America’s 33 Dollar Mercenaries

Share this item
Tools
 Podcats
 RSS

When George Bush invaded and occupied Iraq in 2003 perhaps there weren’t many who could predict all the devastating consequences. The Iraqi people were not the only who suffered this inhumanity. The brutal destruction of an entire country was just one of the worst atrocities of this war. Many nations across the globe suffered the consequences. The horrors of war spilt over into many countries all over the world. During the Iraq War, hundreds of young men from the slums of Peru were flown to Basra and Baghdad. After being told that they would be carrying out the simple jobs of security guards, they found themselves in the front line of America’s war, for salaries that would be miserly for Westerners but which were very desirable for these impoverished men. The new recruits flew to a land they knew nothing of, and actively supported the US military during the harshest years of the conflict. Stay with us for the second part of this documentary. To see how underprivileged youth, desperate for money, were lured into a fully fledged war relying on promises of good wages and a better future for themselves and their families. Here is "America's $33 Mercenaries”.

A group of men from Peru, are making a stopover en route to Iraq. Most of these men have never left their country before.

Inocente Barrera

That was my first time on board a plane. When we took off I felt a bit nervous and scared, but once we were high up I got used to it and felt as if we were traveling on an interprovincial bus.

They are now heading for an adventure in a far away land - in search of a dream.

Pedro Cove?as

When we were in Jordan everyone used to go out and visit Petra, the river Jordan and so on... everyone was taking pictures as in Jordan we felt free, there were no problems for us or for the Americans.

Their dream is of a better life, to

be afforded with the salary of a security guard in a combat zone.

Gregorio Calixto

A mortar landed behind me and I felt as if the heat was traveling through my whole body. Then I realised my leg was hanging.

Now I’ve got a skin graft and require further treatment. It stings when I walk.

Inocente Barrera

Thank God I’m not as bad as others, with no arm or no leg, but I’ve been left deaf for the rest of my life.

Pedro Cove?as

When we got to Iraq we realised that thing’s were different and that that was no place for tourism, as we had bombs and bullets raining on us.

Up sound Iraq footage

Pedro Cove?as

The shrapnel fell on three

people who died and 15 others who were injured. I was amongst those 15 injured.

I had never seen anyone bleed so much.

Inocente Barrera

Because of a health problem my mother had I decided to go there, as I wanted to save money for my mother’s treatment.

Those 33 dollars per day I was going to get paid were something more than what I would get here.

At the other end, for those managing the multi-billion dollar business of private security, the Iraq story still is a fairy tale of never-ending riches.

Rolando Soto

I’m talking from the perspective of the Americans: if I’ve got a need and in my own country I don’t have the purchasing power to fulfil that need, then I’ll have to find a suitable market where to do so.

Jose Luis Gomez del Prado -

United Nations

If the Pentagon outsources one contract, it’s going to do so at the price of the United States.

Private military and security companies of course make a lot, a lot of money...

This is Gregorio. He had a dream of being the first one in his family to get higher education.

To achieve his dream he needed money.

Gregorio

I went to the army for two years and then worked as a security guard for a further four years.

Then a friend and I presented our CV’s to go to Iraq, because they were offering a salary of 1000 US dollar s per month.

They phoned me from the company the day after; I had been selected to go to Iraq.

Gregorio

Before I used to make only 300 dollars per month in Peru. So I

thought that with the salary I was going to make in Iraq I’d be able to save money for my studies.

Since 2003, US security contractors have been carrying out a recruitment campaign throughout the developing world. For $33 per day, Gregorio, and several hundred more poor young men left the slums where they lived to serve as “Security Guards” in Basra or Baghdad.

Gregorio

How did the surgery go?

Manuel Vega

It was OK. I had it on the 11th of November, but - still need to get the psychological and psychiatric treatment. How’s your leg?

This is Manuel. He dreamt of rubbing shoulders with soldiers like those he had watched in so many war films.

Manuel

I learnt through the newspaper that they were taking people to Iraq, back in 2006.

Since I was a kid I always liked weapons, so I went to Iraq for the adrenalin of war - to get that experience, but also because I had debts here in Peru.

Gregorio

In 2006 we had up to ten mortar attacks, 15 RPG [Rocket Propelled Grenade] attacks, day and night, non stop.

Manuel

The Iraqi militia had given an ultimatum for the British to abandon their base. As they didn’t, the attacks increased, from ten to fifteen...50...80, it went up to 100 attacks per day - every day.

Snipers were also targeting us.

This is just another routine day at work, after which they would have earned $33 from the US State Department’s funds.

Original guards’ footage, shot

from a guarding post in Basra

Guard voice on walkie-talkie:

Tango-Four, report to Control.

