Friday, 13 November 2009

Out With the Bad Mercenaries, In With The Equally As Bad Ones

As people may work out from my political views, I'm not a reader of FHM. However, on spotting a copy of the December 2009 issue which featured an article on mercenaries, I grabbed it a scribbled down a few notes from the issue, the following piece is what I've gleaned from it.

The most famous currently existing mercenary company (or civilian contractors as they prefer to be known) in the world today is probably Blackwater, responsible for the Nissour Square shootings and numerous other incidents in Iraq which propelled them into the spotlight. Such was the turmoil, that they have now changed their name to the more corporate Xe and are supposed to be being ejected from Iraq (although they have had certain contracts extended such as $20m aviation contract and are getting new contracts in Afghanistan) and replaced by other firms.

A review of the Jeremy Scahill book on Blackwater will shortly be appearing on this blog, so I won't go into too much depth on them. But the article provides interesting information on how Blackwater's fromer head, Erik Prince, has dealt with some of these incidents - for example redeploying men who had been sent home for steroid abuses, claiming that sending them home was weasting company money, or the rumour that they (Blackwater) were "...offing anyone who tried to alert the authorities about Blackwater's (allegedly numerous and ongoing) war crimes."(pg193)

However, the US are gradually handing Blackwater's contracts to other groups, mainly DynCorp. Although the coalition troops themselves are being deployed from Iraq, the article states that mercenaries hired by the US increased from 10,743 in March to 13,232 in June. Moreover, DynCorp's reputation isn't any better than Blackwater's.

The article lists a whole load of alleged shady goings on that the company have been involved with such as that,

"Two DynCorp employees seperately alleged that the company was running a sex-trafficking business during the Bosnian war in the 90's. Teenage girls were traded as slaves between DynCorp contractors. They were brought in from Romania and Russia thanks to collaboration with the Serbian mafia"(pg194)

"Meanwhile their cavalier attitude to crop-spraying while combatting the South American drug trade meant that ordinary crops got destroyed and children died..."(pg194)

"DynCorp has also being accused of sexually exploiting the local womenfolk in the Middle East. A subcontractor was killed in 2003 by a bullet penetrating the unprotected car he was riding in. Where was the armoured DynCorp car that he was meant to have? Ferrying prostitutes between DynCorp hotels in Kuwait and Baghdad, according to another subcontractor testifying at a Senate committee this year."(pg194)

The final thing that I picked up from the article was a contradiction within it. Towards the end of the article it argues that the US government finds it cheaper to pay contractors $60k-70k a year rather than the $100k it costs for a soldier in training, food, salary, healthcare, pensions etc. Yet at the same time, it talks of these mercenary contractors massively exceeding their budgets, such as DynCorp exceeding its Iraq budget by 51% and overbilling the government by $13.3bn. I'm not sure I understand the economics of mercenaries and I will have to come back to this issue at a later point.