A very private war

There are 48,000 ‘security contractors’ in Iraq, working for private companies growing rich on the back of US policy. But can it be a good thing to have so many mercenaries operating without any democratic control?

Jeremy Scahill reports

08/01/07 “The Guardian” — — It was described as a “powder keg” moment. In late May, just across the Tigris river from Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone, a heavily armed convoy of American forces was driving down a street near the Iraqi Interior Ministry. They were transporting US officials in what is known widely among the occupation forces as the “red zone” – essentially, any area of Iraq that does not fall inside the US-built “emerald city” in the capital. The American guards were on the look-out for any threat lurking on the roads. Not far from their convoy, an Iraqi driver was pulling out of a petrol station. When the Americans encountered the Iraqi driver, they determined him to be a potential suicide car bomber. In Iraq it has become common for such convoys to fire off rounds from a machine gun at approaching Iraqi vehicles, much to the outrage of Iraqi civilians and officials. The Americans say this particular Iraqi vehicle was getting too close to their convoy and that they tried to warn it to back off. They say they fired a warning shot at the car’s radiator before firing directly into the windshield of the car, killing the driver. Some Iraqi witnesses said the shooting was unprovoked.

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