Monday, June 12, 2006
Taking a bullet for the politicians
Security contractors in Iraq are a private bunch. They don't like media attention and they don't open their doors to many outsiders. But after a lot of talking and explaining, we were recently able to get an inside look at some security contractors in Iraq.

There are roughly 25,000 security contractors in the country. They spend much of their time providing security for the convoys that bring in raw materials and daily necessities for military bases around the country.

The 130,000 troops in Iraq need places to eat, to land aircraft and helicopters, and to sleep. Most of the materials for these activities need to be brought into Iraq. Supply convoys often drive up from Kuwait, through areas that are very hostile to the United States, especially as the convoys near Baghdad. The contractors get the job of maintaining security for on these journeys.

In the past, the army would have provided its own supplies along with the security for them. No longer.

The use of private contractors is part of a gradual trend that has been developing over the past 30 or 40 years. You could even argue this trend has been developing over the past 100 or 150 years. You have always had private contractors who have gone into battle, whether to maintain suits of armor or feed horses. But in Iraq, this is taking place on a much grander scale.

The contractors also provide security for high-level government officers in Iraq, an incredibly violent place now. If you are associated with the Iraqi or American governments, then you are a target. Some of best-qualified people to defend high-level officials are the security contractors, many of whom once served in the American, South African or Australian special forces.

The U.S. government won't say how much has been spent on private security contractors, but industry experts estimate the figure is in the tens of billions of dollars.

What's in it for the contractors? In a word, money. Security in Iraq is a dangerous job and it pays well. A contractor with a good level of skill can make $650 per day, perhaps more if they have a top flight job. This kind of money can provide a good standard of living for their families, perhaps puting their kids into a better school or moving them into a better house. And the contractors have insurance to make sure their families will be taken care of in the event they are killed.

The use of so many private contractors in Iraq has drawn fire from critics both here and abroad. The contractors justify their presence by explaining that it would be very consumptive of men and materials if the military had to do everything the contractors now do. You would probably see troop levels such that a conscription or draft would be required.

The use of more soldiers would expose more soldiers to death and more politicians to political heat. The way the contractors in Iraq look at it is that there is an economic and political cost equation. They are keeping the administration from paying a price for a larger number of soldier deaths or the need for a larger number of troops.

That's their take. What's yours?
Posted By Nic Robertson, CNN International Correspondent: 6:03 PM ET
It seems to me they are nothing more than privateers and are making billions off the war. I say let the heat touch the politicians a little bit. It's about time people in this country are told what their tax dollars are paying for, including the private security contractors. I think the government should disclose what it's spent on the contractors. It's our money and we have a right to know how it's being spent.
Posted By Anonymous Shannon, Fresno, California : 6:39 PM ET
Of course, the military always has an excuse for doing what they do. They can spend millions or billions of dollars on war while they cut funding to schools. Mothers have to send their children to school with their own tissue, paper towels, and soap, because there is not enough money in the budget to buy these things. Bombs away!
Posted By Anonymous Dorian Fleetwood Sacramento, California : 6:57 PM ET
I understand the contractors' point of view as I am sure that the money is
good. However, instead of discussing
whether supplying the army should be
done by private contractors or not,
perhaps CNN (and other media outlets)
can keep the focus on *why* we're still
in Iraq, *when* we'll bring the troops
home and *how* we'll be able to persuade the UN to help the Iraqis to a certain extent. Or at least, help them
help themselves, as the country does
have tremendous resources.

We're treating the on-going war as a
force of nature which cannot be stopped - the civil war may be not be able to be stopped in next few years, but the
US needs to get out. I know many people think we have to stay there
because things will be much worse if
we leave - we will have to leave at some point and there will be a significant increase in violence after we do. There is no way to stop that - the US troops are in the middle of
a civil war fueled by centuries of resentment and injustices. I am originally from the Balkans and I know that unfortunately no outside intervention can solve such issues.

