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    IRAQ: US Government Uses Mercenaries to Delay Complete Defeat

    By Shannon Bundock
    How many US Soldiers are occupying Iraq? 160,000 is the official count – but that number is far from accurate. Today, these “official” occupation troops are reinforced by 126,000 “contractors” (read: mercenaries). They are employed by a handful of massive military corporations such as Blackwater USA, DynCorp International and Armor Group. Their jobs range from intelligence support, to the training of the Iraqi military, to maintenance of US bases. Tens of thousands of these mercenaries are engaged in direct military combat against Iraqi people.

    The number of mercenaries in Iraq is not a random phenomenon or solely a drive by “contractor” Corporations to take advantage of a ripe market for their “services”. These numbers correlate directly to the demand. And this demand for mercenaries is accelerated by the drastically low level of troop morale and increasing crisis within the US military itself. Basically, the US military can’t do the job in Iraq.

    Shadow Military: The Mercenaries

    So what do these guns-for-hire actually do in Iraq? The mercenaries are engaging in the same brutal, violent project that the US/UK soldiers have been carrying out, but even less is known about the details of their operations. There are no public records on how many of them have been killed Iraq – or how many Iraqis they’ve murdered. On top of this, in 2004 the outgoing head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, Paul Bremer, issued “Order 17”, which exempted all mercenaries operating in the country from having to obey Iraqi law.

    Last year, US House Representative Dennis Kucinich asked Pentagon officials at a Congressional hearing if the US Department of Defense would prosecute a private contractor who murdered Iraqi civilians. After being told repeatedly, “Sir, I can’t answer that question,” Kucinich said: “Wow. Think about what that means. These private contractors can get away with murder... They aren’t subject to any laws at all.”

    Another flooring element of the mercenary industry in Iraq was exposed by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Henry Waxman, who estimates that $4Billion in the US taxpayer money has so far been spent in Iraq on these armed “security” companies. Rep. Jan Schakowsky of the House Intelligence Committee found that up to 40 cents of every US dollar spent on the occupation has gone to war contractors. Amada Guevara, a member of the UN working group on mercenaries, put it succinctly: “This amounts to privatization of warfare.”

    The presence of this shadow army in Iraq will undoubtedly remain as long as the occupation remains. The occupation forces have become reliant on their “contractor” counterparts, who according to the Washington Post, even paralleled the January 2007 US military troop surge with a surge of their own.

    The Terrible State of the US Army

    For the US, the mercenary forces have provided the breathing room that they so desperately needed when engaging in the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the initial attempt to stabilize the occupation. This breathing room however, has progressively become smaller, as the internal pressure within the US military increases.

    These pressures have been most recently summed up in a study released by the Pentagon in May 2007 regarding the mental health of troops in Iraq. This study found that 45% of junior enlisted Army soldiers rated their unit’s morale as “low” or “very low”. 38% of soldiers, 31% of marines, 49% of National Guard members and 43% of marine reservists exhibited symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety or other psychological problems within three months of returning from active duty. Events that made them feel “intense fear, helplessness, or horror”, were described by 40%. The Pentagon’s mental health taskforce also reported that US troops are undertaking higher levels of sustained combat duty than during Vietnam and Second World Wars.

    An army study based on research conducted in Iraq in 2006 urged a reduction in combat duties to relieve psychological stress. As reported in USA Today, a senior aide to Lieutenant General Raymond Odierno, the Iraq ground forces commander, responded to the recommendations, “We would never get the job done.”

    The low morale of US troops is exacerbated by the skyrocketing death toll for US forces. More than 3,500 have died in Iraq to date. More and more soldiers are asking the same questions as the people of America; “Why?”

    “I just want people to realize that we don’t want to go over there. We’re not looking forward to it,” said one young recruit “People are over there dying and suffering. Nothing has been accomplished. We’ve sacrificed a lot of our time and a lot of people have died for all of this. And for what?”

    Other soldiers have taken a bolder stand in protesting the war. One of them, Liam Madden (22-years-old) recently received a letter from the Marine Corps that was recommending him for “other than honorable discharge”, alleging that he had violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice by wearing part of his uniform during an anti-war rally. “All this because I have publicly opposed the war in Iraq since I came back from it,” he said. Liam is not alone. There are at least two other prominent cases of combat veterans who have returned from tours in Iraq and become well-known anti-war spokespersons and likewise received the recommendation for less than honorable discharge.

    In addition to these young veterans, who are joining thousands of people in the streets of the US to protests, there is also protest being organizing within the ranks of active-duty soldiers. Under the Department of Defense directive 7050.6 service members are provided the right to complain and request redress of their grievances, including to members of Congress. Currently more than 2,000 active-duty and reserve troops have signed “An Appeal for Redress” which is sending a demand from the troops for an end to the war, directly to Congress.

    The crisis of the US military is again reflected in the numbers. In May the US army fell short of its recruitment goal of 5,500 by 7%. The Army National Guard fell 12% short of their goal and the Air National Guard fell below their goal by 23%.

