by Jeremy Scahill

August 15, 2007

from Indypendent Website


If you think the U.S. has only 160,000 troops in Iraq, think again.

With almost no congressional oversight and even less public awareness, the Bush administration has more than doubled the size of the U.S. occupation through the use of private war companies.

There are now almost 200,000 private “contractors” deployed in Iraq by Washington. This means that U.S. military forces in Iraq are now outsized by a coalition of billing corporations whose actions go largely unmonitored and whose crimes are virtually unpunished.

In essence, the Bush administration has created a shadow army that can be used to wage wars unpopular with the American public but extremely profitable for a few unaccountable private companies.

Since the launch of the “global war on terror,” the administration has systematically funneled billions of dollars in public money to corporations like Blackwater USA, DynCorp, Triple Canopy, Erinys and ArmorGroup.


They have in turn used their lucrative government pay-outs to build up the infrastructure and reach of private armies so powerful that they rival or outgun some nation’s militaries.

“I think it’s extraordinarily dangerous when a nation begins to outsource its monopoly on the use of force and the use of violence in support of its foreign policy or national security objectives,” says veteran U.S. Diplomat Joe Wilson, who served as the last U.S. ambassador to Iraq before the 1991 Gulf War.

The billions of dollars being doled out to these companies, Wilson argues, “makes of them a very powerful interest group within the American body politic and an interest group that is in fact armed. And the question will arise at some time: to whom do they owe their loyalty?”

Precise data on the extent of U.S. spending on mercenary services is nearly impossible to obtain - by both journalists and elected officials - but some in Congress estimate that up to 40 cents of every tax dollar spent on the war goes to corporate war contractors. At present, the United States spends about $2 billion a week on its Iraq operations.

While much has been made of the Bush administration’s “failure” to build international consensus for the invasion of Iraq, perhaps that was never the intention. When U.S. tanks rolled into Iraq in March 2003, they brought with them the largest army of “private contractors” ever deployed in a war.


The White House substituted international diplomacy with lucrative war contracts and a coalition of willing nations who provided token forces with a coalition of billing corporations that supplied the brigades of contractors.



During the 1991 Gulf War, the ratio of troops to private contractors was about 60 to 1. Today, it is the contractors who outnumber U.S. forces in Iraq.


As of July 2007, there were more than 630 war contracting companies working in Iraq for the United States. Composed of some 180,000 individual personnel drawn from more than 100 countries, the army of contractors surpasses the official U.S. military presence of 160,000 troops.

In all, the United States may have as many as 400,000 personnel occupying Iraq, not including allied nations’ militaries. The statistics on contractors do not account for all armed contractors. Last year, a U.S. government report estimated there were 48,000 people working for more than 170 private military companies in Iraq.

“It masks the true level of American involvement,” says Ambassador Wilson.

How much money is being spent just on mercenaries remains largely classified. Congressional sources estimate the United States has spent at least $6 billion in Iraq, while Britain has spent some $400 million. At the same time, companies chosen by the White House for rebuilding projects in Iraq have spent huge sums in reconstruction funds — possibly billions on more mercenaries to guard their personnel and projects.

The single largest U.S. contract for private security in Iraq was a $293 million payment to the British firm Aegis Defence Services, headed by retired British Lt. Col. Tim Spicer, who has been dogged by accusations that he is a mercenary because of his private involvement in African conflicts.


The Texas-based DynCorp International has been another big winner, with more than $1 billion in contracts to provide personnel to train Iraqi police forces, while Blackwater USA has won $750 million in State Department contracts alone for “diplomatic security.”

At present, an American or a British Special Forces veteran working for a private security company in Iraq can make $650 a day. At times the rate has reached $1,000 a day; the pay dwarfs many times over that of active duty troops operating in the war zone wearing a U.S. or U.K. flag on their shoulder instead of a corporate logo.

“We got [tens of thousands of] contractors over there, some of them making more than the Secretary of Defense,” House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Murtha (D-Penn.) recently remarked. “How in the hell do you justify that?”

