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photo of humvee in transitjoin the discussion: What are your reactions to this report on the privatization of the war in Iraq?  Is  the U.S. military becoming too dependent on the use of extra-military forces?

Dear FRONTLINE,

After one year of deployment for the DOD on Contractor oversight, well let's just say your figures might be a little on the low side. Just to give you a minor expense for consideration, the use of Port-a-potty's are in the tens of thousands all over the region and we the tax payer are paying $45.00 per day plus $10.00 per day per unit for every single one. Not a bad contract. The figure I saw for the KBR dinning facility was close to $300.00 or $350.00 per day per person. Re check your Haliburton numbers, you only have some of them. Good luck.

A P
Boston, MA

Dear FRONTLINE,

I think that some of the points made during the show were good as well as some were bad.
A few things that stick in my mind...
The woman who's husband died in Iraq blames the company, yet in the next breath she talks about how he was an ex-navy seal of 13 years. I think in that case the husband did'nt prepare his wife of she just refuses to accept the situation as it is. The man is a hero and preformed a good deed for his country and paid the ultimate price for that service, I think the man and his family.
The second thing that sticks in my mind the question was asked do Soldiers need three flavors of ice cream every day?
Well as a Soldier I can say no we dont need it.
But that five minutes of vanilla double scoop might make my day and it might also make a Soldier a little happier and that can translate to a Soldier that is more productive! Try telling a man to go into a fire fight and take the chance of getting shot and see the reaction you get from it. If I have a Soldier that is happy then he or she will be more willing to do what is asked of him or her! Now all the cake and ice cream in the world wont make a man do those things but it might make an otherwise miserable life more tolerable.

So I believe it is good that the government provides these services for our Soldiers. I also believe that the spending of billions of dollars should be audited to ensure that there is no fraud waste or abuse by the contractors.

Hutch Hutch
Ft. Hood , Texas

Dear FRONTLINE,

I do abhor the deaths of those Blackwater guards killed but I am more angry that our troops were sent in to Fallujah for nothing more than revenge for their killings. How do you think the families of the Marines killed in the assault on Fallujah would feel if they knew that their son/daughter/husband/wife/father/mother died because people making double, triple, or more per month (and who, unlike the Marines, could just pack up and leave when they had enough) than their loved one in uniform, went out on a bad mission ill-equipped and ill-informed? I know I am outraged, and grow even more outraged that I am, seemingly, the only one who feels this way.

Also, back to the creature comforts, Soldiers are not Ming vases; they are made of stronger stuff and also smart enough to know that ice cream and ESPN are not necessary in a war zone. The hardships are what make these small comforts seem even more precious, but when they are a daily staple there is a disconnect. Are we in a war zone or not? If we are then why do we have all of this stuff and if not why are we dying everyday?

It is a war, despite our government calling it a friendly occupation, and what might seem a small price for a creature comfort becomes exorbitant when you factor in the cost of security and transportation risks of all these items. There is no Soldier who wants to get killed pulling security for a convoy carrying big screens and the resupply inventory for one of the restaurants that are now open over there. KBR has no vested interest in this country either, except for maybe the oil. Every destroyed building adn lost cargo payload is paid for already and replacing it is simply another renegotiated line-item. I do not think they want these things to happen but in the end we will pay them twice(or more) for a lot of things. The worst case scenario is that we pack up and leave and even then KBR has made their money so, to think that they really have a vested interest in this experiment succeeding is nonsense. I will not say that KBR employees are unpatriotic, they as individuals most likely are, but the company as a collective is only concerned with the bottom-line. Our troops are not, they are concerned with ideals and people, regardless of whether they are sent over there to peel potatoes or walk the mean streets of Baghdad. They will not leave when the going gets tough or their balance sheets run into the red.

McLean
College Station, Texas,

Dear FRONTLINE,

Dear Frontline,
To say that the program "Private Warriors" struck a chord would be an understatement. As a former servicemember who served overseas, it was not only the armed military contrators (modern day independent military companies) that angered me, it was that of the links between former senior military officials and KBR.

Going into a related private sector following military service is not a new racket; but the levels to which it has risen is beginning to border on the ludicrous. A quick internet search on retired LTG Cerjan, for instance reveals not only the KBR position but of one with "Quick-Med Technologies" a company with lucrative U.S. Army contracts for medical equipment. While private security firms can tarnish the opinion that locals have of U.S. forces; this private sector racket can do infinitely more harm as these retired servicemembers are forced to choose between military policy, and economic gain.

