Free Markets, Free People

Mercenaries? Serving the Obama Administration?

Hey, weren’t “Blackwater” and “mercenary” a bad words during the Bush administration?  Didn’t the left spend an inordinate amount of time demonizing private contract security in Iraq?   Weren’t we told that wouldn’t be something we’d see in an Obama administration?

Er, not so fast:

By January 2012, the State Department will do something it’s never done before: command a mercenary army the size of a heavy combat brigade. That’s the plan to provide security for its diplomats in Iraq once the U.S. military withdraws. And no one outside State knows anything more, as the department has gone to war with its independent government watchdog to keep its plan a secret.

Stuart Bowen, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR), is essentially in the dark about one of the most complex and dangerous endeavors the State Department has ever undertaken, one with huge implications for the future of the United States in Iraq. “Our audit of the program is making no progress,” Bowen tells Danger Room.

For months, Bowen’s team has tried to get basic information out of the State Department about how it will command its assembled army of about 5,500 private security contractors. How many State contracting officials will oversee how many hired guns? What are the rules of engagement for the guards? What’s the system for reporting a security danger, and for directing the guards’ response?

Yeah, nothing could go wrong with this, could it?  Ackerman is asking the right questions.  Civilians and diplomats running a quasi-military organization the size of a combat infantry brigade, and trying to keep it secret to boot.

Let’s be honest here – this is a private army.   And since taxpayers are obviously paying for it, a little transparency (yeah, you remember that promise too, right?) would be nice.

But that’s not going to happen if the ambassador has his way.  Citing jurisdictional conflicts, he’s told the IG to butt out.

And for months, the State Department’s management chief, former Ambassador Patrick Kennedy, has given Bowen a clear response: That’s not your jurisdiction. You just deal with reconstruction, not security. Never mind that Bowen has audited over $1.2 billion worth of security contracts over seven years.

“Apparently, Ambassador Kennedy doesn’t want us doing the oversight that we believe is necessary and properly within our jurisdiction,” Bowen says. “That hard truth is holding up work on important programs and contracts at a critical moment in the Iraq transition.”

So here we have this secret private army of 5,500 that is way above and beyond what is necessary to guard diplomats (something the State Department has been doing for years and years all over the world).  This isn’t just about diplomatic security – not with those numbers:

They have no experience running a private army,” says Ramzy Mardini, an analyst at the Institute for the Study of War who just returned from a weeks-long trip to Iraq. “I don’t think the State Department even has a good sense of what it’s taking on. The U.S. military is concerned about it as well.”

I would be too if I were the military.   This is dangerous stuff and if they do stupid things, it could get other Americans, specifically those in the military, killed.

Of course, with this crew, you also have to ask, “how much am I getting taxed to pay for this debacle looking for an opportunity to happen?”

So far, the Department has awarded three security contracts for Iraq worth nearly $2.9 billion over five years. Bowen can’t even say for sure how much the department actually intends to spend on mercs in total. State won’t let it see those totals.

About as much information as the department has disclosed about its incipient private army comes from a little-noticed Senate hearing in February. There, the top U.S. military and civilian officials in Iraq said that they’d station the hired guard force at Basra, Irbil, Mosul and Kirkuk, with the majority — over 3,000 — protecting the mega-embassy in Baghdad. They’ll ferry diplomats around in armored convoys and a State-run helicopter fleet, the first in the department’s history.

And here I thought we were leaving Iraq.


Twitter: @McQandO

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22 Responses to Mercenaries? Serving the Obama Administration?

  • This would come under cuts we won’t see – you know spending we can’t do without, along with a quasi war in Libya (quasi?)

    Can’t cut THOSE budgets – no no no no no no – Raise the taxes on the rich!  that’s the ticket

    What a collection of lying scheming assholes.

    And this president HAS no boundries, just in case it’s escaped notice.

    • I’ve been wondering about that “spending cuts and taxes for the rich” meme.
      If there is some kind of equality when you have spending cuts and taxes for the rich” .. doesn’t that mean that the “rich” don’t get sqwat from government spending ?
      As somebody in the (bottom of the) top 10%, I’ve know for quite a while that the answer is … they don’t get shit, but it’s always nice when these politicians actually come out and tell you to “pay up and shut up.”  It gives you real perspective.
      The other “gem” to come out in the recent “debt debate” … “Democrats finally admit their Social Security ‘assets’ hoax

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    Nice to see they’ll have their para-military organization built up how they like.  Nice cover.

