Mercenaries in Iraq

Good long feature
in Monday’s New York Times on the "private security companies"
operating in Iraq. Of course, when I think of "security companies" and
"security guards," I think of some poor guy taking lip from a
late-night patron of White Castle. But the Times piece makes it clear
that, semantics aside, these outfits in Iraq and their employees are
hardly distinguishable from the traditional picture of the mercenary:

 

With every week of insurgency in a war zone with no front, these
companies are becoming more deeply enmeshed in combat, in some cases
all but obliterating distinctions between professional troops and
private commandos. Company executives see a clear boundary between
their defensive roles as protectors and the offensive operations of the
military. But more and more, they give the appearance of private,
for-profit militias — by several estimates, a force of roughly 20,000
on top of an American military presence of 130,000. … By some recent government
estimates, security costs could claim up to 25 percent of the $18
billion budgeted for reconstruction, a huge and mostly unanticipated
expense that could delay or force the cancellation of billions of
dollars worth of projects to rebuild schools, water treatment plants,
electric lines and oil refineries."

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