There is, conveniently, no official count. But there are an estimated 160,000 private contractors working in Iraq, and some 50,000 of them are “private security” operatives — that is, fighters. The dangers of this privatized approach to war became frighteningly clear last month, after guards from Blackwater USA, assigned to protect American diplomats, were accused of killing at least eight Iraqis, including an infant.
Iraqis — whose hearts and minds the Bush administration insists it is finally winning — were infuriated by the killings, telling tales of arrogant and trigger-happy operatives terrorizing ordinary citizens. The incident provides an irrefutable argument for bringing these mission-critical jobs, which should be performed by soldiers, back into government hands as quickly as possible, and for placing any remaining private contractors under the jurisdiction of American military law.
Blackwater’s 850 operatives in Iraq are not the only problem. The fact that American diplomatic activity in Iraq nearly came to a halt when Blackwater was grounded for a few days shows how much American operations have come to depend on mercenaries. [complete article]
See also, Congressman: State Dept. official threatened investigators (McClatchy).
Editor’s Comment — If by the third paragraph, the New York Times was able to muster the courage to use the utterly shocking word “mercenaries,” why the hell couldn’t they have put this incendiary term in the headline or at least in the second sentence? Is there some perverse form of political correctness that makes people uncomfortable about suggesting that tens of thousands of Americans have gone to Iraq to make a killing (figuratively) while engaged in a good deal of killing (literally) along the way? To say as much is to acknowledge that the mess in Iraq cannot be blamed exclusively on the leadership of the administration.