Guard 2:

We’ve had five impacts.

Guard 3:

It’s six, six impacts.

Guard 2:

Six

On this day, 26 mortars landed within sixteen minutes. Many more attacks followed throughout the day.

Gregorio

He had to use sniper rifles, but we weren’t prepared enough to use that kind of weaponry; but as there were not enough people, we had to cover those positions.

From those positions we could detect the terrorists and the precise places from where the shots or the RPGs were coming, so that we could proceed to shoot back.

This is Inocente. He wanted to help out with a much-needed operation for his ill mother.

He needed money.

Inocente

I have worked guarding Baghdad Palace’s towers, operating a machinegun.

We had mortars and car bombs. Sometimes they would manage to get a car bomb or a suicide bomber through the gates.

Those were the risks we faced.

On October 2006, while I was guarding Tower 1 of Baghdad Palace, a truck bomb exploded and I was affected by the shock waves which threw me back. At that time I heard a very loud noise, but only later, while I was sleeping around midnight, I felt pain in my ears.

I carried on with my work as a security guard. Later, when I was walking into the palace, Ifelt something warm coming down my face, from my right ear. My colleague who was working with me told me “Inocente, there’s blood coming down your ear”.

My eardrum had burst.

The doctors over there told me I

had nothing but a minor injury that would be solved with treatment. I trusted the doctors over there and continue carrying out my work while taking my tablets and following my daily treatment.

Despite assurances from the doctors at the US military hospital, Inocente lost the hearing in one ear and severely damaged the other one.

PAUSE

Pedro dreamt of providing a better life for his three kids.

Pedro

I did it more for the job opportunity and for the money.

They offered us a salary that was good for us and told us we’ll be going to an area where there were five security rings, and we were the fifth one, so we would be very safe, as the Americans would be protecting us.

When I travelled there I never thought I would see anyone die. I was under the impression that we didn’t participate in the war, as we were only security guards.

On the 22nd of July 2010, we

were carrying out a routine shooting practice, when suddenly a rocket impacted and shrapnel hit three people who died, and also injured 15 others. I was amongst those 15.

The bulk of the blast hit the two Ugandans and the Peruvian, who were killed right there. I had never seen anyone bleed so much from different parts.

The fall caused me a neck injury and a piece of shrapnel that hit my arm still causes me pain.

Manuel

Over there we used to have ID’s... show us yours please -

This “W” is for “weapon”. This means that we were authorized to use and fire the weapon.

Original guards’ footage, at guarding post in Basra

Jefferson

This is the famous “Death Tango”. We call it like that because we’ve got the enemy right in front of us.

This video, taken at guarding

post Tango 4, nicknamed the Death Tango, shows the daily routine of the Peruvian guards in Basra during the bloodiest years of the Iraq war.

Jefferson

Opposite to us there is a house that has been taken by the Iraqi militia.

Manuel:

Pass me the binoculars.

Jefferson:

The other day around 20 mortars landed right in front of us, just imagine if someone would have been inside the radius where those mortars landed?

That person would now be in pieces, and would return to Peru, only in a black bag.

This is here in case of chemical or bacteriological warfare; this one is a vaccine against nerve gas...

and what is this other one for?

- Chlorine gas.

As you can see this whole area is a red zone, there is no green

America’s $33 Mercenaries - Transcript |Page 12 of 57

zone (here in Basra).

Manuel (showing an O+ sign on his boot):

All of us here in Basra have our blood groups written somewhere: O positive.

This is in case of mortar or rocket attack, so that when we get blown to pieces someone can help us with a blood transfusion in case we require so...

But Manuel’s work shifts at the Death Tango were to have an abrupt end.

Manuel

I was on duty at the Death Tango. There was a makeshift football pitch opposite us and there were many Iraqis, which was not normal.

They launched an RPG that exploded at approximately 50 centimetres from me. I felt my face was falling apart. That’s when I lost my right eye. Now I’m wearing a prosthetic.

(He takes off his sunglasses and shows his prosthetic eye)

The shrapnel from the explosion opened up my face like an

orange, and my eye socket was left empty. My neck was also opened up. I’ve had several reconstructive surgeries that have improved my condition since, because initially my neck had to be stitched with staples.

My face had all but been destroyed and the doctors had to reconstruct it, so they used a platinum implant.

After the attack I lost a lot of blood, it was agonizing. I pleaded to God to at least allow me to see my son, who was 8 years old at the time, and be able to say goodbye to him before I died, I was sure I was about to die. The American and British doctors didn’t believe I would survive either.

They put me on a stretcher and took me on the helicopter to the hospital in the north of Basra. As soon as they got me in, the hospital came under attack, so they had to pull me out and fly me to another hospital in Balad, north of Iraq. That’s where I was operated on, and where I was told they would have to extract my right eye because there was nothing that could be done to save it.

