British Contractors Outnumber British Soldiers Three to One -- Is This the Future of Iraq?

| Thu May 31, 2007 10:08 AM EDT

On AMERICAblog, I spotted an article from the UK's Independent that says there are 21,000 British private contractors in Iraq. That's approximately three times the number of British soldiers in Iraq.

Is this the future of Iraq? Let's say September comes and goes the surge hasn't improved security conditions in Baghdad or elsewhere. Republicans may abandon the president in large numbers, forcing a withdrawal to begin over a presidential veto. The Defense Dep't can simply pay more and more private contractors -- who have no oversight over their spending or their actions on the ground -- to execute a bastardized version of their current mission.

The Democrats can enact laws that mandate stronger accountability over contractors, or even limit the number of contractors the Pentagon can employ. While a bill did pass in May that supposedly provided for stricter oversight over contractors, the bill was criticized by anti-contractor activists and suffered a credibility deficit because it had the support of the contracting industry itself. Congress may not want a strong light shone on the business of contracting, and the military probably likes it that way, but until we know exactly how many contractors operate in Iraq, and specifically what they are doing, we will never be fully sure the war is over.

As an example of the murkiness that surrounds contractors, estimates for the number of private contractors in Iraq range anywhere from 44,000 to 130,000. Mother Jones rode along with a couple of them in our latest issue.

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