|Copyright © 2003 The International Herald Tribune |
The benign term "security guard" does not convey the true role of these armed men. They are hardly sitting behind desks and signing visitors into office buildings, and not all of them are doing what would be more appropriate tasks, like guarding oil wells. Hired guns are charged with the security of the occupation authority's headquarters in Baghdad, and of Paul Bremer 3rd, the American proconsul.
Contractors from Blackwater USA, the employer of the four Americans savagely killed in Falluja, recently fought a full-fledged battle with militants in Najaf, and they were even able to call in a company-owned helicopter for air cover. The Pentagon seems to be outsourcing at least part of its core responsibilities for securing Iraq instead of facing up to the need for more soldiers.
Increasingly relying on these loosely accountable contractors is bound to backfire. As the United States prepares to hand the sovereignty of Iraq back to its people, the fact that the Iraqi army and police force are now being trained by a private company risks sending the message that loyalty is owed not to one's country, but to whoever gets the contract. It is difficult to coordinate the dozen or so private firms in Iraq, and there is little regulation of their training and recruitment.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has pledged that the Pentagon will
keep looking for ways to "outsource and privatize." When it
comes to core security and combat roles, this is ill advised. The Pentagon
should be recruiting and training more soldiers, rather than running the
risk of creating a new breed of mercenaries.