A few days after the accident, one of Manuel’s friends went into the Death Tango, to pay his

respects to his fallen comrade.

Original guard’s footage: Manuel’s friend, at guarding post Tango 4, in Basra

One RPG hit here: see the hole it left. And the other one exploded here and caught my friend who was left lying over a pool of blood.

TRANSITION

Gregorio

I like watching the Peruvian team play. These are Farfan, Guerrero, Pizarro...

Before my accident I also liked playing football, but since it happened I haven’t been able to play again, and I’ll never be, as I’ve got a skin graft in my leg.

I’ve got scabs and I need treatment. I can’t bend my knee. It stings when I walk and I can’t bend my knee. All this area stings and hurts.

After the mortar landed I realised my leg was hanging. My brain was burning as if my entire body had exploded, so I began to shout as loud as I could. My ears hurt too much,

and so did my head.

Inocente’s hearing disability has kept him out of a job for some time.

Inocente’s wife

We thought we would be able to improve our lives, so when he travelled we thought everything would be alright, but it wasn’t so. Since he got back he hasn’t been able to work for any formal company. They always reject him because of his hearing disability. He’s always in pain – he goes to work in the morning and comes back in pain. He can’t hear properly, you’ve got to speak loud.

His ear always gets infected and white matter comes out.

Inocente now helps out at his brother in law’s bakery, in exchange for a place to sleep for him and his wife.

Inocente

I don’t regret going to Iraq, but I didn’t expect this either.

I suffered an accident while working over there, and when that happened I thought that the company would assume its

responsibilities, but now I feel indignant and hurt.

Thank God I’m not as bad as others, with no arm or no leg, but I’ve been left deaf for the rest of my life.

But I believe in God’s hand and I hope they understand that I suffered and accident because of an attack. I didn’t suffer an accident while playing football or because I wanted to, I suffered an accident while working.

All the men we’ve seen together with hundreds of others, were lured by the promise of money in exchange for performing what were meant to be the easy jobs of security guards.

Behind those promises were the representatives from Triple Canopy, a private security company set up by former members of the US elite Delta Force in 2003, only six months after the occupation of Iraq.

For five years, Rolando Soto was the man in charge for recruiting and training guards for Triple Canopy in Peru.

Soto

The guard’s job in Iraq consisted in looking after

government buildings. I’ll give you the equivalent example here in Peru: a watchman looks after, let’s say, a ministerial building. That is the same as what a security guard does over there in Iraq, it’s just a preventive role, it’s only about pedestrian control and vehicular control, which is all part of the security system, while the American army looks beyond this internal aspect.

Gregorio

Here in Peru they told us we were going to work in a Green Zone, and that it was going to be like working at a Mall.

They said we would be providing security to embassies and that we would hear explosions, but far in the distance, nowhere near us.

They also told us soldiers would be covering all the surrounding areas, and that we would be well protected - inside a “Green Zone”.

Manuel

Supposedly every Peruvian who goes to Iraq goes as a Security Guard. Only when we got to Jordan to receive the training

we learnt that we were heading to Basra and not Baghdad, but we thought we would be in a Green Zone. The reality was different though: we went to a British Army base.

During the first three years of Triple Canopy’s recruitment campaign in Peru, a local subcontractor that went by the name of Defion was in charge of hiring guards on behalf of the US company.

Alejandro Fernandez used to be Defion’s lawyer and representative.

Fernandez

The contract for Basra was not done by Defion. We found out that a major conflict was taking place in the area and that it was very likely that the guards would have to participate in defensive actions to safeguard their positions, so we cancelled the training course. But, in front of a representative from Triple Canopy whom we specially brought for that meeting,

the guards themselves decided to sign the contracts directly with Triple Canopy and without Defion’s intervention.

Contrary to what MR Fernandez says, all the guards we spoke with assured us that neither Defion nor Triple Canopy ever warned them against the particular dangers they were to face in Basra.

Pedro

When we were sent to Basra we were placed in the front line while, unfortunately, the Americans were behind us, so the first ones who would die would be us.

When we realised this, we felt cheated we complained that the salaries we were being paid did not correspond to the areas we were guarding or to the dangers we were being exposed.

What they told us was that if we didn’t like it we could leave, but that would mean even losing the last month’s salary.

Up-sound

We can hear the noise and feel the smoke...

Regardless of the low salaries, Triple Canopy believed the guards were well trained for the job.