U.S. Troops do not need ice cream or "Subway" sandwich shops to successfully conduct military operations. They need senior leaders with a realistic regional view; and more importantly, they need a conflict that has a chance of victory.

Wells

Dear FRONTLINE,

Like it or not I think PMC's are a necessary evil as viewed by some in todays way of war. Soldiers can be relieved of non essential duties and be employed 100% in their acquired skills. PSD operators provide a service not only to the military but the officials of the war torn country. PSD operators relieve the military of the added duty and responsibility of protecting convoys or dignitary's moving about the country

I believe the more regulation that is imposed on PMC's companies the less effective they will be in this particular environment. The pay received by some PSD operators seems to be source of contention with many in particular soldiers. The best way to explain it is the money is based on a contract status, just like a carpenter when business is good he can charge top dollar for his services, then again he may be without a good contract for months or even years on end when the job is done, compared to the life long benefits and guaranteed paycheck even out of a war zone.

Frank Sellers
Gridley, California

Dear FRONTLINE,

Thank you so much for airing Private Warriors. It was very eye-opening, even for someone who pays as much attention to these matters as I do.

I believe this level of secrecy is intentional. It allows the Department of Defense to pump BILLIONS into "friendly" private sector companies while bypassing normal oversight.

We have to get the soldiers what they NEED. Priorities are clearly offbase when money is spent on creature comforts over military necessities. I'm sure if you asked a soldier they would gladly exchange sprinkles on their ice cream sundaes for an adequate flak jacket and armored humvee.

"At least its not a draft" is not a satisfactory answer to so many very serious questions.

Thank you.

Wendy Hamel

Dear FRONTLINE,

It appears that the Republican administration has found a gold mine for it's contributor's. It consists of three components; the war in Iraq ;taxpayer money and American lives. No wonder the administration does not want to have a draft , increase it's military in any way or stop immigration. It can sign up illegal aliens for the military to keep the affluent from sending their children and /or hire out foreigners and high paid mercenaries so that the military death toll can be kept low. I think it's called war profiteering.

Bruce Martin
marietta, GA

Dear FRONTLINE,


Excellent documentary. Just wish that more U.S. citizens would take the time away from sports and entertainment to watch it. Perhaps they would wake up and realize just how much has been outsourced in the Iraqi War.

I submit that we will live to regret the move toward outsourcing so much of the logistical support efforts because it effectively pits the true military heros against overpaid civilians. One group serves the military chain of command, while the other group serves American capitalists. While serving three tours of duty in Viet Nam, I personally resented the thousands of overpaid civilian contractors that were scattered throughout the country. I believe many military personnel serving in Iraq today have similar feelings toward these contractors. Thus, we have instituted a two-team concept; the underpaid grunt and the overpaid civilian.

I find it most interesting that Brown and Root continue to enjoy exclusive, noncompetitive contract in another war. During the Vie Nam War, a conglomerate named "RMK-BRJ" (Raymond International, Morrison Knudson, Brown and Root, and JA Jones Construction) had the exclusive right to build in Vietnam. RMK-BRJ was the construction firm that built almost all of the sea ports, military bases, roads, and airfields in Vietnam and made mega bucks off the U.S. taxpayer. More than 30-years later, Brown and Root, under the umbrella of Halliburton instead of RMK-BRJ continues to enjoy practically exclusive construction rights in the Iraqi War effort. The continuing close ties between Brown and Root and our political leaders of today presents an interesting discussion. I guess the old saying "the more things change, the more they remain the same
" applies.

Ken Bucher
Dallas, TX

Dear FRONTLINE,

I found it quite interesting that the famlies of the murdered Blackwater employees blamed the company, the government, everybody except their loved ones. Blackwater is very up front when hiring for the Iraq mission. They are adamant the employment is dangerous and you are a "contract" employee, meaning the company is not responsible if you are injued or killed. These men were ex military special forces and knew the dangers. Mercenaries understand the risks and are willing to take them. Perhaps they should have preped their families better.

Carl Carter
Riverside, California

Dear FRONTLINE,


I'm all in favor of the use PMC's forward. This isn't anything new. We, as a country,have done this for decades. Why is this now an issue?
The use of private security forces is another matter but the use of contracted dining facilities, fitness centers, laundry service, barber shops, internet and telephone service are areas where I don't see what the problem is.
I've been to Camps Doha, Arifjan, Al Saleem, Spearhead (when it was open) and Camp Patriot and I'm quite greatful we're treated so well - beats the hell out of eating two MRE's per day and lifting sandbags for PT.
Without these services our morale would be in the gutter, not to mention the terrorist's being held at GITMO would be eating/living better than us. And, I know NOBODY would wnat that to happen - right?

