Baghdad meets the Wild West…

Private security contractors in Iraq operate in an environment where violence, alcohol and inexperience are rife…

by Sharkey

The arrest of a British contractor in the Baghdad Green Zone for the murder two of his colleagues has once again shone a spotlight on the behaviour of private security companies working in Iraq. Here “Sharkey”, a private security contractor who has spent much of the past six years in Iraq, describes his experiences and the changing nature of the industry.

Baghdad’s Green Zone compounds are a lot like the Wild West; often volatile, foreboding places, where disparate groups of men and personalities are thrown together and expected to get along. They are mini-forts behind concrete walls, with many of the trappings of western life, including alcohol. There are guys operating under stress there and others who simply shouldn’t be there in the first place.

Add to that the overall environment in which they are operating. Iraq is not a normal place, and nor is the Green Zone where most of the companies are based. Along with having young men armed to the teeth, most of their outfits have bars.

A couple of years ago at one of the compounds inside the British embassy, around 50 young guys got into a fist fight. They were young and obnoxious, many were on steroids and there they were with guns and beer, which should never mix.

A friend of mine from the regiment was looking after a top Iraqi politician and two SAS guys he was with got in an argument and pulled weapons on each other. They didn’t start shooting, but it was close.

Another time, I was in one of the compounds celebrating a birthday for one of the lads and it was obvious all night that something was going to kick off. There were the tight T-shirts, the Americans, the Brits and the attitude. Sure enough, a brawl erupted.

Most contractors have a story or two about violence of some sort in one of the compounds. Several years back, I was in a low-profile car out near the airport and one of the Blackwater guys fired just above me, believing I had got too close to him. I was livid and took him to task on the spot. Several nights later, I saw him at one of the bars, and he walked over to me. I thought he wanted to fight, but he offered his hand in apology.

I accepted and we got drunk together, so gripes can be sorted there just as they could be in an English bar.

But none of us went out drinking with a weapon. It’s my philosophy that when you have a weapon you just should not drink. End of story.

I was in Baghdad in May 2003 and have spent much of the past six years working all around Iraq. When the occupation phase of the war started, the security companies specialised in ex-special forces operatives from all the three British units, the SAS, the SBS and the Det (an intelligence-driven unit operating in Northern Ireland).

But when the contracts got bigger and more manpower was needed, the companies turned towards a lower tier which was ex-military, but had much less experience in close protection. The contracts kept coming hard and fast and the industry started taking in all comers.

They were greedy and their standards dropped. Soon they were hiring people with no military experience at all; doormen from pubs and people who had done a bodyguard course were all of a sudden calling themselves private security contractors.

There were paramilitaries from developing nations, mercenaries from South Africa and desperados looking for a quick buck. Many of them were trigger-happy and boisterous. It became farcical. They had no idea of risk or how to manage it. Standards kept slipping to the extent that guys were taking massive pay cuts.

To put that into perspective, some of them were only earning £175 per day. I was earning £250 per day in the south of France 15 years ago.

State Department upholds Blackwater ‘license to kill’…

The US State Department refuses to waive the right for private security contractor Xe Services LLC, formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide, to carry arms in Iraq.

The company, notorious for its treating the license as an excuse for trigger-ready atrocities, is accordingly to remain armed in the country until September, The Nation said on Friday.

“Authorized personnel under that task order are permitted to continue carrying weapons until that time,” the weekly quoted a diplomatic security official with the state department as saying.

On September 23, the Iraqis will commemorate the second anniversary of the 2007 carnage of 17 of their countrymen in Baghdad’s Nisour Square at the hands of Blackwater men.
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Blackwater: new Iraq allegations…

via WhatReallyHappened

Blackwater Still Armed in Iraq…

Despite the Iraqi government’s announcement earlier this year that it had canceled Blackwater’s operating license, the US State Department continues to allow Blackwater operatives in Iraq to remain armed. A State Department official told The Nation that Blackwater (which recently renamed itself Xe Services) is now operating in Iraq under the name “US Training Center” and will continue its armed presence in the country until at least September 3. That means Blackwater will have been in Iraq nearly two years after its operatives killed seventeen Iraqi civilians in Baghdad’s Nisour Square.
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After Iraq, Blackwater Haunts Afghans…

CAIRO — After gaining notoriety for killing many Iraqi civilians, the US private security company Blackwater, which now calls itself Xe Services, is running amok in Afghanistan.