Soto

Basra is a very small place, so the exposure to direct fire from the criminals who were attacking happened on a daily basis. In one single night they could come under attack four or five times, so that is between 40 and 50 mortars. This meant that they were under a higher psychological pressure so their professional profile had to be much better than that of the rest. These people have come back to Peru and they are not crazy, and this is because they were better prepared. We prepared them very well.

Despite Rolando’s assurances, all the guards we’ve seen so far have been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder

Pedro

When I get angry I can’t control myself, I get a rage and tend to get physically violent. I didn’t use to be like this but now I am, and because of this I’ve gotten into a few fights already.

Inocente’s wife

Whenever we discuss he gets irritated.

Inocente

Since the attack which caused my accident I’ve been left psychologically damaged, nervous. My personality changed.

Gregorio

Since I got back in 2007 I’ve only received three months of medication for the psychological treatment. This worries me as I should be following treatment.

In 2006, Triple Canopy severed its contract with Defion after deciding to save money by opening their own branch in Peru.

Fernandez

The logic by which Triple Canopy operates is that of making as much money as possible with the least amount of expenditure, regardless of the fact that this maximisation of profits might imply a higher risk for the people working for them.

Contract: Page 3 Clause 12

By signing the contracts with Triple Canopy, all the guards had also agreed to wave their

The Independent Contractor agrees to release an hold harmless the company and the customer, their respective corporate affiliates and their respective officers, directors, employees and agents and their successors and assigns from and against any and all claims, losses, liabilities, damages and expenses... arising out of any damages, injuries or deaths to the Independent Contractor or other persons resulting, directly or indirectly, from the services performed by the Independent Contractor, even where the loss, damage, personal injury or death is caused or contributed to, in any manner, by the company.

rights to sue, either Triple Canopy or the US government, including “even where the loss, damage, injury or death is caused or contributed in any manner by the company

It is clear that the level of risk which these men faced whilst in Iraq did not correspond to a Security guards’ job.

To the uneducated eye, they look like heavily armed combatants.

Were they not just mercenaries under another name?

In search for an answer to this question, we flew to Geneva, to meet the head of the United Nations’ Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means

of violating human rights.

Formed in 2005, the group investigates the use of private armies of the likes of Triple Canopy.

United Nations Representative -Jose Luis Gomez del Prado

According to international law, you are a civilian, even if you are with heavy weapons, until you take part in direct combat, then you become a combatant.

These employees of Private Security companies, when they sign a contract they say they will not take part in direct combat, and that they are only providing passive security.

So there is a gap between international law and what these private security companies are doing. They have found this vacuum and that is why they cannot be defined as mercenaries.

Soto

Some people use the term “mercenaries”, but I say, “hold on a minute”, for starters the guards are not walking around until they find the enemy and

confront it. A guard is standing still in one place and he doesn’t attack, but is the target of attacks.

Jose Luis Gomez del Prado

Sometimes their weapons are even heavier that those used by the military.

Soto

The guns that the American army uses are of a bigger calibre, while the Peruvian guards, or any guard from a third country is only taking care of site and vehicular control.

Reporter’s off-camera question:

What is the exact difference between the weapons used by a guard and those used by a regular soldier?

Soto

Well, the difference is... there is not much difference really...

UN

We also have information that

they have used prohibited ammunition.

Pedro

Here in Peru I used to work as a security guard. We were told that the jobs in Iraq were similar to what we did here, but when we got there things were much different, as we were carrying combat weapons. So in Basra we were fulfilling the roles of soldiers more than of security guards.

Manuel

Every time the British tanks had to enter or leave we had to run for three or four hundred yards onto the street, amongst all the people, and we had to provide cover for the tanks.

Original guards footage taken from the roof-top of the base in Basra: the British tanks are rolling into the base while under mortar attack

Off-camera voice on walkie-talkie:

Attention to all positions of Lima-One.

Mortar, mortar! Dock!

Manuel

There were many times when we would be attacked with mortars or rockets.

The only thing we could do was to lie on the ground, wherever we were, and wait for the attack to finish. If the rocket or mortar hit you, then that would be it.

United Nations Representative -Jose Luis Gomez del Prado

You cannot be a passive “security guard” in a conflict as Iraq or Afghanistan because there are no lines of combat, so an insurgent can attack you at anytime and you have to be ready to enter into direct combat.

Original guards footage taken during a mortar attack in Baghdad

Guard 1:

Right now we are under a little

bit of a...

I mean, yesterday and today the Iraqis have a religious holiday... one of those where they fire rockets

Guard 2: Talk calmly! You’re so scared you can’t even talk and you’re talking nonsense!

Guard 1: During the holidays they fire mortars at us...

Voice on the walkie-talkie:

Here, at the corner near the entrance of the Palace, at the Northern Feather tower, we have someone with an impact on the chest...

