There are almost as many mercenaries in Iraq as there are US service personnel.
According to the latest issue of Rolling Stone, there are currently 100,000 PSCs – private security consultants, and only 152,000 US service personnel
. This is a massive expansion from the 25,000 that the Pentagon last estimated. There are big firms like Aegis
and the ever-controversial Blackwater
that hire ex-soldiers to train local forces – although their websites make them look like community workers. There are grunt check-point gunsels, jumped-up bouncers who are working a few seasons for extraordinary profits. Whatever the background, these private warriors are increasing in numbers, just as there are proposals to cut back on US troops on the ground.
It seems that, without them, the occupation could not continue, and the streets may actually be even more dangerous. Nick Bicanic’s remarkable documentary on mercenaries, Shadow Company
, debuted at the SXSW film festival this year. Response was mixed, not because of any technical failings of the movie, but because of its attitude to PSCs. They were, in Bicanic’s view, a regrettable and essential inevitability, and that there were some people who actually good at their job. They were the genuine security consultants – generally ex-special forces who helped pacify nations and train security forces.
However, the consensus opinion of these professionals was that the finite resource of trained and experienced ex-soldiers who wanted to become warriors-for-hire was running short. What was filling the ranks were armed idiots – hired thugs that had seen one Steven Segal movie too many. They were making this statement in 2004, back when there was one PSC for every ten American troops on the ground. For context, there was only one PSC for every 100 coalition troops in the whole theatre for Operation Desert Storm, back in 1991.
So who are these people; who are paying their bills; and as long as American firms are keeping these private armies on the ground, will it really make any difference if the US withdraws its armies or not?
, us army
, war on terror
, shadow company
, private security consultants