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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 December, 2004, 09:27 GMT
Private War
The US is fighting battles on many fronts, but what happens when the Pentagon delegates a war to private contractors who are rewarded with money and not medals?

Reporter Max Jourdan (right) speaks to a private contractor
Tuesday, 14 December, 2004
1930 GMT, BBC Two (UK)

Reporter Max Jourdan visits Colombia, where multi-million dollar companies jostle for a slice of the action in combating guerrillas and cocaine barons.

He visits a private military base to meet some of the personnel risking their lives every day in return for high financial incentives, amid allegations that profits are put before safety.

Collective responsibility?

On 13 February, 2003, a Cessna aircraft belonging to contractors Northrop Grumman, crash-landed on the side of a hill.

Two of the crew were killed by guerrillas on the ground... and three were taken hostage.

Search and rescue helicopters
Fifteen minutes after the 2003 plane crash, military rescue teams were still waiting for orders to launch

For 18 months, these three men have been held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc), a 17,000 strong army fighting for control of Colombia.

Only five minutes flying time from the scene of the crash is a US military base with search and rescue helicopter gunships. But it transpires that no order was given at the time to send them out.

The problem was the absence of an existing agreement to act accordingly in this situation. But would this have happened if the crew had been US military troops?

Are the government taking enough responsibiltiy for these people's lives?

Max speaks to the families who do not think so. Jo Rosano, mother of one of the hostages held by the Farc, says: "The Americans are using contractors because if something like this happened it would never make the news."

But how much protection can the state offer these men when they are not ultimately accountable for day-to-day procedures, safety regulation and funding?

Private War was broadcast on Tuesday, 14 December, 2004 at 1930 GMT on BBC Two (UK).

Protecting people or profit?
14 Dec 04 |  This World
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15 Dec 04 |  This World


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