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Fisk: Coalition of the Mercenaries

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    Occupiers Spend Millions on Private Army of Security Men Coalition of the Mercenaries By ROBERT FISK and SEVERIN CARRELL The Independent March 29, 2004
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 3, 2004
      Occupiers Spend Millions on Private Army of Security Men

      Coalition of the Mercenaries
      The Independent
      March 29, 2004

      An army of thousands of mercenaries has appeared in
      Iraq's major cities, many of them former British and
      American soldiers hired by the occupying
      Anglo-American authorities and by dozens of companies
      who fear for the lives of their employees.

      Many of the armed Britons are former SAS soldiers and
      heavily armed South Africans are also working for the
      occupation. "My people know how to use weapons and
      they're all SAS," said the British leader of one
      security team in southern Baghdad. "But there are
      people running around with guns now who are just
      cowboys. We always conceal our weapons, but these guys
      think they're in a Hollywood film."

      There are serious doubts even within the occupying
      power about America's choice to send Chilean
      mercenaries, many trained during General Pinochet's
      vicious dictatorship, to guard Baghdad airport. Many
      South Africans are in Iraq illegally--they are
      breaking new laws, passed by the government in
      Pretoria, to control South Africa's booming export of
      mercenaries. Many have been arrested on their return
      home because they are do not have the licence now
      required by private soldiers.

      Casualties among the mercenaries are not included in
      the regular body count put out by the occupation
      authorities, which may account for the persistent
      suspicion among Iraqis that the US is underestimating
      its figures of military dead and wounded. Some British
      experts claim that private policing is now the UK's
      biggest export to Iraq--a growth fueled by the surge
      in bomb attacks on coalition forces, aid agencies and
      UN buildings since the official end of the war in May
      last year.

      Many companies operate from villas in middle-class
      areas of Baghdad with no name on the door. Some
      security men claim they can earn more than lbs80,000 a
      year; but short-term, high-risk mercenary work can
      bring much higher rewards. Security personnel working
      a seven-day contract in cities like Fallujah, can make
      $1,000 a day.

      Although they wear no uniform, some security men carry
      personal identification on their flak jackets, along
      with their rifles and pistols. Others refuse to
      identify themselves even in hotels, drinking beer by
      the pool, their weapons at their feet. In several
      hotels, guests and staff have complained that security
      men have held drunken parties and one manager was
      forced to instruct mercenaries in his hotel that they
      must carry their guns in a bag when they leave the
      premises. His demand was ignored.

      One British company director, David Claridge of the
      security firm Janusian, has estimated that British
      firms have earned up to lbs800m from their contracts
      in Iraq--barely a year after the invasion of Iraq. One
      British-run firm, Erinys, employs 14,000 Iraqis as
      watchmen and security guards to protect the country's
      oil fields and pipelines.

      The use of private security firms has led to some
      resentment amongst the Department for International
      Development's aid workers--who fear it undermines the
      trust of Iraqi civilians. "DFID staff would prefer not
      to have this," said one source. "It's much easier for
      them to do their job without any visible security, but
      the security risks are great down there."

      One South African-owned firm, Meteoric Tactical
      Solutions, has a lbs270,000 contract with DFID which,
      it is understood, involves providing bodyguards and
      drivers for its most senior official in Iraq and his
      small personal staff.

      Another British-owned company, ArmorGroup has an
      lbs876,000 contract to supply 20 security guards for
      the Foreign Office. That figure will rise by 50 per
      cent in July. The firm also employs about 500 Gurkhas
      to guard executives with the US firms Bechtel and
      Kellogg Brown & Root.

      Opposition MPs were shocked by the scale of the
      Government's use of private firms to guard British
      civil servants, and claimed it was further evidence
      that the British army was too small to cope. Menzies
      Campbell, the Liberal Democrat's foreign affairs
      spokesman, said: "This suggests that British forces
      are unable to provide adequate protection and raises
      the vexed question of overstretch--particularly in
      light of the remarks by the Chief of the Defence
      Staff, last week that Britain couldn't stage another
      operation on the scale of Iraq for another five

      Andrew Robathan, a Tory MP on the international
      development select committee and former SAS officer,
      said: "The Army doesn't have the troops to provide
      static guards on this scale. Surely it would have been
      cheaper to have another battalion of troops providing

      The UK's largest private security firm in Iraq, Global
      Risk Strategies, is helping the coalition provisional
      authority and the Iraqi administration to draft new
      regulations. It is expecting to increase its presence
      from 1,000 to 1,200 staff this spring, and could reach
      1,800 this year. However, aid charities are disturbed
      by the sums being spent on security, since DFID has
      diverted lbs278m from its mainstream aid budget for
      Iraqi reconstruction. Dominic Nutt, of Christian Aid,
      said: "This sticks in the craw. It's right that DFID
      protects its staff, but this is robbing Peter to pay




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