Bush’s Shadow Army


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

Bush's Shadow Army
[from the April 2, 2007 issue]

Jeremy Scahill reports on the Bush Administration's growing dependence on 
private security forces such as Blackwater USA and efforts in Congress to rein 
them in. This article is adapted from his new book, Blackwater: The Rise of the 
World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army (Nation Books).

On September 10, 2001, before most Americans had heard of Al Qaeda or imagined 
the possibility of a "war on terror," Donald Rumsfeld stepped to the podium at 
the Pentagon to deliver one of his first major addresses as Defense Secretary 
under President George W. Bush. Standing before the former corporate executives 
he had tapped as his top deputies overseeing the high-stakes business of 
military contracting--many of them from firms like Enron, General Dynamics and 
Aerospace Corporation--Rumsfeld issued a declaration of war.

"The topic today is an adversary that poses a threat, a serious threat, to the 
security of the United States of America," Rumsfeld thundered. "It disrupts the 
defense of the United States and places the lives of men and women in uniform at
risk." He told his new staff, "You may think I'm describing one of the last 
decrepit dictators of the world.... [But] the adversary's closer to home," he 
said. "It's the Pentagon bureaucracy." Rumsfeld called for a wholesale shift in 
the running of the Pentagon, supplanting the old DoD bureaucracy with a new 
model, one based on the private sector. Announcing this major overhaul, Rumsfeld
told his audience, "I have no desire to attack the Pentagon; I want to liberate 
it. We need to save it from itself."

The next morning, the Pentagon would be attacked, literally, as a Boeing 
757--American Airlines Flight 77--smashed into its western wall. Rumsfeld would 
famously assist rescue workers in pulling bodies from the rubble. But it didn't 
take long for Rumsfeld to seize the almost unthinkable opportunity presented by 
9/11 to put his personal war--laid out just a day before--on the fast track. The
new Pentagon policy would emphasize covert actions, sophisticated weapons 
systems and greater reliance on private contractors. It became known as the 
Rumsfeld Doctrine. "We must promote a more entrepreneurial approach: one that 
encourages people to be proactive, not reactive, and to behave less like 
bureaucrats and more like venture capitalists," Rumsfeld wrote in the summer of 
2002 in an article for Foreign Affairs titled "Transforming the Military."

Although Rumsfeld was later thrown overboard by the Administration in an attempt
to placate critics of the Iraq War, his military revolution was here to stay. 
Bidding farewell to Rumsfeld in November 2006, Bush credited him with overseeing
the "most sweeping transformation of America's global force posture since the 
end of World War II." Indeed, Rumsfeld's trademark "small footprint" approach 
ushered in one of the most significant developments in modern warfare--the 
widespread use of private contractors in every aspect of war, including in 

The often overlooked subplot of the wars of the post-9/11 period is their 
unprecedented scale of outsourcing and privatization. From the moment the US 
troop buildup began in advance of the invasion of Iraq, the Pentagon made 
private contractors an integral part of the operations. Even as the government 
gave the public appearance of attempting diplomacy, Halliburton was prepping for
a massive operation. When US tanks rolled into Baghdad in March 2003, they 
brought with them the largest army of private contractors ever deployed in 
modern war. By the end of Rumsfeld's tenure in late 2006, there were an 
estimated 100,000 private contractors on the ground in Iraq--an almost 
one-to-one ratio with active-duty American soldiers.

To the great satisfaction of the war industry, before Rumsfeld resigned he took 
the extraordinary step of classifying private contractors as an official part of
the US war machine. In the Pentagon's 2006 Quadrennial Review, Rumsfeld outlined
what he called a "road map for change" at the DoD, which he said had begun to be
implemented in 2001. It defined the "Department's Total Force" as "its active 
and reserve military components, its civil servants, and its 
contractors--constitut[ing] its warfighting capability and capacity. Members of 
the Total Force serve in thousands of locations around the world, performing a 
vast array of duties to accomplish critical missions." This formal designation 
represented a major triumph for war contractors--conferring on them a legitimacy
they had never before enjoyed.