In part, these contractors do mundane jobs that traditionally have been performed by soldiers. Some require no military training, but involve deadly occupations, such as driving trucks through insurgent-controlled territory.

Others are more innocuous, like cooking food or doing laundry on a base, but still court grave risk because of regular mortar and rocket attacks.

These services are provided through companies like KBR and Fluor and through their vast labyrinth of subcontractors. But many other private personnel are also engaged in armed combat and “security” operations. They interrogate prisoners, gather intelligence, operate rendition flights, protect senior occupation officials and, in at least one case, have commanded U.S. and international troops in battle.

In a revealing admission, Gen. David Petraeus, who is overseeing Bush’s troop “surge,” said earlier this year that he has, at times, been guarded in Iraq by “contract security.”


At least three U.S. commanding generals, not including Petraeus, are currently being guarded in Iraq by hired guns.

“To have half of your army be contractors, I don’t know that there’s a precedent for that,” says Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), a member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which has been investigating war contractors.

“Maybe the precedent was the British and the Hessians in the American Revolution. Maybe that’s the last time and needless to say, they lost. But I’m thinking that there’s no democratic control and there’s no intention to have democratic control here.”

The implications are devastating.


Joseph Wilson says,

“In the absence of international consensus, the current Bush administration relied on a coalition of what I call the co-opted, the corrupted and the coerced: those who benefited financially from their involvement, those who benefited politically from their involvement and those few who determined that their relationship with the United States was more important than their relationship with anybody else. And that’s a real problem because there is no underlying international legitimacy that sustains us throughout this action that we’ve taken.”

Moreover, this revolution means the United States no longer needs to rely on its own citizens to fight its wars, nor does it need to implement a draft, which would have made the Iraq war politically untenable.



During his confirmation hearings in the Senate this past January, Petraeus praised the role of private forces, claiming they compensate for an overstretched military.


Petraeus told the senators that combined with Bush’s official troop surge, the,

“tens of thousands of contract security forces give me the reason to believe that we can accomplish the mission.”

Taken together with Petraeus’s recent assertion that the surge would run into mid-2009, this means a widening role for mercenaries and other private forces in Iraq is clearly on the table for the foreseeable future.

“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, whose organization has sued private contractors for alleged human rights violations 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. Think about Rome and its increasing need for mercenaries.”

Privatized forces are also politically expedient for many governments.


Their casualties go uncounted, their actions largely unmonitored and their crimes unpunished. Indeed, four years into the occupation, there is no effective system of oversight or accountability governing contractors and their operations, nor is there any effective law — military or civilian being applied to their activities.


They have not been subjected to military courts martial (despite a recent congressional attempt to place them under the Uniform Code of Military Justice), nor have they been prosecuted in U.S. civilian courts.


And no matter what their acts in Iraq, they cannot be prosecuted in Iraqi courts because in 2004 the U.S. occupying authority granted them complete immunity.

“These private contractors are really an arm of the administration and its policies,” argues Kucinich, who has called for a withdrawal of all U.S. contractors from Iraq. “They charge whatever they want with impunity. There’s no accountability as to how many people they have, as to what their activities are.”

That raises the crucial question: what exactly are they doing in Iraq in the name of the U.S. and U.K. governments?


Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), a leading member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, which is responsible for reviewing sensitive national security issues, explained the difficulty of monitoring private military companies on the U.S. payroll:

“If I want to see a contract, I have to go up to a secret room and look at it, can’t take any notes, can’t take any notes out with me, you know — essentially, I don’t have access to those contracts and even if I did, I couldn’t tell anybody about it.”



On the Internet, numerous videos have spread virally, showing what appear to be foreign mercenaries using Iraqis as target practice, much to the embarrassment of the firms involved.


Despite these incidents and the tens of thousands of contractors passing through Iraq, only two individuals have been ever indicted for crimes there. One was charged with stabbing a fellow contractor, while the other pled guilty to possessing child-pornography images on his computer at Abu Ghraib prison.

Dozens of American soldiers have been court-martialed - 64 on murder-related charges alone - but not a single armed contractor has been prosecuted for a crime against an Iraqi. In some cases, where contractors were alleged to have been involved in crimes or deadly incidents, their companies whisked them out of Iraq to safety.

