Mercenaries make big money in Iraq but, says Sam Kiley, the ‘outsourcing’ of security work is adding to the chaos in the countryThey bustle through the Palestine Hotel lobby in central Baghdad clanking with military hardware. They have a very special look. The head is crew-cut, the sunglasses wraparound. A Heckler and Koch 9mm submachine gun is de rigueur — strapped across a black Kevlar bullet-proof vest, barely hidden by a photographer’s jacket. Pockets are stuffed with radios, a hand-held global positioning system, medical trauma packs.
From the webbing belt holding up ‘rip-proof’ combat trousers, a Gerber multi-tool dangles beside a Leatherman knife. Another gun, usually a Glock 9mm, is held in a black nylon holster halfway down one thigh.