Britain at Forefront of Deadly Mercenary Trade*
By Michaela Whitton
British firms are at the forefront of a lethal mercenary trade with hundreds of private firms, employing thousands in a billion dollar private army industry. A new report by campaign group War on Want, titled “Mercenaries Unleashed: The brave new world of private military and security companies,” reveals how the vast industry of private military and security companies (PMSCs) has mushroomed to become a trade worth hundreds of billions of dollars.
With key posts often filled by ex-members of the military or intelligence services, the sinister trade burst onto the scene 15 years ago, following the declaration of a ‘war on terror’ and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.
Unsurprisingly, the shadowy world is dominated by hundreds of U.K. companies reaping enormous profits from exploiting war, instability and conflict around the world.
John Hilary, Executive Director at War on Want, said:
“Private military contractors ran amok in Iraq and Afghanistan, leaving a trail of human rights abuses in their wake. Now we are seeing the alarming rise of mercenaries fighting on the front line in conflict zones across the world: it is the return of the ‘Dogs of War.’*
“For too long this murky world of guns for hire has been allowed to grow unchecked. In letting the industry regulate itself, the government has failed: only binding regulation will do. The time has come to ban these companies from operating in conflict zones and end the privatization of war.”
Back in 2006 — three years after the invasion of Iraq — War on Want published Private Armies, a report uncovering the role of mercenaries and PMSCs in the continuing occupation. It linked the rise of PMSCs with an increase in human rights abuses, a flourishing weapons trade and political destabilization.
As mercenary forces are given increasingly central roles in conflicts throughout the world, hundreds of millions of dollars are made for the corporations supplying them. Whole communities are condemned to the long-term poverty that comes with war while the misery profiteers grow richer.
Yet despite hundreds of cases of human rights abuses by mercenary forces over the years, private armies remain immune from prosecution.
The latest report detailing the developments in this shady world of “guns for hire” reveals an industry dominated by U.K. companies who exist, not only at the forefront of the conflict zones of the war on terror, but have expanded to Africa and the high seas.
It reveals a mushrooming trade which has seen hundreds of new companies established in the past few years alone. In addition, it explains how they are increasingly exploiting a legal loophole when it comes to use of arms in international waters.
Floating armouries are ships harboured at sea and stacked with rifles, ammunition, night vision goggles and other military grade equipment. There are 20 armouries currently on the Indian Ocean and the U.K. Department of Business, Innovation and Skills has issued 50 licenses for them. They are able to operate freely without fear of legal repercussions.
What’s most scary is that rather than introducing binding regulations of the billion-dollar privatization of war, the British government continues to allow the mercenaries to regulate themselves.
“The use of private armies by governments and corporations was previously an exception. It is now becoming the norm, as states and companies seek to evade responsibility for the use of violent and often deadly force. The industry will continue to grow unchecked unless it is brought under control. – War on Want”