U.S. contractors in Iraq reportedly have their own motto:

“What happens here today, stays here today.”

International diplomats say Iraq has demonstrated a new U.S. model for waging war; one which poses a creeping threat to global order.

“To outsource security-related, military related issues to non-government, non-military forces is a source of great concern and it caught many governments unprepared,” says Hans von Sponeck, a 32-year veteran U.N. diplomat, who served as head of the U.N. Iraq mission before the U.S. invasion.

In Iraq, the United States has used its private sector allies to build up armies of mercenaries many lured from impoverished countries with the promise of greater salaries than their home militaries can pay.


That the home governments of some of these private warriors are opposed to the war itself is of little consequence.

“Have gun, will fight for paycheck” has become a globalized law.


“The most worrying aspect is that these forces are outside parliamentary control. They come from all over and they are answerable to no one except a very narrow group of people and they come from countries whose governments may not even know in detail that they have actually been contracted as a private army into a war zone,” says von Sponeck.

“If you have now a marketplace for warfare, it is a commercial issue rather than a political issue involving a debate in the countries.

You are also marginalizing governmental control over whether or not this should take place, should happen and, if so, in what size and shape. It’s a very worrying new aspect of international relations. I think it becomes more and more uncontrollable by the countries of supply.”

In Iraq, for example, hundreds of Chilean mercenaries have been deployed by U.S. companies like Blackwater and Triple Canopy, despite the fact that Chile, as a rotating member of the U.N. Security Council, opposed the invasion and continues to oppose the occupation of Iraq.


Some of the Chileans are alleged to have been seasoned veterans of the Pinochet era.

“There is nothing new, of course, about the relationship between politics and the economy, but there is something deeply perverse about the privatization of the Iraq War and the utilization of mercenaries,” says Chilean sociologist Tito Tricot, a former political prisoner who was tortured under Pinochet’s regime.

“This externalization of services or outsourcing attempts to lower costs - third world mercenaries are paid less than their counterparts from the developed world - and maximize benefits. In other words, let others fight the war for the Americans. In either case, the Iraqi people do not matter at all.”



The Iraq war has ushered in a new system. Wealthy nations can recruit the world’s poor, from countries that have no direct stake in the conflict, and use them as cannon fodder to conquer weaker nations.


This allows the conquering power to hold down domestic casualties — the single-greatest impediment to waging wars like the one in Iraq.


Indeed, in Iraq, more than 1,000 contractors working for the U.S. occupation have been killed with another 13,000 wounded. Most are not American citizens, and these numbers are not counted in the official death toll at a time when Americans are increasingly disturbed by casualties.

In Iraq, many companies are run by Americans or Britons and have well-trained forces drawn from elite military units for use in sensitive actions or operations. But down the ranks, these forces are filled by Iraqis and third-country nationals. Indeed, some 118,000 of the estimated 180,000 contractors are Iraqis, and many mercenaries are reportedly ill-paid, poorly equipped and barely trained Iraqi nationals.

The mercenary industry points to this as a positive: we are giving Iraqis jobs, albeit occupying their own country in the service of a private corporation hired by a hostile invading power.

Doug Brooks, the head of the Orwellian named mercenary trade group, the International Peace Operations Association, argued from early on in the occupation,

“Museums do not need to be guarded by Abrams tanks when an Iraqi security guard working for a contractor can do the same job for less than one-fiftieth of what it costs to maintain an American soldier. Hiring local guards gives Iraqis a stake in a successful future for their country. They use their pay to support their families and stimulate the economy. Perhaps most significantly, every guard means one less potential guerrilla.”

In many ways, it is the same corporate model of relying on cheap labor in destitute nations to staff their uber-profitable operations.


The giant multinationals also argue they are helping the economy by hiring locals, even if it’s at starvation wages.

Donald Rumsfeld’s masterstroke, and his most enduring legacy, was to bring the corporate branding revolution of the 1990s into the heart of the most powerful military in the world,” says Naomi Klein, whose upcoming book, The Shock Doctrine - The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, explores these themes.

