Private soldiers outnumber troops in Iraq: documentary

Category: Shadow Company News | Posted by: admin
Article Date: May 22, 2006 | Publication: CANADA AM - CTV Television, Inc. | Author: BEVERLY THOMSON; SEAMUS O'REGAN; JEFF HUTCHESON; MARCI IEN
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THOMSON: Well, you all know Alan Bell, our security expert, talking about terrorism and that kind of thing. But he got into a different project. Still talking about that kind of thing, but soldiers for hire.

O'REGAN: Soldiers for hire. Alan used to be an SAS officer, one of the best-trained soldiers in the world, the secret service for Britain. A commando. And that's why he brings so much to our show when he talks about it. And in this documentary he talks very openly about soldiers for hire and how many of them there are in the world. There are 20,000 soldiers for hire in Iraq alone.

THOMSON: But people you don't even know about.

O'REGAN: Exactly.

THOMSON: And you wouldn't think about it, for hire [overtalk] --

HUTCHESON: Yeah, security, and that type of thing, right.

THOMSON: And the risk involved in some of the jobs that they're hired to do.

HUTCHESON: And wait until you see Alan Bell in this interview, because this was done outside and he's got the sunglasses.

IEN: He's got the look.

HUTCHESON: He looks like James Bond just came right out of the building.

O'REGAN: Here it is.

[Taped segment ends]

BICANIC: Good morning.

BELL: Good morning.

O'REGAN: Nick, let's begin with you. Twenty thousand of these private soldiers. And there would be a lot of people, even people who follow news coming out of Iraq every day, who would be surprised by that number. So, it's because of numbers like those and the growing proliferation of private soldiers for hire that caused you to make this documentary?

BICANIC: That's exactly right. In fact, it was one of the many things that we were surprised about and discovered in the course of making "Shadow Company", not just that there was 20,000 of these guys out there, but also I was fascinated by what these guys do and why they do it. You know, what motivates people to put their lives in harm's way in working in the private sector? So, this was one of the many things we set out to discover. These rules of war have changed. And we were fascinated to discover this and wanted to communicate this to everybody else.

O'REGAN: Who do they work for?

BICANIC: They work for a number of different private security organizations. What happens is basically if you're a professional soldier, you spent a number of years in the military and at some point you decide that you might want to go and work in the private sector, perhaps chasing a slightly larger pay cheque.

But fundamentally they work for a number of different organizations in a conflict area. When you were doing work in Iraq if you were part of the reconstruction program, if you're going to move food from point A to point B or you're going to move workers from point A to point B, you're talking about operating in a war zone. You need to provide a fairly large level of security. About 15 to 20 percent of all reconstruction budgets are spent on security in a place like Iraq.

O'REGAN: Incredible. So, this isn't just the US government, it's private firms, maybe nongovernmental organizations, as well as private corporations.

BICANIC: That's right.

O'REGAN: Gotcha.

Alan, I know you went to a great deal of trouble, my friend, to bring this gurkha [sp?] that's behind you to the show. Tell us about it.

BELL: The vehicle that you see behind me, a lot of the vehicles in Iraq in particular are being attacked by IEDS, by improvised explosive devices, and suicide bombers. This vehicle was designed and built by an Ontario-based company called Armet that actually put double layers of composite materials together and in themselves give more protection from an IED from the side. And this is one of the main problems that we have.

O'REGAN: It's a formidable vehicle. Now, we just saw you in this documentary, "Shadow Company". I guess most of your clients, they don't even want you to be on television at all, let alone in a documentary. Why did you decide to participate in this?

BELL: Well, it was a story that needed to be told. People have different ideas and different opinions of private military companies. And what I wanted to do is to sort of participate in something that educated people as to who these guys are. They're not Rambos, they're not mercenaries, they are actual business people who actually carry out these types of security responsibilities in hostile environments.

O'REGAN: But what motivates them, Alan? As you say, these are people with children, with mortgages. And yet they go out and they do this line of work. What motivates them to do it?

BELL: Well, they were doing a similar type of work in the military for a third of the salary. So, consequently, they can now come out of the military with all their skills, specifically people who have been in special forces, and can now earn a significant salary while assuming the same risks.

O'REGAN: Nick, in making this documentary, what surprised you the most?

BICANIC: What surprised me the most in making "Shadow Company" was that a lot of these guys are not bound by local laws when they're operating in Iraq. I just found this fascinating. And I think a lot of people don't know this, the fact that this means that while security contractors operating in Iraq could bump into civilian cars, bump them off the road, and they wouldn't be prosecuted for it. That doesn't often happen but the fact that it could happen and the fact that the local laws in Iraq do not apply to these individuals I found a very scary fact. I thought it was vital to discover more information about this because of that.

O'REGAN: Yeah, agreed.

Alan, you give security advice to VIPs living in some of the most dangerous places in the world. But when you look at the number of them, the number of these private military contractors, you know, workers who are in Iraq and places like this, I guess, who's policing them? I mean, who's looking after these? Who's making sure that nothing happens that's out of line?

BELL: Well, really it depends in the companies themselves.

And I'd like to make one thing clear. We were around long before Iraq and Afghanistan. We were doing this type of work all over the world way before Afghanistan and Iraq. Consequently, this is nothing new. It's because of what's going on in Iraq that this has come to the fore more. But private military companies, contractors et cetera, have been operating in Africa, Central and South America, for the last 25 years.

And, as I said, it's Iraq that has brought it to the attention of the world's media.

O'REGAN: Well, it is a fascinating subject, Alan. Good to see you in this light as well. And it's a fascinating documentary. People can go to and learn more there.

Thank you very much, gentlemen. And thank you for taking the trouble to bring in the gurkha there.

[Taped segment ends]

O'REGAN: We gotta get Alan wearing those shades all the time. [laughter]

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