We need a peacekeeping force and we need the international community involved - the US is seen as the occupier and has no way of helping these people.
Posted By Anonymous Charles Wynn, Tacoma, Wash : 7:06 PM ET
I have two comments in favor of using PMCs:

-They are experts at what they do, and are more highly-trained than soldiers in specific security detail.

-But as they aren't employees of the military, we do not pay for their medical, retirement benefits, training, the cost of their dependants, etc.
Posted By Anonymous Tina - Chicago IL : 7:44 PM ET
It seems to me that there a two questions that must be asked concerning these contractors. Three very important questions which I cannot believe have been missed:

1) How many people are the Contractors killing?

Lets face it, our own military is facing a number of scandals with well trained marines getting out of hand. We have massacres with 130,000 troops -- we will also have massacres with 25,000 troops. You don't put 25,000 paramilitaries through the so called: "Most dangerous areas" without them killing some people. So the question is who are the killing? And what oversight (IF ANY) is being provided to make sure these contractors aren't involved in war crimes...

... you know those things that inspire more insurgents to blow our soldiers up.

2) If our military can afford to pay these contractors such large sums... why can't it afford to say, pay our soldiers a larger sum too?

Think about it. $10 billion is a lot of money. That's enough to give all 130,000 soldiers over there $75,000 more per a year! it also, sadly, only makes up a fairly some chunk of the money spent every year in Iraq.

Seems to me, if the wages of soldiers in Iraq shot up by 70k, or even 30k, then there wouldn't be such a huge problem with recruiting. In this case there would be no need for these private contractors, or at least there would be much less.

More to the point, if the USA took proper care of it's soliders, like it seems willing to do for private contractors, we wouldn't need to feel quite so bad when a handful of them die.

At least we'd know, that in one sense Uncle Sam made it worth their while.

Instead, I cannot help but wonder if the USA is abusing the patriotism of it's soliders so that it can pony up extra money for individuals like say, these private contractors.
Posted By Anonymous Xylix, San Diego : 8:33 PM ET
War is a terrible thing.

Unfortunately the nature of dictators and "elected for life" despots of third world countries is terrible too. Lets not forget Pal Pot, Kim Jong II and Joey Stalin to name a few. These freaks sent MILLIONS to their deaths, not thousands.

The US is in Iraq, and any number of other godforsaken 3rd world ****holes so that horrors of civilian atrocity like 9-11 don't happen here in the US. When seeds of democracy are planted, and human rights are respected and lawfully policed the world becomes a better in the US and 3,000 miles away.

I say "Thank You" to the military for being there for us, and I say "Be Careful & Come Home soon" to the military contractors who also risk their lives (and get paid risk rated) for their involvment.
Posted By Anonymous J. Galt, Oakland, CA : 8:40 PM ET
The necessity of contractors is due in large part to the micro management of the military and civilian security agencies carried out by congress today and in the past. The taxpayers continue to foot the bill for this political meddling.
Posted By Anonymous bill bilawa, henderson, nevada : 8:41 PM ET
Where do I sign up?
Posted By Anonymous Victor Richmond Hill Ontario : 8:42 PM ET
Cruel as it may sound, why don't we just increase the size of the US armed forces rather than cut back and then pay private contractors a lot of money. It seems hypocritical that Rumsfeld states we do not need such a large army and then pays four times as much to private contractors to do a job the army can do.

Of course, this whole war seems to have many issues. However, if US soldiers died instead of contractors, it certainly will bring more attention to the human toll of this mission.

