America's Secret Army

There are now more U.S. contractors in Iraq than actual soldiers. IraqSlogger has a helpful and balanced round-up of reports on mercenaries and private contractors in Iraq. He focuses on T. Christian Miller's LA Times story:

Miller's watershed piece focuses on the vast scope and scale of for profit activities in Iraq. Companies that are virtually unknown in the US are shoulder to shoulder with better-known names like KBR or L-3. What is disturbing is even the U.S. government freely admits it has no idea how many contractors are on the battlefield.

Miller’s best guess is 21,000 Americans, 43,000 foreigners and 118,000 Iraqis make up this massive work force. “Best guess” because Miller points out that

"There are also signs that even those mounting numbers may not capture the full picture. Private security contractors, who are hired to protect government officials and buildings, were not fully counted in the survey, according to industry and government officials."

Miller also points out that there is concern about the use of privatized for profit violence in the battlefield. He builds on previous articles that have highlighted alleged and egregious violations of moral conduct by individual security contractors working for companies like Blackwater, Triple Canopy and Aegis

"We don't have control of all the coalition guns in Iraq. That's dangerous for our country," said William Nash, a retired Army general and reconstruction expert. The Pentagon "is hiring guns. You can rationalize it all you want, but that's obscene."

The other concern is the use of trafficked labor to perform functions once performed by U.S. soldiers and employees.