“The Americans must answer for my son’s death,” Mirza Mohammed Dost, an Afghan elderly, told the Los Angeles Times, standing at the foot of his child’s grave, near a headstone that reads, “Raheb Dost, martyred by Americans.”

His 24-year-old son and another civilian, 22-year Romal, who was on his way home from work, were killed in May by four Blackwater gunmen on a busy Kabul street.

The contractors opened fire after one of their vehicles tipped over in a traffic accident.

The killing revealed that US security contractors, whose heavily-armed convoys are a common sight on Kabul’s traffic-clogged streets, were running amok.
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Ex-employees claim Blackwater pimped out young Iraqi girls…

Since the revelation earlier this week of allegations by two former employees of security firm Blackwater that its owner was complicit in murder in order to cover up the deliberate killing of Iraqi civilians, explosive charges have continued to emerge.

Perhaps the most shocking of those charges — quoted by MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann on Thursday from the employees’ sworn declarations — is that Blackwater was guilty of using child prostitutes at its compound in Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone and that owner Erik Prince knew of this activity and did nothing to stop it.

The declarations describe Blackwater as “having young girls provide oral sex to Enterprise members in the ‘Blackwater Man Camp’ in exchange for one American dollar.” They add even though Prince frequently visited this camp, he “failed to stop the ongoing use of prostitutes, including child prostitutes, by his men.”
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Iraqis speak of random killings committed by private Blackwater guards…

Guards employed by Blackwater, the US security company, shot Iraqis and killed victims in allegedly unprovoked and random attacks, it was claimed yesterday.

A Virginia court also received sworn statements from former Blackwater employees yesterday alleging that Erik Prince, the company’s founder, “views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe”.

They also accused the company of following a policy of deliberate killings and arms dealing and of employing people unfit or improperly trained to handle lethal weaponry.

In Baghdad yesterday, some Iraqis said they believed that the case was a last chance for justice and an opportunity for America to divorce the behaviour of its military from the private guards

Farid Walid, who was shot in Nisour Square two years ago during a massacre that killed 17 Iraqis, said: “Everybody here knows of cases where Blackwater guards shot innocent people without a second thought. They are a symbol of the occupation. Nobody will forget. But Iraqis might think at least a little differently of America if the killers are put in prison.”
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Blackwater Founder Implicated in Murder…

A former Blackwater employee and an ex-US Marine who has worked as a security operative for the company have made a series of explosive allegations in sworn statements filed on August 3 in federal court in Virginia. The two men claim that the company’s owner, Erik Prince, may have murdered or facilitated the murder of individuals who were cooperating with federal authorities investigating the company. The former employee also alleges that Prince “views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe,” and that Prince’s companies “encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life.”

In their testimony, both men also allege that Blackwater was smuggling weapons into Iraq. One of the men alleges that Prince turned a profit by transporting “illegal” or “unlawful” weapons into the country on Prince’s private planes. They also charge that Prince and other Blackwater executives destroyed incriminating videos, emails and other documents and have intentionally deceived the US State Department and other federal agencies. The identities of the two individuals were sealed out of concerns for their safety.
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Bribery and fraud at heart of defense contracting work in Iraq and Afghanistan…

(WMR) — WMR has learned from a knowledgeable contractor who served in Iraq and Afghanistan that a number of large U.S. defense contractors have been involved in questionable deals to land major contracts in countries that made up the “Coalition of the Willing” that invaded and occupied Iraq.

The companies named by the contractor include Booz Allen of McLean, Virginia, where Donald Rumsfeld’s Comptroller Dov Zakheim took a job after resigning in 2004; Lockheed Martin; and VSE Corporation of Alexandria, Virginia. In December 2003, a Government Accountability Office (GAO) audit concluded that there was $1.6 billion in lost funds from the war in Iraq and on information technology contracts.

