July 29, 2007

"A Trail of Broken Lives"

The Washington Post has a front-page article today on the security contractors kidnapped in Iraq last November. The author, Steve Fainaru, who has written extensively on private contractors in Iraq, serves up a scathing indictment of the lax management of the now-defunct Crescent Security Group, which employed the four Americans and 1 Austrian abducted when the convoy they were guarding was ambushed at a fake checkpoint near Basra.

Fainaru says that on the day of the ambush, none of the Iraqi contractors who were supposed to accompany the convoy showed up, but that the company allowed the trip to go forward with only 7 guards. The company says they were unaware of the situation and blamed the kidnapped contractors for "screwing up" the operation:

Former senior managers with Crescent denied any wrongdoing and said the guards who were seized had been well equipped and simply failed to thwart the kidnappers.

"We pretty much catered to them. We spoiled them," said Scott Schneider, the company's former director of security. "You know, basically the operators screwed up," he added. "I mean, you hate to speak ill of people, but the way the situation transpired, they just made mistake after mistake" as the convoy came under attack.

[. . .]

Security experts described the lapses as unconscionable. "It's insane. I don't know how you could sleep," said Cameron Simpson, country operations manager for ArmorGroup International, a British firm that protects one-third of all nonmilitary convoys in Iraq. ArmorGroup normally assigns 20 security contractors to protect no more than 10 tractor-trailers.

Fainaru describes how a month before the ill-fated trip, Crescent Security's entire arsenal of weapons was stolen and sold on the black market. Several employees were fired and were later identified as being in the group that attacked the convoy.

The article also includes excerpts from interviews with the five contractors just two weeks before the ambush, and previously unseen video clips:

Steve Fainaru will be available tomorrow at 11:00 a.m. for a live online Q&A session.

Let's continue to pray for the safe return of John Young, Jon Cote, Josh Munns, Paul Reuben and Bert Nussbaumer.

Crossposted at Not Ready for my Burqua

By at 02:29 PM | Comments |