Private Security Companies: Public Wars, Private Profit

In the welter of reports from Afghanistan and Iraq it’s easy to miss the brief mentions of private contractors killed or kidnapped. Likewise the suggestion that employees of private companies were involved in the abuses in Abu Ghraib jail. For these men and women are from the private security industry, which operates in a grey area beyond the normal expectations of war and conflict.

The World Today Updated 16 October 2020 Published 1 June 2004 6 minute READ

Mariyam Hasham

Asked in December whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or whether there was only the possibility that it might acquire them, American President George Bush replied, ‘So, what’s the difference?’ He might equally have reacted the same way to questions about the use of private security contractors across the spectrum of United States-led military and policing activities in Iraq.

As events unfold, the release of photographs from Abu Ghraib prison and the almost daily stories about the killings of contractors highlight the complex roles of private companies in war zones around the world.

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