I keep thinking that this whole war is putting money in someone's pocket (Haliburton, Black Water, etc) and taking it out of ours. Can US companies set aside profiteering for the sake of spreading democracy? We certainly are through our taxes.
Posted By Anonymous Peter - West Sacramento, CA : 8:42 PM ET
Don't blame the military or the PMCs for the expenditure.
They are doing what they are asked by the GOVERNMENT.
Yours and mine.
Ultimately it is the government that decides what is spent and where.
If the government decided to thrpow millions of dollars in your industry, would you reject a pay rise?
I think not.
Also remember that many of the actual contractors ont he gorund have for a long time been servicemen, and were nto paid vast salaries etc and do not have vast finanical resources.
They are perhaps now reaping some benefit for years of sacrifice, financial, famial and otehyrwise that being a SERVICEperson entails.
Posted By Anonymous Jason, Adelaide, South Australia : 8:43 PM ET
I have a good friend from Two Rivers, Alaska. He served in the US Army, and now as a "thirty something" year old, is serving in Iraq as a "contractor". I believe that the need for security is there, and that it is a viable alternative to "sending more troops". And, if he gets whacked and killed or injured, there will be no question whatsoever, that it was totally his choice to be there. I pray that he does not, naturally, for I know and love his family, kids and wife. Great people, and an honorable thing for him to do. His wife has been diagnosed with cancer, and she has had top level medical care because of his decision to use his military training in the Army for this purpose. May he succeed to help and protect those whom he was hired to help and protect.
Posted By Anonymous Kevin Nye, Juneau, Alaska : 8:45 PM ET
The choice has been made to go in already, I don't see the point in trying to change the past. Deal with it.

On the topic, I think the ex-military mercenaries are better off getting paid and protecting people than being hired by crime organization or wasting away as retired soldiers.

However, I'm concerned that one day, private corporations or syndicates with there large armies, will be above the law and take unethical missions purely for money, if they haven't already.
Posted By Anonymous Paul, Washington DC : 8:46 PM ET
my son is in Iraq, he's considering moving towards contract work in the future because of the money. Civillian body counts or military body counts this is a bad situation.
Posted By Anonymous Dan Olsen, Seattle, WA : 8:46 PM ET
I think having private contractors there is a positive thing, though some may not agree. It prevents have to send more troops from the ranks of our armed forces, and even though the media is touting the cost in the "tens of billions", what do you think it would cost to send ground forces there? It's a catch 22 anyway...if we weren't there, we'd be blamed for not doing enough, while on the other hand, we're there and being blasted for what we are and are not doing. When are news agencies going to show the good that's being done there, like the construction of schools, the rebuilding of public places, and the growth and opportunity that is being put in Iraq? Is our media so liberal that we can only see the negativity there? Let's see something positive, and move on.
Posted By Anonymous J. Haynie Nashville, Tn : 8:46 PM ET
I have been researching private contractors for several years. They are the subject of my Ph.D. Governments, including the US, have been using contractors for years begining back after WWII. Most contractors are not in harms way and provide services that does not require them to carry arms. Contactors provide a vital service where the military and politicians are unwilling to go. At the same time, should governments ask private citizens to perform duties they will not perform themselves? The main arguement behind the use of private contactors has been that they are economically efficient and militarily effective (in terms of security). Yet, there is little evidence that shows that they meet either arguement. I think we will see in the next years whether the choice to privatize security in a war really does make sense.
Posted By Anonymous Jared Lawyer,Santa Barbara, California : 8:46 PM ET
This was inevitable. 9/11 has started a global war which will not stop for possibly decades. Kids in America no longer want to join the military to try to get the college fund since they now may get dead, or injured on the job. The recuiting problem is not too terrible, but filling combat arms slots is extremely hard.

Kids will sign up on contract for a specific, non-combat related MOS instead.

The contractors are top quality veterans for the most part. They get the job done more effectively and more efficiently. The government does not have to pay for their insurance, medical, equipment...just money. The government comes out saving money versus sending the same amount of military personnel to get the job done. Its get done more efficiently because you are hiring skilled veterans with years of combat experience under their belt. Also, less middle management is involved, meaning faster reaction times from planning to task completion.

My brother spent 9 years in U.S. army, in special units and has now been working for Blackwater for the past couple years. I am also in the hiring process with BW as my military service is complete. My brother was constantly frustrated with the military's habit of being a slow moving, cumbersome organization in ALL MATTERS concerning an operation.