VSE provided “support services” to the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan.
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US Blackwater-Xe mercenaries spreads fear in Pakistani town…

Peshawar – Fear is spreading across University Town, an upmarket residential area in Pakistan’s north-western city of Peshawar, due to the overt presence of the controversial US private security contractor Blackwater.

Sporting the customary dark glasses and carrying assault rifles, the mercenaries zoom around the neighbourhood in their black-coloured armoured Chevy Suburbans, and shout at motorists when occasionally stranded in a traffic jam.

The residents are mainly concerned about Blackwater’s reputation as a ruthless, unbridled private army whose employees face multiple charges of murder, child prostitution and weapons smuggling in Iraq.

‘Sometimes, these guys stand in the streets and behave rudely with the passers-by, sometimes they point guns at people without provocation’ said Imtiaz Gul, an engineer, whose home is a few hundred metres from the US contractor’s base on Chanar Road in University Town.

‘Who rules our streets, the Pakistani government or the Americans? They have created a state within the state,’ he added.
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Private contractors replacing troops in Iraq, Afghanistan…

If you thought the end of American intervention in foreign wars was nearing, think again. President Obama has been replacing soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan with private contractors—some 250,000 are currently deployed overseas—including Black Water (operating under another alias.)

Contractors are not subject to the same guidelines as our soldiers, and thus, have not been held accountable for the misdeeds they have afflicted upon civilian populations in the past.

This story has largely flown under the radar of the mainstream media, but will surely induce outrage at some uncertain point in the future.

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RIGHTS: New Charges Added to Blackwater Lawsuit…

NEW YORK, (IPS) – New charges filed against private security contractor Blackwater accuse the company of murder, destruction of audio and videotaped evidence, distribution of controlled substances, tax evasion, child prostitution, and weapons smuggling.

The new charges were filed under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisations Act (RICO) by several of the Iraqi civilians who were injured or who lost family members when Blackwater personnel opened fire in Nisoor Square in Baghdad in September 2007.

The new allegations, which have been added to an ongoing civil lawsuit in Virginia federal court, charge that then Blackwater chairman Erik Prince ”has created an enterprise that has engaged in a series of illegal acts that suffice as RICO predicate acts extending over a substantial period of time beginning at least in 2003.”

”The Prince RICO Enterprise continues to exist, continues to engage in repeated illegal acts, and poses a grave and special threat to the social well-being of the world,” say documents filed in the case.

The lawsuit alleged that Blackwater ”created and fostered a culture of lawlessness amongst its employees, encouraging them to act in the company’s financial interests at the expense of innocent human life.”
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Xe-Blackwater Personnel Shot Iraqi Children, Others in Multiple Incidents, According to Burke O’Neil LLC…

WASHINGTON, /PRNewswire/ — A spate of unprovoked civilian shootings by Xe-Blackwater personnel in Iraq between 2005 and 2008 are detailed in an amended lawsuit filed late Tuesday in Virginia federal court, according to the Washington, D.C. law firm that represents the families of those killed and wounded in the incidents.

The new allegations against several Blackwater-related defendants – now operating as Xe and other names under the control of chairman Erik Prince – include:

  • the shooting of three Iraqi families in a mini-van that killed nine-year-old Akram Khalid Sa’ed Jasim and wounded his three-month-old sister, who was shot in the face, his mother, his father, and uncle in July 2007;
  • the fatal shooting of 37-year-old Suhad Shakir Fadhil as she was driving home from work in the so-called Green Zone in February 2007;
  • the shooting of Maulood Mohammed Shathir Husein, a 31-year-old married professor of veterinary medicine at the University of Baghdad in August 2005;
  • the fatal shooting of 65-year-old Khalis Kareem Ali Al Qaysi, who was killed while he was being driven in Baghdad in March 2005;
  • the severe beating of 35-year-old Iraqi photographer Safeen Hameed Ahmed Qadir in April 2008 as he took photographs at a Ford automobile branch in the Arbil province that was visited by a U.S. diplomat, and;
  • the shooting of Husam Hasan Jaber, who was driving three passengers in Baghdad in a taxi cab he owns and operates.

