Families of Iraqi women killed by mercenaries speak out

This video from the USA is called Jeremy Scahill Testifies on Defense Contracting, 5.10.2007.

By Simon Assaf in the weekly Socialist Worker in Britain:

Innocents killed by corporate mercenaries in Baghdad

The killing of two women by ‘security contractors’ in Iraq highlights the growth of corporate mercenaries in the country. Now their families are demanding justice, writes Simon Assaf

On Tuesday 8 October Marou Awanis was driving through Baghdad when she accidentally got too close to a convoy guarded by “private security contractors”. The guards opened fire on her car, killing her and one passenger, and injuring others in the back seat.

The deaths of 48 year old Marou and 30 year old Geneva Jalal marked another bloody day in Iraq, and again highlighted the role of private security firms who operate outside the law in the country.

According to a statement from her family, Marou was working as an unofficial taxi driver chauffeuring her two eldest daughters and her neighbour’s children to Baghdad university.

Her husband Azad died two years ago after developing complications following heart surgery. Since then she had been working the college runs to supplement her meagre income.

Family spokesman Dr Paul Manook, Marou’s brother and a businessman based in Wiltshire, said his sister was driving through Baghdad’s Karada district when she was killed by the security guards.

The Karada commercial district is considered one of the safest in the Iraqi capital.

The guards, who work for the Australian firm Unity Resources Group, were escorting employees of a US funded NGO responsible for ensuring the “transparency and accountability” of Iraqi officials.

Unity Resources Group, which lists “executive protection” and “people tracking” among its services, was involved in a similar incident in March 2006 when one of its guards gunned down a 72 year old professor in Baghdad.

The Australian government says that Kays Juma, who was an Australian citizen training agricultural students, was killed because he failed to stop at a “security checkpoint”. …

An Iraqi policeman told journalists that the guards leapt out of the vehicles and fired up to 40 rounds of ammunition into Marou’s car. Then, “they drove off like gangsters”, he said.

A former security contractor, who worked in Iraq for three years, told Socialist Worker, “If you are driving in a convoy that is under attack then it is accepted that you would fire back, but in this case the convoy was not under attack.”

Speaking on condition of anonymity, he said, “If the contractors were close enough to shoot them, then they were close enough to see that this was a car full of women and children.

“The whole thing is absolutely appalling.”

Although he wanted to emphasise that not all security contractors were trigger happy, he said that “the attitudes of US contractors towards Iraqi civilians is terrible, especially those who work for the Blackwater company.

“Many of them believe they are in Iraq to avenge the 11 September attacks, even though Iraqis had nothing to do with it.”

Marou’s family are demanding an investigation into her death and the role of the security contractors in Iraq.

Dr Manook said, “These were two innocent civilians with children in the car. My sister was a loving mother who was always helping others.

“Whatever attempts were made to warn her before opening fire were clearly inadequate.

“What scrutiny is given to the training and procedures adopted by private security firms operating in Iraq to ensure that they are capable of respecting basic human rights, including my sister’s right to life?”

The latest tragedy comes after Blackwater killed 17 Iraqi civilians in a rampage through Baghdad last month.

The killings created a wave of anger in the country, with even the US-backed Iraqi government expressing its disgust and demanding that the US government revoke Blackwater’s licence.


The rising number of deaths highlight what the War on Want group describes as an “exponential growth” of “corporate mercenaries” – the private military and security companies – in recent years.

In a report released earlier this year, Corporate Mercenaries, The Threat of Private Military and Security Companies, War on Want found that, “Private military and security companies (PMSCs) now constitute the second largest occupying force in Iraq behind the US military.

“Although no one knows exactly how many of these mercenaries are active in Iraq, most estimates have settled on a minimum figure of 20,000.

“The US government accountability office, however, in its June 2006 report to Congress, cited a newer calculation from the Private Security Company Association of Iraq that there are more than 48,000 PMSC employees working for 181 different companies.”

The report notes that for British companies, including the notorious Aegis, “Iraqi contracts boosted the annual revenue from £320 million in 2003 to more than £1.8 billion in 2004. Income for the industry reached $100 billion in 2004.”

For victims there is little scope for justice or compensation. All foreign security employees have immunity under the “transitional laws” imposed on Iraq in the early days of the occupation.

Some families of civilian victims have received compensation from the US military after their loved ones were killed by troops. But this does not extend to the victims of contractors.

Earlier this year the Human Rights Watch group said that “claims against contractors are denied out of hand on the grounds that they are not government employees”.

