The Washington Post's Steve Fainaru has just published what is unquestionably the best piece to date on contractors and the Iraq War. Finally, the mainstream media gets it: private military is fighting the Iraq War where insurgents make no distinction between contractors and regular military. Fainaru writes:
"Private security companies, funded by billions of dollars in U.S. military and State Department contracts, are fighting insurgents on a widening scale in Iraq, enduring daily attacks, returning fire and taking hundreds of casualties that have been underreported and sometimes concealed, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials and company representatives."
Parallel to the more visible surge by the big military, Fainaru reports of a shadow surge, escalating contractor presence:
"While the military has built up troops in an ongoing campaign to secure Baghdad, the security companies, out of public view, have been engaged in a parallel surge, boosting manpower, adding expensive armor and stepping up evasive action as attacks increase, the officials and company representatives said. One in seven supply convoys protected by private forces has come under attack this year, according to previously unreleased statistics; one security company reported nearly 300 "hostile actions" in the first four months."
The military intends to outsource at least $1.5 billion to private military corporations this year and this outsourcing includes base security. Even more shocking is:
The Army has also tested a plan to use private security on military convoys for the first time, a shift that would significantly increase the presence of armed contractors on Iraq's dangerous roads.
Could it be that the Army may be conceding that if it can't get the Marines to protect them, Blackwater is the next best thing? Private military corporations, Fainaru reports, "provide personal security for at least three commanding generals, including Air Force Maj. Gen. Darryl A. Scott, who oversees U.S. military contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan."
And, although private military is prohibited from engaging in offensive combat, the distinction between offensive and defensive combat really becomes a matter of semantics for after action reports:
U.S. officials and security company representatives emphasized that contractors are strictly limited to defensive operations. But company representatives in the field said insurgents rarely distinguish between the military and private forces, drawing the contractors into a bloody and escalating campaign.
Claims that contractors only engage in defensive operations have always struck me as akin Clinton being able to truthfully state that he didn't have sex with Monica because his lawyer had negotiated oral sex out of the definition of sex. Technically, they might not be engaged in offensive combat, but...
"The military are very conscious that we're in their battle space," said Cameron Simpson, country operations manager for ArmorGroup International, a British firm that protects 32 percent of all nonmilitary supply convoys in Iraq. "We would never launch into an offensive operation, but when you're co-located, you're all one team, really."
As I've been writing here over the past ten months, a revolution has occurred in how America fights her wars. Wars both covert and overt have been OUTSOURCED. Up until now reading about it in the mainstream media has been akin to reading the reports of the six blind men in the old proverb, each feeling up part of an elephant, describing only his part and arguing about what it really was. Today the Washington Post figured out it was dealing with the back half of a privatized elephant. It will be interesting to see if they follow this through to find that the national security pachyderm has also outsourced its brains to the likes of SAIC, Abraxas, BAH and others.
Steve Fainaru has demonstrated that he's the best journalist covering this national security revolution. Congratulations to the Washington Post and Fainaru. Well done.
Since OUTSOURCED is about a private military corporation that is deeply involved in the Iraq War, it seems fitting to give another preview:
A rapid pop of automatic gunfire erupted from the direction of the insurgents’ compound.
“You have men down there?” Camille never let personal issues compromise her professionalism. When the shooting started, the private militaries were all on the same side.
Hunter nodded as he ordered his shooters on the dune to give them cover fire. The medium machine gun roared.
“You’re rolling with me,” Camille shouted. “I don’t want you out of my sight. Radio your troops to fall in behind us.” She turned and sprinted toward the Cougar. When she reached the back of the vehicle, three hands reached out to help her up.
GENGHIS handed Camille her carbine as she pushed her way to the front of the vehicle. She spoke to the shift leader, a bullet-headed ex-cop. “NOONER, inform Ops at Camp Raven that Lightning Six is now assuming command. Then move us into the tango compound.” Camille looked back at Hunter and decided not to blow his cover. “Rubicon, order your troops to rescue your men, then assume positions outside the walls to provide backup. We’ll call for them if needed.” Camille pointed to the concrete wall encircling the compound. Green tracers came from all over the compound, crisscrossing as they fired at imaginary targets. “We’re crashing their party. NOONER, take us in right there—about five meters to the right of the gate.”
“I’m not sure what the vehicle can do—I don’t know it well enough yet,” NOONER said.
“It’s got a Caterpillar 330 horsepower engine and Iraqis don’t use rebar in their concrete. Do the math. As soon as we’re in, I want a man at each firing port and one at each roof hatch. We’re going to tour the compound and light it up before dismounting. Brace yourselves. Now!”
Camille plopped to the floor and bear hugged the nearest legs. The Cougar’s engine revved, then she heard a loud crash, then felt a jolt like a plane hitting sudden turbulence. The ride immediately smoothed out.
The troops opened the roof hatches and hot air rushed inside. She shoved in her earplugs as she scrambled to the nearest firing port. She turned the steel plug counterclockwise, then let it fall onto the seat. Bullets plinked against the fortified walls, then seconds later the sharp echo of her troops’ automatic gunfire drowned everything out.
She poked the XM8 through the firing port and looked outside through its night vision scope. A dozen insurgents scattered across the courtyard like ants swarming around a disturbed nest. They sprayed the Cougar with their AKs, but they might as well have been using squirt guns. The rounds didn’t penetrate.
She aimed the XM8. A trickle of sweat rolled between her breasts and she itched underneath the bulky body armor. She slowly squeezed the trigger, then stopped before firing. She didn’t feel even the slightest tinge of fear that she, the predator, could become prey and without that sense of danger, she didn’t want to do it, not from the comfort of her air-conditioned Cougar. But she knew she couldn’t risk her men sensing even a hint of compassion because it would be all over for her—even if she did pay them eight hundred bucks a day.
With only a few seconds delay, she targeted and fired, retargeted and fired, dropping one bad guy at a time. It was almost fun. Hell, it was fun. And the world was a better place without them, she told herself as she dropped out the empty mag and snapped in a full one.
Don't forget to read the entire Washington Post article. It shouldn't be missed.