  • What’s the alternative? let the Iraqis take over all the oil facilities? As you say yourself this is far more than is needed just to run the the US embassy. However I think without this Brigade of mercenaries you may as well give Iraq’s oil to China and abandon the US embassy cause it’s highly unlikely the Iraqi army itself will protect them.
    The public opinion in Iraq is hardly supportive of the US and the moment the current government is overthrown, something I think highly likely, any new government is far more likely to deal to Iran and China than the much hated former occupiers.
    The closer a US military pull out comes the more emboldened the insurgents will be, they haven’t gone anywhere they are just bidding their time to take out the current government. This mercenary brigade is the only way I can see US forces pulling out of Iraq without it looking like Saigon 1975.
    It’s a bit rich dumping it on Obama when he’s trying to clean up Bush IIs mess. I’m not in the US so it’s easier for me to see this as simply a continuation of Bush IIs economic policy. This is what happens when you privatise the military.

    • You actually think a brigade of mercs could prevent a takeover of oil? Really? They’re security guards.

      The point, of course, is the same folks who found it outrageous that the Bush administration was using private contractors in that role now have more than 5,000 of their own.

    • My, my the bullspit ABOUNDS…

      However I think without this Brigade of mercenaries you may as well give Iraq’s oil to China

      Done deal, idiot.  Our Deemocrat Senators made sure of it.  Look. IT. UP.
      As to Iraq, Mexico is more dangerous, and Venezuala more dangerous still.  LOOK. IT. UP.

      • Firstly learn to spell, secondly calling me names is a bit petty, in fact it’s curious how right wing Americans seem to revel in displaying their lack of education. In New Zealand we make conscious  effort to be intelligent, it’s the state media and a foreign owned TV corporation that use tactics of name calling and stone throwing against us.
        Are you suggesting that these mercs should be sent into Mexico and Venezuela? Iraq was invaded, to coin Bush II you invaded it, broke it, now you have to fix it. Our troops didn’t go in, instead we sent our troops to rebuild Afghanistan. A good friend of mine died there, for what? At least in a privitised military he would’ve been paid fairly.
        At at least Obama had the balls to have Bin Laden hunted down and excuted, after years of high living it up in Pakistan. We have shiploads of Pakis, Afghans, Iraqis etc trying to get into our country, and even more heading for Aussie. There were never terror attacks on our soil, now they’re blowing up tourists in Bali because we sided with the west.
        I don’t believe 5500 odd mercenaries would be enough on their own, but backing up the Iraqi army, putting some spine into state to keep it on the right track. Or is spreading democracy not as important now?

        • Andrew, you seem blissfully clueless about the point to McQ’s post.  It’s more than a bit hypocritical for American Democrats to spend 8 years criticizing Bush for having any mercenaries in Iraq, and now hire a bunch of mercenaries on their own.
          Yes, Bush did not have OBL executed during his terms of office; instead, he was systematically dismantling large parts of AQ and other terrorist groups.  OBL is just one man; he’s not magic, and he can’t do much without the rest of his organization.  And it’s hard to argue that AQ wasn’t crippled during Bush’s administration.

          • Politicians lie, sure Obama should be honest, but I’m surprised he’s lying are you? Either pay to fix Iraq or let insurgents take it over, and by extension increase the likelihood of attacks like Bali, or the London subway.
            These groups were in direct contact with their political inspiration, Bin Laden, before they acted. Putting him down sent a clear message that whoever you are you can run and hide but sooner or later some one will find you.
            Private military forces seem to be a good compromise for the apparent contradiction of public opinion. No one government is responsible for training or funding them, so they are not a political football for leftie voters to rally around. I see the US as leading the way in this, shame it’s a democrat but as I don’t live there maybe it’s easier for me to see a bigger picture. (In every country the left seem to think we should disestablish the military we have the same problem here).
            The fact remains that what happens once US military troops leave Iraq will set a precedent the rest of world will remember. Will the US stand by those who stood by them? Or will they be so focused on internal squabbles and leave their allies to repair the mess?

          • Andrew, you didn’t address anything I said.  It’s clear that you’re not interested in an exchange of ideas, you just want to keep spouting your viewpoint and ignoring others.  That’s fine with me, I just won’t engage you again.

