Spend Millions On
Private Army Of Security Men
By Robert Fisk
and Severin Carrell
02 April, 2004
army of thousands of mercenaries has appeared in Iraq's major cities,
many of them former British and American soldiers hired by the occupying
Anglo-American authorities and by dozens of companies who fear for the
lives of their employees.
Many of the armed
Britons are former SAS soldiers and heavily armed South Africans are
also working for the occupation. "My people know how to use weapons
and they're all SAS," said the British leader of one security team
in southern Baghdad. "But there are people running around with
guns now who are just cowboys. We always conceal our weapons, but these
guys think they're in a Hollywood film."
There are serious
doubts even within the occupying power about America's choice to send
Chilean mercenaries, many trained during General Pinochet's vicious
dictatorship, to guard Baghdad airport. Many South Africans are in Iraq
illegally--they are breaking new laws, passed by the government in Pretoria,
to control South Africa's booming export of mercenaries. Many have been
arrested on their return home because they are do not have the licence
now required by private soldiers.
the mercenaries are not included in the regular body count put out by
the occupation authorities, which may account for the persistent suspicion
among Iraqis that the US is underestimating its figures of military
dead and wounded. Some British experts claim that private policing is
now the UK's biggest export to Iraq--a growth fueled by the surge in
bomb attacks on coalition forces, aid agencies and UN buildings since
the official end of the war in May last year.
Many companies operate
from villas in middle-class areas of Baghdad with no name on the door.
Some security men claim they can earn more than lbs80,000 a year; but
short-term, high-risk mercenary work can bring much higher rewards.
Security personnel working a seven-day contract in cities like Fallujah,
can make $1,000 a day.
Although they wear
no uniform, some security men carry personal identification on their
flak jackets, along with their rifles and pistols. Others refuse to
identify themselves even in hotels, drinking beer by the pool, their
weapons at their feet. In several hotels, guests and staff have complained
that security men have held drunken parties and one manager was forced
to instruct mercenaries in his hotel that they must carry their guns
in a bag when they leave the premises. His demand was ignored.
One British company
director, David Claridge of the security firm Janusian, has estimated
that British firms have earned up to lbs800m from their contracts in
Iraq--barely a year after the invasion of Iraq. One British-run firm,
Erinys, employs 14,000 Iraqis as watchmen and security guards to protect
the country's oil fields and pipelines.
The use of private
security firms has led to some resentment amongst the Department for
International Development's aid workers--who fear it undermines the
trust of Iraqi civilians. "DFID staff would prefer not to have
this," said one source. "It's much easier for them to do their
job without any visible security, but the security risks are great down
One South African-owned
firm, Meteoric Tactical Solutions, has a lbs270,000 contract with DFID
which, it is understood, involves providing bodyguards and drivers for
its most senior official in Iraq and his small personal staff.
company, ArmorGroup has an lbs876,000 contract to supply 20 security
guards for the Foreign Office. That figure will rise by 50 per cent
in July. The firm also employs about 500 Gurkhas to guard executives
with the US firms Bechtel and Kellogg Brown & Root.
Opposition MPs were
shocked by the scale of the Government's use of private firms to guard
British civil servants, and claimed it was further evidence that the
British army was too small to cope. Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat's
foreign affairs spokesman, said: "This suggests that British forces
are unable to provide adequate protection and raises the vexed question
of overstretch--particularly in light of the remarks by the Chief of
the Defence Staff, last week that Britain couldn't stage another operation
on the scale of Iraq for another five years."
a Tory MP on the international development select committee and former
SAS officer, said: "The Army doesn't have the troops to provide
static guards on this scale. Surely it would have been cheaper to have
another battalion of troops providing guards."
The UK's largest
private security firm in Iraq, Global Risk Strategies, is helping the
coalition provisional authority and the Iraqi administration to draft
new regulations. It is expecting to increase its presence from 1,000
to 1,200 staff this spring, and could reach 1,800 this year. However,
aid charities are disturbed by the sums being spent on security, since
DFID has diverted lbs278m from its mainstream aid budget for Iraqi reconstruction.
Dominic Nutt, of Christian Aid, said: "This sticks in the craw.
It's right that DFID protects its staff, but this is robbing Peter to