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What Really Happened in Fallujah
Will Mercenaries Help Uncle Sam Beat a Draft?


Stan Goff

© Copyright 2004, From The Wilderness Publications, All Rights Reserved. May be reprinted, distributed or posted on an Internet web site for non-profit purposes only.

April 6, 2004 1800 PDT (FTW) -- We are all bound in many ways to our pasts, even when we have transformed ourselves.

Mike Ruppert was a cop, so as a professional muckraker he sees corruption and criminal conspiracy first. Given the nature of the muck he's raking, the US economic and political elite, he's going to get that part right at least 90 percent of the time.

As a long standing member of the US armed forces, subject for more than two decades to the whims of commissioned officers1, I will have a tendency to see grotesque careerism, arbitrary mismanagement, poor judgment, and self-important macho stupidity. I will be right at least 90 percent of the time.

Some people don't transform themselves, they just stay on trajectory, get older, then become ridiculous… or in some cases, dead. Like Special Ops guys who just can't get over their terminal Rambo-mystique, and end up populating the newly opened niches of privatized war.

The four lads who were killed, burned, then paraded through the streets in Falluja, Iraq on March 31st were like that. Ex-Special Ops who had never figured out that the whole special ops mystique is adolescent bullshit, so they went to Iraq as mercenaries with the North Carolina-based Blackwater USA – one of the dozens and dozens of new merc outfits being hired by Donald Rumsfeld's Department of Outsourced War.

Blackwater USA is a guns-for-hire training-and-recruitment outfit on a 6,000 acre military training compound on the northern coastal plain of Moyock, North Carolina2, a stone's throw from the Virginia border. While United Nations rapporteur Enrique Bernales Ballesteros claims these privatized militaries do not meet for the legal definition of “mercenaries,”3 which might run them afoul of many national and international laws, it is interesting to note exactly how they fail to meet this definition.

What differentiates them from the crazed, ex-military flotsam that rampaged through Congo in the 1960's is that they are (1) incorporated, (2) they use legally recognized financial/contract instruments, and (3), they work for recognized governments. The latter is a very finely drawn point, because governments frequently hire these legalized mercenaries at the insistence, and with the support, of multinational corporations who just happen – as it turns out – to be in the same place these outfits are doing their security.

A perfect example is Occidental Petroleum in Colombia, an American company with strong ties to former vice-president Al Gore's family. Occidental has had free security provided for its pipelines by DynCorp, the leviathan of outsourced militaries, on a Pentagon contract. DynCorp is a major component of Plan Colombia (renamed the Andean Initiative in 2001), a US military aid program to the murderous Colombian government, purportedly to stem the flow of drugs. The flows DynCorp has taken more of an interest in, however, have been the flow of peasants off the land coveted by rich developers and the flow of Occidental's crude.

Under the guise of spraying “coca plants,” DynCorp has engaged in massive spraying of mycoherbicides on peasants' crops, assisted in this depopulation strategy by right-wing death squads4. whose staffs were integrated with the Colombian Armed Forces in 1991 with assistance from the CIA and the US Department of Defense.5

The point is, this legalistic argument that these are legitimate armed forces because they have a corporate imprimatur and a contract with the Pentagon is… thin. A more accurate representation is that military operations in the United States have largely been done within a government agency, principally immunized from the profit motive, and subject to Congressional oversight and the Freedom of Information Act. More and more, this has been transferred to private, for-profit corporations, even though they are still being financed by people paying taxes in the United States – a privatize-the-gains-and-socialize-the-losses, corporate-welfare-on-Dianabol kind of deal.

This has actually been going on for some time in the military, the difference being that now this outsourcing has become much more prominent in work that carries with it a high probability of armed combat.

When I first joined the Army, mess halls were manned by soldiers – cooks and KP's; administrative offices were run exclusively by ornery Specialist-4s; construction was done by uniformed engineers (except for foreign military bases, where Kellogg, Brown & Root already had exclusive contracts); etc. In 1973, with the introduction of the all-volunteer force, the military began hiring civilian KPs, civilian clerks, and civilian contractors. These contracting cash-cows were liberally distributed throughout various Congressional districts, along with weapons and equipment contracts, to secure them into pork-barrel perpetuity. Now even the mess halls are endangered with the proliferation of Burger Kings, Pizza Huts, and all the other sodium-and-cholesterol mills that ingenuous young soldiers prefer over the comparatively nutritious fare in their own dining facilities.