Sean Stuckey
San Diego, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,


I am grateful that PBS, Frontline, and Martin Smith (and crew) had the bravery to develop and air this very important program. Besides highlighting the complex relationship between contract soldiers and the military, you also showed, at the risk of losing the film crew's lives, how dangerous Iraq has become. While this administration continues to communicate messages, such as "things in Iraq are improving", or "the insurgency is in its last throes", you were able to show that the very opposite may be more true. Again, my deepest thanks for your efforts to continue to educate the American people and indeed, the world.

Ed Coe
Washington, DC

Dear FRONTLINE,


as a solider who was stationed at balad, lsa anaconda, i can say that w/o a doubt that the private contractin is out of controll. but yet at the same time it helps us soldiers. i was working 16 hrs a day 6 days a week, so the last thing that i would want to do is clean latrines or pull kp. kbr provided us w/ hard housing, but at the same time the army could've bought it also instead contracting that task out. now as far as maintance & refueling i know that we did about 90% of our own. as far as refueling of our CH-47s our POL section did 100% i have so much more i caould talk about but i sure i have neither the spce nor the time to. thank you for letting me to speak my mind

spc jones
meridian, mississippi

Dear FRONTLINE,

I thought your program was insightful and hard-hitting, as it should have been and needed to be. But I do have one criticism and that is regarding your cutting to black near the end of the program when the Bulgarian pilot of a shot-down helicopter was cold-bloodedly killed by the insurgents. As repulsive and distrurbing as that footage certainly must have been, I believe that it needed to be shown. With the limited information--both visual and aural--that is available to the public, Americans are being given a much too sanitized version of what truly happens in a war. Being told about such a killing and actually seeing it will elicit two very different reactions.
Until the truth--the very ugly truth--is brought home, as it ultimately was during the Vietnam War, the war in Iraq will likely persist for just as many years, or more. Unfortunately, it will take these kinds of images, which will undoubtedly sicken viewers, to bring this insanity to an end.

Jack Buckley
St. Augustine, FL

Dear FRONTLINE,

I am a 20 year retired military man. I have served at every level of security in Iraq from Security Manager at the largest American NGO, Security program manager for the CPA's Economic Reconstruction, as a Private Security Detail leader and planner and as the owner of an Iraqi PMC.

Several of assumptions were very wrong in your piece ... there is no way there are 20,000 PSDs operating in that country. That is a figure that has been thrown around (even by Erynis and Lawrence Peters) since November of 2003 without substantiation or survey ... that figure was created in December 2003 by the CPA when the spokesman was asked about "contractor" numbers in Iraq and it included all contractors, not just security contractors. There are 36 registered PMCs and only two or three "mom and pops" as they are called. Professionals stay far away from them. The most that operate there is around 3,500 from all nationalities. Ask the Ministry of the Interior.

The PMCs are not mercenaries ... they are legally contracted by the US government to fill the bodyguard gap when the military did not bring in enough military police and Iraq went from a poorly secured country to an insurgent and crime dominated country. The security environment demanded heavier weapons and more lethal responses from the body guards... thus was born "Combat Executive Protection."

The military has a job to do and the terrible reconstruction mess required LOTS of armed security.

Just because one terrible company like Custer battles is indicted for the fraud they are or the mistaken identity of the Zapata engineering PSDs shooting at civilians does not mean Blackwater or Kroll, or CRG are unprofessional or chasing dollars ... they are doing a demanding job in a hostile environment. Like bad doctors that push up medical malpractice risk these bad eggs are known quantities and are quickly sidelned by professionals.

Frontline should have kept it fair ... in fact none of this would have been necessary had we not invaded Iraq and had gone after Al Qaeda properly in Afghanistan. So bad politics created this requirement ... hate the game not the warrior

Malcolm Nance

Dear FRONTLINE,

Your report was excellent, the best report I have ever seen on a facet of reality in "the new Iraq". In this war where the sight of a military casket is censored - you brought the war home to America and captured the nerve wracking travel and the even scarier concept that this is becoming an outsourced war of surrogates. Few benefit, not the contractors who die in undisclosed numbers, not the Iraqi's who are alientated by fortresses of security that ignore their suffering, and certainly not the US soldier who must follow orders and now must place their own personal security in the hands of hired guns with questionable accountabily to the coalition in Iraq.
If this is the future of war - god help us all

Dominic Gagliardo
Scottsdale, AZ

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posted june 21, 2005

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