Given the news yesterday that the Iraqi government wants to ban Blackwater, the private security firm working in Iraq, after a firefight that reportedly killed between eight and eleven Iraqi civilians, our nation’s newspapers are taking a (brief) look at the prevalence of private security grunts in country.
Only problem is, no one seems to be able to agree how many of them are over there. According to the best estimates by our major newspapers, it’s somewhere between six thousand and fifty thousand.
The Washington Post figures that “at least 20,000 private security guards operate in Iraq,” while noting that the International Contractors Association has said that the number “could be as high as 50,000.” The New York Times splits the difference, calling it at “about 30,000” while The Los Angeles Times goes for the low end of the Times / Post numbers, calling it at “at least 20,000.”
An outlier, USA Today totally lowballs the count, relying on numbers provided by Air Force Maj. Gen. Darryl Scott, commander of the Joint Contracting Command-Iraq/Afghanistan, who recently put the number at six thousand.
In other words, no one has any idea what the number is—but what I would like to know is where the two Times papers and the Post got their numbers, if the commander of the Joint Contracting Command-Iraq/Afghanistan puts the number so low? And why the forty-four thousand person discrepancy between the number given by the contracting command and the International Contractors Association? While they’re both guessing best they can, one of them seems to be off by a significant margin, and thus far no reporter has been able to sound any more authoritative.