But pork is only part of the picture. David Shearer, in his 1998 article “Outsourcing War,” said:

Since the demand for military force is unlikely to end anytime soon, military companies, in their various guises, appear here to stay. Should there be some attempt to regulate them, or is it the right of sovereign states - as with the purchase of weaponry - to employ who[m] they wish as long as they ensure that their employees behave within acceptable bounds? There is widespread discomfort with a laissez-faire approach, most of it caused by military companies' lack of accountability.

His suggestion: Regulate this market. This sounds feasible for the moment unless we consider that it is precisely this lack of accountability that constitutes one of the main selling points for privatized militaries.

The reason the United States Constitution obliges a civilian to be at the helm of the War Department (I know, it's “Defense”) is that until the establishment of the post-WWII national security state, there was a powerful cultural mistrust of standing militaries that dated back to the experiences of many Europeans with rampaging militaries (many mercenary) that kept the Continent awash with blood for centuries. It was determined that the civil-military relationship must be one wherein the civil sector controlled the military sector. In addition to having a non-military person at the helm of the military, accountable to the executive branch, Congress has oversight of military policies and purse-strings to ensure the executive doesn't own the military and use it for narrow interests.

But by legal legerdemain, and Congressional opportunism and cowardice, that accountability is broken when the Pentagon contracts these “ services” out. Congress can review the GAO reports and cut the funds if it has any idea what these contracts mean, but barring that, the power to make war without accountability defaults to the executive branch. And it's not just Congress that gets cut out of the accountability picture.

It's the public. The Freedom of Information Act largely does not apply to private corporations who can call virtually every activity a confidential business practice – even if they are living off the government teat and working for the military. They don't have to answer the public's questions about their practices, and they don't have to tell us how many of their people are killed, caught, or wounded, or how they became casualties.

For the United States, the crucial benefit of privatized military services is lessened scrutiny of its foreign activities, and a level of disassociation from activities it deems unpleasant necessities. With the U.S. populace particularly averse to having nationals fight and die in foreign quagmires, the idea of outsourcing peacekeeping activities is especially attractive to the U.S. military establishment. The State Department and the Department of Defense both gain because the capture or murder of contractors carries almost no political fall-out.6

Barry Yeoman, writing for the May 2003 Mother Jones in “Soldiers of Good Fortune,” related:

When the companies… screw up… their status as private entities often shields them – and the government – from public scrutiny. In 2001, an Alabama-based firm called Aviation Development Corp. that provided reconnaissance for the CIA in South America misidentified an errant plane as possibly belonging to cocaine traffickers. Based on the company's information, the Peruvian air force shot down the aircraft, killing a U.S. missionary and her seven-month-old daughter. Afterward, when members of Congress tried to investigate, the State Department and the CIA refused to provide any information, citing privacy concerns. "We can't talk about it," administration officials told Congress, according to a source familiar with the incident. "It's a private entity. Call the company."


On March 31, five soldiers were killed outside Baghdad and four Blackwater USA mercenaries were killed in Fallujah. The military will have to file a report on what happened to the soldiers. Blackwater can say, “No comment.” Even though the public is footing the bill for these mercs, we have no legal right to know what they're up to, and there's not a damn thing we can do about it.

But the cat is out of the bag. The flaming corpses were seen around the world. Mercenaries are operating in Iraq, and we are paying for them.

My first reaction to the story was, “anyone who believes these $4,000-a-month 7.mercs were guarding food shipments through Fallujah needs to come to Raleigh where I can sell you my beach house. Fallujah is the most dangerous city on the planet for Americans right now. The military has developed a detour to avoid entering the city for any reason, just as they did in … dare I say it … Mogadishu. But a jeep-load of high-dollar mercenaries was helping ship food through Fallujah?”

A source inside Iraq however outlined the actual story to me via email on Friday. Blackwater is guarding food shipments, and Paul Bremer, and a lot of other things, so the accountable military doesn't have to do it. They were on the bypass route with two vehicles, when they encountered a sign that indicated a temporary detour, and that detour led them into an ambush. The only way out of the kill zone was along another road, which led directly into a second ambush.

Two things must be said here. One, this is a pretty sophisticated tactic, based on good intelligence, and that says something about the resistance. Two, the inevitable response – a generalized roust of Fallujah by an overwhelming American military force – will play directly into the hands of the resistance.

Lest anyone forget, almost one year ago, at the end of last April, American troops rolled into Fallujah, took over a functioning school as their headquarters, arrested the local imams, installed their own “mayor,” and carved up the whole city with aggressive, potentially lethal roadblocks. A demonstration broke out, and the Americans proceeded to gun down dozens of Fallujans.8. In this area, with its powerful and extended kinship ties, there can be little doubt that many of those who cheered as the American mercenaries were cremated in their vehicles had seen their own loved ones cut down by American bullets just last year.

