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Blackwater USA is a private military company and security firm founded in 1997 by Erik Prince and Al Clark. It is based in the U.S. state of North Carolina, where it operates a tactical training facility that it claims is the world’s largest. The company trains more than 40,000 people a year, from all the military services and a variety of other agencies. The company markets itself as being “The most comprehensive professional military, law enforcement, security, peacekeeping, and stability operations company in the world“.

At least 90% of its revenue comes from government contracts, two-thirds of which are no-bid contract.

The company made headlines in early 2004 when four of its troops were ambushed and burned in the Sunni hotbed of Fallouja — two charred, lifeless bodies left to dangle for hours from a bridge. That incident marked a turning point in the war, sparked multiple U.S. sieges of Fallouja and helped fuel the Iraqi resistance that haunts the occupation to this day.

Already, private contractors constitute the second-largest “force” in Iraq. At last count, there were about 100,000 contractors in Iraq, of which 48,000 work as private soldiers, according to a Government Accountability Office report. These soldiers have operated with almost no oversight or effective legal constraints and are an undeclared expansion of the scope of the occupation. Many of these contractors make up to $1,000 a day, far more than active-duty soldiers. What’s more, these forces are politically expedient, as contractor deaths go uncounted in the official toll. (mardoto, yogyakarta, 8 september 2009)

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