As a contractor, he says they simply bust ass and get results.
Posted By Anonymous Liam, Phoenix AZ : 8:56 PM ET
This war has cost the United States dearly in money and lives. For the Iraqis, it has cost lives and insecurity and the loss of infrastructure. The loss of another soldier or a security contractor or an innocent Iraqi civilian is one more loss too many.
The United States effort in Iraq must center on humanitarian activities. To leave Iraq, our soldiers must first work to help the Iraqis build a viable infrastructure. There are schools, mosques, hospitals, etc. that must return to operational condition.
If, after having made that effort to rebuild what we have broken, the citizens of Iraq no longer want our help, then it will be time to leave.
In the meantime, if the contracted security workers can offer support, then perhaps the whole thing might reach a resolution just a bit sooner.
Posted By Anonymous Elizabeth Morgantown, WV : 8:57 PM ET
This is definitely a disturbing trend toward the privatization of the military. All of the rules of war, accountability and restraints enforced on military personnel are completely gone with mercenaries (which is all a 'security contractor' is) who can and do act as they please with little threat of punishment that the highly scrutinized uniformed military are constantly subjected to. This is removing the restraint and accountability of the military from the battlefield (and, despite a few highly publicized instances, US soldiers have been remarkably restrained in the war.) While it may be politically easier to outsource military tasks to the private sector because of a war's unpopularity, the policy rewards mercenaries lavishly with taxpayer dollars for doing the same job privates are doing for virtually nothing. It also suggests an unsettling future where an administration may wage war much more brutally and with less democratic control or oversight than today (if a war is too unpopular in a democracy to be supported by normal means then it should not be circumvented by mercenaries but ended).
Posted By Anonymous Alex Hokenson, springfield, va : 9:02 PM ET
Mercenaries have been used to fight wars for thousands of years. The difference today is that their use is a clear indication that the American public is not in favor of the war. If we were, there would be lines of men and women enlisting in the service, as there were in WWII.

This war is about oil, so let the oil companies pay the mercenaries, not the American people.
Posted By Anonymous Marty, Hudson, NH : 9:09 PM ET
Using contractors on a long term basis would seem to be counter productive. Cost in $$ is just the start. No draft, no new taxes, no security. For billions we've fed the black market and the cartels. NO OIL, water, electricity, sewers, security, or control of how these contractors perform. Bremer didn't even bother to "account" for the funds.

The latest was pulling 7 helicopters from the War on Drugs protecting the Florida coast/Burmuda to cover the growing equipment shortage. Which brings up the equipment contracts being outsourced. Bend over, here it comes again.

It takes more than wearing a flag to support the troops. Do you suppose those billions going for troops, equipment and vets would be better support?
Posted By Anonymous linda, bella vista, ar : 9:10 PM ET
On a purely economic level, when you hear big numbers about how much it costs to pay for contractors in Iraq (or elsewhere), consider that paying a contractor for one year means you don't have to pay, house, feed, insure, transport (and on and on) a U.S. military soldier for ten years prior to and after that one year, just so he/she is available when needed. Compare one year�s contracting fee to a 20-year military career and it�s a no-brainer. And contractors who perform as bullet-sponges (as eloquently put by the contractor in the CNN article) have a right to be paid a premium to risk their life; our police officers deserve the same. Contract work is also short-term, so they may be OUT of work all next year, or recovering from wounds, or learning how to walk with one eye and a prosthetic leg bought with insurance they pay for themselves. Any short-term contracting position pays more for shorter, higher-intensity projects, even stateside in technology. Lastly, I'd much rather pay a premium for a private veteran ex-Special Forces contractor to do the work than send out a gaggle of Army privates with minimal equipment, training, and motivation who function as little more than targets. We could bag the contractors and reinstate the draft to staff all the security and other infrastructure (Cheaper? I doubt it.). But do you want your son drafted and then disemboweled by machine gun fire while guarding a convey of cement trucks so the local major can build a new police station for the insurgents to blow up? I don�t. Not your son, not mine. I cry when any son dies over there. And I�m big-time thankful there are skilled men and women out there willing to do that thankless, deadly job so neither I nor my son has to.
Posted By Anonymous Eric Muench, Cheney, Washington : 9:16 PM ET
If private contractors appear to be such a necessity, they're so willing to put their lives on the line as paid mercenaries, and the money paid them comes from the public treasurey anyway, let's simplify matters; have private contractors fight the whole war. Who cares about the cost, whats a few extra billion, give or take.
Posted By Anonymous Richard Tast Bloomfield, NM : 9:37 PM ET
"Kids will sign up on contract for a specific, non-combat related MOS instead."
In Iraq that MOS does not exist. Further, even if it did, soldiers respond to the Services needs' contract or no contract.
Posted By Anonymous Rico Columbus, Ohio : 9:42 PM ET
I find it tiring that we're not calling things what they are. They're mercenaries, plain and simple, and it's not so much a growing trend as it is a return to the practices that have always won wars- Whoever has the most, biggest, fighters, wins. End of story. Let's cut the spin, shall we?
Posted By Anonymous Monique, Boston MA : 9:45 PM ET
I think there's an important point being missed here. The government uses private contractors all of the time, during peace time or war. Companies are contracted to produce toilet paper, weapons, fuel, equipment, training, repairing of infrastructure, et cetera. Where is the illogic of then using private contractors for security?