Voice over walkie-talkie 2:

Here, one has landed next to the bunker, close to where the volleyball court is...

Guard 2: Three people are hiding in this post right now, looking very scared... and one of them says he was in the navy...

Guard 3: You’re the scared one - look at him, pretending he’s Rambo or something... give me the camera so that I film how you look right now...

In 2008, the US Department of Defence had over 70,000 private security contractors working in Iraq.

Now, after the withdrawal of US troops, the Department of Defence still employs almost 3,000 private security guards from developing countries.

Guard’s footage:

look at the Chilean, the Chilean is about to piss himself..

While the men we’ve seen believe they were acting as soldiers and not as guards in Iraq, in part two we follow their search for justice...

PART TWO

Obama speech:

One of the most extraordinary chapters in the history of the American military will come to an end. Iraq’s future will be in the hands of its people.

Long before the Iraq war was over for the US, hundreds of young men from the impoverished slums of Peru

were flown to Basra and Baghdad. Hundreds more were to follow them. After being told they would be carrying out the simple jobs of security guards, they found themselves in the front line of America’s war.

For salaries that would be risible for Westerners, but which were very desirable for these impoverished men, the new recruits flew to a land they knew nothing of, and actively supported the US military during the harshest years of the conflict.

Obama

America’s war in Iraq will be over.

These days, after the much publicized withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, there are still over 800 Peruvian guards fulfilling the duties that the US servicemen left behind.

In 2011 Triple Canopy’s contract with the US State Department was taken over by another US contractor: Special Operations Consulting, or SOC.

SOC decided to re-employ several hundred guards who used to work for Triple Canopy.

Jaime was one of these former Triple Canopy workers who signed up to work for SOC.

As he was soon to discover, SOC had an even more profit-driven approach than it’s predecessor.

Jaime Ca?ahuaray

because things are calmer in Iraq, the company is now hiring new personnel who are not very experienced in security, but who are prepared to earn very little.

Jaime is in permanent contact with his former work colleagues, who are still working as security guards in Baghdad.

Skype friend:

They [SOC] think that we are now too expensive for them, and that’s not convenient for the company.

Jaime

- So are they now bringing more Indian guards?

Skype friend

Yes, because those guys work for 500 dollars per month, so they are more convenient for SOC, as they have to pay less... with the salary of one of us they pay for two Indian guards.

Jaime

At present there are around 800 Peruvians working (in Iraq), but we are being gradually replaced by people from other countries who earn less than we do, such as Indians, Kenyans and Ugandans.

With Indian guards earning just over 15 dollars per day, the profit margins that SOC and other security companies get per contract are a closely guarded secret.

Even the UN has been prevented from finding out this amount

United Nations Representative -Jose Luis Gomez del Prado

We have requested these companies many times, and we have also requested the governments that outsource to these companies to show us the contracts, to see what are the conditions.

The private companies say: “no, no, these is a commercial thing which we can’t disclose, this is very confidential and, otherwise, if we disclose these details the competition will get everything so we cannot disclose the contracts...”

So we haven’t seen a single contract, but of course they make a lot, a lot of money.

Fernandez

Our contracts were very peculiar because they stated that we were aware of the contract [between Triple Canopy and] the US State Department, but the sections of the contact that had to do with the sums of money they were being paid were blackened out.

Even their own didn’t know, but their man in Peru guesses that for his bosses in Washington, the business was a gold mine.

Soto

My personal perception, which I don’t know if is right or not, is that [a security contractor] can charge [the US State Department] around 15,000 dollars per month for a Peruvian guard.

But I’m only presuming, I’m not stating this.

Jose Luis Gomez del Prado

If the Pentagon outsources one contract, it’s going to do so at the price of the United States, it’s not going to outsource it at the going rates of Fiji or Honduras.

Soto

Something which I heard while over there, but that I cannot state as I didn’t see any document, is that the Ugandan guards were earning 300 dollars - per month that is – while a Peruvian guard makes 1000 dollars per month. So for the price of one Peruvian guard they would get three Ugandans.

Meanwhile, according to SOC’s current employees, the

company is trying to rid itself of what are now regarded as “expensive” Peruvian guards.

Skype friend:

For any small stupid thing they will sack you, they don’t even let us cook anymore. People don’t want to go to the infirmary because if they find there’s anything wrong with your health, even a minor thing, they will tell you to go back to your country to get treated.

Jaime

Yes, that’s exactly what they did with me...

After suffering an accident while working for SOC, Jaime was sent back to Peru, under the understanding that he would be well looked after.

Jaime

On mid January this year, I fell while I was walking down the stairs of the US embassy in Iraq.