“We have now seen the emergence of the hollow army. Much as with so-called hollow corporations like Nike, billions are spent on military technology and design in rich countries while the manual labor and sweat work of invasion and occupation is increasingly outsourced to contractors who compete with each other to fill the work order for the lowest price. Just as this model breeds rampant abuse in the manufacturing sector — with the big-name brands always able to plead ignorance about the actions of their suppliers—so it does in the military, though with stakes that are immeasurably higher.”

In the case of Iraq, the U.S. and U.K. governments could give the public perception of a withdrawal of forces and just privatize the occupation.


Indeed, shortly after former British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced that he wanted to withdraw 1,600 soldiers from Basra, reports emerged that the British government was considering sending in private security companies to “fill the gap left behind.”



While Iraq currently dominates the headlines, private war and intelligence companies are expanding their already sizable footprint. The U.S. government in particular is now in the midst of the most radical privatization agenda in its history.


According to a recent report in Vanity Fair, the government pays contractors as much as the combined taxes paid by everyone in the United States with incomes under $100,000, meaning,

“more than 90 percent of all taxpayers might as well remit everything they owe directly to [contractors] rather than to the [government].”

Some of this outsourcing is happening in sensitive sectors, including the intelligence community.

“This is the magnet now. Everything is being attracted to these private companies in terms of individuals and expertise and functions that were normally done by the intelligence community,” says former CIA division chief and senior analyst Melvin Goodman.


“My major concern is the lack of accountability, the lack of responsibility. The entire industry is essentially out of control. It’s outrageous.”

RJ Hillhouse, a blogger who investigates the clandestine world of private contractors and U.S. intelligence, recently obtained documents from the Office of the Directorate of National Intelligence (DNI) showing that Washington spends some $42 billion annually on private intelligence contractors, up from $17.54 billion in 2000. Currently that spending represents 70 percent of the U.S. intelligence budget going to private companies.

Perhaps it is no surprise then that the current head of the DNI is Mike McConnell, the former chair of the board of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance, the private intelligence industry’s lobbying arm.


Hillhouse also revealed that one of the most sensitive U.S. intelligence documents, the Presidential Daily Briefing, is prepared in part by private companies, despite having the official seal of the U.S. intelligence apparatus.

“Let’s say a company is frustrated with a government that’s hampering its business or business of one of its clients. Introducing and spinning intelligence on that government’s suspected collaboration with terrorists would quickly get the White House’s attention and could be used to shape national policy,” Hillhouse argues.



Empowered by their new found prominence, mercenary forces are increasing their presence on other battlefields:

  • in Latin America, DynCorp International is operating in Colombia, Bolivia and other countries under the guise of the “war on drugs” — U.S. defense contractors are receiving nearly half the $630 million in U.S. military aid for Colombia

  • in Africa, mercenaries are deploying in Somalia, Congo and Sudan and increasingly have their sights set on tapping into the hefty U.N. peacekeeping budget (this has been true since at least the early 1990s and probably much earlier)

  • heavily armed mercenaries were deployed to New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, while proposals are being considered to privatize the U.S. border patrol

Brooks, the private military industry lobbyist, says people should not become,

“overly obsessed with Iraq,” saying his association’s “member companies have more personnel working in U.N. and African Union peace operations than all but a handful of countries.”

Von Sponeck says he believes the use of such companies in warfare should be barred and has harsh words for the institution for which he spent his career working:

The United Nations, including the U.N. Secretary General, should react to this and instead of reacting, they are mute, they are silent.”

This unprecedented funding of such enterprises, primarily by the U.S. and U.K. governments, means that powers once the exclusive realm of nations are now in the hands of private companies with loyalty only to profits, CEOs and, in the case of public companies, shareholders.


And, of course, their client, whoever that may be. CIA-type services, special operations, covert actions and small-scale military and paramilitary forces are now on the world market in a way not seen in modern history.


This could allow corporations or nations with cash to spend but no real military power to hire squadrons of heavily armed and well-trained commandos.

