America’s Private Sector Army

Prior to the Iraq war, most people wouldn’t have heard of the private military companies (PMCs) that provide their services to the USA. Then came the the headlines, thick and fast, as the heavy involvement of PMCs such as Blackwater led to controversy. 

Excerpts, The Kernel – “The number of contractors used is staggering. In 2010 there were 94,413 contractors in Afghanistan, compared with 91,600 US troops.


Most PMCs provide logistical support, but one stands out above all others: Blackwater. Described by some as a “private army”, they differ from modern day military units such as the British Army’s Brigade of Gurkhas and the French Foreign Legion, in that they are an autonomous company providing military services. Mercenaries in everything but name. Blackwater in particular stands out for their boots-on-the ground provision of “security guards” who look, smell and operate like any other combat soldier.

Blackwater, now called Academi, became known for a string of controversial incidents involving its personnel. Now that Middle Eastern occupations are winding down and court cases have been settled, Blackwater has managed to slip under the radar again. But it still exists, albeit with a new name, and is as influential as ever.

In the sixteen years of its existence, Blackwater has changed the face of modern warfare. How did they do it, what are they doing now and what does their continued existence mean for the future?

In explaining his vision for Blackwater, its founder Erik Prince famously stated:

“We are trying to do for the national security apparatus what FedEx did for the Postal Service.” 

Blackwater started out by offering training services to the military and landed a major contract to train Navy personnel following the 2000 bombing of USS Cole of the coast of Yemen.

With their reputation established, Blackwater began to hoover up government contracts as the War on Terror progressed. At first they provided security to secret CIA bases, then they became the default private security force for the raft of diplomats and State Department employees who found themselves involved in occupied Iraq. Blackwater proudly remind people that “not one State Department employee was killed while we were protecting them”. No officials may have been killed but a number of innocent Iraqis did, at the barrel of Blackwater guns.

The US military has long had a reputation for financial ineptitude when it come to hardware acquisition. It’s a reputation that has persisted with their procurement of contract services. At the height of the Iraq war, sergeants in the military were getting paid one-sixth of their counterparts from Blackwater. This problem of capitalism colliding with patriotism was so serious that Defense Secretary Robert Gates considered asking US troops to sign a non-compete clause…

…The largest incident branded on Blackwater’s reputation is what has become known as The Blackwater Baghdad shootings. On September sixteenth 2007, Blackwater military contractors shot and killed seventeen Iraqi civilians in Nisour Square, Baghdad…

“They became a symbol of what was seen as an occupying force. They are always heavily armed with machine-guns, and wear body armour and wraparound sunglasses. Usually they are beefy men with goatees, covered in tattoos. They swagger around like something out of a movie. Their presence here has been deeply damaging.”

Blackwater has become a destination of choice for ex-public servants looking for a cushy retirement, resulting in the company having even stronger ties to the centres of American power post-Iraq than pre-Iraq. The board of directors now includes Bobby Ray Inman, the former head of the National Security Agency and Jack Quinn, the former White House Counsel to President Bill Clinton. 

Lessons have learned by both the Government and private companies from their flirtation over the last couple of decades and the legacy will have repercussions on future conflicts. The Government has found a way to patch up their military personnel shortcomings with off-the-shelf and adaptable solutions: no need for the tedium of training youngsters and paying out pension plans.

By buying up experienced Army personnel, Blackwater have made themselves indispensable as a training institution for America’s elite troops. And next time the US goes gung-ho into another country? The contractors will be ready. Academi have developed and manufactured their own infantry mobility vehicle called The Grizzly APC. They were too late to the military hardware party this time around but they have all the pieces in place to take an even greater role in the USA’s next major conflict.” Full Article on The Kernel



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13 comments on “America’s Private Sector Army

  1. petrel41 says:

    About mercenaries: Crass – Securicor (1978)


  2. In support of the Merc/ PMC’s and PSC’s.

    Definition of a Mercenary.
    A professional soldier hired to serve in a foreign army.
    Most world governments (including the US/UK/RUS) pimp their special forces out to train foreign armies . So should they be called Mercs too?

    War is never black and white but multiple shades of grey.
    Given the fact that a lot of wars / regime changes / and “training support” are sponsored by world governments, the mercenary or PSC (in any name) are a necessary evil.

    They occasionally get bad press but they aren’t hired to help old ladies across the road are they?
    They do the jobs NO ONE ELSE WANTS TO BE SEEN DOING.

    Not constrained by “rules of engagement” they sometimes are also more effective when dealing with terrorist scum. After all returning fire when shot at is WAY less effective than engaging the enemy when you see them first!

    As for civilians dying, so what.
    When the worlds legitimate armed forces kill civilians that’s OK then?
    You don’t want death? Stop governments (aka big business) from war mongering in the first place.

    The PR Games Governments Play.
    What’s better in the public eyes?
    A young fresh faced 17 year old regular soldier being ground up to paste or a nameless PSC?

    A PSC or merc gets splashed and at most they rate a byline in a local newspaper.
    A young service man or woman? SHOCK AND HORROR!
    Parades, ceremonies, tears, questions about how, why, and for what?

    Add to that no government benefits to pay, no families to support.
    No flags to worry about, no numbers to defend.

    A government PR win win situation.