As a consequence of that I felt pain around my waist and this

pain gradually increased. When the pain became unbearable I opted to inform my supervisor and his superior asked him if I was bleeding or had a broken bone. When the supervisor told him I only had pain, his superior said that therefore it was not an emergency and that I had two options: to either hand in my ID and resign, or to wait until the end of my shift, at six in the morning, and then go to the infirmary.

After being repeatedly told that he only had a minor injury, Jaime was prescribed painkillers for weeks. Finally, at his insistence, a doctor took a scan of Jaime’s spine.

Jaime

The doctor told me I shouldn’t walk and that I shouldn’t move to anywhere by myself. He also told me I had to travel to my country to get surgery, as they couldn’t perform that kind of surgery over there. During all that time I didn’t experience a good treatment from their part – they wouldn’t help me to sit down or to lie on the stretcher.

Once back in Peru, Jaime was

told the operation would cost him almost twenty thousand dollars, and that the insurance company had made no arrangements to cover the expenditure.

Representatives from SOC said they were liaising with the insurance company.

Jaime

I waited for their call for around one week and the pain got unbearable, both my feet went dead, they were numb and I couldn’t walk.

With the help of family and friends, Jaime paid for his operation at a clinic in Peru.

Jaime

The doctor has told me I have to go to physiotherapy but for the moment I haven’t been able to do so, as I’ve got no money. As you can see, this is the way I am now, I’m moving with a walking aid and I’ve got a lumbar support – I can’t move properly...

[Jaime begins to cry]

In Lima, the Peruvian capital, some of the former guards who came back from Iraq injured or disabled have decided to get together.

Like many of their former comrades in arms, these men believe they have been let down by Triple Canopy and by the insurance company.

They are liaising between them as they have jointly contacted a free legal service in the United States, with the hope of exerting some pressure on their former employers and on the insurance company.

Inocente

When I was ill the doctors in Iraq only gave me tablets and drained my ears, but they were never capable in referring me to a specialist. The doctor in Baghdad thought he knew everything but that wasn’t the case. Eventually they realised I had an infection that was worsening.

When they brought me back to Peru, I was taken to a clinic where they had to perform a full eardrum transplant due to medical negligence, since if I had been seen earlier, my right ear could have probably

recovered.

Here in Lima the specialist told me off, he said; “Inocente - if you had let this go on for one more month you would be dead.”

He showed me my head scan where I could see how the infection was just about to reach my brain.

Pedro

That day, when we got hit by the rocket, there were no paramedics on site.

Only us [the security guards] alongside the instructors, who have some limited first aid knowledge but are not paramedics, had to attend.

I believe those people died because they didn’t receive medical help.

GRAPHIC w CONTRACTS

Besides the cases of negligence, since they got back to Peru all these men have struggled to get their benefits paid.

While the original contracts they signed stated a salary of $33 dollars per day, in 2009 Triple

Canopy changed this amount, and decided to retain a further 9 dollars out of the daily 33.

The amount retained, was to be paid as a ‘bonus’ at the end of the contract term. In the cases of those who couldn’t or didn’t want to complete the full 12 months in Iraq, the company would keep the retained amount.

In effect, the guards were now working for $24 dollars per day.

Soto

Some of the guards wanted to get their money at the end of the first month and then leave.

And who will have to pay for their tickets then?

Pedro

They made us sign a new contract when we were just about to board the plane, when we were already counting on the job, so we were almost forced to sign that contract or otherwise we would lose the job.

Inocente

It was the same in my case - we were supposed to be getting $33 dollars per day, but the final contracts included that deduction, so it wasn’t even the $33 dollars any longer.

Soto

If they’ve signed a contract that means they are accepting [the conditions]. They magnify their complaints but they don’t acknowledge that their signature is on the contracts.

By using the latest contract as a basis, the insurance company hired by Triple Canopy is paying the injured guards a meagre pension calculated on the basis of $24 dollars a day.

Despite the scant salaries, Triple Canopy claimed they were hiring skilled men, who were well prepared for the risky jobs.

The practice proved rather different.

Soto

The profiles of the candidates we looked for required that they were psychologically and physically fit, and we also had to

verify their documentation to corroborate that they had served in the armed forces.

Manuel

At the beginning they grabbed whomever they could. The first groups that left for Iraq included people with and without military experience.

Pedro

They took people who had been in jail, people who had police records, people who were wanted by the law, people who had been active criminals...

Soto

If you look and look for something you’ll certainly find it... but if I have to highlight something positive, I’ll ask if these people robbed or committed any crime while over there, and the answer is no.

Since beginning its operations in Peru, Triple Canopy has taken thorough precautions to prevent negative media coverage.

Soto

It is each person’s right to decide whom do they talk to, and no one can deny them this right. It was never written that the guards were forbidden from talking to the media. What the contracts say is that they are forbidden to give information related to the company.

