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Given the dramatic shortage of US troops on the ground in Iraq, Opiyo Oloya's article asking this same question --are we using Ugandans for cannon fodder in Iraq? -- in Kampala's New Vision is hardly surprising.

Last week New Vision reported that Askar Security, a local firm, was recruiting thousands of people for security jobs in Iraq.

The U.S. Embassy said the company had no subcontract and no such recruitment was planned. But they are apparently counting on folks not having Google at their finger tips. True, Askar is not the main subcontractor, a company named World Wide Special Operations (WWSO) is.  

According to a Ugandan blog as well as other sources a local law firm, Hall & Partners, is working in collaboration with a local security firm, Aktar Security Services, on the recruitment exercise, which is targeting 10,000 people in three years.

Mr Bob Kasango, a lawyer with Hall & Partners, said the firm was hired by the World Wide Special Operations (WWSO), who work for and closely with the US government and other international organisations like the World Bank, Coca Cola, and Microsoft Corporation to provide security.

As Opiyo Oloya notes, for anyone familiar "with the cutthroat, multibillion-dollar global security contractor business," the story is all too plausible. We know that the U.S. military, "stretched thin to the breaking point" with the war, told Bechtel, Halliburton, and the other companies rebuilding Iraq to "BYOA--bring your own army."

At first, those firms hired Brits and Americans, mostly ex-military men. But that changed after the families of four highly trained ex-Navy SEALS, who were ambushed and murdered in 2004, brought a negligence lawsuit against the security company the men worked for.

Now the firms are "quietly turning to developing nations." Africans are seen as ideal workers. They're much cheaper to hire than Westerners. And when they die, their survivors "are less likely to launch wrongful-death lawsuits."

Here's  Opiyo Oloya again describing the lack of insurance, or, at any rate, uncertainty with regard to insurance payment in his local paper the New Vision

Do Africans recruited for high-risk security jobs in Iraq get insurance compensation in the event of injury or death? The answer should be a straight forward, "yes", according to a US law known as Defense Base Act (DBA).

The law states that anyone working for a US government agency or for a company working for the US government anywhere in the world is entitled to DBA compensation. This includes foreign nationals who are not US citizens.

The amount paid as death benefits is "two-thirds of average weekly earnings for two or more eligible survivors up to the current maximum rate of $1,047.16 per week."

On paper, it sounds good. In reality, however, it is a lot more complicated. According to Mr. Richard V. Robilotti, District Director, US Department of Labor, New York Office, in spite of what the law requires, some companies that employ foreign nationals may neglect to report the injuries or deaths of employees.

"If no-one reports the incident to DOL, and the family does not file a claim, we have no way of knowing what has happened," he said. The system, in other words, is totally based on the transparency and honesty of the contracting firm to do what the law says it must do.


In the case of Jacques "Oosie" Oosthuize, a South African security guard killed while working for Erinys Security on May 3 between Tikrit and Mosul, no report of death had been made to the US Department of Labor.

By print time, it was not clear whether the dead man's family had received any compensation at all. Meanwhile, uncertainty about insurance compensation hangs like a dark cloud over the Fijian families of security guards Jim Atalifo, 48, a former Fijian police officer and Timoci Lalaqila, 34, killed when a Blackwater helicopter was shot down near Baghdad last month.

Contacted in Suva by this reporter, widow Ledua Atalifo said she was not sure about compensation, and had never heard about DBA compensation.

Apparently, the benefits of outsourcing are just beginning to be discovered.

Originally posted to DelicateMonster on Wed Jun 01, 2005 at 09:59 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Wow (none)
    Our depravity knows no limits.
  •  Didn't the recruitment of non-Romans soldiers lead (none)
    to Rome's fall? I have very little knowledge of the issue, but I think it had something to do with the military not being connected to the empire's culture.

    Regardless, this is not a good precedent for us.

  •  Why do you and Google hate America? (none)
    Well, I'm glad SOMEONE believe in George Bush and his war to die for him. I mean, obviously Africans have many economic opportunities and this is certainly not exploitation since they could "choose" other career paths. Fortunately, we've already pre-trained many Africans in the art of war. Heck, Africans are so patriotic and supportive of our policies that we should annex all of Africa as the 52nd state when this is over (Iraq = 51).

    This is absolutely unbelievable. Sickening.

  •  Already known? (none)
    I thought this had been known for some time.  What I recall reading was that US citizenship was offered to anyone who completed their tour of duty.  A few months ago the New Yorker had a photo essay showing injured soldiers, and one was identified as (I believe) Ugandan.  
    •  I think it was generally... (4.00)
      ...known that private firms were recruiting international help for Iraq.

      I guess what surprised me about this story was the extent of that recruiting effort and the less savory reasons behind that effort--cheaper pay, avoidance of potential lawsuits, and, as hinted at in the Opiyo's New Vision piece, sidestepping when possible insurance payments indicated by the Defense Base Act (DBA).  

  •  OK You Old Hooker (none)
    I followed the link from the other thread.

    The point here is that there is no way in the world that this could begin to work, aside from the ethics of it.

    10,000 Ugandans won't make a dent in the problem. They wont be armed, trained or paid enough to make a dent in the Iraqi resistance, which is mostly former army/ republican guard.

    The Ugandans would be Muslim? Probably not, after all, what Muslim would go under the US flag now; so they will be non-Muslim.

    They will also be hated and then they will be killed, and, being ugandan, they will also stand out even more than a Minnesota Swede.

    It will be low paid suicide for the takers, but it wont make an iota of difference.

    "Till the Last Dog Dies"

    by Deep Dark on Thu Jun 02, 2005 at 10:49:59 PM PDT

    •  with regard to a mere 10000 (none)
      Ugandans, you are probably right. This won't be sufficient. But I'm curious if this trend continues in other African communities or in Uganda itself.

      Consider a (rather cold blooded) market analysis.

      You have effectively infinite demand provided by pressure on US troops for boots on the ground in Iraq (and, by the way, anywhere else we might choose to kick off a misadventure) add to this a reasonably cheap and serviceable labor supply willing to work--indeed desperate for work--at pennies on the dollar. The line to them of course will be that they are not combat positions at all, they are merely guarding bases, roads, installations, etc. While they guard, they can send the money they make home to their family.

      Is it unethical, sure? A death warrant? Very possibly. But how many would be willing to take the risk?

      Besides, I don't believe for a moment that the point is to necessarily 'win' the war. How, exactly, does one 'win' an occupation? Presumably, winning means we stabilize the country and leave. But that's not what this is about, actually. This is about maintaining strategic bases in one of the most oil rich regions of the world. Ugandan cannon fodder for basic maintenance purposes may work just fine.

      Call me a cynic, but nothing this administration has done indicates they want to 'win' anything. They just want to stay. A low level insurgency, as long as it's someone else's kids that get killed operates just fine for these bozos. A Ugandan's death has almost zero political consequences at home. If not a Ugandan some other Afican / 3rd world merc.

      Romans did that--yeah, ultimately, it led to their decline--but that decline took quite a the time we get there, the Bush dynasty will be just a blip (or maybe a turning point) on the historically downward path of the American empire.


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