Contractors have provided the Bush Administration with political cover, allowing
the government to deploy private forces in a war zone free of public scrutiny, 
with the deaths, injuries and crimes of those forces shrouded in secrecy. The 
Administration and the GOP-controlled Congress in turn have shielded the 
contractors from accountability, oversight and legal constraints. Despite the 
presence of more than 100,000 private contractors on the ground in Iraq, only 
one has been indicted for crimes or violations. "We have over 200,000 troops in 
Iraq and half of them aren't being counted, and the danger is that there's zero 
accountability," says Democrat Dennis Kucinich, one of the leading Congressional
critics of war contracting.

While the past years of Republican monopoly on government have marked a golden 
era for the industry, those days appear to be ending. Just a month into the new 
Congressional term, leading Democrats were announcing investigations of runaway 
war contractors. Representative John Murtha, chair of the Appropriations 
Committee's Subcommittee on Defense, after returning from a trip to Iraq in late
January, said, "We're going to have extensive hearings to find out exactly 
what's going on with contractors. They don't have a clear mission and they're 
falling all over each other." Two days later, during confirmation hearings for 
Gen. George Casey as Army chief of staff, Senator Jim Webb declared, "This is a 
rent-an-army out there." Webb asked Casey, "Wouldn't it be better for this 
country if those tasks, particularly the quasi-military gunfighting tasks, were 
being performed by active-duty military soldiers in terms of cost and 
accountability?" Casey defended the contracting system but said armed 
contractors "are the ones that we have to watch very carefully." Senator Joe 
Biden, chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, has also indicated he will hold
hearings on contractors. Parallel to the ongoing investigations, there are 
several bills gaining steam in Congress aimed at contractor oversight.

Occupying the hot seat through these deliberations is the shadowy mercenary 
company Blackwater USA. Unbeknownst to many Americans and largely off the 
Congressional radar, Blackwater has secured a position of remarkable power and 
protection within the US war apparatus. This company's success represents the 
realization of the life's work of the conservative officials who formed the core
of the Bush Administration's war team, for whom radical privatization has long 
been a cherished ideological mission. Blackwater has repeatedly cited Rumsfeld's
statement that contractors are part of the "Total Force" as evidence that it is 
a legitimate part of the nation's "warfighting capability and capacity." 
Invoking Rumsfeld's designation, the company has in effect declared its forces 
above the law--entitled to the immunity from civilian lawsuits enjoyed by the 
military, but also not bound by the military's court martial system. While the 
initial inquiries into Blackwater have focused on the complex labyrinth of 
secretive subcontracts under which it operates in Iraq, a thorough investigation
into the company reveals a frightening picture of a politically connected 
private army that has become the Bush Administration's Praetorian Guard.

Blackwater Rising

Blackwater was founded in 1996 by conservative Christian multimillionaire and 
ex-Navy SEAL Erik Prince--the scion of a wealthy Michigan family whose generous 
political donations helped fuel the rise of the religious right and the 
Republican revolution of 1994. At its founding, the company largely consisted of
Prince's private fortune and a vast 5,000-acre plot of land located near the 
Great Dismal Swamp in Moyock, North Carolina. Its vision was "to fulfill the 
anticipated demand for government outsourcing of firearms and related security 
training." In the following years, Prince, his family and his political allies 
poured money into Republican campaign coffers, supporting the party's takeover 
of Congress and the ascension of George W. Bush to the presidency.

While Blackwater won government contracts during the Clinton era, which was 
friendly to privatization, it was not until the "war on terror" that the 
company's glory moment arrived. Almost overnight, following September 11, the 
company would become a central player in a global war. "I've been operating in 
the training business now for four years and was starting to get a little 
cynical on how seriously people took security," Prince told Fox News host Bill 
O'Reilly shortly after 9/11. "The phone is ringing off the hook now."

Among those calls was one from the CIA, which contracted Blackwater to work in 
Afghanistan in the early stages of US operations there. In the ensuing years the
company has become one of the greatest beneficiaries of the "war on terror," 
winning nearly $1 billion in noncovert government contracts, many of them no-bid
arrangements. In just a decade Prince has expanded the Moyock headquarters to 
7,000 acres, making it the world's largest private military base. Blackwater 
currently has 2,300 personnel deployed in nine countries, with 20,000 other 
contractors at the ready. It has a fleet of more than twenty aircraft, including
helicopter gunships and a private intelligence division, and it is manufacturing
surveillance blimps and target systems.