“It raises very important issues about state and about the very power of state. The one thing the people think of as being in the purview of the government — wholly run and owned by — is the use of military power,” says Rep. Jan Schakowsky.


“Suddenly you’ve got a for-profit corporation going around the world that is more powerful than states, can effect regime possibly where they may want to go, that seems to have all the support that it needs from this administration that is also pretty adventurous around the world and operating under the cover of darkness.

“It raises questions about democracies, about states, about who influences policy around the globe, about relationships among some countries. Maybe it’s their goal to render state coalitions like NATO irrelevant in the future, that they’ll be the ones and open to the highest bidder.


Who really does determine war and peace around the world?”






Chile's Iraq Mercenaries

Under Investigation by U.N. Group
by Mike Hager
The Santiago Times
Santiago, Chile
July 9, 2007
from WorldPress Website


Hired Mercenaries Are Second Largest 'Coalition Force' in Iraq

A United Nations work group arrived in Chile today to begin investigating the recruitment of Chilean mercenaries in the American war in Iraq. The U.N. Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries (UNWG) also hopes to get Chile to sign on to the 1989 U.N. Mercenary Convention aimed at restricting mercenary activity.

The group, created in July 2005, has also investigated the recruitment of Honduran, Ecuadorian, Peruvian, and Fijian citizens to fight or provide military-related services in foreign conflict zones. Socialist Party Sen. Alejandro Navarro estimates that as many as 1,000 former Chilean soldiers are now working in Iraq.

In a report last year, UNWG denounced the 48,000 security workers in Iraq, saying they make up the second largest "coalition" fighting force after the United States. Great Britain provides the third largest number of military personnel.

A member of the U.N. Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries

investigating U.S. company Your Solutions last year in Honduras.

(Photo: Elmer Martinez / AFP-Getty Images)


UNWG executive president José Luis Gomez del Prado said the group will interview a wide range of people in Chile, including N.G.O. workers, academics, journalists, and government officials.


Gomez del Prado was hopeful he could meet with President Michelle Bachelet and said he was also open to meeting with the Chilean most publicly identified with mercenary recruitment—(ret.) Gen. José Pizarro.

"Presently, we know that there are ex-military and ex-police recruited by a Chilean company with headquarters in Uruguay, a company that has the support of a U.S. company," said Gomez del Prado.


"These [private security] companies come to Latin American countries and recruit people for $31 a day, which is what we just saw in Peru. And once they are on a plane or bus, recruits are made to sign an English contract with a sister company from the United States, a contract that leaves them completely unprotected."

In 2005, for example, the Your Solutions security firm sent 147 Chileans into conflict zones in Iraq; 28 of the recruits broke their contracts and returned home early, claiming they received inadequate training and poor equipment.

In September of that same year, Honduras kicked Your Solutions and its 105 Chilean mercenary recruits out of the country for training foreign military in Honduran territory—in violation of national laws. When neighboring Nicaragua refused to allow the mercenary training to continue in their country, Honduras finally relented, allowing the mercenaries to complete 15 more days of training in Honduras before being shipped to Iraq.

Critics like Sen. Navarro fear that mercenary recruitment is increasing in Latin America and that new companies are forming.

Amada Benavides, in charge of UNWG's Latin American arm, said in Peru that mercenary recruitment is,

"a common problem within the region," even though international law forbids mercenary activity. "Mercenary work is condemned by the law, but the contractors are not," she said.

The Los Angeles Times recently reported that 180,000 mercenaries are working in Iraqi territory, outnumbering the 160,000 American troops on the ground. The mercenaries include 21,000 American citizens, 43,000 foreigners, and 118,000 Iraqis. One thousand of these privately contracted security personnel have died, reported the L.A. Times, and at least 10,000 have been injured.

Retired Gen. Pizarro has been recruiting Chilean military personnel for the past several years and said last week that he has 350 Chileans in Iraq working for various companies, including Blackwater and Triple Canopy. Pizarro also recruited 55 Chilean mercenaries currently serving in Afghanistan, and 110 in Haiti.

