms over security companies' growing role in Iraq.
""Security in a hostile fire area is a classic military mission," Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, a member of the Armed Service committee, wrote last week in a letter to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld signed by 12 other Democratic senators. "Delegating this mission to private contractors raises serious questions."..." [more]
"Ex-military commandos armed with M4 rifles are fighting insurgents in Iraq as part of a private contracting force, many of them hired by the US-led coalition, raising some deep concerns.
"About 15,000 personnel from private military firms (PMFs) were operating in Iraq, making them more numerous that even the biggest US ally, Britain, estimated Peter Singer, author of Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry.
"At least 30 to 50 had been killed in action, he wrote in a report for the Internet news magazine Salon.com.
"Among the companies, Mr Singer said, Erinys was charged with guarding Iraqi oil fields, while Northrop Grumman subsidiary Vinnell, MPRI and Nour USA had been training and equipping the new Iraq army.
""It is more a coalition of the billing than of the willing," Mr Singer said.
"Since the personnel were not army, lawmakers and the American people were largely unaware of the scale of the private companies' role, he said.
"That role was shockingly highlighted when insurgents ambushed four Blackwater USA employees on March 31 in the flashpoint town of Fallujah.
"Bodies were shown to millions on television being pulled out of a burning vehicle, hacked by angry Iraqis, dragged behind a car and strung up on a bridge.
""The graphic images of the unprovoked attack and subsequent heinous mistreatment of our friends exhibits the extraordinary conditions under which we voluntarily work to bring freedom and democracy to the Iraqi people," said a statement by Blackwater.
"A company spokesman, Chris Bertelli, said the group had 450 people in Iraq, most armed with the 5.56 mm M4 rifle. Employees there - many ex Navy SEALs or Army Rangers - were restricted to rifles of a calibre up to 7.62 mm.
""Almost all of them are weapon-carrying," Mr Bertelli said.
"Blackwater has a $21 million contract with the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) to guard US adminstrator Paul Bremer and five outposts, he said.
"It also has private contracts, details undisclosed, such as protecting the convoy that was ambushed in Fallujah.
"Mr Bertelli confirmed an account of an April 5 firefight in Najaf, where Blackwater commandos fought insurgents for hours, firing thousands of rounds, to defend the CPA outpost.
"Blackwater used helicopters from the Bremer detail to resupply its commandos with ammunition, he said.
"But junior and field ranks in the military were starting to question the role of such "outsourcing," Mr Singer said...." [more]
"Laid off after 34 years, Al Cayton found himself at retirement age without the means to support himself in his golden years. So at 60, the Pensacola, Fla., man went off to drive trucks in Iraq for the Halliburton Co., lured by the promise of up to $120,000 in cash, tax-free.
""He planned to work until he could draw his Social Security," said his wife of 40 years, Karen.
"A roadside bomb put an end to that plan.
"Cayton is one of about 30 contract workers who have been killed in Iraq, including an Italian security guard executed on videotape Wednesday. More than 20 workers have been taken captive by militants in recent weeks, and 200 or so have been wounded in the year since war supposedly ended and the rebuilding began.
"For many of the contract workers and their families, the job has not been the easy money they had hoped for.
"Despite all this, there are plenty of people willing to risk a year in Iraq doing mundane jobs for three and four times what they could get at home.
""I know a lot of people like that," said East Texas electrical engineer Jay Cox, who at 50 is considering doing a tour in Iraq. "They're being forced into a Third World hostility situation just to feed their family — and they're grateful for the opportunity to go."
"An estimated 15,000 contract workers are helping to rebuild the war-torn country. In recent weeks, they have increasingly become the targets of insurgents trying to end the U.S. occupation.
"Tommy Hamill, 43, of Macon, Miss., was reduced to driving a milk truck after hard times forced him to sell the dairy farm that had been in his family for 30 years. With two children at home and a wife in need of open-heart surgery, Hamill felt he could not pass up an offer from Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root of $80,000 base pay to drive a fuel truck in Iraq for a year.
