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[casi-analysis] casi-news digest, Vol 1 #89 - 1 msg

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Today's Topics:

   1. Mercenaries in Iraq (k hanly)


Message: 1
From: "k hanly" <>
To: "newsclippings" <>
Subject: Mercenaries in Iraq
Date: Wed, 12 May 2004 13:53:49 -0500

Vancouver Sun   May 11, 2004

Americans have outsourced their Iraq dirty work to a mixed bunch

By Jonathan Manthorpe

A brief news story from Iraq on Sunday night said a bomb had exploded near a
hotel bar in Baghdad "wounding six British and Nepalese."

One does not have to have spent much time in the world's trouble spots to
know that when one comes across Nepalese in such places one is not talking
about ordinary people from the mountain kingdom of Nepal.

One is talking about members past or present of the Brigade of Gurkhas,
which for nearly 200 years has formed perhaps the most feared and effective
infantry unit in the British army.

Retired members of the brigade are much sought after by private security
companies. Former Gurkhas can be found doing everything from providing
protection for United Nations compounds in Angola to guarding against
robberies in banks in Hong Kong.

No wonder, then, Gurkhas are also in Iraq where the inability of coalition
forces to establish security has put a premium on what are officially called
"security consultants" but whom many simply call "mercenaries."

To an astonishing degree, the United States-led forces in Iraq have
out-sourced security in the country.

There are about 15,000 mercenaries in Iraq and they constitute the third
largest armed force in the country after the American and British military

They are a very mixed bunch ranging from the Gurkhas at the top end to known
war criminals from South Africa and the Balkans at the other.

In between are people who do indeed have the military experience set out on
their CVs. But many others are pure fantasists playing out their Walter
Mitty dreams and getting paid up to $1,200 Cdn a day for doing it.

The loud sucking noise of fortunes to be made in Iraq's outsourced war is
causing all kinds of turmoil.

Britain's elite Special Air Service and Special Boat Service, the most
desired record on a mercenary's CV, recently sent a message to former
members asking them to please stop recruiting current members. About one in
six members of the SAS and the SBS have recently asked permission to quit
their jobs and the British government is getting peeved because they cost
about $4 million Cdn each to train.

In South Africa, President Thabo Mbeke has lost about half his 100-strong
personal security service to the lure of Iraq gold.

It was in South Africa earlier this year that the dubious background of many
of the mercenaries flocking to Iraq first appeared.

On Jan. 28, a suicide bomber hit Baghdad's Saheen Hotel. The bomb killed
four people and wounded scores of others.

One of the killed was a South African named Frans Strydom. Among the wounded
was Deon Gouws. Both men were working for a British-based company, Erinys
International, which has an $80-million US contract to protect Iraqi oil
installations. The conglomerate which hired it includes Haliburton, U.S.
Vice-President Dick Cheney's former company.

Erinys also has strong connections to Ahmed Chalabi of the Iraqi National
Congress whose dubious intelligence information did much to persuade the
White House that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

But let's come back to Strydom and Gouws. Both men were granted amnesties by
South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission after confessing to
killing blacks during the days of apartheid.

Strydom was a leading member of Koevoet, the Afrikaans for "Crowbar," a
death squad maintained at arm's length by the white South African government
to kill black activists both at home and in Namibia.

Gouws was a member of another apartheid death squad called Vlakplaas. When
he appeared before the reconciliation commission, Gouws asked for absolution
for killing 15 blacks and firebombing the homes of up to 60 anti-apartheid

Last month, another South African death squad member, Gray Branfield,
originally a Rhodesian police inspector, was killed in Iraq. In the South
African army, Branfield was in charge of death squad operations in
neighbouring Zimbabwe, Botswana and Zambia.

These three are among 1,500 South Africans, most of them white remnants of
the apartheid regime, working for security companies in Iraq.

Not all the mercenaries in Iraq are undesirables and not all the dubious
characters are South Africans. Shortly before the American-led invasion last
year, Saddam Hussein hired a dozen Serb air-defence specialists, some of
whom are wanted in Europe for their paramilitary activities during the
Balkan wars.

The arrival of the U.S. forces did not trouble the Serbs, some of whom have
now signed on with American security companies for large salaries.

How many contract employees and security guards have been killed in Iraq is
unclear. Haliburton says 34 of its employees have been killed in the region.

This situation is chaotic enough. It borders on the sinister with the
evidence from Abu Ghraib prison that the military police conducted their
much-photographed torture under the directions from CIA officers and
"interrogation specialists from private defence contractors."

Questions that need answering are who these freelance torturers are and
where they come from.

End of casi-news Digest

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