Pizarro, considered by some to be the godfather of the Chilean mercenary industry, recruited some 1,200 former Chilean soldiers for duty in Iraq in less than two years. The majority are lured with wages deemed astronomical by Chilean standards.

A Chilean guarding a ground facility such as an embassy earns $3,000 a month, and can increase their income by taking on higher risk mobile security assignments that can net up to $12,000 a month.

Pizarro ran into legal trouble in 2005 when Sen. Navarro urged Chile's judicial system to indict the ex-Army official and military analyst for violating the Law of Private Security, as well as being part of a criminal operation. Navarro said that Pizarro's security firm Red Táctica has access to classified information about Chilean armed forces, a situation that constitutes a national security risk.

Red Táctica, which recruits former Army officers for security work in Iraq, also came under fire for alleged labor abuse. Pizarro has since changed enterprises and remains an integral part of the Chilean mercenary industry.

Pizarro said last week he is ready to cooperate with the UNWG and disputed labor abuse claims.

"No one has ever filed a complaint, consequently, nobody has ever been accused of contractual irregularities or labor abuses," he said.

Pizarro also objected to labeling Chilean forces "mercenaries," saying that Chile's former soldiers are limited to security work in Iraq and the term mercenary should only designate people hired for killing other soldiers.

The U.N.'s Gomez del Prado believes the definition of mercenary needs modernization to include the thriving private military and security firms.

"Anyone who is protecting a building in a highly dangerous zone and returns fire after getting fired on should be termed a mercenary," he said.

The U.N. working group will be in Santiago July 9-13 carrying out their investigation.






Latin American mercenaries

guarding Baghdad’s Green Zone
by Cesar Uco
28 December 2005

from WSWS Website


Wilder Gutierrez Rubio, 38, died a few hours after arriving in Lima, Peru on December 6. Days before, he had been diagnosed with severe leukemia at Ibn Sina Hospital in Baghdad and immediately flown back to his home country.

Gutierrez was part of a 200-man Peruvian contingent sent to Iraq in early October to provide security for Baghdad’s Green Zone, home to the US and British embassies, the US Central Command and Iraqi government ministries.

It is widely suspected in Peru that Gutierrez’s leukemia was the result of exposure to high levels of uranium in Iraq.

Weeks before, another Peruvian, Martin Jara Hichard, 40, was killed in Kabul, Afghanistan. To this day it remains unclear how he died. Like Gutierrez, he had signed on with a US recruiting firm to guard US installations.

Gutierrez and Jara are two of more than 1,000 Latin Americans recruited by US private security contractors to work as mercenaries performing dangerous jobs in the countries under US military occupation. Their deaths underscore the emergence of a cheap labor market for mercenaries that has thrived in recent months.

Since the US invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, about 20,000 mercenaries have been hired to work as private security contractors. This figure represents one mercenary for every seven uniformed American soldiers in these regions. With $30 billion spent by the US Government on private security contractors in 2004—its largest expenditure in Iraq after oil and construction—the contractors have found a gold mine in the Latin American market.

War is big money and, like any other business today, security contractors are scouring the globe looking for the cheapest labor so as to maximize their war profiteering.

Unemployed young men from Peru—most of them former soldiers—are paid only $1,000 a month—less than a tenth the salary paid to American mercenaries. For $5.75 an hour—a figure that is roughly equivalent to the US minimum wage—the recruits put themselves “in the line of fire” protecting US and British interests in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Forbes magazine reports that the US Government,

“pays private firms between $500 and $1,500 a day for the experienced military personnel they supply in Iraq. That works out to mercenaries who often earn between $150,000 and $250,000 a year.”

Not so for the vast majority of mercenaries recruited from Latin America. And while US mercenaries are rotated in and out of Iraq on 90-day tours, the Latin Americans are committed to remaining in the country for a year, without any relief.

Gutierrez and Jara would qualify as “experienced military personnel,” having served in the Peruvian Air Force and Army respectively. In addition, Gutierrez had received special jungle survival training.

Other Latin American mercenaries have been recruited in Chile, Colombia, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua.