In 2005 after Hurricane Katrina its forces deployed in New Orleans, where it 
billed the federal government $950 per man, per day--at one point raking in more
than $240,000 a day. At its peak the company had about 600 contractors deployed 
from Texas to Mississippi. Since Katrina, it has aggressively pursued domestic 
contracting, opening a new domestic operations division. Blackwater is marketing
its products and services to the Department of Homeland Security, and its 
representatives have met with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. The 
company has applied for operating licenses in all US coastal states. Blackwater 
is also expanding its physical presence inside US borders, opening facilities in
Illinois and California.

Its largest obtainable government contract is with the State Department, for 
providing security to US diplomats and facilities in Iraq. That contract began 
in 2003 with the company's $21 million no-bid deal to protect Iraq proconsul 
Paul Bremer. Blackwater has guarded the two subsequent US ambassadors, John 
Negroponte and Zalmay Khalilzad, as well as other diplomats and occupation 
offices. Its forces have protected more than ninety Congressional delegations in
Iraq, including that of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. According to the latest 
government contract records, since June 2004 Blackwater has been awarded $750 
million in State Department contracts alone. It is currently engaged in an 
intensive lobbying campaign to be sent into Darfur as a privatized peacekeeping 
force. Last October President Bush lifted some sanctions on Christian southern 
Sudan, paving the way for a potential Blackwater training mission there. In 
January the Washington, DC, representative for southern Sudan's regional 
government said he expected Blackwater to begin training the south's security 
forces soon.

Since 9/11 Blackwater has hired some well-connected officials close to the Bush 
Administration as senior executives. Among them are J. Cofer Black, former head 
of counterterrorism at the CIA and the man who led the hunt for Osama bin Laden 
after 9/11, and Joseph Schmitz, former Pentagon Inspector General, who was 
responsible for policing contractors like Blackwater during much of the "war on 
terror"--something he stood accused of not doing effectively. By the end of 
Schmitz's tenure, powerful Republican Senator Charles Grassley launched a 
Congressional probe into whether Schmitz had "quashed or redirected two ongoing 
criminal investigations" of senior Bush Administration officials. Under 
bipartisan fire, Schmitz resigned and signed up with Blackwater.

Despite its central role, Blackwater had largely operated in the shadows until 
March 31, 2004, when four of its private soldiers in Iraq were ambushed and 
killed in Falluja. A mob then burned the bodies and dragged them through the 
streets, stringing up two from a bridge over the Euphrates. In many ways it was 
the moment the Iraq War turned. US forces laid siege to Falluja days later, 
killing hundreds of people and displacing thousands, inflaming the fierce Iraqi 
resistance that haunts occupation forces to this day. For most Americans, it was
the first they had heard of private soldiers. "People began to figure out this 
is quite a phenomenon," says Representative David Price, a North Carolina 
Democrat, who said he began monitoring the use of private contractors after 
Falluja. "I'm probably like most Congress members in kind of coming to this 
awareness and developing an interest in it" after the incident.

What is not so well-known is that in Washington after Falluja, Blackwater 
executives kicked into high gear, capitalizing on the company's newfound 
recognition. The day after the ambush, it hired the Alexander Strategy Group, a 
K Street lobbying firm run by former senior staffers of then-majority leader Tom
DeLay before the firm's meltdown in the wake of the Jack Abramoff scandal. A 
week to the day after the ambush, Erik Prince was sitting down with at least 
four senior members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, including its chair,
John Warner. Senator Rick Santorum arranged the meeting, which included Warner 
and two other key Republican senators--Appropriations Committee chair Ted 
Stevens of Alaska and George Allen of Virginia. This meeting followed an earlier
series of face-to-faces Prince had had with powerful House Republicans who 
oversaw military contracts. Among them: DeLay; Porter Goss, chair of the House 
Intelligence Committee (and future CIA director); Duncan Hunter, chair of the 
House Armed Services Committee; and Representative Bill Young, chair of the 
House Appropriations Committee. What was discussed at these meetings remains a 
secret. But Blackwater was clearly positioning itself to make the most of its 
new fame. Indeed, two months later, Blackwater was handed one of the 
government's most valuable international security contracts, worth more than 
$300 million.