If they are more effective than the generally young and inexperienced troops out there on the line, then why not use them?

In the long run it means less mistakes made and more boys coming home from the field.

Policymaking is the job of governments, not of contractors or soldiers. I say, quit sniping the people there trying to do a job. If you have a problem with the war, focus your complaints at the warmakers, and not at the markets that warmaking creates.
Posted By Anonymous Sean, Phoenix AZ : 9:48 PM ET
I may be a little naive at 17 years old but why doesnt the armed forces have a special security team? They could join the service type they want(Navy, Air Force, Marines, etc.) but choose between "armed forces" and security. Of course, security would be based on certain criteria because no one wants to be armed yet shot to death. They would also recieve the same pay which would save America money and weaken the impact war has on the National Deficit.
With the proper training, they can take care of themselves.
Posted By Anonymous Ryan Jones, Oak Hill, West Virginia : 10:02 PM ET
People are using this war just to get rich it has nothing to do with freedon everything in this war is about oil and money and people getting rich. and they know they will be there for a long time and the people doing the security are connected to the companies who are doing the contracts
Posted By Anonymous Mary D terrell : 10:02 PM ET
Private sector professionals and specialists will always get the job done better than any governmental agency can. I'll glad fork over the extra money in taxes if it keeps the mission moving forward, minimizes the loss to our troops and most importantly, as the article states, keeps us away from conscription and draft. Don't be deceived by the numbers game the anti-war crowd is playing. Look at what works. And it IS working. Getting rid of the Blackwaters and Haliburtons would be nothing short of stupid.
Posted By Anonymous Pepe, Chicago, IL : 10:02 PM ET
A couple problems I see with private contractors: First, motivation. They are not there to uphold the values of America like our soldiers, and therefore their actions may not be as noble. Second, there is not nearly as much transparency or accountability (not like there is a lot in the US Military, but there is some oversight and accountability).
Posted By Anonymous Patrick Macary, St. Petersburg, Florida : 10:03 PM ET
why do people still equate 9/11 with Iraq...

COMPLETELY DIFFERENT as proven by the mounds of evidence saying Hussein and Al Qaeda were never connected.
Posted By Anonymous Hyde Park, NY : 10:08 PM ET
In actuality, the Founding Fathers were clear as to the percentage of men in the standing military vs citizen militia.

James Madison: "One hundreth the part of souls or 1/25th the number able to bear arms."

The 12th Grievance of the Declaration of Independence states that Tyranny exists when the military (standing army of the government at that time) is independent and supior to the civil power at that time describing ordinary civilians, these definitions are important.

Why we are there and why they are fighting is more important, are they fighting for blind nationalist causes, boarders, flags, sybolism?

Or are they fighting to establish certain, inalienable, rights which is the true definition of freedom?

When we leave, are we going to leave behind freedom, or a english socialist democracy.

