The Guardian April 21, 2004


Iraq: Big money for mercenaries
but death comes just the same

More and more mercenaries are flooding into Iraq. Many of them 
are working for the US army. They are transporting supplies and 
fuel to the US armed forces  tasks that used to be performed by 
military personnel. They are guarding supply lines and providing 
security for government officials.

These mercenaries are being paid huge wages  up to $US1000 per 
day. A number of Australian SAS troops are reported to have 
resigned from the armed forces to seize the big money.

They may be involved in committing violence against the Iraqi 
people but, because they are not officially part of the armed 
forces, they are not covered by the rules of war and the Geneva 
Conventions.

These mercenaries are just as much enemies of a free and 
independent Iraq as those in uniform and it is not surprising 
that the Iraqi people should see them as enemies. This is the 
reality behind the spate of alleged "hostage taking", actually no 
more than the taking of prisoners of war.

Many are employed by corporations such as the Texas based Kellogg 
Brown and Root, and Halliburton which have huge contracts with 
the US Government to supply the armed forces.

Robert Fisk writing for the NZ Star on April 13 said that 
up to 18,000 mercenaries are now believed to be in Iraq and that 
at least 80 foreign mercenaries had been killed in the past eight 
days in Iraq.

This setup also allows the military authorities to obscure the 
real casualty list because the mercenaries are not counted when 
military spokesmen announce their losses for the day. The 
employment of mercenaries is another means by which the invading 
governments can appear to limit the number of the armed forces 
actually operating in Iraq.

It is much easier for the US Government to absolve itself from 
responsibility for the actions of mercenaries than to be 
accountable for the behaviour of its armed forces.

Reuters quotes figures on the increased use of mercenaries: at 
the end of the first Gulf War the ratio was about one contractor 
to 100 soldiers, but this time around it is one to every ten 
soldiers.

"We do not track US civilian deaths. We leave that up to 
companies", said a US military spokesperson.

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