As a matter of fact, gagging clauses were included in all the guards’ contracts, and these go well beyond information related to the company.

Contract: page 3, CLAUSE 10

Manuel

The first few days after my accident, the managers from Triple Canopy at the Olympia Camp in Baghdad told me I was going to get everything I was entitled to, that I would be paid by the insurance for the rest of my life, which was a lie. But they told me they didn’t want any problems with the media. They explicitly said that they didn’t want me to talk or complain to the media.

Inocente

They phoned me and said: “Mr Inocente, this is the insurance company”.

They said they only asked me to not blow up the problems in the press or the TV channels.

Manuel

When I got back from Iraq three employees from Triple Canopy were waiting for me at the airport in order to get me out through a back door.

Soto

I was one of those who went to the airport to receive him, and I was surprised to see that he wasn’t looking as bad as I expected. I was expecting to see him covered in patches but he wasn’t, and he was walking by himself too.

The media was there, but he didn’t want to talk to them, because he recognised that he had been well looked after and that this aftercare was to continue.

Manuel

They [Triple Canopy] didn’t want me to appear in the media, as my face was still completely disfigured.

Jaime

We have specific orders to not let

anyone film or take pictures, even if it is an American soldier.

Disregarding the companies’ warnings in relation to media exposure, the former guards have agreed to expose their cases to the media. They have opted for this after years of having their outstanding complaints to Triple Canopy falling on deaf ears.

Inocente

The hearing aids that the insurance bought for me cannot be used any more, as they are failing and have no batteries. The insurance hasn’t sent me the money to buy batteries and unfortunately I don’t have money to buy them. The were supposed to pay for my hearing aids for life, as they only last for around three years and then have to be replaced.

The only thing I’m asking God for is that the people form Triple

Canopy put a hand on their hearts and fulfil all the promises they made.

Soto

A few [of the guards] might be unhappy, but I cannot talk on their behalf, I cannot say if they were looked after in

a good or in a bad way, but I did see they were being attended.

Sometimes they arrived with their lawyers and sometimes even accompanied

by policemen.

Gregorio

I’m currently learning to speak English, as I need to communicate with my lawyers who are in the US, and they only speak English and every time I phone them they talk to me in English.

They are representing my case against the insurance company.

United Nations Representative -Jose Luis Gomez del Prado

When they are injured, in order to get the compensation they have to go through hell,

because they have to claim to the United States.

When Jaime’s pain first began, he immediately informed his supervisor. However, the US-based insurance company claims that instead he should have filed a formal report.

On these flimsy grounds, the insurance is refusing to pay for any of his treatment.

United Nations Representative -Jose Luis Gomez del Prado

When they [the security guards] have an insurance company, these companies try to do all they can not to pay, not to compensate them, not to give them what they have the right to claim.

Vilma Fernandez is a lawyer and also a personal friend of Jaime’s family.

She has decided to take on Jaime’s case against SOC and the insurance company.

Vilma Fernandez

Jaime’s problem has worsened because of the medical negligence that occurred in

Baghdad, where the paramedic only gave him painkillers and told him he just had a minor lumbar problem, after only carrying out a visual check and without taking a scan.

At work he had to carry between 15 and 20 kilos of equipment and this worsened his condition.

Once we heard of his case, we approached the company (SOC), but they told us we could take any legal action we wanted but that they were washing their hands off the case.

Together with thousands of counterparts from the developing world, approximately ten per cent of security guards working in in Iraq are US nationals.

The conditions under which these two groups of guards work are remarkably different.

Soto

The American supervisors who were overseeing that we followed procedures were earning between 300 and 400 dollars [per day]. The supervisors who were above these, were earning 500 dollars. And the ones that were above these last ones were making 1000 dollars, that’s per each

day of work.

The fact that the vast majority of security personnel employed by the US were not US citizens meant that, when they died in combat, the body bags were flown to distant lands, and did not form part of the US body count.

Up-sound

We’ve got 16 rockets that have landed at Three-10.

The outsourcing of war onto foreign workers might have been the perfect solution to keep the gruesome image of body bags hidden from the US public.

Meanwhile, poorer nations have been forced to act as if it was their war and not America’s

United Nations Representative -Jose Luis Gomez del Prado

Here in Geneva, in this same building we are now, the South African ambassador has told us that he was ordered by his government to go to Iraq and recuperate the bodies of the South Africans who had been killed by insurgents. Some of

them were in pieces, more than 20 bodies.

Original guards footage: the guards are on a bus, heading to a training exercise in Iraq

Guards shouting on bus:

Greetings to all the brave people!

The guards are traveling to the ground were American instructors will train them on how to search civilians.