It condemned “the air of impunity surrounding civilian contractors employed by the US government”.

Marou, who was a former scientist with the Iraqi ministry of agriculture, is survived by her three daughters Nora, 20, and Karoon, 18, both university ­students in Baghdad, and Alice 13.

The US military admitted on Thursday of last week that it killed scores of men, women and children in an airstrike on a neighbourhood north of Baghdad.

Over one million Iraqis are believed to have died as a result of the occupation since it began in 2003.

Blackwater changes logo: here.

British Aegis mercenaries: here. And here. And here.

Barack Obama on Tim Spicer of Aegis: here.

4 thoughts on “Families of Iraqi women killed by mercenaries speak out

  1. Food companies in Iraq war supply probe: report

    Wed Oct 17, 2007 9:47 AM BST146

    NEW YORK (Reuters) – Food companies including Sara Lee Corp. (SLE.N: Quote, Profile , Research), ConAgra Foods Inc. (CAG.N: Quote, Profile , Research), Perdue Farms Inc. and others are being investigated for possible fraud and corruption in supplying the U.S. military in Iraq, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday, citing sources.

    The investigations by the Department of Justice and the Defense Department are examining whether the companies charged excessively high prices to the Army’s primary food contractor in the war zone, a Kuwaiti firm called Public Warehousing Co., the paper said.

    It said Public Warehousing, which receives more than $1 billion a year to feed troops, may have also improperly pocketed refunds from the suppliers. The company denied wrongdoing, the paper said.

    Public Warehousing, now known as Agility (AGLT.KW: Quote, Profile , Research), won a Defense Department one-year contract worth up to $2.8 billion to supply food to U.S. troops, the Pentagon announced in June.

    Justice Department lawyer Brian Mizoguchi told a Washington D.C. court in June that Public Warehousing is the subject of “a very large and active investigation into criminal and civil fraud involving hundreds of millions of dollars,” the paper said.

    It said Sara Lee acknowledged having received subpoenas from the Department of Defense and said it was “cooperating fully.” It said a ConAgra representative said the company isn’t a target of the investigation, but acknowledged receiving a subpoena.

    The paper said a Perdue spokesman said the company hasn’t received any subpoenas.

    Representatives of Sara Lee, ConAgra and Perdue Farms could not be reached for comment.

    © Reuters 2007.


  2. Blackwater
    The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army
    By Jeremy Scahill

    “Blackwater is the utterly gripping and explosive story of how the Bush administration has spent hundreds of millions of public dollars building a parallel corporate army, an army so loyal to far right causes it constitutes nothing less than a Republican Guard.” —Naomi Klein, author of Shock Doctrine

    This is the unauthorized story of the epic rise of one of the most powerful and secretive forces to emerge from the U.S. military-industrial complex.

    Meet Blackwater USA, the powerful private army that the U.S. government has quietly hired to operate in international war zones and on American soil. Its contacts run from deep inside the military and intelligence agencies to the upper echelons of the White House. Blackwater is the elite Praetorian Guard for the “global war on terror,” with its own military base, a fleet of twenty aircraft, and twenty thousand troops at the ready. Run by a multimillionaire Christian conservative who bankrolls President Bush and his allies, his forces are capable of overthrowing governments. The administration hails Blackwater as a revolution in military affairs.

    Hardcover, notes, index, 438pgs


  3. Kim Sengupta and Charlie Gilmour


    (from: The Independent UK)

    The world of private ‘security’: Unleashed: the fat cats of war

    The US is finally facing up to its failures to supervise the private armies operating on its behalf in Iraq. But the problem may be worse than it admits. Kim Sengupta reports on a booming industry

    The killings by Blackwater’s private security guards on Baghdad’s Bloody Sunday were brutal and unprovoked. Terrified men, women and children were mowed down as they tried to flee from the ferocious gunfire, cars were set on fire incinerating those inside.

    I was in Nisour Square, in Mansour district, on the afternoon of 17 September when the massacre took place, and saw the outpouring of anger that followed from Iraqis vociferously demanding that Western, private armies acting violently, but immune from scrutiny or prosecution, should face justice.

    But there was always the underlying feeling that this was, after all, Iraq, where violent deaths are hardly unusual. The scapegoat for America’s dependence on private armies appears to be a mid-ranking official who yesterday resigned as the State Department overseer of security contractors.