The punitive raid on Fallujah that is being planned as I write this – if carried out – will throw gasoline on the embers of that rage and immeasurably strengthen the resistance not just in Fallujah, but throughout Iraq.

Then there will be a spike in American casualties, the upcoming elections will be taken into account, and US forces will return to a force protection posture on their expanding and ever more permanent-seeming bases – that are the purpose of this military occupation after all.

Permanent bases in the region to control global energy! Not liberation, not democracy, not terrorism. In an article for the Guardian on April 4 th, Jim Krane points out that there is now a phalanx of Republican Party operatives in the Green Zone in Iraq working the Press Office to do perception-management damage control in the run-up to November. This reflects the extreme sensitivity this administration feels with regard to American casualties. Mercenaries cannot be organized to conduct actual full-scale conventional combat operations. But they can run convoys and other essential tasks to permit the troops to be held as safely as possible behind the wire on the massive compounds. Balad is now a 20-mile base. These massive physical spaces are plain buffers, bulldozed observation sectors and fields of fire that create an island of relative security in a society that is now mobilized against the occupation.


Mercenary companies cannot replace military units except for these specific tasks that require routine exposure or some familiarity with special missions like personal protective security. Nor can these companies add significant numbers to prevent… I suppose I should go ahead and say it, a draft. Senator Lugar was calling for increased troop numbers on April 3rd with a Congressional chorus behind him.

These forward bases on the world's biggest oil patch are part of the plan to stay in this region for good. A further indicator of this intention can be found in the characterization of the “War on Terror” as the War of the 21st Century, which right-wing ideologues now openly say will last through all 100 years of that century. Now, with assistance from the vast propaganda apparatus that is the corporate press, each phase of this war need merely demonize the next targets and re-define them as “terrorists.”

The wild card, of course, is the continued acquiescence of the American public, and the Fallujah ambush of the American mercenaries is creating all kinds of unwelcome public exposure.

But the power of public discourse resides with the power to interpret events—like the repeated reference to the Blackwater crew as “civilians.” They were not; unless the most painfully drawn, legalistic hair-splitting is employed to define them as such. This power to interpret carries the capacity to conceal, and what are concealed are the questions people need to be asking.

Like, “Why is the United States using mercenaries in Iraq ?”

I've already addressed some of the reasons – escape from oversight (of every species) being most prominent. Another obvious reason is plain numbers.

The United States military has dropped the official number of military in Iraq from 130,000 to 108,000 with the most recent troop rotation, and 40% of the replacements are now reservists, older, less capable, more out of shape, and therefore more vulnerable. Other military commitments, including the Marine occupation of Port-au-Prince to indemnify the US-engineered coup d'etat there, are not going away.

The degradation of combat capacity in post-rotation Iraq is offset somewhat by the construction, via very lucrative contracts awarded to Dick Cheney's pals at Kellogg, Brown, and Root, of permanent barracks with big generators and air conditioning, which I'll return to in a moment.

The recruitment and retention crisis that is looming in response to the terrible increase in the military's operational tempo has been stemmed to some degree by Stop Loss, a program approved by executive order that allows the military to retain service members beyond their discharge dates for years. Stop Loss has affected around 70,000 troops so far,9. but it is a program that generates increased resentment from GIs against the military. And the draft is an option being considered, but one that is politically very unpalatable and strongly opposed by Donald Rumsfeld. Filling these gaps with hired guns makes a kind of perverse sense.

In thinking about those air conditioned permanent billets on permanent bases in Iraq, we encounter what seems to me another powerful determinant behind the use of mercenaries. That the Fallujah attack was against a reported food escort tells us something important.

Convoys are indispensable in sustaining an occupying military force, and they have been identified by the Iraqi guerrillas as the key vulnerability for US forces. The US is transferring the most high-risk activities to these privatized troops to keep most of the actual military, to the greatest degree possible, behind the wire and more or less out of harm's way.10.This force protection imperative is driven by both the utter loss of battlefield initiative and by the political liability of the ever-amplified GI body count.

All this further reinforces my own assessment that the US is… to coin a phrase, in very deep shit in Iraq. And they are compounding that immersion with even more blunders, including the outsourcing of combat. I am opposed to the occupation, period, but even from the perspective of someone who thinks bloody imperial conquest is okay, this is going from bad to worse.

