Socialist Worker

Mercenaries in Iraq: big profits for private forces

Issue No. 2166

ArmorGroup is just one of the “private security” contractors that have descended on Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime. These companies have won millions of pounds of contracts from the US and Britain, and private firms, to provide “security” in Iraq.

They have hired thousands of former soldiers from Western countries to become mercenaries. A law imposed upon Iraq in the first days of the occupation meant that they were free from prosecution.

Daniel Fitzsimons’ case could be the first trial of a foreign national since the US handover of security responsibilities to Iraqis.

The most notorious private security contractor was the US’s Blackwater, whose guards shot dead 17 Iraqi civilians during a rampage through Baghdad in October 2007.

The atrocity was so great that its licence to operate in Iraq was not renewed. The CIA has recently admitted hiring Blackwater operatives as part of a secret programme to track and kill Al Qaida leaders.

Millions of dollars were spent on the programme, but no one was caught.

ArmorGroup, which Fitzsimons worked for, has provided “protective services” to the extractive industries since its original incarnation as Defence Systems Limited in 1981. Its turnover increased from £35 million in 2001 to £178 million in 2007.

The foreign office and department for international development awarded ArmorGroup security contracts in Kabul, Baghdad and Basra, as well as control of the Iraqi police’s “mentoring programme”.

Despite supposedly handing over of control to the Iraqis, there are still 132,000 foreign security contractors in Iraq.

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