Like Peru, all of these countries were the scenes of “dirty wars” carried out by US-backed forces against their own people. It is significant that training in militaries that produced death squads, “disappearances,” massacres and torture is viewed as essential preparation for aiding Washington’s “democratizing” mission in Iraq.

Martin Jara Hichard, the Peruvian mercenary who died in Kabul, signed a contract with the US firm MVM Inc. Peruvians are recruited for Afghanistan by 3D Global Solutions, another American firm. Wackenhut del Peru represents 3D Global Solutions in Peru and is responsible for the security of the US Embassy in Lima.

Virginia-based MVM Inc. is one of the firms reaping the greatest profits from US imperialist aggression. It is dedicated to recruiting and training, and identifying personnel who have specialized training in security. Since its founding in 1979 by three former members of the US Secret Service, MVM has built a strong business partnership with the US government. Its largest client is the US State Department, which has contracted the firm to provide security for 80 American embassies.


In 2003 it was awarded a $100 million contract by the US Department of Health and Human Services to guard American hospitals. MVM was responsible for the protection of American officials in Haiti during the overthrow of the democratically elected president, Jean Bertrand Aristide.

Besides protecting US facilities in Baghdad, the firm’s lucrative business in Iraq includes training the Iraqi police. As a result of US wars and occupations, MVM has seen its revenues multiply more than six-fold, from $30 million in 1997 to $190 million in 2004.

Wilder Gutierrez Rubio was hired in October by the private security contractor Triple Canopy Operations, a firm established by three former members of the US Army’s elite Delta Force. It is represented in Peru by Defion International SAC, which is responsible for hiring mercenaries for Iraq.

Peruvian authorities have accused Triple Canopy, 3D Global Solutions and MVM of compelling those they hire to sign contracts that lack normal legal protections required by the country’s labor laws.


The Peruvian press reported, for example, that the Triple Canopy contract,

“exempts the government of the United States, the hiring company and its subsidiaries from all responsibility for each of the claims, losses, damages and injuries that may occur” to the signatory.

The contracts run for one year and are renewable.

While the Latin American mercenaries hired by these firms receive some of their military training upon arrival in Iraq or Afghanistan, the contractors have quickly moved to take “cost-saving” measures by covertly contracting the services of the Peruvian Army and setting up a clandestine training camp in Honduras.


In his article “For a Fistful of Dollars,” correspondent Emilio Paz wrote:

“The Peruvian newspaper El Comercio in late October revealed that the Peruvian Army was actively involved in furnishing trained mercenaries to the United States. A contract between the Army and Triple Canopy, signed September 23, stated that the Army would set up four training courses at its base in Huachipa, the newspaper said.

“The first course trained 218 ‘civilian volunteers,’ for which the Army was paid 104,640 soles by Triple Canopy—the equivalent of US$30,657; the second trained another 218, but the Army charged more: 156,960 soles, or US$45,985. The third course trained 120 men for 86,400 soles, or US$25,313, and the fourth, 122 men for 87,840 soles, or US$25,734. The total number of mercenaries trained was 678.

“When questioned about this by [the Peruvian] Congress, Defense Minister Marciano Rengifo acknowledged that the Peruvian Army had agreed to train the ‘civilians’ for a total payment of 435,840 soles, or US$127,690.”

The Peruvian training camp is not the only one.


In September, the Honduran Government ordered the expulsion of 105 Chilean mercenaries, who had entered the country as tourists or businessmen. Hired by the recruiting firm Your Solutions—another Triple Canopy subsidiary—the Chileans were attending a training camp led by US and Chilean personnel in Lepaterique, 16 miles northwest of the capital of Tegucigalpa.

The facilities being used, apparently without the knowledge of the Honduran government, were set up by the US Central Intelligence Agency in the 1980s. There, a combination of CIA personnel and members of Argentina’s military intelligence trained both the “contra” mercenaries attacking Nicaragua and Honduran security forces.


They were taught the methods of torture, “disappearance” and political repression developed under the Argentine dictatorship. Lepaterique became the headquarters of the infamous Battalion 316, which unleashed a wave of political killings, torture and imprisonment against opponents of the US-backed government of Honduras.