Richard Taylor, Chair Oregon Patriot Party; Standing National American Patriot Party
Posted By Anonymous Richard Taylor, Ashland, Oregon : 10:12 PM ET
Some people who have commented on this article feel that we are saving money by using contractors instead of soldiers. That is pure nonsense.

How many soldiers earn 650 dollars per day? None. The most senior enlisted soldiers with over 25 years service make a base pay of 180 dollars per day. The top ranking generals with over 25 years service make 427 dollars per day. The other 99% plus of soldiers make less, often far less.

So, enough of this idea that contractors cost less than soldiers. It just isn't true.
Posted By Anonymous Ed, Tucson AZ : 10:14 PM ET
This system exploded exponentially during Desert Storm, when Cheney was Secy of Defense and Halliburton, an oil industry equipment supplier, became supplier of over seas food, kitchens and security etc. on a no bid contract basis.
Posted By Anonymous Hartley Lord, Boca Raton, Fl. : 10:14 PM ET
Liam from Phoenix's last sentence is exactly why we should not allow our government to hire mercenaries who are answerable to no one.
Posted By Anonymous Jerry, Las Vegas Nevada : 10:32 PM ET
Contractors are civilians that have volunteered to go into a war zone and help serve their country. Yeah they get paid a lot more than a regular military person, but most all of the professional contractors have served in some of the most elite forces and were paid very little to do some of the most dangerous missions while in these units. What's the big deal with doing a similar job as a civilian but getting paid what you should for risking your life 24/7. Not everyone has the training and qualifications to do these jobs, but the ones that do have earned it and deserve the money.
Posted By Anonymous Bobby Kleman Castle Rock,CO : 10:32 PM ET
the reason they're paid more than the your basic footman is because they are trained individuals for this type of job AND they do things others won't. think about it. not many people would love to be a private mercenary who's job is to soak up bullets.
Posted By Anonymous tim, st. louis mo : 10:36 PM ET
"Contractors"? Is that the modern military euphymism for mercenaries? Frankly I'm tired of our government trying to marginalize their way into Orwellian bliss.

Defense Department was actually the more aptly named "War Dept."
Civilian casualties and deaths are now "collateral damage"
Bombings are now "surgical strikes"
Mercenaries are now "contractors."

It's absolutely disgusting.
Posted By Anonymous Jack Ryan, Chicago, IL : 10:36 PM ET
War profiteering all over again as in Vietnam!
Posted By Anonymous Tom Newman, Rockford Illinois : 10:43 PM ET
Please, leave these guys They deserve every dollar they risk their lives for. I guess, it's our ununiformed version of the French Foreign Legion (hopefully, minus the bordello trap doors).
Posted By Anonymous Nancy Lacika, St. Cloud, MN : 10:46 PM ET
I spent two years in Iraq as a security contractor. Yes, I was paid good money for the work I did, but it wasn't without risk. Civilian security personnel in Iraq are responsible for securing various facilities throughout Iraq, to include Iraqi ammunition supply depots, often with the assistance of civilian Iraqi security forces. Together, we defend these facilities against air and sometimes ground attacks, and often with little or no immediate military support. Our job is to protect these facilities as well as other civilian personnel who work there in support of the US governments mission. Security contractors provide convoy security for the safe movement of civilian personnel and equipment throughout the country and often at considerable risk. Others provide close protection VIP security. Many of us are ex-military, either having served several years or retired. You'll find former Army Rangers, Special Forces, Navy SEALs, Delta, Marine, FBI, and policemen, all of whom were often highly trained in the skills required to provide high risk security and trained to make critical life and death decisions under fire. Security personnel risk their lives to help accomplish the US governments mission in Iraq. The fact is, the news agencies rarely cover the stories of those civilian contractors that have been wounded or killed in this service. Contractors fill a void and free-up military forces to conduct their missions, otherwise, many more American men would have to be transported to Iraq to perform this service. They say there are about 20,000+ security contractors in Iraq. That could be 20,000+ additional military personnel being put at risk, something the American public doesn't want. Of course, let's not forget the British, Australian, South African, and other civilian security personnel who have put themselves at risk in this highly volatile service in Iraq.
Posted By Anonymous K Harris, Fayetteville, NC : 10:46 PM ET
Our government seems to be privatizing everything so why don't we abandon any military and just have only private contractors who are more efficient and who are compensated as they should be with real disability and death insurance in the private sector. Also they would be responsible and report more of the real cost of the war in money and in lives. I do however shake with fear at the thought of the executive taking the power of ordering private contractors to do their bidding with no oversight by the sovereign citizens or their representatives.

