[Marxism] Serb and Croat war veterans join US forces in Iraq

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Fri May 14 08:22:03 MDT 2004


It won't get that far, of course, but it is beginning to look like the
New Model volunteer, high-tech, air-power and special forces army with
high morale and motivation promised by Rumsfeld (and others much less
prominent)could end up bearing more resemblance to the mercenary armies
used by mediaeval states.
Fred Feldman

Balkans Soldiers Find Fortune in Baghdad 

Vesna Peric Zimonjic 

Fighting gets into your veins, said men who fought in former Yugoslavia.
And so now that peace has come to their homeland, many have moved to
Iraq.

BELGRADE, May 12 (IPS) - Fighting gets into your veins, said men who
fought in former Yugoslavia. And so now that peace has come to their
homeland, many have moved to Iraq. 

"There is no doubt that there is a growing demand for mercenaries or
soldiers of fortune in Iraq," military analyst Slobodan Kljakic told
IPS. "Within the community close to those circles, a number of between
500 and 1,000 Serbs is mentioned. They have already obtained contracts
to work as security staff or bodyguards in Iraq." 

U.S. corporate giants engaged in oil exploitation and reconstruction of
Iraq such as Halliburton or the San Francisco-based Bechtel have turned
to private security companies like Blackwater Security Consulting or
Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR), Kljakic says. 

U.S. and British sources place the number of privately contracted
security personnel in Iraq between 10,000 and 15,000. 

"It's up to them (security companies) to try to find and subcontract the
workforce for Iraq," Kljakic said. "After that it's easy for people from
here to enter Iraq." Under decades-old regulation, Serbs do not need
visas for Iraq. 

Besides the mercenaries who are rarely mentioned publicly, Serbs are
getting other business offers. Some of the largest international media
outlets are relying on Serb crews, given their experience in war
coverage and because they can easily enter the country. 

The role of civilians contracted to work in Iraq came under the
spotlight after four U.S. security contractors met grisly deaths in
Fallujah in March. 

In the Balkans, where interest in Iraq is low, this event attracted
particular attention. One of those killed was a Croat, Jerry Zovko, who
changed his first name when he became a naturalised U.S. citizen. 

"It's a public secret that people engaged in this line of work can earn
between 100,000 and 200,000 dollars a year," says Croatian journalist
Marina Seric. Her research in the Zovko case attracted wide attention in
Croatia. 

"One cannot establish the exact number of Croats who have been
contracted to work as security personnel in Iraq," she told IPS. "But
the bottom line is that they all used to be professional soldiers. They
are aged between 30-45. Depending on their experience they do different
jobs -- simple protection, logistics, training." 

Serb youth seems to have found a new hero. The Belgrade press has
carried interviews with Misha Misic, a security specialist who earns 500
dollars a day in Baghdad protecting oilfields. He claims to have gone to
Iraq as an adventurer to earn money. 

"With more and more countries withdrawing their troops from Iraq, as
Spain did, the U.S. will break new ground in modern warfare," says
foreign policy analyst Predrag Simic. "More and more mercenaries will
take the place of regular troops. It might look as a kind of relief for
the public in those countries that sent troops to Iraq, as the bodies of
mercenaries are shipped home in coffins without national flags or
fanfare." 

Stories of mercenaries going to Iraq abound in Serbia, but it is hard to
trace the channels that lead them there. From time to time, small ads
appear in Serbian papers announcing "the need for security personnel
with experience". The phones in the ads are not local. Similar ads are
appearing in newspapers in neighbouring Bosnia-Herzegovina. 

Serbia has some 3,000 security firms. Most employ some 30,000 former
policemen or war veterans. These companies put up a wall of silence
every time Iraq is mentioned. 

Owners of the two most prominent security firms, Fitep and Protecta,
decline to speak about mercenaries, and say people are free to do
individually whatever they want. 

"There is no licensing or official registration of those agencies,"
Marko Nicovic, vice-president of the International Bodyguard and
Security Services Association told IPS. "Many are closely linked both to
criminals and police. There is absolutely no control, there is a
complete chaos." 

Nicovic says mercenaries could be finding their way to Iraq through sub-
contracting companies that advertise on the Internet. "It's easier,
safer for them," he says. 

Nicovic points to a recent statement by Richard Goldstone, former chief
prosecutor of the United Nations-founded International Criminal Tribunal
for former Yugoslavia (ICTY). The South African jurist said former hit
men from South Africa together with Serb mercenaries and war criminals
are finding gainful employment in Iraq. 

"It is just a horrible thought that such people are working for the
Americans," Goldstone said. (END)



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