Quick hits from the world of private military companies…

With the war continuing to spiral out and a stream of revelations the Administration failed to work to secure the peace, the roles of private security contractors (the ‘shooters’) and private military contractors (technically includes the ‘shooters’ but meant here to include all other commercial businesses providing services previously or historically considered in the domain of the military) in the peace and stability phase of the Iraq War are becoming known.

From CorpWatch comes this headline: US: Pentagon Spends Billions to Outsource Torture. This story hits at the reality of image management in the so-called Global War on Terror (GWOT). The failure to manage certain contracts and practice what we preach gives ammunition to the enemy, which is exactly what Joshua Holland points out.

The thousands of mercenary security contractors employed in the Bush administration’s "War on Terror" are billed to American taxpayers, but they’ve handed Osama Bin Laden his greatest victories — public relations coups that have transformed him from just another face in a crowd of radical clerics to a hero of millions in the global South (posters of Bin Laden have been spotted in largely Catholic Latin America during protests against George W. Bush).

The internet hums with viral videos of British contractors opening fire on civilian vehicles in Iraq as part of a bloody game, stories about CIA contractors killing prisoners in Afghanistan, veterans of Apartheid-era South African and Latin American death squads discovered among contractors’ staffs and notoriously shady Russian arms dealers working for occupation authorities. One Special Forces operator told Amnesty International that some contractors are in it just because they "really want to kill somebody and they can do it easier there … [not] everybody is like that, but a dangerously high element."…

Osama Bin Laden’s greatest victories in the crucial media war have been the series of prisoner abuse scandals at Guantanamo Bay, Bagram airbase in Afghanistan and a number of detention centers across Iraq, the most infamous of which is Saddam Hussein’s former torture complex at Abu Ghraib.

T. Christian Miller gives sort of a bullet list of PMCs in Iraq he discusses in his new book Blood Money. His approach: essentially an agent relationship and false dealings of the PMCs are a direct result of oversight failures, intentional and unintentional. (With regard to actions such as those of Custer Battles? I believe that’s closer to treason than fraud.)

I wrote a story for the Los Angeles Times this weekend about yet another lawsuit accusing Halliburton of fraud in Iraq. This time, the company allegedly bought a big-screen television and tubs of chicken wings and cheese sticks for the Super Bowl, and then stuck us with the tab.

I’m not going to weigh in on the merits of the lawsuit; Halliburton gets blamed for plenty of things it didn’t do. But what is clear is that when it comes to the Bush administration’s record on prosecuting corruption in Iraq, there’s no there there…

The upshot is, either we’ve only sent angels to Iraq, or somebody hasn’t been paying attention. As I document in my new book about the reconstruction of Iraq, Blood Money, the record suggests that the “accountability administration” has let the war profiteers run amok….

That said, Iraq did not have to be the Wild West. There could have been more control. There could have been more order. There could have been the rule of law.

If someone had wanted it.

The Gulf of Guinea, one of the most important places Americans couldn’t find on a map, but will soon

The Gulf of Guinea is one of the more important places most Americans don’t know that they don’t know. I don’t mean to get all Rumsfeldian, but GoG will figure more prominently in news in the coming year. In today’s Washington Post is a story about security concerns in the Gulf. Fortunately, it seems the ‘Risk Entrepreneurs’ weren’t able to pander and the author implicitly acknowledged the difference between Arab fundamentalists and West Africans. While Nigeria has a larger Muslim population than most of the Middle East states combined, we aren’t seeing the same practice of jihad come out of there.

The Army responds to charges it will miss its recruiting goal

The US Army takes its recruiting very seriously and issued a statement essentially saying there’s nothing wrong with the recruits coming in, waivers are nothing new, etc. The reality of Army recruiting, which is lowering its requirements, plus artificial promotions, will lower the quality of the general army. (See post at The War Room besides other posts on here on MountainRunner) Which brings us to the next story… 

Lastly, a story on the difference between Counter-Insurgency and, well, ignorance

A number of bytes have been recorded on this blog about the need to conduct appropriate counter-insurgency and how the US military knows what to do, it just didn’t do it. Some Special Forces units, notably the famed Green Berets, were designed to work with locals for this very purpose. The Washington Post story highlights the difference between the ‘old’ military and the ‘new’, in terms of tactics and skills. An almost ironic clash of culture symbolizes more than different management styles but a root failure to adapt and learn.

Green Berets skilled in working closely with indigenous forces have enlisted one of the largest and most influential tribes in Iraq to launch a regional police force — a rarity in this Sunni insurgent stronghold. Working deals and favors over endless cups of spiced tea, they built up their wasta — or pull — with the ancient tribe, which boasts more than 300,000 members…

But the initial progress has been tempered by friction between the team of elite troops and the U.S. Army’s battalion that oversees the region. At one point this year, the battalion’s commander, uncomfortable with his lack of control over a team he saw as dangerously undisciplined, sought to expel it from his turf, officers on both sides acknowledged.

The conflict in the Anbar camp, while extreme, is not an isolated phenomenon in Iraq, U.S. officers say. It highlights two clashing approaches to the war: the heavy focus of many regular U.S. military units on sweeping combat operations; and the more fine-grained, patient work Special Forces teams put into building rapport with local leaders, security forces and the people — work that experts consider vital in a counterinsurgency.