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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Klein: The Mercenary Factor in Iraq

You ask: What about the mercenary soldiers that Blackwater and other firms supply in this new and heavily privatized warfare that characterizes the US occupation of Iraq? Good question. Ms. Klein reports that in February 2007 "the Associated Press put the number of contractors in Iraq at 120,000, almost equivalent to the number of U.S. troops . . . The UN's budget for peacekeeping in 2006-2007 was $5.25 billion--that's less than a quarter of the $20 billion Halliburton got in Iraq contracts, and the latest estimates are that the mercenary industry alone is worth $4 billion . . . During the April 2004 uprising of Moqtada al-Sadr's movement in Najaf, Blackwater actually assumed command over active-duty U.S. marines in a daylong battle with the Mahdi Army, during which dozens of Iraqis were killed." The Shock Doctrine, pp. 378-80.

So here's a way to augment troop levels in an unpopular war, or occupation--pay people to come in and fight on your side. You don't hear the press reporting on the number of mercenaries in Iraq, so the American public gets a distorted picture of the level of overall "US forces." Does Congress have oversight of mercenaries such as Blackwater? Not that I know of. Seems to be an executive branch/Pentagon kind of thing. Yet these mercenaries are fighting in our name. Shouldn't the voting public have some kind of say in this? The billions of dollars the mercenaries are being paid comprise US tax dollars.

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