"Hamill was eight months into the job when Iraqi militants attacked his convoy April 9. Hamill's kidnappers vowed to kill him on Easter if American troops did not leave the city of Fallujah, but that deadline passed with no word about Hamill's fate.
"As for Cayton, he had logged more than 3.6 million accident-free miles in 34 years as a trucker with Consolidated Freightways. That safety record earned the West Virginia native a truck with his name on it and an even greater honor — the job of hauling mangled steel from the World Trade Center to California to be turned into a Sept. 11 memorial.
"But none of that earned Cayton an easy retirement. When Consolidated went bankrupt in 2002, Cayton's pension was not enough to cover his health insurance. He signed on with KBR last June, quickly rising from driver to convoy commander and safety director with 50 truckers beneath him.
"On Feb. 23, the Army veteran was traveling in a truck south of Baghdad when a bomb exploded, killing him. The standard KBR life insurance policy: $25,000 and an additional $25,000 for "accidental death."..." [more]
"Private military companies guarding foreign contractors in Iraq are demanding the right to carry more powerful weapons after the deaths of a number of bodyguards during a series of major battles with Iraqi insurgents.
"At least six former special forces soldiers have been killed in Iraq since the beginning of the month, and there has been mounting concern within the industry that coalition forces have been unable or unwilling to come to their aid when they have been under fire.
"The proposed move is likely to add to concerns about the accountability and regulation of private military companies in Iraq as well as illustrating the "grey zone" between their formal role as bodyguards and the realities of operating during an insurgency, when the whole country can become a combat zone.
"The Guardian has obtained details of a firefight in the town of Kut, 100 miles south-east of Baghdad, between Iraqi insurgents and five security personnel of the Hart Group, a Bermuda-registered security consultancy run by former SAS and Scots Guards officer Richard Bethell, the son of Lord Westbury.
"Gray Branfield, a South African, was killed during the battle after coalition forces from Ukraine failed to respond to repeated pleas for assistance from the small group of besieged guards.
"Under an agreement with the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) private security guards are only allowed to carry small personal protection weapons. But a source at Hart Group told the Guardian this week that discussions were under way with the authorities governing Iraq to allow bodyguards to increase their firepower...." [more]
"WASHINGTON — For months Halliburton Co. was a staple for comedians' punch lines and Democrats' speeches attacking the Bush administration's corporate connections.
"However, since the capture of seven employees of the Houston-based company in the recent uprising in Iraq, the airwaves have gone all but silent on the topic.
"The reason is simple: Those contracts to do billions of dollars worth of work to rebuild Iraq's energy sector and support the troops there no longer look like cozy arrangements, as the death toll stands at about 30 employees of Halliburton and its subcontractors, according to the company.
""The emphasis now is on the human tragedy, not any corporate tragedy," said Garth Jowett, a University of Houston communications professor. "People are just thinking that you can't make fun of Halliburton."
"Coverage no longer plays up details like the company formerly being run by Vice President Dick Cheney, or the company's no-bid contract to rebuild oil production...." [more]
"WASHINGTON — Private military companies operating in Iraq are raising the eyebrows of Democratic lawmakers, who say they are costly, not regulated well enough and are being used to make the Iraq war more palatable to the public.
""There are a lot of questions that need to be answered before we continue to outsource these positions," said Nadeam Elshami, spokesman for Rep. Jan Schakowsky (search), D-Ill.
"Critics say these hired guns, who draw salaries two, three or four times higher than soldiers, are used to avoid the politically sensitive implications of having to send more American troops. In Iraq, 15,000 or more armed contractors provide security and thousands of others work as engineers, truck drivers, cooks, etc. The proliferation of these contractors has been highlighted by the recent brutal killing in Fallujah of four men employed by Blackwater U.S.A. (search) as well as the execution Wednesday of an Italian contractor.
"Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., has been a leading critic of the way these contractors are used.