    Increasingly relying on mercenaries is one way the US is attempting to alleviate the pressure of the Iraq disaster. Immigration reform is another. Within the current immigration reform bill being debated in the Senate there exist provisions designed to fast-track citizenship for a person living in the US without legal status – if they join the US military. Top military personnel have identified the “Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act” (or DREAM Act) as a way to combat falling recruitment rates.

    Bill Carr, acting deputy undersecretary of defense for military personnel policy, told a veterans group that he would like to see Congress pass the DREAM Act so that they could start recruiting immigrants right away. “In other words, if you had come across [the border] with your parents, yet you were a minor child and have been in the US school system for a number of years, then you could be eligible to enlist,” he said “And at the end of that enlistment, then you would be eligible to become a citizen.” If they come back alive, that is.

    Clearly the US ruling class is comfortable coercing the most exploited layers of society to serve on the frontline of this deadly occupation, they have already proven it through intensive recruiting drives in the poorest of US neighbourhoods. Perhaps one should not be shocked that they have gone a step further to an even more exploited and suppressed sector of the US population. According to Emilio Gonzalez, director of the Bureau of US Citizenship and Immigration Services, about 40,000 non-citizens are already serving in the military.

    The Terrible State of Iraq

    While the US faces a crisis in its attempt to stabilize the occupation of Iraq, the Iraqi people face an unbelievable and mounting human crisis. Since the March 2003 invasion, the impact of war and occupation in Iraq has resulted in roughly 700,000 Iraqi deaths. According to the United Nations (UN) today 54% of Iraqis live on less than $1 a day. Iraq's per capita annual income was $3,600 in 1980; $860 in 2001 (after a decade of UN sanctions) and $530 at the end of 2003. According to Asia Times Online correspondent Pepe Escobar on his most recent visit to Iraq, he estimated that the number may now have fallen below $400. Unemployment in Iraq is about 60%.

    According to the World Health Organization (WHO) 70% of Iraqis do not have regular access to clean water and chronic child malnutrition stands at 20%. Rates of child malnutrition had already nearly doubled by 2004, only 20 months after the invasion. According to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), "about one in 10 children under five in Iraq [is] underweight".

    Iraqis are left with little option but to fight against the primary source of their political, economic and social crisis – the occupation itself. And, heroically, through every imaginable means, Iraqis have been fighting back. The plans of the US in Iraq include permanent bases, a permanent presence and turning the Iraqi government into a US-proxy. With this long-term occupation, the US and its imperialist rivals aim to carve up the Middle East, to expand their hegemony and to plunder the resources and wealth of the entire region. The inhuman motives of the US and their allies are understood by the Iraqi people who live under the terror and plunder of war and occupation.

    Mass demonstrations against the occupation and daily anti-occupation resistance are constant reminders for the occupiers that they still face a nation that does not accept their presence. On June, 2007, “Alive in Baghdad” released a video of an Iraqi women’s protest. The women protested in Baghdad’s Adhamiya district over the arrest of Iraqi women by US forces. Chanting and carrying banners, they expressed their explicit and clear demand for an immediate release of Iraqi women prisoners and an immediate withdrawal of US forces from Iraq. These, often under-reported, acts of resistance have been a constant feature of the occupation.

    It is resistance to the occupation – the failure of the occupation forces to “win the hearts and minds” of Iraqis – which will ultimately drive the occupation out of Iraq. It is truly an impossibility to conquer a nation that refuses to lie down.

    Fight Back on the Home Front

    Fighting against war and occupation must also take place on the home front. As soldiers begin to join the ranks of the anti-war movement, all peace loving people must be more resilient in the battle against war. In June 2007, Newsweek reported that their latest post-“surge” poll found approval ratings for US President Bush had hit a record low of 26%. According to Newsweek “…the only president in the last 35 years to score lower than Bush is Richard Nixon. Nixon’s approval rating tumbled to 23 percent in January 1974, seven months before his resignation over the botched Watergate break-in.”

    People in Canada also have a reason to take the anti-war, anti-occupation message to the streets. The Liberal government of Canada, back in 2003 under mass pressure and under the division of labour within the imperialist war drive, did not deploy troops on the ground in Iraq. However, this government is fully complicit in the crime against Iraqi people by providing logistical and security work as well as arms and advisory military personal. The Harper Conservative government, since coming into power last year, eliminated every obstacle that makes this support difficult. People in Canada must demand that the government of Canada completely withdraw all support for this criminal and unjustifiable war.

    The first and most necessary step to put Iraq on a path toward rebuilding and healing is to recognize self-determination for this once-sovereign country and to immediately withdraw all occupation forces. Solving the problems of violence, instability, unemployment, lack of education and infrastructure, etc. can only begin with a truly independent Iraqi government. To build an effective anti-war movement, all peace-loving people around the world must unite behind the demands:

    “End the Occupation of Iraq!

    Self-Determination for Iraq! Out Now!

    All Troops Out Now!”

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