It is patently unfair what is going on these years since the opposition has decided to cede up its position for the sake unity for the troops and have thus allowed the executive to go to war in our name without our consent so you see my fears are already realized.
Posted By Anonymous erika morgan, blackdiamond wa : 10:59 PM ET
Since US corporations are already offshoring American jobs for 1/10th the price, why don't we just hire a bunch of more affordable non-US contractors? Say Chinese/Indian/other?

Still amazes me that our government disbanded the Iraqi military in the first place and decided to rebuild their military from scratch.
Posted By Anonymous mark silvers, Los Angeles, CA : 6:14 AM ET
private, unregulated, un-monitered, armies...
Anyone out there who thinks this is a good idea, should really stop and ponder the the magnitude of abuse of power that could, and most likely did occur by those people.
I have known about this issue for some time from other news sources. It is interesting to see it on the front page of, however more disturbing is the lack of outrage in the reporting of the story.
Hail Capitalism
Posted By Anonymous John, Tucson AZ : 6:36 AM ET
The money is big time and they do the things the regular military doesn't want to do. Besides that they tend to stay longer than the regular Troops because of the money. We need to pay our Troops more money and figure out an exit plan. God bless all who serve.
Posted By Anonymous Joe, Eastern Shore of VA : 6:53 AM ET
I served in southern Iraq for close to a year with KBR and spent most of that time on a military base. The only time I was "on the road" was when I was coming or going on vacation or mobilizing. We convoyed to Kuwait.

I assisted, on a few occasions, security contractors and found them to be fine and decent men. Most were former military personnel.
Many of them have lost their lives over the last three years in Iraq and sometimes they died under horrendous conditions. These are people who have more courage than the overwhelming majority of American men.

Recruiting for the combat arms is difficult and with all the benefits it is expensive to add Army and Marine personnel. Contractors, in the end run, cost the government less.

As far as "war crimes" that one writer discussed (speculated about)...most if not all clashes with terrorists and insurgents are brief and violent. There is no time to commit the hypothetical war crimes that one writer talked about.

The same situation with base support contractors existed in Viet Nam. To my knowledge we did not have security contractors there, but RMK-BRJ did extensive base support. The system worked.

Jack Rader
Pinellas Park, Florida
Posted By Anonymous Jack Rader - Pinellas Park, FL : 6:53 AM ET
I'm a contractor and I work in the Defense Industry as an Intelligence Analyst. I was hired because I kept my security clearance up to date from my time in the Army and had the requsite experience to to a needed job as stated by the Government. I make good money and I'm a bit non-plussed that contractors are being compensated for jobs that no one wants to do. Oh yeah, they all want the money, but not the fear of a bomb going off in your ear or the thought of a bullet heading for your nose. but then again, I imagine sitting at home and cursing me for the freedom I've bought and paid for that allows people to call me a war monger is dangerous also.
Posted By Anonymous Dave Rudd, Woodbridge Va. : 7:12 AM ET
I am a civilian contractor myself. I work right in the safest area in Iraq, the Green Zone. I have my own room, furnished with Cable TV, fridge, internet connection, etc. All of my expenses are fully paid. I don't pay for laundrey, food, transportation, etc. I hardly spend $40 US/months. My office is airconditioned, coffee is brewed all the time (we grind it), free international phone calls, I have my own mobile phone with free calls all over the world, etc.

