Between 100 and 200,000 private contracts provide the military with laundry services, meals, latrine operations, transportation of materials, and an unknown number of private and heavily armed security forces. Without these contracts, could the military today conduct any operation? And does that mean that the White House is now lobbying for businesses to receive tax dollars?
On May 10th Jeremy Scahill testified before a Congressional Committee about what has become the "outsourcing" of the war in Iraq and the questions such operations bring --
"Many Americans are under the impression that the US currently has about 145,000 active duty troops on the ground in Iraq. What is seldom mentioned is the fact that there are at least 126,000 private personnel deployed alongside the official armed forces. These private forces effectively double the size of the occupation force, largely without the knowledge of the US taxpayers that foot the bill.
"These forces work for US companies like Blackwater, Triple Canopy and DynCorp as well as companies from across the globe. Some contractors make in a month what many active-duty soldiers make in a year. Indeed, there are private contractors in Iraq making more money than the Secretary of Defense and more than the commanding generals. The testimony about private contractors that I hear most often from active duty soldiers falls into two categories: resentment and envy.
"They ask what message their country is sending them. While many soldiers lack basic protective equipment--facts well-known to this committee--they are in a war zone where they see the private soldiers whiz by in better vehicles, with better armor, better weapons, wearing the corporate logo instead of the American flag and pulling in much more money. They ask: Are our lives worth less?"
Also testifying was Robert Greenwald, who's film "Iraq For Sale" (previously mentioned) reports on the war profiteering taking place in Iraq. Congressman Jack Kensington (R-GA) does not seem much interested in investigating the use of tax dollars, but quizzes Greenwald on the money made by those who report on the war profiteers. It's an amazing video.
The recently vetoed legislation on funding, however, would have had minimal effect on private contractors:
"The legislation vetoed by the president last week would not have reduced the use of private military operators in Iraq. As originally passed in the House, the Democrats' plan would have cut only about 15 percent, or $815 million, of the supplemental spending earmarked for day-to-day military operations "to reflect savings attributable to efficiencies and management improvements in the funding of contracts in the military departments." But even that mild provision was dropped in late April by the Democrats, who said they needed to hold more hearings on the contractor issue. Instead, they moved to withhold - not cut - 15 percent of total day-to-day operational funding, but only until Defense Secretary Robert Gates submits a report on the use of contractors and the scope of their deployment. Once the report is submitted, the 15 percent would be released.
While the discussions have centered on accountability, fiscal responsibility, and oversight, the big question that Congress has not confronted is: Should the U.S. government even be allowed to use mercenary forces, whose livelihoods depend on war and conflict, to help fight its battles in Iraq?"