""I think we have to regulate these contractors. We have to know who is there and what they're doing not only for their own protection, but also so our military can coordinate effectively," Reed told Fox News.
"He acknowledged that the contractors relieve some of the burden from the military, but he said they need to be better accounted for. Calling it "almost a unique situation," Reed said, "this is in many respects a large paramilitary force."
"Last week, a group of Democratic senators, including Reed, expressed their concerns in a letter to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (search).
""It would be a dangerous precedent if the United States allowed the presence of private armies operating outside the control of governmental authority and beholden only to those who pay them. In the context of Iraq, unless these forces are properly screened by United States' authorities and are required to operate under clear guidelines and appropriate supervision, their presence will contribute to Iraqi resentment. The presence and number of these private security personnel again raise the question of the adequacy of United States troop levels in Iraq," the senators wrote.
"The 13 Democratic senators, including Minority Leader Tom Daschle (search) and Carl Levin, the ranking member on the Armed Services Committee, called on Rumsfeld to provide a tally of the armed non-Iraqi security personnel in Iraq.
"They also asked that the Defense Department adopt written guidelines, "including the legal justifications for their use, both now and after June 30, 2004; the rules of engagement for these contractors; and the lines of coordination among U.S. military forces, the Coalition Provisional Authority (and after June 30th, the sovereign Iraqi entity) and the contractor community."
"On the House side, Schakowsky questioned why the military needs to pay some contractors $100,000 or more while many American soldiers are getting paid half or a third of that. She also raised questions of accountability.
""The track record of some of these contractors has not been very good," Elshami said, noting the allegations that Dyncorps employees were involved with rape, drugs and prostitution rings in Bosnia. Dyncorps also has a security presence in Iraq...." [more]
"HOUSTON — For thousands of contract workers bound for Iraq, the journey starts here, at a cavernous expo center anchoring the Greenspoint shopping mall north of town.
"Inside, new hires are bombarded with safety seminars and warnings about the dangers and harsh conditions they will face. Some will quit before the weeklong orientation is over, but most believe they can endure almost anything for the promise of a big payday: for some positions, as much as $100,000 for a 12-month stint, most of it tax-free, the recruits say.
""You can make as much in a month as some people make in three months," said Michael Taylor, 41, a human resources manager from Montgomery, Ala. "To me, it's worth it. It's something I can do for my family. As long as you have your head on a swivel, you'll probably be safe."
"In another life, Taylor worked for Coca-Cola. His new employer is KBR, the Halliburton subsidiary that since January has processed more than 8,000 applicants at the Greenspoint job site. This is the epicenter of an operation that has kept a steady supply of workers flowing into Iraq, people from around the country who have traded a life of relative safety and comfort for uncertainty in a hostile land.
"They are being hired under a multibillion-dollar U.S. government contract awarded to Halliburton to rebuild Iraq. KBR says it is hiring U.S. recruits for 100 types of positions, including water testers, electricians, truck drivers and clerks. Company spokeswoman Patrice Mingo said more than 24,000 KBR employees were working in Iraq and Kuwait. Though workers sign a 12-month contract with KBR, no one is forced to stay if they want to go home, she said. The company would not say how much it pays its employees.
"On Thursday, the latest batch of applicants went through Day 4 of orientation. Six hundred men and women, many of whom had never ventured outside the U.S., learned how to defend themselves against a biochemical or nuclear attack.
"A film describing the history of biochemical warfare played on two big screens as workers lined up to try on boots, hooded yellow jumpsuits and gas masks.
"Lilly Washington, a 51-year-old real estate agent from Chicago, made a face as a KBR trainer sprayed a bitter substance inside her gas mask. This was meant to simulate the bitter taste she might experience if gas leaked through during an attack...." [more]
WARRIORS FOR HIRE IN IRAQ More than 15,000 employees of private military contractors, from giant Halliburton to tiny commando firms, are working, fighting and dying alongside U.S. soldiers. But who calls the shots in an outsourced war?