The firm was also eager to stake out a role in crafting the rules that would 
govern mercenaries under US contract. "Because of the public events of March 31,
[Blackwater's] visibility and need to communicate a consistent message has 
elevated here in Washington," said Blackwater's new lobbyist Chris Bertelli. 
"There are now several federal regulations that apply to their activities, but 
they are generally broad in nature. One thing that's lacking is an industry 
standard. That's something we definitely want to be engaged in." By May 
Blackwater was leading a lobbying effort by the private military industry to try
to block Congressional or Pentagon efforts to place their forces under the 
military court martial system.

But while Blackwater enjoyed its new status as a hero in the "war on terror" 
within the Administration and the GOP-controlled Congress, the families of the 
four men killed at Falluja say they were being stonewalled by Blackwater as they
attempted to understand the circumstances of how their loved ones were killed. 
After what they allege was months of effort to get straight answers from the 
company, the families filed a ground-breaking wrongful death lawsuit against 
Blackwater in January 2005, accusing the company of not providing the men with 
what they say were contractually guaranteed safeguards. Among the allegations: 
The company sent them on the Falluja mission that day short two men, with less 
powerful weapons than they should have had and in Pajero jeeps instead of 
armored vehicles. This case could have far-reaching reverberations and is being 
monitored closely by the war-contractor industry--former Halliburton subsidiary 
KBR has even filed an amicus brief supporting Blackwater. If the lawsuit is 
successful, it could pave the way for a tobacco litigation-type scenario, where 
war contractors find themselves besieged by legal claims of workers killed or 
injured in war zones.

As the case has made its way through the court system, Blackwater has enlisted 
powerhouse Republican lawyers to defend it, among them Fred Fielding, who was 
recently named by Bush as White House counsel, replacing Harriet Miers; and 
Kenneth Starr, former Whitewater prosecutor investigating President Clinton, and
the company's current counsel of record. Blackwater has not formally debated the
specific allegations in the suit, but what has emerged in its court filings is a
series of legal arguments intended to bolster Blackwater's contention that it is
essentially above the law. Blackwater claims that if US courts allow the company
to be sued for wrongful death, that could threaten the nation's war-fighting 
capacity: "Nothing could be more destructive of the all-volunteer, Total Force 
concept underlying U.S. military manpower doctrine than to expose the private 
components to the tort liability systems of fifty states, transported overseas 
to foreign battlefields," the company argued in legal papers. In February 
Blackwater suffered a major defeat when the Supreme Court declined its appeal to
hear the Falluja case, paving the way for the state trial--where there would be 
no cap on damages a jury could award--to proceed.

Congress is beginning to take an interest in this potentially groundbreaking 
case. On February 7 Representative Henry Waxman chaired hearings of the 
Oversight and Government Reform Committee. While the hearings were billed as 
looking at US reliance on military contractors, they largely focused on 
Blackwater and the Falluja incident. For the first time, Blackwater was forced 
to share a venue with the families of the men killed at Falluja. "Private 
contractors like Blackwater work outside the scope of the military's chain of 
command and can literally do whatever they please without any liability or 
accountability from the US government," Katy Helvenston, whose son Scott was one
of the Blackwater contractors killed, told the committee. "Therefore, Blackwater
can continue accepting hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer money from 
the government without having to answer a single question about its security 

Citing the pending litigation, Blackwater's general counsel, Andrew Howell, 
declined to respond to many of the charges levied against his company by the 
families and asked several times for the committee to go into closed session. 
"The men who went on the mission on March 31, each had their weapons and they 
had sufficient ammunition," Howell told the committee, adding that the men were 
in "appropriate" vehicles. That was sharply disputed by the men's families, who 
allege that in order to save $1.5 million Blackwater did not provide the four 
with armored vehicles. "Once the men signed on with Blackwater and were flown to
the Middle East, Blackwater treated them as fungible commodities," Helvenston 
told lawmakers in her emotional testimony, delivered on behalf of all four 

