Need an Army? Just Pick Up the Phone
By BARRY YEOMAN
04/02/04 "New York Times" DURHAM, N.C. -- The murderous attack on four American civilians in Falluja, Iraq, brought home gruesome images of charred bodies dangling from a bridge over the Euphrates River. It also introduced Americans to a company few had heard of: Blackwater USA, which was providing security for food delivery convoys when its employees were ambushed.
Blackwater, which operates from a 5,200-acre training ground in the Great Dismal Swamp of North Carolina, is a private military firm that provides an array of services once performed solely by military personnel. The company trains soldiers in counterterrorism and urban warfare. It also provides the American government with soldiers for hire: former Green Berets, Army Rangers and Navy Seals. In February it started training former Chilean commandos — some of whom served under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet — for future service in Iraq.
Business is booming at Blackwater, and the company is hardly alone. Private contractors are an invisible but growing part of how war is now fought. Some 10,000 of them are serving in Iraq — one private worker for every 10 soldiers — more than the number of soldiers from Britain, America's largest coalition partner. Some are supplied by well-known corporations like Halliburton. But for the most part, the private military industry is dominated by more obscure businesses with names that seem designed to tell as little as possible about what the company does. Continued
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