- - - - - - - - - - - -
By P.W. Singer
"April 15, 2004 | WASHINGTON -- Last Wednesday, the United States woke up to what seemed like a horrible replay of the images from 1993 Somalia. As crowds screamed their vicious delight, the bodies of four Americans were abused and dragged through the streets.
"But Fallujah was not Mogadishu, and this was to be no repeat of "Black Hawk Down." Instead of questioning the mission, the public struggled to figure out who was performing the mission in the first place. For most Americans, Fallujah introduced a realization of how our military operates today in the era of outsourcing. A growing industry of private military firms is filling a huge and often surprising array of roles in Iraq, roles that can even include combat.
"The four men killed in Fallujah were not U.S. troops but rather employees of a little known company, Blackwater USA, that resides within an industry that until last week, few people even knew existed. Breaking out of the "guns for hire" mold of traditional mercenaries, corporations like Blackwater sell the sorts of services that soldiers used to provide. Known as "private military firms" (PMFs), they range from small companies that provide teams of commandos for hire to large corporations that run military supply chains. This new military industry encompasses hundreds of companies, thousands of employees, and billions of revenue dollars.
"In Iraq, they're also accounting for a growing share of the force and the casualties. There are 15,000 private personnel carrying out mission-critical military roles, and they have suffered at least 30 to 50 killed in action, including the four dead contract workers whose bodies were discovered on Tuesday. Scores more have been taken captive in just the last week.
"The Bush administration was unwilling to enlist serious assistance from the United Nations or from most of our NATO allies, but thanks to the PMFs that employ private soldiers of more than 30 nationalities, it has been able to assemble an international coalition of sorts in Iraq. But it is more a "coalition of the billing" than of the "willing." Indeed, there are more private military contractors on the ground in Iraq than troops from any one ally, including Britain. One single company, Global Risks, has a reported 1,100 employees in Iraq, including 500 Nepalese Ghurka troops and 500 Fijian soldiers, ranking it sixth among troop donors.
"Working in over 50 conflict zones, the industry is emblematic of a broader globalization. PMFs and their clients are located worldwide, but their single largest client is the U.S. taxpayer; our government has signed over 3,000 contracts with private military firms in the last decade. The reliance on this industry was driven by changes in the market after the end of the Cold War. It boomed in an era of military downsizing (the U.S. military is about one-third smaller than it was during the 1991 Gulf War) and the increasing demands of new deployments, the more-technical requirements of modern warfare, and privatization as a new vogue of government.
"While Congress and the senior leadership at the Pentagon do not have an exact handle on the numbers, an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 private military personnel are in Iraq. They are carrying out essential jobs that soldiers have done in the past -- from handling logistics and maintenance to training the local army to fighting pitched battles -- and they have taken more casualties than any ally. However, while performing tasks crucial to the operation, they are not formally part of the force, creating a critical disconnect in such areas as intelligence sharing, as well as confusion over rights and responsibilities in the midst of combat.
"The size and scope of the private military contingent in Iraq also cut to the heart of the most troubling questions about the Bush administration's handling of the war. They point up the administration's inadequate planning and preparation, its lack of transparency about the war's financial and human cost, and its sense of denial about whether it put enough American troops on the ground to accomplish the task handed to them. The hiring of such a large private force and the ensuing casualties that it has taken outside of public awareness and discussion have served as a novel means for displacing some of the political costs of the war. Even more troubling, the growth of such an ad hoc market arrangement, lying outside the chain of command, makes an already tough mission even more difficult, and risks lives on both the troop and contractor side.... [more]
"WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Since last March, more than 680 U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq but no one is keeping track of the number of dead among the tens of thousands of civilian contractors working alongside the military.
"Neither the Pentagon nor the State Department keeps a tally of contractors killed and firms are reluctant to release figures for fear of becoming targets, but a conservative estimate is about 50 civilian contractors have died so far.
""We do not track civilian contractor deaths. We leave that up to companies," said military spokesman Lt. Col. Joe Yoswa.