The issue that put this case on Waxman's radar was the labyrinth of subcontracts
underpinning the Falluja mission. Since November 2004 Waxman has been trying to 
pin down who the Blackwater men were ultimately working for the day of the 
ambush. "For over eighteen months, the Defense Department wouldn't even respond 
to my inquiry," says Waxman. "When it finally replied last July, it didn't even 
supply the breakdown I requested. In fact, it denied that private security 
contractors did any work at all under the [Pentagon's contracting program]. We 
now know that isn't true." Waxman's struggle to follow the money on this one 
contract involving powerful war contractors like KBR provides a graphic 
illustration of the secretive nature of the whole war contracting industry.

What is not in dispute regarding the Falluja incident is that Blackwater was 
working with a Kuwaiti business called Regency under a contract with the world's
largest food services company, Eurest Support Services. ESS is a subcontractor 
for KBR and another giant war contractor, Fluor, in Iraq under the Pentagon's 
LOGCAP contracting program. One contract covering Blackwater's Falluja mission 
indicated the mission was ultimately a subcontract with KBR. Last summer KBR 
denied this. Then ESS wrote Waxman to say the mission was conducted under 
Fluor's contract with ESS. Fluor denied that, and the Pentagon told Waxman it 
didn't know which company the mission was ultimately linked to. Waxman alleged 
that Blackwater and the other subcontractors were "adding significant markups" 
to their subcontracts for the same security services that Waxman believes were 
then charged to US taxpayers. "It's remarkable that the world of contractors and
subcontractors is so murky that we can't even get to the bottom of this, let 
alone calculate how many millions of dollars taxpayers lose in each step of the 
subcontracting process," says Waxman.

While it appeared for much of the February 7 hearing that the contract's 
provenance would remain obscure, that changed when, at the end of the hearing, 
the Pentagon revealed that the original contractor was, in fact, KBR. In 
violation of military policy against LOGCAP contractors' using private forces 
for security instead of US troops, KBR had entered into a subcontract with ESS 
that was protected by Blackwater; those costs were allegedly passed on to US 
taxpayers to the tune of $19.6 million. Blackwater said it billed ESS $2.3 
million for its services, meaning a markup of more than $17 million was 
ultimately passed on to the government. Three weeks after the hearing, KBR told 
shareholders it may be forced to repay up to $400 million to the government as a
result of an ongoing Army investigation.

It took more than two years for Waxman to get an answer to a simple question: 
Whom were US taxpayers paying for services? But, as the Falluja lawsuit shows, 
it is not just money at issue. It is human life.

A Killing on Christmas Eve

While much of the publicity Blackwater has received stems from Falluja, another,
more recent incident is attracting new scrutiny. On Christmas Eve inside 
Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone, an American Blackwater contractor 
allegedly shot and killed an Iraqi bodyguard protecting a senior Iraqi official.
For weeks after the shooting, unconfirmed reports circulated around the Internet
that alcohol may have been involved and that the Iraqi was shot ten times in the
chest. The story then went that the contractor was spirited out of Iraq before 
he could be prosecuted. Media inquiries got nowhere--the US Embassy refused to 
confirm that it was a Blackwater contractor, and the company refused to comment.

Then the incident came up at the February 7 Congressional hearing. As the 
session was drawing to a close, Representative Kucinich raced back into the room
with what he said was a final question. He entered a news report on the incident
into the record and asked Blackwater counsel Howell if Blackwater had flown the 
contractor out of Iraq after the alleged shooting. "That gentleman, on the day 
the incident occurred, he was off duty," Howell said, in what was the first 
official confirmation of the incident from Blackwater. "Blackwater did bring him
back to the United States."

"Is he going to be extradited back to Iraq for murder, and if not, why not?" 
Kucinich asked.

"Sir, I am not law enforcement. All I can say is that there's currently an 
investigation," Howell replied. "We are fully cooperating and supporting that 

Kucinich then said, "I just want to point out that there's a question that could
actually make [Blackwater's] corporate officers accessories here in helping to 
create a flight from justice for someone who's committed a murder."