The Iraqi families are represented by Burke O’Neil LLC, of Washington, D.C.
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Mercenaries Set Off for Afghanistan…

They are trying to be more discreet and less murderous than in Iraq. In Kabul, foreign mercenaries don’t let loose with rapid fire at intersections and the laws attempt to compel them to cooperate with Afghan companies. However, with the improvement of the situation in Iraq and since Barack Obama announced that Afghanistan and Pakistan were the “central front” of the war against al-Qaeda, they’ve been arriving.

The most attractive prospects and contracts for the future, private military companies deem, are on the Afghan front. The Taliban’s progressive return over the last three years and the rise in kidnappings assure their business: very few foreigners circulate without protection in the streets of the Afghan capital.

One incident drew attention to their presence. Returning from dinner on May 5, after an automobile accident, four paramilitaries working for an American company unheard of up until then, Paravant, machine-gunned an Afghan car, leaving one person dead and two wounded. The lawyer for the paramilitaries asserts that they were confronted with an insurgent attack, although the police investigation proved that the passengers in the vehicle were unarmed merchants. As in Iraq, as in other incidents in Afghanistan, justice will not be done: the men fled to the United States.

However, the episode did reveal that Paravant, which has a contract to train the Afghan police, is a discreet subsidiary of Blackwater, the biggest mercenary company in the world and symbol of the privatization of war during the Bush years, involved in multiple killings and assassinations in Iraq and renamed Xe. It also revealed that these men respected neither the law nor their contract, bearing arms outside of their service, AK-47s that can be purchased in the black market for a few dollars.

The Obama administration has not indicated its intentions with respect to the privatization of the war. In Iraq in 2007, the number of contractors, mercenaries and others compared to soldiers in uniform had reached a one to one ratio. Something that had never been seen before in the history of warfare. And a problem for democracy, since the contracts are often opaque and these men elude both national and military justice. It’s not just the law of the jungle, but also war with complete impunity.
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(photo: John Moore / Getty images)

Blackwater operating illegally in Iraq after contract…

The latest in a series of war-crimes lawsuits against Blackwater and its affiliated companies alleges that they continue to operate illegally in Iraq a month after the expiration of their lucrative security contract with the U.S. State Department.

The new lawsuit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, says Blackwater is still providing armed protection services in Iraq under the name Greystone Ltd. for the International Republican Institute, a nonprofit organization funded by the U.S. government.

That work is illegal, the lawsuit says, because the Iraqi government has refused to grant Blackwater licenses to do business or carry weapons in the country.

The company denied that it is operating illegally.

Iraqi anger over alleged unprovoked killings of civilians by Blackwater contractors was a key factor in the State Department’s decision not to renew the company’s contract to protect U.S. diplomatic personnel in Iraq.

That contract, which earned the Moyock, N.C.-based company hundreds of millions of dollars, expired in May.
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Five U.S. contractors held in slaying of another in Iraq…

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) — Five American security contractors were detained in connection with the killing of another American contractor last month inside Baghdad’s Green Zone, sources with knowledge of the investigation told CNN Saturday.

Iraqi and U.S. personnel took the five into custody in an operation inside the Green Zone before dawn on Friday, according to an Iraqi official involved in the investigation into the killing of James Kitterman. The five, who have not yet been charged, were being held by Iraqi security forces Saturday at a jail inside the heavily protected zone, he said.

The troops also confiscated weapons during the raid on the suspects’ firm at about 4 a.m. (11 a.m. ET), said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The names of the suspects and the company they work for were not released. The U.S. military declined comment and referred questions to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Embassy officials did not immediately respond to request for comments.
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US ‘privatizing’ war in Iraq, Afghanistan?

Number of US contractors working in Iraq and Afghanistan is on the rise despite Washington claims that it would withdraw forces from both countries within years.

The Pentagon has announced that the number of US contractors affiliated with the defense department is growing dramatically, a Russia Today report revealed on Friday.

The US outsource personnel working for the US private companies like Blackwater and Triple Canopy has reached 250,000, the report said.

Private security contractors form 25 percent of all the US forces in Iraq, while the equivalent number for Afghanistan is even higher with contractors constituting 30 percent of the Washington troops in the war-torn country.

The report further speculated that realities on the stage were indicative of a hypocritical disparity between words and deeds in the US administration.

