The US failure Iraq: never before have contractors represented such a large portion of a US presence in a war zone or accounted for so many security and military-like jobs.

Author:Gearon, Eamonn

FOLLOWING PRESIDENT BUSH'S "mission accomplished" declaration on 1 May, 2003, signalling the end to "major combat operations" in Iraq, the country has seen greater levels of violence and death month on month. By now, Iraqis were supposed to be enjoying the dawn of new era, a time of peace lived in a newly democratic nation. Instead, the country is in the midst of a civil war

Added to the problems of Sunni and Shi'a Iraqis killing one another, the presence of US-led coalition forces and civilian contractors armed or otherwise has guaranteed the wealth of anti-American violence on the part of Islamic radicals/insurgents/terrorists, depending on whose opinion one listens to.

Although the term foreign fighters is open to criticism for being western-centric, it remains useful in its most commonly used form, that is to make the distinction between those forces of the US-led coalition in Iraq with the approval of the Iraq government, as opposed to the so-called insurgents. Indeed, one of the most famous foreign fighters active in Iraq until his death in June 2006, the Jordanian-born Abu Musab Al Zarqawi often poked fun at the expression himself. Zarqawi, the former head of Al Qaeda in Iraq, referred to the term in an Al Qaeda communique issued in May 2005, when he said, "Who is the foreigner, oh, cross worshippers? You are the ones who came to the land of the Muslims from your distant corrupt land."

Both the Iraqi and US governments have been accused of inflating the numbers of foreign fighters in the country in order to garner greater support for the continuing financial and human cost of the conflict. If, for example, American voters can be persuaded that the war in Iraq is a straightforward fight against global terrorism then they will continue to support the administration's actions and spending plans.

Allegations of inflating the numbers of foreign insurgents are given more credibility by statements made by members of the US forces who have served in Iraq. One former interrogator, Army Specialist Tony Lagouranis, explained how, following the November 2004 assault on Fallujah, he was instructed to "prove that there were a lot of foreign fighters in Fallujah".

This was achieved, Lagouranis says, by such simple but flawed deduction as identifying a man as Algerian if the Koran found on his body was printed in Algeria, "Or guys would come in with a black shirt and khaki pants, and they'd say, well, this is the Hizbullah uniform, and so they'd...

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