A leading congressional opponent of the Iraq war welcomed the formal end of US combat operations on Tuesday but warned of the increased reliance on private mercenaries.


"The President is rightly celebrating that less American troops are in harm's way," Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) said Tuesday night. "I join the President in that celebration."

"We need to dispense with the fiction, though, that this announcement in any way diminishes our financial or resource commitment to Iraq," he continued.

"Fifty thousand 'non-combat' troops will remain, and that number does not include the State Department's plan to double the amount of mercenaries through next year--whose only loyalty is to the highest bidder--and fortify numerous 'enduring presence posts' throughout the country. This fortification will include the recent State Department request for Black Hawk helicopters, mine-resistant ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicles, and advanced surveillance systems.

Such a substantial reliance on mercenaries amounts to a privatization of war."

The State Department is planning to rely on 6,000 to 7,000 private security guards, according to The New York Times.

These private security contractors are expected to "operate radars to warn of enemy rocket attacks, search for roadside bombs, fly reconnaissance drones and even staff quick reaction forces to aid civilians in distress."

Private security firms such as Xe, formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide, have received harsh condemnations from Iraqi officials for killing civilians.

Two Blackwater employees have been indicted for the unprovoked murder of two Afghan civilians in 2009 and will appear before a grand jury for trial on September 14.

A similar incident occurred in 2007, when Blackwater security workers shot and killed Iraqi civilians in Baghdad.

The five guards were charged with killing 14 unarmed Iraqi civilians and wounding 18 others during an unprovoked attack at a busy traffic circle using gunfire and grenades.

The men had faced up to 10 years in jail on each of 14 manslaughter counts, but a judge dismissed the case.

US officials have had reason to complain, too. In August, the security firm agreed to pay 42 million dollars in fines to settle 288 alleged violations "involving the unauthorized export of defense articles and provision of defense services to foreign end-users" in a number of countries between 2003 and 2009.

Kucinich warns that regardless of the official end of combat operations in Iraq, the United States will continue to spend billions of dollars "with absolutely nothing to show for it."

"We must admit that our mere presence there undermines any hope for a peaceful and stable Iraq. We need to remove all American forces - military and otherwise - and commit to working diplomatically for a viable government."