How much do they pay me? $1500 US/day at 70 hours/week! What do I do? Nothing much of value really. How many are there doing and getting paid the same or more? A LOT! Are they qualified? Most of them are not. We even have degree less personnel who less than 30 years old making this much!

Compared to the security personnel, I really think they are not getting paid enough. At least, they risk their lives for the pay... what do I risk?
Posted By Anonymous Kay, Baghdad, Iraq : 7:30 AM ET
We use private contractors because of the world media. If an american soldier is shot at, responds with fire and kills an insurgent, he is depicted as a war criminal. The mercenaries are nameless, faceless soldiers willing to go in to combat with our troops, in the most dangerous of positions, and do the job. People seem to have forgotten that this is a war. guns are fired in anger and people get shot. That's what war is.
Posted By Anonymous Mark A. Cocoa, FL : 8:17 AM ET
My friend drove supply convoys in southern Iraq, he was under the same risk of death as these military contractors, and I assure you he was not making $650 per day. It is time that we fess up to the fact that our military is woefully under-paid. The outrageous salaries that these contractors make compared to the army grunts that they work along side is a cause of even further shame for America. As for skills, many of these contractors have experience as rent-a-cops and bouncers, my friend has been extensively trained in the use of artillery, and they have him driving trucks...
Posted By Anonymous Michael Lowell, MA : 8:21 AM ET
Oh Nic, your blog makes me ask myself a question: are these contractors issues part of the game in Iraq war? Who are those private contractors? Are they related to people with political power that the US' existence in Iraq is part of a money machine mechanism? Hate to think that a war is a good business and stay as long as possible to sustain the business. BTW, the money is tax payers' money.
Posted By Anonymous Clara Hughes, NYC, NY : 10:14 AM ET
I contemplated entering into the private contracting world upon my exit from the military. The money is very lucrative ranging from 125 to 250 k for a year (and additional money if you stay beyond that point). For every stateside offer I had, there were at least three offers for Iraq. The protective detail service is just the tip of the iceberg.
Posted By Anonymous Frank, Anchorage AK : 11:22 AM ET
Mercenaries. Accountable only to their paymaster.
Posted By Anonymous Pete Petersen, Sacramento, CA : 11:24 AM ET
Since these private security agencies are "private" they are not subject to the scrutiny of the media, public or the U S Congress like members of the US Army.
You never hear about atrocities by private security units, do you? Dah ! After 20 months there, I rest my case.
Posted By Anonymous Fleck, Atlanta, ga. : 11:45 AM ET
Unbelievable story. I had no idea that there were that many private security contractors, and what is really necessary to rebuild a country after it is torn apart. I wonder if GB and his cronies took this into consideration before plundering Iraq. My guess would be no. Keep up the good work guys. You are my source for news now. Thanks!
Posted By Anonymous Sharon, North Adams, MA : 1:09 PM ET
I agree with Peter - (West Sacramento, CA) in that it is best to increase the size of the army, instead of using mercenaries. This would require re-instating the draft, but consider:

No one wants the draft back, but it should be a requirement of a large scale war such as this - It is a much more fair way of sharing the risk. We should have a limited number of professional soldiers, and pay them well, but use the draft to make up the difference. If we are not willing to have our selves and our children drafted, then the politicians should take it is a strong indicator the war is not worth fighting.
Posted By Anonymous Jim Stewart, Seattle, WA : 1:47 PM ET
Having read the comments, I've decided to do a quick follow-up to my post. Civilian security personnel are held responsible and accountable for their actions. These personnel must follow the rules of engagement (ROE) as defined by the military commander in Iraq, or the contractor risks losing their contract and being sent packing. During my two years in Iraq, I've seen numerous restrictions being dictated to security personnel, all for the purpose of protecting the general Iraqi populace. Some of these restrictions do have the effect of making the security contractors job more difficult and dangerous, as these same restrictions unwittingly serve to protect the insurgent as well. It's all about law and order.
Posted By Anonymous K Harris, Fayetteville, NC : 6:35 PM ET
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