    Richard Griffin made no mention of the Mansour killings or their aftermath in his resignation letter but it came just one day after a study commissioned by Condoleezza Rice found serious lapses in the department’s oversight of private guards. At the same time Congress is moving to put under military control all armed contractors operating in combat zones, an effort the State Department is strongly resisting.

    In Iraq, no one expects anything to be done. The widely prevalent view was expressed by Hassan Jabar Salman, a lawyer who was shot four times in the back as he attempted to get away from the American convoy. “This is not the first time they have killed innocent people, and they will do it again, you’ll see,” he said as he sat swathed in bandages at Yarmukh Hospital. “Nothing, absolutely nothing will be done.”

    The government of Nouri al-Maliki, which had declared that they would expel Blackwater, was forced to let the company operate again after just three days under pressure from Washington. But, surprisingly, what happened at Nisour Square has not faded.

    Blackwater has remained defiant, despite a welter of testimonies contradicting their version of what happened. Others in the industry, however, are much more circumspect, acknowledging that new rules are necessary and the process of self-regulation needs to be tightened up.

    People in the industry are keen to stress that not all security contractors behave in the same way.

    Blackwater, in particular, had built up a reputation for being trigger happy. However, the industry attracts all manner of oddballs. You could have met some of them at the Mustafa Hotel in Kabul after the fall of the Taliban. There was an Irish bar with a former boxer as head barman, a dancing Osama bin Laden doll, bullet holes in the ceiling and men who lovingly cradled their guns and wore wrap around sunglasses at night. The seats for drinking al-fresco were supposedly from Russian MiGs shot down by the Mujahedin.

    But it was not all fun and games, some of the regulars were bad, and possibly mad. One such was Jack Idema, who claimed to be ex-CIA, but was almost certainly a Walter Mitty. That did not stop him from running his own “security company” and setting up an unofficial prison. He was later jailed for torturing people his gunmen had abducted on suspicion of being “terrorists”.

    Last week in Kabul, I ran into Mark, whom I last met in Afghanistan in 2001 when he was a serving Royal Marine. He said: “I suppose we should thank George Bush and Tony Blair for what they have done for our industry much as I dislike their policies. And if I was an Iraqi I certainly would not be thanking them. But if you have such an adventurous foreign policy then you need the security contractors afterwards when there is an attempt to bring stability, the armed forces certainly aren’t in a position to do so. The money is still good and I am making use of what I learnt as a Royal [Marine]. I know some people are critical of the private firms, but I would like to think we are helping on reconstruction and winning local trust, although I have met some right nutters and what Blackwater did sounds exactly the kind of thing we don’t want. But, having said that, if something did go wrong I would not want to end up before an Iraqi or Afghan court, knowing how corrupt they are.”

    Patrick Toyne-Sewell of Armor Group says: “We believe that Iraq as a market will continue to grow for some time due to the outsourcing by the US government in terms of convoy logistics, in terms of guarding, that will continue. The fact that there are obviously huge oil reserves in Iraq and international companies will go back in once the security situation stabilises a bit more.”

    Private armies were not, of course, invented with the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Numidian mercenaries acted as shock troops in Ramses II’s sack of Kadesh in 1294BC. Hired fighters helped King David drive the Philistines from Israel in 1000 BC. The Thirty Years’ War was largely fought by privately contracted forces, and Britain used Hessian soldiers to fight in the American War of Independence.

    Machiavelli, in The Prince, castigated mercenaries as “dangerous, and if anyone supports his state by the arms of mercenaries, he will never stand firm or sure”.

    Bob Denard, a notorious French soldier of fortune, who died a couple of weeks ago, epitomised how such use of military efficiency and technology could be used profitably against relatively unsophisticated and untrained forces in Africa.

    But the really big money comes when there are open commercial relationships between security companies and Western states. Private companies guard embassies and diplomats, provide security for aid workers and carry out hostage rescue missions.

    Andy Bearpark, the director general of the British Association of Private Security Companies, said: “You had people that you and I would call mercenaries who tried to invade Congo and things like that. Around 20 years ago you had people with background in the services saying ‘hang on, I am sure we can make just as much money and more legally and legitimately as others are doing illegally. The real explosion came in 2004.

    “The growth areas now are Afghanistan and also the Middle East generally – Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Jordan, anywhere there’s oil, anywhere there’s risk.

    “Our Association… has a charter that members must adhere to and there is a disciplinary procedure. But there are parts of the industry which is in a pretty unregulated environment. It’s very, very difficult to control what these people actually do.”