Guards shouting on bus:

Greetings to Chile!

Shout like a mercenary!

Once at the training ground, the American instructor is pretending to be a rather terrified Iraqi who’s being searched.

American Instructor:

Don’t shoot me, please don’t shoot me!

Pedro

When we were taught how to search people they taught us to check everywhere: arms, legs, neck, the entire body, as the Iraqis were very dangerous people who could even wrap bombs around them and blow themselves up.

That’s why we thought they were all terrorists.

The instructor now pretends to offer a bribe to the guard who searched him.

Guard: no, no

Instructor: OK, can I go now? Can I go to my car?

Can I have some water?

[In Spanish] Agua?

- No

Pedro

They would sometimes ask us for water, but the Americans always told us to not give them anything. But we [the Peruvians] don’t think like the Americans, we’re more humanitarian.

So every time an Iraqi would ask me for water I would give it to him, unless there was an American around, as we could even get fired for doing that.

Inocente

They always told us to be careful and look after ourselves, as the Arabs were resentful of us.

Guard: But it’s your car

Instructor: It’s not my car, I borrowed it, this is a French car...

Instructor: [pulls out a fake gun from inside the cover and pretends to shoot the guards]

Caramba!!

Ha, ha, ha!

Soto

Sometimes they will see an Iraqi praying and the guards will get scared, as they would think that he was praying in order to commit martyrdom.

Instructor (pretending to be an Iraqi civilian being pinned to the ground and searched):

Instructor: I’m bleeding all over the place... He shot me in the chest and now I’m bleeding everywhere!

Jaime

We are allowed to shoot if we see anyone strange coming with the intention of hurting us, if the person is carrying something in their hands, even if this is only a stone - it doesn’t have to be a piece of armament.

Instructor: Can I call my lawyer?

Guard: You've got no lawyer here: this is Iraq! (laughs)

Jaime

If anyone is approaching the embassy with the intention of attacking you, is because that person represents something against the American government; the attacker doesn’t have to be a terrorist. In those cases we are allowed to use lethal force.

Soto

At some point we felt suspicious about the Iraqis, and we also feared them a bit. And they also felt uncomfortable because they said we were invading their country, but we were fulfilling a contract.

For a group of men used to financial struggle, the possibility of a regular salary at first develops a huge sense of gratitude towards their American employers.

Original guards footage: group of around 40 guards after training exercise in Iraq

Guard (addressing the entire group of guards):

We are going to thank the instructor for all the effort he has put in teaching us, three hurrahs...

(group of guards say “hurrah” and cheer)

Soto

Who now feels really grateful [towards Triple Canopy]?

The ones who, for example, were able to build a house, something that wouldn’t have been possible for them with the salaries they had here in Peru back then. So they have built houses, their children are going to better schools and their overall quality of life has improved considerably. These days these people can walk around wearing Adidas, Nike or Reebok trainers, which they couldn’t before.

I took pictures of my Peruvians before they left for Iraq, and told them: look at how you are dressed now and see how you will be dressed when you get back from Iraq.

Original guards footage: Guards are cooking dinner for a celebration.

Guard behind camera: This is a fraternity dinner for all the guards working at Embassy Airfield.

This group of Peruvian guards are cooking dinner to celebrate their first Christmas in Iraq.

Original guards footage: Guards are cooking dinner for a celebration.

Guard cooking: First of all I want a pay rise, because I’ve been cooking for over a month and haven’t seen any rise...

Guard behind camera: the only thing that is going to rise is the rice you’re cooking...

Unlike the food they are cooking, for many of these guards their Iraqi adventure is likely to end up leaving a bitter aftertaste.

Jaime

At the beginning I felt gratitude for the opportunity we were given to work over there, but this opportunity only lasts while we are well, and when we are unwell they just abandon us...

Manuel

On the second day [after the accident] I went to the bathroom and I saw my face for the first time. It was completely disfigured and full of stitches.

Pedro

How did you feel?

Manuel

I thought, “What have I done with my life?” All for a miserable amount of money which wasn’t even paid in full, while I had to endure all that maltreatment.

Soto:

Everyone who travelled there knew they would be exposed to a high risk that, in the worst of cases, would cause their deaths. So, beyond anything their lawyers can secure, I really could not give you any further opinion.

The United States’ outsourcing of war has created immense fortunes for the mainly ex-US servicemen who own the private security companies. It has also brought grief and pain to many families throughout the developing world.

By hiring a cheap workforce and letting it fight its wars, the US

In the meantime, for as little as sometimes 15 dollars per day, the Pentagon has been relieved from a rather uncomfortable burden.

Soto

Who doesn’t want to earn more money?

This is a business, just business...

   

Coming Up Online