The fantastic news that U.S. troops are returning from Iraq is being framed that America's war there is "finally over" or that the U.S. is "leaving". But, how can we honestly claim the war in Iraq is over and that the U.S. is leaving when come January 1, 2012, the U.S. State Department will command a hired army of about 5,500 mercenaries?

The State Department's mercenary army is the "size of a heavy combat brigade" and will guard the U.S. embassy in Iraq and people connected to the U.S. diplomatic presence in Iraq. Those 5,500 mercenaries are there to protect the up to 1,000 person embassy staff and many as 17,000 civilian workers working for the U.S. government in Iraq. During the Bush administration, the U.S. had built a 104-acre complex in Baghdad's "heavily fortified Green Zone" that now needs to be guarded by a large mercenary army.

How can our war be over when the "largest U.S. diplomatic presence anywhere overseas" requires the protection of its own mercenary army? "The Iraq war ain’t over," Spencer Ackerman wrote in Danger Room at Wired.

The State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security does not have a promising record when it comes to managing its mercenaries. The 2007 Nisour Square shootings by State’s security contractors, in which 17 Iraqi civilians were killed, marked one of the low points of the war. Now, State will be commanding a much larger security presence, the equivalent of a heavy combat brigade. In July, Danger Room exclusively reported that the Department blocked the Congressionally-appointed watchdog for Iraq from acquiring basic information about contractor security operations, such as the contractors’ rules of engagement.

That means no one outside the State Department knows how its contractors will behave as they ferry over 10,000 U.S. State Department employees throughout Iraq — which, in case anyone has forgotten, is still a war zone.

The mercenary army is "being managed by an organization with no experience running the tight command structure that makes armies cohesive and effective". As Ackerman noted, the presence of the U.S. State Department mercenaries create "a situation with the potential for diplomatic disaster".

America's war in Iraq is not over and the U.S is not leaving. Instead, the war has been fully privatized and with it, the U.S. has created the space for another disaster for itself and the people of Iraq.

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