Oscar Aspe, a former officer of the Chilean army, recently told the Honduran newspaper La Tribuna that he and the other mercenaries were being trained to “guard dignitaries, buildings, ports and other facilities,” including embassies.


Aspe added,

“We are fulfilling a mission for the US government,” identifying the Bush administration as his client.

The Honduran newspaper reported that in just one day in November, Your Solutions shipped 108 Hondurans, 88 Chileans and 16 Nicaraguans to Iraq. It is estimated that there are about 700 Peruvians, 250 Chileans and 320 Hondurans working in Baghdad’s Green Zone. La Tribuna also confirmed that the monthly pay was $1,000, with an additional $500 for English-speaking men.

While private security contractors describe the job as a non-combatant position, dismissing the term “mercenaries,” this is contradicted by the heavy military training with “combat” weapons that use 5.56 millimeter and 9 millimeter ammunition.


A recruit in the Honduras camp told the AFP news agency that the instructor,

“explained to us that where we were going everyone would be our enemy, and we’d have to look at them that way, because they would want to kill us and the gringos too... So we’d have to be heartless when it was up to us to kill someone, even it was a child.”

Foreign mercenaries face the same dangers as US military personnel in Iraq and are essentially being recruited as cheaper—and less politically sensitive—cannon fodder.


According to, in 2004,

“the attacks that used to target the military are now directed at civilian contractors and their private security forces... At one point there were about 150 attacks per day.”

The Iraq Coalition Casualties web site, has posted a “partial list” of 293 contractor fatalities as of December 27, a figure that is proportionate to the casualty rate for US soldiers deployed in Iraq.

Another indication that those taking these “security” jobs face the risks of occupation troops is the dismemberment insurance offered to the mercenaries. According to a Triple Canopy contract obtained by a Lima TV station, the insurance payments are $243,000 for the loss of an arm; $225,000 for a leg; $190,000 for a hand; $160,000 for a foot; $125,000 for an eye; $58,000 for a finger, and $12,500 for a toe. The amount for loss of life was not reported.

Most of the Latin American mercenaries had served in their countries’ armed forces and found themselves unemployed after leaving the military.

Wilder Gutierrez left his low-paying job as a supermarket supervisor. He signed up for Iraq in an attempt to save money for his wife and young daughter. Gutierrez lived in Marcavilca, a shanty town (pueblo joven) located in the old working class district of Chorrillos in Lima.


His friends remember him as a healthy man who was the best goal scorer on the neighborhood soccer team.

“He never got tired, we would have noticed if he was sick,” said a friend. From Iraq, “Wilfred talked to his family every week and never complained of any illness,” said a niece.

Gutierrez’s widow, Maria Gutierrez Amaya, told CPN radio in Lima, Peru that her husband was not the only case of leukemia in Baghdad due to high levels of uranium in Iraq.

Mrs. Gutierrez also complained that communications were supervised.

“They are instructed to ask questions about how things are going in Peru, and when we ask about their situation, the call is cut off,” she said.

Triple Canopy’s legal advisor showed a copy of the health certificate issued by the Municipal Director of Health of the city of Lima that said that at the time of his departure to Iraq on October 11, Gutierrez showed “no signs of disease.”


When he arrived in Lima on December 5, he had lost seven kilos, his body showed bruises and his hemoglobin level was 5.7. At his departure he had a level of 12.8. Wilfred Gutierrez died shortly after midnight December 6 of an internal hemorrhage.

Aside from the fate of those Latin American being shipped off to Iraq as mercenaries, the implications within the region itself are ominous. In both Peru and Honduras, the recruitment and training of these elements involves secret deals between the private contractors and the military—undoubtedly with the participation of the CIA—apparently conducted behind the backs of the elected governments of both countries.


Similar arrangements were worked out in Chile, where the contractors were allowed to recruit from active-duty Chilean military personnel.

To service the illegal US war and occupation of Iraq—and feed the profit drive of the contracting firms—political relations and networks are being cultivated that threaten to revive and strengthen the same forces that produced the string of military coups and dictatorships that swept through the continent three decades ago.


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