One of the common denominators among these privatized militaries is where they originate: The United States, Great Britain, South Africa, and Israel … with a few from France. These are all nations with recent histories of highly racialized military occupations that spawned “special” units. They all have “special operations” cultures that are heavily contaminated with a kind of blonde-beast ideology. I saw this first-hand among Rangers, Delta Force, the 22 SAS, and SEAL Team operators, and I often jokingly disparaged this attitude as the “Soldier of Fiction” mindset. But it is no longer fiction. It is a growth industry.

The use of private militaries on Pentagon contracts has increased ten-fold since the first invasion of Iraq. It is important to note that these private military companies (PMCs) are not all combat outfits. In fact, of the three general types of PMC, combat intervention is the least common. More common is training in logistics, intelligence, and maintenance of the hi-tech systems that have surpassed the capabilities of soldiers.11. But the mix is changing, and combat is increasing in prominence.

There is no indication that this trend will do anything except continue.

Since 11 September 2001 the private security industry has experienced an unprecedented boom. President George Bush's “war on terrorism”, which has considerably expanded the global commitments of US military forces, has so far resulted in a bonanza for many private military companies, particularly those specializing in logistic support and high-tech systems maintenance and operation. Their stocks skyrocketed throughout the years 2002 and 2003 (Schwartz, 2003) At present, there is no indication as to this trend being reversed. On the contrary, only recently both US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld as well as the Secretary of the Army, Thomas White, have firmly reiterated their conviction and willingness to further privatize military capabilities. (Dobbs, 2003; Kurlantzick, 2003) As Mathiason (2003) has put it in the Observer, we may be seeing “the most fundamental shake-up of the military for more than 100 years.”

This year alone, the Pentagon will spend more than $25 billion on PMCs.

On the combat end, Blackwater USA is mostly ex-SEALs with a few former SWAT cops thrown in, run by a blustering hyper-macho ex-SEAL named Gary Jackson. One of the victims of the Fallujah ambush – a WWF-looking body-builder-type – had boasted to a reporter staying in his hotel in Baghdad that he preferred hand-to-hand combat so he could see his quarry eye to eye. When I was running a Special Forces A-Detachment, this kind of talk would have sent me seeking a way to reassign you out of my team.

But it's part of that whole right-wing culture of militarism, one that is pimped aggressively by the entertainment media to our young, who have no notion of its fascistic origins.

Executive Outcomes, based in South Africa, and broken into smaller groups two years ago to further conceal its activities, is run by veterans of the Apartheid regime's dirty wars. The oddly named LIAT Finance and Construction, of Israel, specialized in raiding Sierra Leone for its diamonds, and Israeli mercenaries in Latin America are known to contract with governments and drug cartels by turns. Sandline of UK, mostly peopled by ex-SAS, was also involved in Sierra Leone.13. Blackwater has actually hired former members of the military of Augusto Pinochet, the reactionary dictator of Chile installed during a 1973 CIA-supported coup d'etat.14

The list of these PMCs is long and growing, and they are being filled with these macho military narcissists.

One of the tactical rationales for the use of these privatized combat units is that they are both more flexible and agile in responding to a world where asymmetric warfare is becoming the norm. The latter assessment is actually true to a high degree (even if the use of mercenaries to deal with this fact is ill-considered). With the overwhelming US technological superiority and its conventional military juggernaut, the option to confront the US militarily in a conventional manner has been effectively taken off the table worldwide.

“Terrorism” is just one of the tactics for asymmetric warfare that end-runs conventional military doctrine – the implications of which seem to have completely escaped the Bush administration, Donald Rumsfeld in particular. They actually seem to believe that they can “fight terrorism” – which they see in very linear, mechanistic terms – without engaging the political dimension of conflict that should be determinative of mere tactics.

The introduction of privatized militaries does not apply “precision force” to the specific problem, it exacerbates it. It is the asymmetry of the bureaucratically named “battle-space” that adds a much higher degree of complexity and unpredictability (“chaos”) to warfare. Warfare has numerous spatiotemporal dimensions, a politico-economic dimension, a cultural dimension, and a symbolic dimension, with each and all of these dimensions recursively influencing the other. The addition of new battlefield variables – with the introduction of additional and differentiated combat units with separate lines of accountability – increases this “chaos” by orders of magnitude. I talk about this battlefield “entropy” in some detail in Chapter Five of my book, Full Spectrum Disorder – The Military in the New American Century (Soft Skull Press, 2004). In fact, that chapter (called “ Somalia: The Meanings of Bakara”) predicted that another Mogadishu would happen in Southwest Asia, and Fallujah on March 31 was a frighteningly accurate fulfillment of precisely that prediction.

