"a couple guys do some things that were questionable.."

We've all seen the massacres and crimes and atrocities that some US forces have committed in Iraq and Afghanistan--as inevitably as members of every occupying power before them.

But as this article in today's Washington Post makes clear, what's perhaps even more worrying are the actions of the 20,000 or so private security contractors in Iraq, who fall under no legal system whatsoever and a few of whom apparently like to get their kicks by taking target practice on elderly taxi drivers. (It's also worth noting the racist employment policies of the security companies: American nationals get paid $600 a day, "third state" nationals, that is non-American, non-Iraqis, get paid..$70.)

I remember a journalist friend, who had gone to live in Baghdad from pretty much day one of the invasion, telling me years ago about contractors killing Iraqi civilians--and each other!--pretty indiscriminately. I've always wondered why the batallion of contractors in Iraq and their actions wasn't a bigger story.

Ursula Lindsey

Ursula Lindsey is the managing editor of the Arabist blog. She writes about culture, education and politics in the Arab world. She lived in Cairo from 2002 to 2013 and got her start at the ground-breaking independent magazine Cairo Times. She was the culture editor of Cairo magazine in 2005-2006 and served as special projects editor at the independent news site Mada Masr in 2013-2014. She is the Chronicle of Higher Education's Middle East correspondent. She contributes to the BBC-PRI radio program The World, and has written for Newsweek, The New York Times, The New Yorker online, Bookforum and the blog of the London Review of Books.