In an effort to get U.S. troops out quicker, and hence avoid more casualties, the U.S. has put out to bid a contract for a private security force to protect the Green Zone. from Juan Cole: Walter Pincus writes for the Washington Post about a new contract being let by the US government for a private mercenary force to guard the Green Zone, the headquarters of the American administration of Iraq in Baghdad. ' The threats that the private security force will be asked to meet provide a summary of the dangers facing U.S. and coalition personnel 10 months after President Bush declared the main fighting over. The contractor, according to the bid proposal, must be prepared to deal with vehicles containing explosive devices, the improvised explosives planted on roads, "direct fire and ground assaults by upwards of 12 personnel with military rifles, machine guns and RPG [rocket-propelled grenade], indirect fire by mortars and rockets, individual suicide bombers, and employment of other weapons of mass destruction . . . in an unconventional warfare setting." To meet that challenge, the bidders' personnel must have prior military experience, and those involved directly in force protection must have "operated in U.S., North Atlantic Treaty Organization or other military organizations compatible with NATO standards." ' Since the US army will still have 110,000 troops in Iraq at the end of the current rotation, it is very odd that this sort of task should be being contracted out to civilian mercenaries. My guess is that this is another cosmetic change made for US domestic political reasons. The mercenary guards are certainly going to be targeted and some will be killed, but the Bush administration spinmeisters may be hoping that such deaths of contractors will not generate the same degree of bad press and negative views in the American public as the death of US troops. The creeping privatization of the military seems to me to pose severe dangers to US democracy.