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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?


In the midst of an interesting program on outsourcing in the US military, you have provided stark evidence of how little control the US military has over Baghdad. I cannot imagine how much useful work can be done when has to take the precautions that obviously have to be taken in the city. How anyone can suggest that the insurgency is "on its last legs" as Rumsfeld has done recently, defies logic.

Howard Billard
St. John's, Newfoundland


I,along with other ladies and families that are without their hubby's and daddy's,am very proud of my husband,serving in Iraq as a K.B.R.employee.

I strongly believe that those contractors are playing a very vital role for our military.Scary as it seems sometimes,he's there to serve,bottom line...and for that I have the utmost respect and commend them all....My prayers to all you wives holding down the fort, waiting for your loved ones to return.

Tami Eldridge
Sumner, Iowa

FRONTLINE's editors respond:

In the VIEW ONLINE section of this web site for "Private Warriors," Chapter Three offers the producers' commentary on covering KBR's story in the war effort.


I think the contracting of military services just makes it easier for our government to wage war, for whatever reason our government wishes. It's easier to send a for profit contractor to a war zone, to fight for more profit, than it is to get congressional approval to send in our military, to do the job.

The most worrisome thing about this is the amount of money it costs taxpayers to subsidize the private sector worldwide. The Republican administration has created an enormous private beaurocracy that is unnacountable to the taxpayers and is bleeding us dry.It's no wonder we can't afford medicare and social security when we're paying billions to KBR and Halliburton for this fiasco.

Jeff Lasar
River Falls, Wisconsin


thanks for airing this program. after reading 'corporate warriors' aprox. a year ago, i have been watching headlines in an attempt to better understand the private-public split regarding our commitment in iraq.

while there is plenty of history to demonstarate the effectiveness and need for certain privatized military functions, i have been having a hard time rationalizing our current scale of privatizations. this program not only relays crucial information, but gives it a human face - much needed when speaking about war. further, you have evidenced your critical and indesposible position within my media spectrum. keep airing strong, critical journalism and i'll support you 'tooth and nail'. the military contractors' lack of transparency illustrated in this program must also be avoided here at home regarding our government's actions. it is programs like these and outlets like yours which secure freedom and democracy.

seth wiley
troy, ny


Thank you for taking the time to acknowledge the contractors. My husband is in Iraq because he wanted to help the troops, and he is. Our children and myself love him, miss him, and are very proud of him.

No, our military is not becoming too dependent on the contractors, without them, would there have been a draft? I feel it is much better to have contractors that were willing to go to the aide of our troops rather than having teens drafted as soon as they graduated high school. There was a need and the companies that are there filled that need with grown men and women who wanted to help.

Judy Rich
Denver City, Texas


martin smith, his co-producers, crew and editors have presented the best frontline program i've seen in a long, long time. it's incredibly refreshing to see a story that is politically provocative, humane, challenging and revealing. i am inspired and hope that more stories like this get made. it's great that something with teeth actually made it to air. great job, frontline - kudos to the filmmakers!

Keala Kelly


I have mixed reactions to your Frontline program Private Warriors.

In addition to the problems posed by private security contractors, your program alluded to the large scale of commercial involvement and investment in the war in Iraq.

On the one hand, as a Vietnam-era veteran who also spent time in Germany, I note that American communities spring up wherever there is a US military presence. The Army and Air Force installations throughout Europe during the early 1970s provided many of the welcome comforts of home. While in Germany, I never performed KP because we had a payday deduction to subsidize Germany civilians to do this and other non-essential jobs. While this was indeed outsourcing, we enlisted personnel paid for it out of our meager funds, never a government sponsored contractor. I always considered it money well spent. Having gone through months of specialized training, it sure didnt make much sense to have me spend time peeling potatoes and washing pots. It should also be noted that service in Germany was certainly not dangerous in any sense.

However, given the considerable scale and value of the contractor services in Southwest Asia, I have to believe that involved businesses would consider they have a vested stake in the ultimate outcome of the war in Iraq. Its going to be a difficult enough political decision for our country to either stay, and finish the job, or call it a no-win situation and leave, without having a 3rd party (commercial interests) to consider. Unfortunately, the longer the war goes on, the greater the commercial investment as well, which will only make any effective decisions that much more complex.

I certainly do not pretend to have a logical answer. However, I do appreciate your program for giving us all an opportunity to examine and think about the issues you presented.

Terry Scott
Modesto, California


I am Involved with the Exective Protection Field and I know far to well what's involved with picking up and moving at a moments notice. I Just wanted to say I felt moved by what I saw.
It takes a special type of person to go into a hot spot and earn a living like that. Most of the people involved with my field are Ex- military and Ex-lawenforcement, however some of us are just your everyday garden variety security guard with the training to do the what is nessecary to complete the job.
I am currently a student at a school which trains some individuals currently working in Iraq and elsewhere, E.S.I. in Colorado ( Executive Security International). It has been a difficult task to under take and yet I will come away with the knowledge and understanding that this isn't for the faint of heart. The entire set of courses are paid out of my pocket. I know this is irrealivent to what was shown on television but just as a suggestion maybe you can do a story on the schools that prepare exceptional individuals like those shown today. What we do isn't for just anyone with a guard card it is for those who are willing to sacrifice everything to ensure the safty of those that we are asigned to protect. I am schedualed to graduate in September 05'.
Thank you for shinning the light on one of the oldest and least appreciated professions.

