In February, BlackwaterUSA,
a North Carolina-based Pentagon contractor, began hiring former combat
personnel in Chile, offering them up to $4,000 a month to guard oil
wells in Iraq. The company flew the first batch of 60 former commandos
to a training camp in North Carolina. These recruits will eventually
wind up in Iraq where they will spend six months to a year.
"We scour the ends of the earth to find professionals
-- the Chilean commandos are very, very professional and they fit
within the Blackwater system," Gary Jackson, the president of Blackwater
USA, told the Guardian.
While Blackwater USA is not nearly as well known
as Halliburton or Bechtel -- two mega-corporations making a killing
off the reconstruction of Iraq -- it nevertheless is doing quite well
financially thanks to the White House's war on terror. The company
specializes in firearm, tactics and security training and in October
2003, according to Mother Jones magazine, the company won a $35.7
million contract to train more than 10,000 sailors from Virginia,
Texas, and California each year in 'force protection.'
Business has been booming for Blackwater, which now
owns, as its press release boasts, "the largest privately-owned firearms
training facility in the nation." Jackson told the Guardian, "We have
grown 300 percent over each of the past three years and we are small
compared to the big ones. We have a very small niche market, we work
towards putting out the cream of the crop, the best."
The practice of using mercenaries to fight wars
is hardly new, but it is becoming increasingly popular in recent years.
During the first Gulf War, one out of every 50 soldiers on the battlefield
was a mercenary. The number had climbed up to one in ten during the
Bosnian conflict. Currently there are thousands of Bosnian, Filipino
and American soldiers under contract with private companies serving
in Iraq. Their duties range from airport security to protecting Paul
Bremer, the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority.
Apart from Chile, the other popular source for military
recruits is South Africa. The United Nations recently reported that
South Africa "is already among the top three suppliers of personnel
for private military companies, along with the UK and the US." There
are more than 1,500 South Africans in Iraq today, most of whom are
former members of the South African Defense Force and South African
According to the Cape Times, among the South African
companies under contract with the Pentagon are Meteoric Tactical Solutions,
which "is providing protection and is also training new Iraqi police
and security units," and Erinys, a joint South African-British company,
which "has received a multimillion-dollar contract to protect Iraq's
oil industry," the Cape Times reported.
The recruitment of its citizens, however, isn't
making either the Chilean or the South African governments happy.
The Regulation of Foreign Military Assistance Act prohibits South
African citizens from direct participation as a combatant in armed
conflict for private gain. Michelle Bachelet, Chile's defense minister,
has ordered an investigation into whether such recruitment is legal
under Chilean laws. Bachelet also was troubled by stories that soldiers
on active duty are leaving the company to sign up as mercenaries.
It is also only a matter of time before U.S. soldiers
grow unhappy with the presence of mercenaries in their midst. The
high salaries and shorter terms of employment offered to mercenaries
will inevitably make a serious dent on the military's budget. As Blackwater's
Jackson acknowledged in the Guardian, "If they are going to outsource
tasks that were once held by active-duty military and are now using
private contractors, those guys [on active duty] are looking and asking,
'Where is the money?'"
Raenette Taljaard, a member of the South African
Parliament, describes the ubiquitous reach of this "booming cottage
industry" of private security companies:
"In addition to becoming an integral part of the
machinery of war, they are emerging as cogs in the infrastructure
of peace. US-allied military officials and civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan
are quickly becoming familiar with the 'brand services' provided by
In the era of globalization, war has become just
another industry to be outsourced.