    • With the greatest of respect:

      Mercenaries are by definition soldiers of fortune, (simplified) former military personnel who now make a living by selling their skills to (often) the highest bidder, be that bidder their own government or a foreign nation.

      Re: your statement here “War is never black and white but multiple shades of grey”.

      You are indeed correct & in the majority of cases driven by the military industrial giants and declared or caused for financial reasons, now couple this with mercenaries serving for financial gain only, as apposed to devotion to a cause or country, and the conclusion is that it is to the benefit or in the interest (ONLY) of the military industrial giants and the industry giants who supply said mercenaries. REGARDLESS of the interests of the country / Nation or its people.

      You continue:

      “Not constrained by “rules of engagement” they sometimes are also more effective when dealing with terrorist scum. After all returning fire when shot at is WAY less effective than engaging the enemy when you see them first!”

      Now you got to the crux of it, by “Not constrained by “rules of engagement” you of course mean Not abiding to the set out conventions of war as signed by the majority of countries worldwide, the Geneva convention etc. Because as Soldiers of Fortune the prime objective is to carry out the assignment at ALL COSTS.

      You continue:

      “As for civilians dying, so what.”
      “When the worlds legitimate armed forces kill civilians that’s OK then?
      You don’t want death? Stop governments (aka big business) from war mongering in the first place.”

      Exactly my point!, therefore mercenaries are part of the problem not the solution… As for your cavalier approach to civilian deaths, NO civilian deaths are ever acceptable either by normal forces or by covert mainly mercenary forces.

      In conclusion, I am frankly appalled by your lack of consideration / respect for the fallen.


  3. Respect?
    I totally respect and honor the service personnel lost, and those left broken. They are the only people I care about.


    • Firstly, forgive the delay in replying.

      I am happy to receive your reply and to hear your support for the fallen and those service personnel left still suffering!


      • Maybe I am wrong, but I kind of read thoughtful’s post as more tongue-in-cheek rather than a serious show of support for private mercenaries..?
        I’m sorry that I haven’t been here to reply; family obligations are kicking my ass right now and I am so scattered and frazzled that I just can’t keep up with everything right now. I need an industrial size bottle of Calgon to come take me awaaaaaaaaaay! ;-)


        • That being the case, I would feel obliged to apologize to thoughtfullyprepping for my reply, as I must admit to perceiving it as justification.

          Like you I have been down (so to speak) as a result of ongoing migraine which decides to visit for about 8 to 10 days, once or twice a year, and in this case resulted in limiting me to 10 or 15 minutes at most online activity every other day if at all.

          Anyway, I apologize if my reply has in any way upset you or otherwise caused concern.

          Kind Regards



          • ~Understanding all around~ so far as I am concerned. So sorry about the migraines; can’t imagine how painful and frustrating that must be. :-/ I really hope this spell passes soon and no worries, no worries here at all… Just a hope that all of us bloggers/readers/commentators can swing through the rough times and remember that real lives are connected to these wonderful online ID’s, eh?
            ~Peace & Good Wishes~


  4. To MisBehaved Woman,

    I extend my sincere apologies if I have, or am perceived to have hijacked (so to speak) this excellent post with my lengthy reply, as this was not my intention.

    Thank you for posting / highlighting such a controversial and most often overlooked subject, despite the backlash that might and often does come with such a decision.

    Again my apologies and Thanks



    • NOOOOOOOOOOOO! Please, please, please do not apologize for anything!!! I am the lousy blog-hostess here for not having popped in sooner. I meant to reply to thoughtfullyprepping prior to your comment…then I meant to reply to your reply but then I got lost between real life chaos and cyberstreet duties!

      This has been interesting and more so because of your ‘lengthy reply’, please believe that. And I could well be wrong – but we won’t know until/unless thoughtful chimes back in – as to whether or not his comment was in earnest …or if we’ve once again found an application for a freaking “snarky” font that would enable us to “read” voice tones! ;-)

      I’m working on a new post right now that may end with me taking a blogging hiatus of sorts. My dad is dying much more quickly than we expected and I’m finding it really hard to concentrate, make proper responses, etc. I blog to keep my mind off things – but fall on my ass keeping up with the blog at the same time. ‘Tis not a good way to hostess-with-the-mostest, ya know?


      • I understand, Like you I very often find myself somewhat overwhelmed whilst trying to keep up with the blog, Twitter, research, newspaper and magazine articles etc, etc. But believe me there are no shortcomings when it comes to your blogs or your hosting etc. for sure!

        As much as I would genuinely wish to (genuinely), I can’t say anything that would somehow ease that pain you feel or subdue the dread that you are living with concerning your Father. I lost both my Father and Mother in less than a year, both to cancer, and my wife shortly after.

        I won’t tell you time is a great healer or any of the other pearls of wisdom often used in an effort to console / comfort us in such dreadful times.

        All I can say is genuinely my thoughts are with you, your Husband and family, I and others here will be thinking of you and your family as you face the coming weeks and months. My prayers will include you all.

        Kind regards, Love and Respect to you, your Husband and family….



  5. […] is prohibited  by the UN, contemporary conflict has seen an considerable rise in the number of Private Military Contractors (PMC), who many suggest are the same ‘all but in […]


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