Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Multimillion pound mercenaries

Before I begin this post I must admit to having little idea as to where it's going. I'm hoping someone out there more informed than I might assist in sealing over the cracks in my knowledge.

There are private security firms working in Iraq. This I already knew. In today's Guardian, following the kidnappings in Baghdad yesterday, there was a short article on the work of the security firms. The same sorts of firms that were supposed to be protecting the Westerners spirited away yesterday.

According to the article, ex-soldiers hired by these firms can expect to earn up to £500 a day. I'm not sure that would persuade me. Well, maybe a week but I'd want cash up front. 900 of these "security guards" have been killed in the last three. Guarding the stock at your local Boots, it ain't. The Pentagon estimates there are around 20,000 armed security guards in Iraq. However, I heard a figure quoted on Channel Four news earlier this evening which put the number closer to 120,000.

So, there are anywhere between 20,000 and 120,000 expertly trained fighters marauding through the Middle East answerable to I'm not sure whom and paid for by the same whom. There exist security firms in Iraq, going by such vaguely futuristic Terminator-soundings titles as GardaWorld and DynCorp. Why they are there and on whose say so is less clear to me. Some, however, appear to have been hired by the US and British administrations. But if American soldiers can dole out torture and abuse right under the noses of their commanding officers what conceivable mischief can these soldiers of fortune find to entertain themselves? The article explains:

"It was a controversial appointment as the company was run by the former mercenary from the Scots Guards, Lieutenant Colonel Tim Spicer, a central figure in the arms-to-Africa scandal of the late 1990s, when arms were shipped to a Sierra Leone militia leader later indicted as a war criminal. The company (Aegis Defence) has survived a number of further controversies - such as the so-called "trophy video" of its men on patrol shooting at Iraqi civilian cars - and now some of the most senior retired British officers sit on the board."

The article also explains that, "The firm's turnover of £554,000 in 2003 rose to £62m in 2005, 75% of which came from Iraq." War: what is it good for? It's good for business. I'm not going to get into the moral considerations of security firms making vast profits in wartime. But it does seem to me that, like the chap whose name I've forgotten just now (Christian chap. Think he was from Harrow. Pinner, perhaps?), there's a lot of people involved in Iraq who'd be best off out it. Not beautifully put, I grant you, but you see where I'm coming from. The facetious among you will scoff, "Not least the British and Americans" but that's another argument. If I were a British squaddie I might feel a touch aggrieved at people playing soldiers and being handsomely rewarded by my government, who in some way I might be expected to watch the backs of when the going gets hairy.


At 10:41 pm , Blogger Finnieston Crane said...

Norman Kember! That's the fella.


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