    Companies with government contracts

    USPI United States

    USPI employs 3,600 people in Afghanistan and holds the largest US government contract there. Based in Texas, the company was founded by Del and Barbara Spier in 1987. Earlier this month it was accused of over-billing the US government by millions of dollars for non-existent employees and vehicles, a claim it denied. In a 2005 report on disarmament in Afghanistan, the Belgian International Crisis Group said the majority of men on USPI’s payroll were associated with private militias. USPI’s headquarters in Kandahar has been hit by a suicide bomb and another suicide bomber targeting a convoy being escorted by USPI personnel killed 15 people andinjured 26.

    Olive UK

    Olive operates in more than 30 countries. As well as providing security services, it engages in post-conflict reconstruction and aid work, including de-mining and ordinance disposal. Founded in 2001, the company employs around 600 people worldwide, although it also sub-contracts to local organisations. Its actions are monitored by an ethics committee, which has the right to veto any project, and the company supports a number of charitable organisations. Its senior team has worked with UK special forces, the Prime Minister’s office and leading technology companies and investment banks. Olive Group also offers security training to corporations, government and security personnel.

    Global UK

    Global calls itself a “political and security risk management company”. It was founded in 1988 by former Marine Damien Perl and Charlie Andrews, a former Scots Guards officer. In Iraq they employ many Fijians discharged from UN peacekeeping forces in Lebanon, who are paid considerably less than their western counterparts. “This is a huge salary in relation to Fiji,” says Andrews. The company boasts 93 field-based operational and logistical experts (plus staff) in Kabul and teams in all eight regions of Afghanistan identifying and assessing potential voter registration sites for a forthcoming election. They are active in: Colombia, Sudan, Nigeria, Liberia, Pakistan, Kazakhstan and China.

    Blackwater United states

    Started in 1997 and began to pick up large-scale government contracts after the election of George W Bush. Founder Erik Prince supported Mr Bush’s campaign and makes regular contributions to the Republican Party. Blackwater is the largest of the State Department’s three private security contractors, providing 987 contractors. At least 90 per cent of its revenue comes from government contracts. Missions conducted by Blackwater Security Consulting have raised significant controversy. Each Blackwater guard in Iraq costs the US government $445,000 (£220,000) per year. The company is under investigation by the US and Iraqi governments after its guards were involved in killing civilians.

    Aegis Defence Services UK

    Aegis won a $293m (£146m) Pentagon contract in 2004 which has been extended. The company was founded by Lt-Col Tim Spicer, one of whose previous companies, Sandline International, was accused of breaking a UN embargo by selling arms to Sierra Leone. Aegis employs 1,100 contractors in Iraq and initiated an inquiry after a “trophy video” of guards shooting Iraqi civilians was posted on a website. The company said later it was the work of a former employee. The company works, among other places, in the US, Afghanistan, Bahrain and Kenya but most of its work is in Iraq where it has set up a charitable reconstruction-related foundation.

    Armor Group UK

    Founded in 1981, the company provides bodyguards, convoy escorts and security for British and American embassies. It is also involved in risk management consultancy, mainly in oil and gas, and mine clearance work. The company employs 9,000 people internationally, of which 75 per cent are local. In Iraq, it has about 1,200 employees of which 800 are Iraqis. In Afghanistan, it also has 1,200employees, of which 850 are local. Employees are mostly ex-forces personnel, the majority are British or from the Commonwealth, and the average age is 35-40 and emphasis, it says, is on maturity and reliability. The company operates in 38 countries, with Iraq as the biggest location.

    Control Risks Group UK

    Operates in 130 countries, more often in consultancy rather than security. It has contracts with the British Government and the American corporations Bechtel and Haliburton in Iraq. The two American companies had attracted criticism for the lucrative US government contracts they have received, but CRG insists that they warn clients about dealing with repressive regimes. It points out that as far back as 1992 it told in a report to the oil company Unocal of the use of forced labour by the Burmese government. CRG has about 700 full-time employees, most are ex-military and ex-police and local nationals.

    DynCorp International United States

    DynCorp receives more than 96 per cent of its $2bn annual revenues from the US federal government. Based in Virginia,it has provided teams for the US military in Bolivia, Bosnia, Somalia, Angola, Haiti, Colombia, Kosovo and Kuwait. It has also expressed interest in patrolling the US-Mexico border. DynCorp International also trained Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s security guards. The company was also hired to assist with the Hurricane Katrina aftermath. It has been involved in “Plan Colombia” and is training Afghan forces in opium poppy eradication.


  4. Pingback: British Conservative decline, from Churchill to Serco today | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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