The scenes of looting in Iraq are heart-rending: the Saddam Hospital in Nasiriyah in southern Iraq was pillaged last week by 20 armed thieves who grabbed a haul of drugs and several ambulances just as a man died in the hospital lobby from gunshot wounds. He sustained his injuries while resisting another gang that was trying to steal his car.
Basra's Sheraton Hotel saw mobs of young men stealing tables, chairs, carpets and even a grand piano. British military officials, while proclaiming they had seized control of the city, acknowledged that the telephone system had shut down this week because scavengers had ripped out all the equipment.
Commenting on the unfolding chaos an unnamed Pentagon official told the New York Times that they were seeking something more than the United Nations peace-keeping troops: "We know we want something a little more corporate and more efficient with cleaner lines of authority and responsibility."
Dyncorp Wants You
That plan appears to be almost ready. Half a world away from the bedlam in Iraq, just outside of Forth Worth, Texas, police recruiters are currently manning the phones for Dyncorp, a multi-billion dollar military Contractor. For Dyncorp the turmoil that is emerging in Iraq could mean a boom in business.
"When the area is safe, we will go in. Watch CNN. In the meantime fax us a resume if you want a job," Homer Newman, a Dyncorp recruiter told Corpwatch. But Chuck Wilkins, a company spokesman in Virginia, said: "The contract hasn't yet been awarded."
Yet a website has been offering Dyncorp jobs to "individuals with appropriate experience and expertise to participate in an international effort to re-establish police, justice and prison functions in post-conflict Iraq." The company is looking for active duty or recently retired cops and prison guards and "experienced judicial experts." Applicants must be US citizens with ten years of sworn civilian domestic law enforcement. The site even has a toll free number and a "firstname.lastname@example.org" email address for applicants.
The website explains that recruits will help "establish police stations and monitor activities determining the selection, screening and training processes for police officers, demonstrating police practices and techniques used by democratic societies advising local police on criminal investigation methods and monitoring their progress working side-by-side with police officers from around the world reporting humanitarian violation."
Dyncorp has plenty of experience in the rent-a-cop field in other hot spots: Armed DynCorp employees make up the core of the police force in Bosnia. DynCorp troops protect Afghan president Hamid Karzai, while DynCorp planes and pilots fly the defoliation missions over the coca crops in Colombia. Back home in the United States Dyncorp is in charge of the border posts between the US and Mexico, many of the Pentagon's weapons-testing ranges and the entire Air Force One fleet of presidential planes and helicopters. The company also reviews security clearance applications of military and civilian personnel for the Navy.
DynCorp began in 1946 as a project of a small group of returning World War II pilots seeking to use their military contacts to make a living in the air cargo business. Named California Eastern Airways the original company was soon airlifting supplies to Asia used in the Korean War. By last year Dyncorp, headquartered in Reston, Virginia, was the nation's 13th largest military contractor with $2.3 billion in revenue.
Earlier this week the company merged with Computer Sciences Corporation, an El Segundo, California-based technology services company, in an acquisition worth nearly $1 billion.
Alleged Human Rights Violations and Fraud
The company is not short on controversy. Under the Plan Colombia contract, the company has 88 aircraft and 307 employees - 139 of them American - flying missions to eradicate coca fields in Colombia. Soldier of Fortune magazine once ran a cover story on DynCorp, proclaiming it "Colombia's Coke-Bustin' Broncos."
US Rep. Janice Schakowsky, an Illinois Democrat, told Wired magazine that hiring a private company to fly what amounts to combat missions is asking for trouble. DynCorp's employees have a history of behaving like cowboys," Schakowsky noted.
"Is the US military privatizing its missions to avoid public controversy or to avoid embarrassment - to hide body bags from the media and shield the military from public opinion?" she asked.
Indeed a group of Ecuadoran peasants filed a class action against the company in September 2001. The suit alleges that herbicides spread by DynCorp in Colombia were drifting across the border, withering legitimate crops, causing human and livestock illness, and, in several cases, killing children. Assistant Secretary of State Rand Beers intervened in the case right away telling the judge the lawsuit posed "a grave risk to US national security and foreign policy objectives."
What's more, Kathryn Bolkovac, a U.N. International Police Force monitor filed a lawsuit in Britain in 2001 against DynCorp for firing her after she reported that Dyncorp police trainers in Bosnia were paying for prostitutes and participating in sex trafficking. Many of the Dyncorp employees were forced to resign under suspicion of illegal activity. But none were prosecuted, since they enjoy immunity from prosecution in Bosnia.
Earlier that year Ben Johnston, a DynCorp aircraft mechanic for Apache and Blackhawk helicopters in Kosovo, filed a lawsuit against his employer. The suit alleged that that in the latter part of 1999 Johnson "learned that employees and supervisors from DynCorp were engaging in perverse, illegal and inhumane behavior [and] were purchasing illegal weapons, women, forged passports and [participating in] other immoral acts."
The suit charges that "Johnston witnessed coworkers and supervisors literally buying and selling women for their own personal enjoyment, and employees would brag about the various ages and talents of the individual slaves they had purchased."
"DynCorp is just as immoral and elite as possible, and any rule they can break they do," Johnston told Insight magazine.
He charged that the company also billed the Army for unnecessary repairs and padded the payroll. "What they say in Bosnia is that DynCorp just needs a warm body -- that's the DynCorp slogan. Even if you don't do an eight-hour day, they'll sign you in for it because that's how they bill the government. It's a total fraud."
Meanwhile, policing post-Saddam Iraq may be more than Dyncorp bargains for. Iraqis say the exercise of bringing in foreign police is fraught with danger.
"People do not like Saddam, but they do not want a colonizing army," one young man told the Independent of London. "In the area where I live there was an older man, a retired soldier ... When he heard the Americans were coming he went and got his gun. When people asked why, he said it was because he did not want to be invaded."