The War on the Hill

Several bills are now making their way through Congress aimed at oversight and 
transparency of the private forces that have emerged as major players in the 
wars of the post-9/11 period. In mid-February Senators Byron Dorgan, Patrick 
Leahy and John Kerry introduced legislation aimed at cracking down on no-bid 
contracts and cronyism, providing for penalties of up to twenty years in prison 
and fines of up to $1 million for what they called "war profiteering." It is 
part of what Democrats describe as a multi-pronged approach. "I think there's a 
critical mass of us now who are working on it," says Congressman Price, who 
represents Blackwater's home state. In January Price introduced legislation that
would expand the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act of 2000 (MEJA) to 
include all contractors in a war zone, not just those working for or alongside 
the armed forces. Most of Blackwater's work in Iraq, for instance, is contracted
by the State Department. Price indicated that the alleged Christmas Eve shooting
could be a test case of sorts under his legislation. "I will be following this 
and I'll be calling for a full investigation," he said.

But there's at least one reason to be wary of this approach: Price's office 
consulted with the private military lobby as it crafted the legislation, which 
has the industry's strong endorsement. Perhaps that's because MEJA has been for 
the most part unenforced. "Even in situations when US civilian law could 
potentially have been applied to contractor crimes, it wasn't," observed P.W. 
Singer, a leading scholar on contractors. American prosecutors are already 
strapped for resources in their home districts--how could they be expected to 
conduct complex investigations in Iraq? Who will protect the investigators and 
prosecutors? How will they interview Iraqi victims? How could they effectively 
oversee 100,000 individuals spread across a dangerous war zone? "It's a good 
question," concedes Price. "I'm not saying that it would be a simple matter." He
argues his legislation is an attempt to "put the whole contracting enterprise on
a new accountable footing."

This past fall, taking a different tack--much to the dismay of the 
industry--Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, an Air Force reserve lawyer and 
former reserve judge, quietly inserted language into the 2007 Defense 
Authorization, which Bush signed into law, that places contractors under the 
Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), commonly known as the court martial 
system. Graham implemented the change with no public debate and with almost no 
awareness among the broader Congress, but war contractors immediately questioned
its constitutionality. Indeed, this could be a rare moment when mercenaries and 
civil libertarians are on the same side. Many contractors are not armed 
combatants; they work in food, laundry and other support services. While the 
argument could be made that armed contractors like those working for Blackwater 
should be placed under the UCMJ, Graham's change could result in a dishwasher 
from Nepal working for KBR being prosecuted like a US soldier. On top of all 
this, the military has enough trouble policing its own massive force and could 
scarcely be expected to monitor an additional 100,000 private personnel. 
Besides, many contractors in Iraq are there under the auspices of the State 
Department and other civilian agencies, not the military.

In an attempt to clarify these matters, Senator Barack Obama introduced 
comprehensive new legislation in February. It requires clear rules of engagement
for armed contractors, expands MEJA and provides for the DoD to "arrest and 
detain" contractors suspected of crimes and then turn them over to civilian 
authorities for prosecution. It also requires the Justice Department to submit a
comprehensive report on current investigations of contractor abuses, the number 
of complaints received about contractors and criminal cases opened. In a 
statement to The Nation, Obama said contractors are "operating with unclear 
lines of authority, out-of-control costs and virtually no oversight by Congress.
This black hole of accountability increases the danger to our troops and 
American civilians serving as contractors." He said his legislation would 
"re-establish control over these companies," while "bringing contractors under 
the rule of law."

