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Private Warriors
June 24, 2005 10:39 AM   Subscribe

Private Warriors: FRONTLINE correspondent Martin Smith travels throughout Kuwait and Iraq to give viewers an unprecedented behind-the-scenes look at companies like Kellogg, Brown & Root, a Halliburton subsidiary, and its civilian army. Sixty minutes of absolutely fascinating and astonishing video is online.
posted by well_balanced (20 comments total)

 
This is a great documentary. Beyond the social complications mercenaries cause, strengthening the Iraqi insurgency that kill more and more American soldiers each day, mercs act without much government oversight. As bad as Abu Gharib was, and as horrible as it was that Rumsfeld and management were let off, at least it was documented and covered in the media. A good link for those who haven't see this.
posted by Rothko at 10:47 AM on June 24, 2005


Of particular interest to me is the backstory of the private contractors who were ambushed, killed, and hung from a bridge in Baghdad. I had never considered the question, "What were they doing? Where were they going, and under whose orders?"

These questions are brought up in the video, but due to the lack of transparency with private contract work, they were never answered. Even the security firm itself, Blackwater, was unable to answer the question "Who hired you for this particular run?"

Peculiar, to say the least. Deadly irresponsible, at worst.

(Also, I tried to get pardonyou? to watch this video when he claimed the U.S. has successfully taken over Baghdad. This is his/her second chance.)
posted by odinsdream at 11:41 AM on June 24, 2005


Not to be a kneejerk, but why are these individuals called "security contractors" and not mercenaries?
posted by trey at 11:50 AM on June 24, 2005


Calling a spade a spade is doubleplusungood.
posted by Rothko at 11:57 AM on June 24, 2005


Oh wow, this looks amazing.

Despite being a total computer guy, though, I don't have the patience to watch this whole program in a little window. I'd really love to see this show on a big TV with my folks.

Has anyone seen a torrent for this? I'm at work and I can't check until I get home in several hours (also, I don't know where to look for PBS torrents, really).

I looked on the PBS website and saw that this program will not be airing at any time soon in Los Angeles.
posted by redteam at 12:09 PM on June 24, 2005


It just aired this past week in Dallas.

Those guys remind me of the private prison guys here.
posted by First Post at 12:12 PM on June 24, 2005


redteam: I'm not going to post links to torrent sites in the blue, but I have seen it as a torrent. IM me.
posted by trey at 12:23 PM on June 24, 2005




Cyrano: There are lots of "contractors" in this Frontline from Russia and other non-engaged countries.
posted by trey at 12:31 PM on June 24, 2005


mmm, has to be said sooner or later. This is why some wish to cut CPB funding.

I heard an interesting argument for cutting the funding the other day. that being if the Govt. was not paying for any of it, the govt. would have no basis to exert political control over it. (Such as the Postcards from Buster inanity). I still think CPB should be at least partially funded by the govt. but that argument has been the most persuasive to me so far.

good link
posted by edgeways at 12:37 PM on June 24, 2005


trey, well, I won't have a chance to watch it until later, but since they're being hired for security and not to fight insurgents (even though they might do so in the course of providing security,) there's probably legal wiggle room there.

Again, I'm not saying that for all intents and purposes at least some of these folks are mercenaries, but it's not a legally correct term and one that seems to get used more for it's negative connotations that for anything else.
posted by Cyrano at 12:40 PM on June 24, 2005


Cyrano, these mercenaries are not Iraqis, and some are not Americans or British, either. How does item "D" not apply, exactly, which turns them all into "private contractors"? By all measures, not calling them mercenaries is clearly doublespeak.
posted by Rothko at 12:52 PM on June 24, 2005


Saw this on TV the other day (it should still be in reruns in most places). Excellent work.

trey: As you'll see in the program, most of the people featured are not actually fighting, but rather doing "support" services for the military. They're building things and moving stuff around and making expensive meals at the cost of U.S. taxpayers. As Cyrano said, it would actually be a bit misleading to call all these folks "mercenaries," since a lot of them are just U.S. citizens hired to do non-combat jobs in Iraq.

The catch is that since they're affiliated with the U.S. military, but not bound by its command structure, these contractors have essentially complete freedom- they can quit and go home whenever they feel like it, and if they happened to shoot a bunch of Iraqi civilians in a moment of poor judgement, it's unlikely they'd be held accountable for their actions.
posted by rxrfrx at 1:39 PM on June 24, 2005


There was a fantastic article by Patrick Radden Keefe in the NYRB last year; unfortunately, it's in the paid archive now, but if you can find it in a library it's well worth the effort. Or you could seek out the book it's a review of, though I haven't seen it. Keefe's conclusion:
Each war tells us a little about the way the next will be fought. During the Gulf War, the ratio of civilian contractors to enlisted personnel was 1 to 60. At the outset of the current Iraq engagement that ratio was 1 to 10—and the number of contractors has increased dramatically since. The Pentagon is planning to cut a further 200,000 people from the armed personnel rosters in the near future, and anticipates that private contractors will take over these traditionally military duties. Meanwhile, Halliburton processes several hundred workers bound for Iraq through its Houston training center each week. It is clear that civilian contractors will be a significant feature in America's military landscape in the twenty-first century. Only by learning about this vast and rapidly expanding industry will citizens and lawmakers develop some measure of oversight and control over the shadow army.
On preview, Keefe discusses the issue of responsibility:
It has recently emerged that in an astonishing lapse on the part of American legislators, the actions of the tens of thousands of contractors in Iraq are not governed by any comprehensive body of criminal law.
posted by languagehat at 1:44 PM on June 24, 2005


redteam, put your email address in your profile.
posted by purephase at 1:57 PM on June 24, 2005


Not to be a kneejerk, but why are these individuals called "security contractors" and not mercenaries?

The documentary shows that the armed contractors are called 'security contractors' because they are employed to provide defensive protection. They protect supply convoys and individuals as they travel through the streets of Iraq.

Unlike conventional military forces, these contractors are not taking part in offensive operations such as raids or planned attacks. They are heavily armed bodyguards.
posted by jsonic at 4:21 PM on June 24, 2005


The show was good, and it really brought home the fact that there's no good reason to join the Army when you can make (literally) ten times as much as a mercenary.
posted by bardic at 6:45 PM on June 24, 2005


I watched the whole thing, thank you for posting this.
I have sent it off to some others that really need this information.
posted by Balisong at 6:51 PM on June 24, 2005


The principal people involved in this particular Frontline were on Talk of the Nation the other day, for whatever it's worth...
posted by ph00dz at 7:59 PM on June 24, 2005


Redteam (computer guy), use your right-click mouse button and select 'full screen'. That should solve your problem. Works for both Windows Media and Real.

I truly love Frontline.
posted by Busithoth at 10:56 AM on June 26, 2005


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