Iraq’s mercenaries – with a licence to kill

‘These private contractors can get away with murder… They aren’t subject to any laws at all’

Iraq is rapidly vanishing into the mists of uncollectable, unknowable news, with information travelling only as far as an Iraqi scream can be heard. But sometimes, if you peer closely, you can glimpse reality. Last week, Shia militiamen seized four « security contractors » working for the Canadian company Gardaworld. Buried in the story of this small horror is the bigger tale of a vast shift in how Western wars will be fought in the 21st century if the American right has its way – and one of the great lost scandals of this war.

As he scurried out the door in 2004, Paul Bremer – the first US viceroy to Iraq – issued Order 17, which exempted all mercenaries operating in the country from having to obey the law. He in effect gave these men a licence to kill – and they are using it, every day.