David Hernandez
Los Angeles, CA


It is downright an insult to our intelligence to hear spouses of these private warriors touting the patriotism line and pointing fingers at the government/military when their loved ones got killed while in the line of making the huge dollars doing mercenary work.

The term "patriotism" and "wanting to help" have been manipulated too many times. We know it darn well they all signed up for one thing...the big pay check...and we the taxpayers are shouldering it.

We are going to lose Iraq just as we lost Vietnam merely due to economic sense. American pockets simply cannot finance a war fought with three flavors of ice cream and pizza parlors for decades. America can easily win a quick war as in'91, but America cannot win a war of attrition prolonged for decades due to her luxury lifestyle and the lack of stomach for casualties. The Iraqi insurgents, like the North Vietnamese, have the cause to die for and nothing much to lose with their poverty lifestyle. They are willing and capable to carry on for decades to come.

Bring back the mandatory draft. Let children of G.Bush, Dick Cheney, Rumsfeldt serve on the front line alongside young kids out of the ghettos and I doubt we even get to see this war started to begin with let alone of "continueing the course".

Howard Nguyen
Houston, TX


Interesting documentary, but your program unfortunately implied that only US entities were to blame for the deplorable harm that has come to some employees of private contractors in Iraq.

You neglected to mention the fact that historically, private contractors have often provided key support services, in extremely hostile situations, to past US military operations. The controversy you reported is not new. Don't you think including this fact would have provided a more balanced perspective from which to judge what is happening in Iraq today?

The employees of private contractors are fully informed of the risks they are taking for profit. The real culprits are the pathetic Iraqi terrorists who wontonly harass US forces and their own people.

Harry Blane
Barrington, Rhode


Thank you for bringing this program to us.

My husband Mohammad is a refugie from Iraq leaving behind all of his family six sister, two brothers and parents, during the first gulf war. After spending 7 years in a refugee camp he has now been out of Iraq for 14 years and is happy to be free living in the USA. Most of his family he has not seen for 14 years. We are very concerned for the family he left behind.

Why is the US spending so much of our tax dollars on sub-contractors, when the money should be used to rebuild Iraq, creating a safe enviorment for all, our military and the civilians of Iraq? Why are we sending men and woman through companys like KBR to feed the troops? There are thousands of Iraqies who would do these jobs at a fraction of the salaries? Clean restroom, floors, do the laundry. Why are we not contributing to the economy of Iraq and our military salaries? If we took half the money we spent on sub-contractors and increased military salaries to a more desirable level we might be able to get more enlistment, may be a more qualified person.

Thank you for bringing us this informational program. Please keep the information coming. Excellent reporting! Thank you to all the Americans serving in Iraq.

Colleen AlMousawi
Seattle, Washington (state)


So I see the part about the 3 flavors and I'm thinking, "Hey, where do I sign up? And then the report ends with the guy I most resemble getting killed!" Guess it's a good thing I watched the whole thing.

Jimbo Bosso
Palm Beach Gardens, fl


Your program was 100% accurate. I volunteered as a retired federal employee to rejoin the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in order to assist in the rebuilding effort. I was in Iraq from March 2004 to July 2004. During that time, I also observed the same issues which your reported brought forth in this Frontline special. Upon my return to the U.S. I have been asked numerous times to provide a presentation on my experiences while in Iraq and I have brought up the same observations as is contained in this report.

Unfortunately, I was made aware of this "contracting out" effort during the mid 1990's while doing extensive studies for the military. My conclusions are the identical to what I experienced while in Iraq. The citizens of the U.S. may be delighted in the small size of our standing military, but when they are used, and we have to rely upon the contractors to provide services which used to be provided by the military, we have the large "millstone" which we must shoulder because of the contractors and their security teams used during the conflict. This is a relatively small military engagement; can you imagine what it would be like if we once again had to fight a major (world) war? This type of policy by our administration, supported by our Congress, is flawed and must be reversed, even if it requires some hard choices such as the draft.
You hit the nail on the head on this report, and I, from personal experience, can support everything which you stated.
PBS has my full support and I hope such specials will continue to report the background which few Americans know about how our current government functions. We have many brave soldiers fighting for freedom in Iraq, but the policy of using contractors for all efforts except "launching bullets" must be reversed.

Raymond Schmitz
Portland, Oregon


Thank you for your very interesting report on private contractors in Iraq.

I too grieve with those who lost their lives serving in Iraq as contrators in the private sector. My point in which I would like to make is that those men and women had a choice to be in Iraq. Many have gone over to Iraq because the money is VERY good and TAX FREE.

I applaud the men and women who go to Iraq to support out troops. I think many need to remember why we are there: to protect what we as Americans have come to take for granted - our freedom and way of life.

Keep up the good work on reporting for Frontline.

Dan Beukelman
Ripon, CA


From having studied history of the Malayan Counterinsurgency, the Iraqi situation as viewed tonight will yield exactly the opposite result from what was intended.

Collin Baber


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posted june 21, 2005

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