Military for Hire

Public anger is still smoldering in Iraq over the deaths of eight civilians Sunday, which the Iraqi government blames on the private U.S. security company Blackwater USA. Since that incident, the Iraqi government has ordered all Blackwater personnel out of the country and the U.S. Embassy warden has issued a message to essentially ground all U.S. civilian government employees throughout Iraq.

Filmmaker Nick Bicani said these private military companies are necessary for the U.S. military to fill security demands in Iraq, but they can provide a questionable role without clear accountability for their actions. The following is a transcript of Bicani's take on the film, which ran on the "World News" webcast.

"Shadow Company" is a documentary about the modern world of private warfare, the phenomenon of modern-day mercenaries. Who are these guys? What do they do? And why?

I would estimate there are aspects of private armed corporations in every country in the world. What's unique about Iraq is that private military companies are used alongside soldiers in a fairly major way … But there are now over 100,000 members of private military corporations in Iraq, almost the same number as the troops. That's a huge part of the war effort in the private sector.

I had this stereotyped idea when I started that it's modern-day mercenaries, so it's this stereotyped idea of guys with knives between their teeth who plan overthrows of foreign governments, but that's not the case. The majority of people I met who are security contractors and operate in very high-risk areas like Afghanistan and Iraq are guys with 10-15 years of experience in the highest echelons of the military. Often special forces or SEALS. A lot of these guys, after spending a number of years in the military, are often looking for somewhere else they can use their skills in the private sector.

So in the early days of Iraq, they didn't have enough soldiers to do the tasks that soldiers usually do. So the solution was to say that every company involved in the reconstruction contracts has to hire private security.

Immediately, 20 percent of every reconstruction contract went into the private military companies. So a lot of companies got very rich, very fast. And the only reason this job existed in Iraq was because the U.S. military went in to try and perform a task in a dangerous environment without any solid plan.

How They Are Used, and When They're Allowed to Shoot

Private military companies provide a number of different tasks. It's tempting to assume that a guy walking around with a weapon on his shoulder protecting an individual is the only thing a contractor does. Contractors do many soft tasks.

They provide cooks or drivers or people push boxes around from point A to point B. There's a small number that do armed security contracting. They're armed civilians in a conflict zone that look like soldiers and behave like soldiers and use their guns on a daily basis. "Shadow Company" focuses on the armed security contractors because they're the most fascinating part.

The basic roles of a private security contractor are that they protect individuals, locations and convoys on the move. They have clear rules of engagement. They're used in a defensive way.

If they're attacked, they're allowed to shoot back. But they're allowed to shoot back in order to get away from the area and keep their client or their object or the convoy they're protecting alive.

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