        • Firstly learn to spell, secondly calling me names is a bit petty,

          Well, the cluelessness you demonstrate shows the “name” is appropriate. That is demonstrated by this line:

          At at least Obama had the balls to have Bin Laden hunted down and excuted,

          You really don’t know how all that works, do you? Didn’t get it explained to you in a Hollyweird movie? Oh, and it’s spelled “executed”.

        • I have got some bad news for you. Even if you had not helped the US in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Islamists would still have blown up that bar in Bali.
          1. Alcohol is forbidden in Islam. So its a target.
          2. Many Indonesians don’t like Westerners, even if they are neutral Swiss.
          3. You interfered repeatedly in East Timor against Indonesia. From their perspective, that is a national affront. PS you do know you got some oil out of that potentially? For shame!
          4. Don’t you know that they call Australia “Indonesia Selatan” South Indonesia (actually Gen. Benny Moerdani did say that once as joke.)
          5. Yes, I know you are a Kiwi, but now that you don’t have an air force, I think its pretty safe to lump you with the Aussies

        • ” In New Zealand we make conscious  effort to be intelligent”

          Ah, now I know where the encouraging phrase ‘good effort’, directed to losers, comes from.

      • As to Iraq, Mexico is more dangerous, and Venezuala more dangerous still.

        …and Washington D.C. is more dangerous than these.

    • Suggest you read up a bit historically on mercenary troops.

      You might consider starting with the Preatorian guard though they weren’t officially mercenaries. well, it frequently worked out that way.

      funny things happen when you’re paid for your loyalty.  Oh, did I say funny, that was the wrong word, it can be very not funny.

      But the point is the hypocrisy Andrew, by the party in power.  Further demonstrations of their hypocrisy, in fact.
      A brigade of mercs is NOT going to prevent the take over of Iraq by anti government forces if the people aren’t actively against such a take over.’  The days when a force of 5000 men could cow a country the size of Iraq ended in the later 1800’s.

  • WTF…???
    This appears to be VERY expensive window dressing for the “we’re leaving Iraq” dog and pony show.
    We have a perfectly wonderful military.  We don’t need a shadow army under State.
    And the scale is nuts if they were really a “security” force.  Somebody is lying big here.
    The whole thing smells.

    • ” We don’t need a shadow army under State.”

      well Rags, depends on what you plan to DO with your Conditerri and Landsknechts, doesn’t it?

  • The only good thing here is that thie “private army” is in Iraq .. or so we are told.
    Adolf Hitler .. er .. Obama would be proud if these folks were in the US, say working for DHS

  • 1.  The hypocrisy is just sickening.  It’s bad enough that Captain Bullsh*t is showing himself to be totally dishonest, but the lack of response – if not outright approval – from the left for things that would cause them screaming fits if Bush or Yosemite Sam were in office is just disgusting;

    2.  Um… We REALLY need 5500 mercenaries to guard diplomats in Iraq?  Seriously?  As far as the embassy itself, isn’t that what Marines do?  When they’re allowed to, that is;

    3.  Who do these people report to?  What are their rules of engagement?  What is their governing legal authority (such as the UCMJ)?

    4.  Why’s it such a secret?

    5.  When can we expect such to start “protecting” government officials and offices in the US?

  • I approve of private military forces in general.  I think they’re increasingly necessary for both big states and small ones, adding to our strategic flexibility and small states’ capabilities when they can’t maintain those kinds of forces in peacetime.

    If the US needs to quickly deploy the Marines elsewhere to kick ass at a fast tempo but not entirely abandon a less intense but still-dangerous task, it would be nice to be able to fill that need without having to stretch our existing forces or wait until we can recruit and train a larger security force ourselves.

    I even think it would be nice to have them around when governments are too paralyzed to act but individuals are not, like when there’s a genocide going on and no country or international body can be bothered to stop it despite many millions of people being outraged about it.  I wish there was a fund to which concerned people could have donated to rush some forces in to protect innocents in Darfur or Rwanda.  A smart private military corporation would advertise its ground rules, including a credible legal authority to which they submitted themselves, and pass around the plate the way other organizations run disaster relief drives.

    “Want to stop outrageous human rights abuses without waiting for your government or the UN to grow a spine?  Here’s how to donate…”

    But you absolutely have to have a solid legal framework in place so that everyone knows who’s responsible for what.

  • They must feel they need serious, serious defenses and/or they do so many convoys that they need extra protection. Once ypu start having a large mass of people needing protection it morphs into this, plus vacation time, etc.
    5,500 still seems like too much. Are some of them trainers?