On May 28, three U.S. citizens working for a North Carolina engineering company in Iraq were picked up and held by by U.S. Marines, who accused them of firing indiscriminately at troops and civilians in Fallouja. According to the Los Angeles Times:
Matt Raiche knew he was in trouble when the Marines handed him an orange jumpsuit, a bottle to urinate in, a Koran and a Muslim prayer rug.
Guards put the former Marine into a 6-foot-by-6-foot concrete cell, locked the steel door and told him to keep his mouth shut. In cells nearby, he heard imprisoned insurgents screaming in Arabic.
“They took us to be … insurgent terrorists,” said Raiche, 34.
Raiche told the Times that the Marines were resentful about the high salaries paid to contractors. While he was being held on the ground, one of them asked him, “How does it feel to make that contractor money now? ”
The incident also renewed questions about the U.S. military’s treatment of prisoners in Iraq. One of the few things both sides largely agree on is that the Marines treated the contractors like any other detainees — treatment the contractors found abusive and humiliating.
The contractors admit they fired at a “suspicious vehicle” but never aimed at Marines or “civilians.” (But weren’t civilians driving the suspicious vehicle?) They were held for three days and are returning home, according to the Times.
Another contractor captured with Raiche, Rick Blanchard, 42, a former Marine and Florida state trooper, said the Marines had confused the Zapata convoy with an earlier security convoy that had fired indiscriminately.
In outsourcing the grunt work in Iraq to contractors, the push for privatization has created a condundrum. You have military personnel who are paid minimum wages working side by side with, say, truck drivers who are paid a hundred grand a year. Your average couch potato American could tell you that ain’t gonna fly. (And let’s not forget, taxpayer dollars are picking up the tab for the contractors’ fees.)