Mzansi Afrika

From Johannesburg South Africa, a window on the world

Thursday, March 11, 2004

The privatisation of war

Private corporations have penetrated western warfare so deeply that they are now the second biggest contributor to coalition forces in Iraq after the Pentagon, a Guardian investigation has established.
While the official coalition figures list the British as the second largest contingent with around 9 900 troops, they are narrowly outnumbered by the 10 000 private military contractors now on the ground.
The investigation has also discovered that the proportion of contracted security personnel in the firing line is 10 times greater than during the first Gulf war. In 1991, for every private contractor, there were about 100 servicemen and women; now there are 10. The private sector is so firmly embedded in combat, occupation and peacekeeping duties that the phenomenon may have reached the point of no return: the US military would struggle to wage war without it. While reliable figures are difficult to come by and governmental accounting and monitoring of the contracts are notoriously shoddy, the US army estimates that of the $87-billion earmarked this year for the broader Iraqi campaign, including central Asia and Afghanistan, one third of that, nearly $30-billion, will be spent on contracts to private companies.