There are 32 security companies still operating in Iraq, ten of which are British and eleven from the US. These companies had a good war. They have made billions of dollars annually since the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
“The sector is one of the UK’s most successful service providers, bringing in billions of dollars of revenue and earning widespread recognition for its professionalism and competence”, according to an executive of Aegis, one of the big British private security contractors (quoted in ‘Soldiers of fortune cannot remain outside the law’ by Max Hastings, Financial Times, 14 August 2009, from which most of the information in this section is drawn).
It is a measure of the sick society under the conditions of imperialism that the business of hired guns for mass slaughter is euphemistically characterised as service provision and the ability to kill or maim without flinching or any moral compunction as “professionalism and competence”.
While the occupation generated a turnover of $900 million for private contractors in 2003, it rose to $2.4 billion in 2005.
These companies are notoriously trigger happy and, since their employees are immune from prosecution, they literally get away with murder. Most of the time their murderous activity is hidden from the public eye and simply disappears into the grim litany of everyday violence characteristic of Iraq since the beginning of Anglo-American imperialism’s predatory war against the Iraqi people. Every now and then, however, some truly shocking event forces the truth about their activities to ooze out, as it were, as, for instance, when on 16 September 2007, private military contractors working for Blackwater (since renamed Xe), the US security company, shot and killed 17 innocent Iraqis in a Baghdad square. According to a report by the US Congress, Blackwater, which by the end of 2007 had received nearly $1 billion from the US State Department for protecting its functionaries, had opened fire first in 163 out of 195 shooting incidents between 2005 and the autumn of 2007. Never has any of its employees ever been charged, as under a 2004 US decree signed by Paul Bremner, the US viceroy, who brought in Blackwater, the actions of private contractors are immune from prosecution.
Mercenary companies – guns for hire – is a very big business. Britain is home to some of the largest of these companies, including Aegis, Control Risks, Erinys and Armour Group, a subsidiary of G4S, Britain’s largest security company. They have posh offices in London and annual turnovers that in some cases are in excess of £100million ($166m, €116m). As lucrative rewards overcome all scruples, several of these companies boast retired generals as their chairmen or directors, while recruiting a steady flow of former members of the SAS and Parachute Regiment. In some cases, they have thousands of employees on their pay rolls. Aegis, run by Tim Spicer, a former British army lieutenant colonel, has a workforce the size of a military division and ranks as one of the largest corporate military groups ever put together. It received upwards of £246 million from a three-year contract with the Pentagon to co-ordinate military and security companies in Iraq. Erinys secured more than £86 million, a substantial portion for the protection of oilfields. All in all, British private security contractors have more than 30,000 security personnel working in Iraq.
With wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continuing for several years into the future, and many more imperialist predatory wars being planned, combined with the inability of the imperialist governments to substantially increase the size of their non-conscript army, private security contractors have become an essential and integral part of the imperialist war machine, important in every theatre of war but operating outside the law, which is saying something since the depredations of the invading imperialist soldiery can hardly be described as within the law.
As long as imperialism, and with it the wars produced by this system, last, the commercial future of these vultures is bright.