These corporate Rambos – who do have a lot of latent “Mad Mike ” Hoares among them, even with their corporate “legitimacy” – make this situation a lot worse, because they are loose cannons who will further alienate the population, and whose activities are not well-coordinated with or controlled by the actual military. Iraqis, as we saw in Fallujah, are not prepared to differentiate between them.

Rumsfeld and his fellow ideologues are further blinded to their own folly by their belief in their own “free market” bullshit. Even though these are all sweetheart government contracts, hardly emblematic of the laissez-faire of capitalist mythology, let through a non-competitive bidding process, and based on insider access,15 Rumsfeld and the rest of the Bush gallery actually seem to believe their own mantra that the “private sector” can always do everything better than the public sector.

The fact that there is no evidence in any sphere to prove this doesn't deter them in their belief, nor does the fact that these merc outfits are bidding right up to the government's costs, then slapping on overruns which are being financed by both American taxes and by expropriation of Iraqi export monies.16

There is a fundamental failure to grasp the pig-iron fact, even from the point of view of capitalists, that military action is not – except tangentially – a process of marketplace accumulation, and that the rules that govern the market do not govern combat. The attempt to impose the principles of the market on warfare will result not in efficient warfare, but in grinding and deadly defeat. It's a transfusion with the wrong blood type.

Secretary McNamara, are you there?

There are institutional contradictions involved here as well. These private contractors in Iraq are paying very well, and the high pay is encouraging experienced troops to leave the military, a kind of Special Operations brain drain, even as Rumsfeld wants to expand Special Operations in the military. Abandonment of the service, in turn, adds to the losses that these mercenaries are being hired to fill. As this process gathers momentum, it weakens the US military's overall capacity (as well as its operational disposition), undercutting the very military-first policy of the Bush Doctrine.

The irony here is that military downsizing – which Rumsfeld fully supports – contributed significantly to the proliferation of mercenary-corporations. In the wake of the Cold War, not only was a wave of soldiers separated from service to the state, the international arms market was flooded with Soviet-model small arms, that were snapped up cheap by these armed entrepreneurs.17

There's more to this story by leaps and bounds, more implications for the failed lunacy of the Bush junta, and more implications for a whole world trapped in the logic of an increasingly unstable empire.

Iraq. Politically, the administration can't leave; militarily, they can't win. Now they're trying to privatize their way out.

As I said at the beginning, my own past leads me to see… grotesque careerism, arbitrary mismanagement, poor judgment, and self-important macho stupidity.

I see it every where, and nowhere more boldly outlined than among Rumsfeld and his mercenaries.


1.I don't mean to imply that all military officers are bureaucratic pinheads. There are exceptions, but they become more exceptional the further you climb the career ladder. While doctrine calls for initiative, integrity, and moral courage, the Officer Personnel Management System is a bureaucratic model designed to stifle these characteristics and impose institutional conformity. This became the norm under that celebrated Secretary of Defense who (like Donald Rumsfeld today) ran the military into the dirt by entangling it in an un-winnable war and trying to run the military like a corporation – Robert MacNamara.


3. Shearer, David, “Outsourcing War,” Foreign Policy, Fall 1998.

4. Bigwood, Jeremy, “DynCorp in Colombia – Outsourcing the Drug War,”, May 23, 2001.

5. Green, Jordan, “ Colombia is the Third Largest Recipient of US aid,” ZMAG, January, 2002.

6. Burton-Rose, Daniel & Madsen, Wayne, “Corporate Soldiers: The US Government Privatizes Force,”, 1999.

7. Berkowitz, Bill, “Mercenaries ‘R' Us,” Alternet, March 24, 2004.

8. Goff, Stan, Full Spectrum Disorder – The Military in the New American Century, pp. 106-107, Soft Skull Press, 2004.

9. Wiggins, Dave, “Draft Creep,” Lew Rockwell dot com, January 9, 2004.

10. Goff, Stan, “The Bush Folly – Between Iraq and a Hard Place,” Counterpunch, September 4, 2003.

11. Von Boemcken, Marc, “The Business of War,” Peace & Conflict Monitor, December 15, 2003.

12. Ibid.

13. Bauer, Jan, Report on United Nations Commission on Human Rights, Fifty-third Session, 10 March to 18 April, 1997.

14. Berkowitz, op cit.

15. Silverstein, Ken, “Privatizing War,” The Nation, July 28, 1997.

16. Gupta, A. K., “The Great Iraq Heist,” Z Magazine, January, 2004.

17. Avant, Deborah, “Privatizing Military Training,” Foreign Policy in Focus, June 2000.


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