In a much-anticipated address in Cairo University in Egypt on Thursday, the US President Barack Obama said the United States seeks no permanent presence in Afghanistan, while adding that Washington is planning to remove forces from Iraq by the end of 2011.

Source: presstv

Obama Has 250,000 “Contractors” in Iraq and Afghan Wars, Increases Number of Mercenaries…

Newly released Pentagon statistics show that in both Iraq and Afghanistan the number of armed contractors is rising. The DoD says it sees “similar dependence on contractors in future.”

by Jeremy Scahill
Source: RebelReports

A couple of years ago, Blackwater executive Joseph Schmitz seemed to see a silver lining for mercenary companies with the prospect of US forces being withdrawn or reduced in Iraq. “There is a scenario where we could as a government, the United States, could pull back the military footprint,” Schmitz said. “And there would then be more of a need for private contractors to go in.”

When it comes to armed contractors, it seems that Schmitz was right.

According to new statistics released by the Pentagon, with Barack Obama as commander in chief, there has been a 23% increase in the number of “Private Security Contractors” working for the Department of Defense in Iraq in the second quarter of 2009 and a 29% increase in Afghanistan, which “correlates to the build up of forces” in the country. These numbers relate explicitly to DoD security contractors. Companies like Blackwater and its successor Triple Canopy work on State Department contracts and it is unclear if these contractors are included in the over-all statistics. This means, the number of individual “security” contractors could be quite higher, as could the scope of their expansion.

Overall, contractors (armed and unarmed) now make up approximately 50% of  the “total force in Centcom AOR [Area of Responsibility].” This means there are a whopping 242,657 contractors working on these two US wars. These statistics come from two reports just released by Gary J. Motsek, the Assistant Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Program Support): “Contractor Support of U.S. Operations in USCENTCOM AOR, IRAQ, and Afghanistan and “Operational Contract Support, ‘State of the Union.’”

“We expect similar dependence on contractors in future contingency operations,” according to the contractor “State of the Union.” It notes that the deployment size of both military personnel and DoD civilians are “fixed by law,” but points out that the number of contractors is “size unfixed,” meaning there is virtually no limit (other than funds) to the number of contractors that can be deployed in the war zone.

At present there are 132,610 in Iraq and 68,197 in Afghanistan. The report notes that while the deployment of security contractors in Iraq is increasing, there was an 11% decrease in overall contractors in Iraq from the first quarter of 2009 due to the “ongoing efforts to reduce the contractor footprint in Iraq.”

Both Pentagon reports can be downloaded here.

Contractors say Blackwater supplied forbidden guns…

Two men who worked for the security firm formerly known as Blackwater say the company issued weapons to their employees in Afghanistan despite the military prohibiting workers from carrying guns.

Justin Cannon and Steven McClain were involved in a shooting earlier this month that killed an Afghan and injured two others.

They said Thursday they frequently asked superiors why the company distributed weapons without U.S. military authorization.

Cannon says they were told to ignore the ban.
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Army paid millions in bonuses to corrupt contractor…

The U.S. Army paid “tens of millions of dollars in bonuses” to KBR Inc, its biggest contractor in Iraq, even after it concluded the firm’s electrical work had put U.S. soldiers at risk, according to a source close to a U.S. congressional investigation.

The Senate Democratic Policy Committee plans to hold a hearing on Wednesday to examine KBR’s operations in Iraq, and question why the Army rewarded the Houston-based company.

The panel says KBR has been linked to at least two, and as many as five, electrocution deaths of U.S. soldiers and contractors in Iraq due to “shoddy work.”

Investigators believe hundreds of other soldiers may have received electrical shocks, the source added. The Army is investigating.

The company denies responsibility for any of the electrocutions, saying it is proud of its work and that its employees make great sacrifices to get the job done.

KBR was part of Halliburton Co until two years ago. Former Vice President Dick Cheney served as Halliburton’s chief executive from 1995 to 2000, when he became George Bush’s running mate.

During the Bush administration, some critics claimed Cheney’s deferred compensation from the company represented a conflict of interest and questioned Halliburton’s winning of lucrative government contracts in Iraq.
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