"A State Department office tracks U.S. civilian deaths but for security reasons no details or figures were released, said Stuart Patt, the spokesman for consular affairs.
"Known deaths so far include 30 employees and subcontractors working for Texas-based Kellogg Brown and Root, the U.S. military's main logistics contractor in Iraq, and 13 civilians working for San Diego company Titan Corp, which does translation work for the Army in Iraq.
"Private security contractors, who have been thrust into greater combat roles as attacks have increased, have also paid a price. Four employees from security firm Blackwater were killed last month.
""There are very few countries that are so hostile, where you constantly run the risk of being surrounded by people with weapons and RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades)," said one security contractor, who asked not to be named.
""Iraq really is a very hostile environment. It raises the question whether ... private companies should be operating there," he said...." [more]
By Ariana Eunjung Cha and Jackie Spinner
"WASHINGTON - With new violence erupting in many parts of Iraq, it is increasingly challenging for U.S. contractors to continue working on thousands of reconstruction projects.
"More than a few have fled their jobs without notice. At the urging of their governments, many citizens of Russia, France, and South Korea are preparing to leave. Some contractors and aid organizations have packed up and moved workers to neighboring countries.
"Some who remain say it has been difficult to do their jobs as movement around the country has come to a virtual standstill. For most of the past two weeks, the U.S.-led occupation government has been on "lockdown," meaning that personnel were prohibited from leaving the Green Zone, the fortified area in central Baghdad that is the headquarters of Coalition Provisional Authority.
""We can't work. We can't go outside. We live like in a jail," said Luma Mousawi, director of Nurses-Doctors Care Organization, which is working on the rehabilitation of Iraq's health care system.
"Occupation officials and contractors working in the Green Zone this week said there has been no mass evacuation. A dozen U.S. companies providing workers for the reconstruction contacted Wednesday said they were trying to do their best to work around the security problems.
"Portia Palmer, of the U.S. Agency for International Development, said the recent violence and kidnappings has not stopped reconstruction. "We are not working in some areas because of unsafe situations," she said.
""But that's been the case since the first day we started in Iraq."
"The increasing violence has led many individuals to leave the country, vowing never to return, according to interviews. Meanwhile, many would-be replacements, looking for high-paying jobs, post resumes on Web sites.
"The occupation government depends heavily on contractors to help with its work in Iraq. There is no official count, but tens of thousands are assisting with rebuilding schools, fixing power plants, building prisons and providing security. Dozens of civilians working on reconstruction have been killed in the past year...." [more]
"Baghdad - At least 80 foreign mercenaries - security guards recruited from the United States, Europe and South Africa and working for American companies - have been killed in the past eight days in Iraq.
"Lieutenant-General Mark Kimmitt admitted on Tuesday that "about 70" American and other Western troops had died during the Iraqi insurgency since April 1 but he made no mention of the mercenaries, apparently fearful that the full total of Western dead would have serious political fallout.
"He did not give a figure for Iraqi dead, which, across the country may be as high as 900.
"At least 18 000 mercenaries, many of them tasked to protect US troops and personnel, are now believed to be in Iraq, some of them earning $1 000 (about R6 300) a day. But their companies rarely acknowledge their losses unless - like the four American murdered and mutilated in Fallujah three weeks ago - their deaths are already public knowledge.
"The presence of such large numbers of mercenaries, first publicised in The Independent two weeks ago, was bound to lead to further casualties.
"But although many of the heavily armed Western security men are working for the US Department of Defence - and most of them are former Special Forces soldiers - they are not listed as serving military personnel. Their losses can therefore be hidden from public view.
"The US authorities in Iraq, however, are aware that more Western mercenaries lost their lives in the past week than occupation soldiers over the past 14 days.
"The coalition has sought to rely on foreign contract workers to reduce the number of soldiers it uses as drivers, guards and in other jobs normally carried out by uniformed soldiers.
"Often the foreign contract workers are highly paid former soldiers who are armed with automatic weapons, leading to Iraqis viewing all foreign workers as possible mercenaries or spies."