Democratic Representative Jan Schakowsky, a member of the House intelligence 
committee, has been a leading critic of the war contracting system. Her Iraq and
Afghanistan Contractor Sunshine Act, introduced in February, which bolsters 
Obama's, boils down to what Schakowsky sees as a long overdue fact-finding 
mission through the secretive contracting bureaucracy. Among other provisions, 
it requires the government to determine and make public the number of 
contractors and subcontractors (at any tier) that are employed in Iraq and 
Afghanistan; any host country's, international or US laws that have been broken 
by contractors; disciplinary actions taken against contractors; and the total 
number of dead and wounded contractors. Schakowsky says she has tried repeatedly
over the past several years to get this information and has been stonewalled or 
ignored. "We're talking about billions and billions of dollars--some have 
estimated forty cents of every dollar [spent on the occupation] goes to these 
contractors, and we couldn't get any information on casualties, on deaths," says
Schakowsky. "It has been virtually impossible to shine the light on this aspect 
of the war and so when we discuss the war, its scope, its costs, its risks, they
have not been part of this whatsoever. This whole shadow force that's been 
operating in Iraq, we know almost nothing about. I think it keeps at arm's 
length from the American people what this war is all about."

While not by any means a comprehensive total of the number of contractor 
casualties, 770 contractor deaths and 7,761 injured in Iraq as of December 31, 
2006, were confirmed by the Labor Department. But that only counts those 
contractors whose families applied for benefits under the government's Defense 
Base Act insurance. Independent analysts say the number is likely much higher. 
Blackwater alone has lost at least twenty-seven men in Iraq. And then there's 
the financial cost: Almost $4 billion in taxpayer funds have been paid for 
private security forces in Iraq, according to Waxman. Yet even with all these 
additional forces, the military is struggling to meet the demands of a White 
House bent on military adventurism.

A week after Donald Rumsfeld's rule at the Pentagon ended, US forces had been 
stretched so thin by the "war on terror" that former Secretary of State Colin 
Powell declared "the active Army is about broken." Rather than rethinking its 
foreign policies, the Administration forged ahead with plans for a troop "surge"
in Iraq, and Bush floated a plan to supplement the military with a Civilian 
Reserve Corps in his January State of the Union address. "Such a corps would 
function much like our military Reserve. It would ease the burden on the armed 
forces by allowing us to hire civilians with critical skills to serve on 
missions abroad when America needs them," Bush said. The President, it seemed, 
was just giving a fancy new title to something the Administration has already 
done with its "revolution" in military affairs and unprecedented reliance on 
contractors. Yet while Bush's proposed surge has sparked a fierce debate in 
Congress and among the public, the Administration's increasing reliance on 
private military contractors has gone largely undebated and underreported.

"The increasing use of contractors, private forces or as some would say 
'mercenaries' makes wars easier to begin and to fight--it just takes money and 
not the citizenry," says Michael Ratner, president of the Center for 
Constitutional Rights, which has sued contractors for alleged abuses in Iraq. 
"To the extent a population is called upon to go to war, there is resistance, a 
necessary resistance to prevent wars of self-aggrandizement, foolish wars and in
the case of the United States, hegemonic imperialist wars. Private forces are 
almost a necessity for a United States bent on retaining its declining empire."

With talk of a Civilian Reserve Corps and Blackwater promoting the idea of a 
privatized "contractor brigade" to work with the military, war critics in 
Congress are homing in on what they see as a sustained, undeclared escalation 
through the use of private forces. "'Surge' implies a bump that has a beginning 
and an end," says Schakowsky. "Having a third or a quarter of [the forces] 
present on the ground not even part of the debate is a very dangerous thing in 
our democracy, because war is the most critical thing that we do."

Indeed, contractor deaths are not counted in the total US death count, and their
crimes and violations go undocumented and unpunished, further masking the true 
costs of the war. "When you're bringing in contractors whom the law doesn't 
apply to, the Geneva Conventions, common notions of morality, everything's 
thrown out the window," says Kucinich. "And what it means is that these private 
contractors are really an arm of the Administration and its policies."

Kucinich says he plans to investigate the potential involvement of private 
forces in so-called "black bag," "false flag" or covert operations in Iraq. 
"What's the difference between covert activities and so-called overt activities 
which you have no information about? There's no difference," he says. Kucinich 
also says the problems with contractors are not simply limited to oversight and 
transparency. "It's the privatization of war," he says. The Administration is 
"linking private war contractor profits with warmaking. So we're giving 
incentives for the contractors to lobby the Administration and the Congress to 
create more opportunities for profits, and those opportunities are more war. And
that's why the role of private contractors should be sharply limited by 

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