Privatizing War

November 11, 2003

The Pentagon is increasingly relying on private military contractors to help it wage its aggressive wars in Iraq and elsewhere.

A recent report from the Brookings Institute estimates that there are currently 10,000 to 20,000 private military workers on the Pentagon payroll in Iraq. These private personnel are engaged in a wide range of military activities and support work, including guarding U.S. top administrator, Paul Bremer, operating missile defense batteries, and piloting reconnaissance planes. Kellogg, Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Dick Cheney's Halliburton is under contract to provide support work at U.S. military bases throughout Iraq, handling everything from construction to mail delivery and cooking. This enables the Pentagon to shift regular soldiers from support work to front line combat.

In addition to Iraq, the Pentagon is employing private military contractors to fight in Afghanistan, Palestine, Liberia, Colombia and other countries.

At least 90 U.S. corporations are involved in military contracting work, earning as much as $100 billion/year. Many of these corporations are headed by retired Pentagon officers and staffed by former U.S. green berets, ex-CIA operatives, etc. They are generally equipped with the same military equipment as regular U.S. soldiers.

Defense Secretary Rumsfeld is a big proponent of this privatization of military operations, emphasizing that these contracts enable the Pentagon to spread its military forces to more countries while dramatically increasing the percentage of active duty military personnel who can engage in combat. According to an executive at one of these firms: "It's a massive business boom for the private security field."

Private contractors are generally free of any Congressional oversight and their casualties are not counted in reports of combat deaths and injuries.