Private Warriors

Over the last two years America has poured billions of dollars into Iraq. Much of it goes to private contractors. And business is booming. FRONTLINE reporter Martin Smith travels to Iraq to see the private side of the war.

“”Private Warriors” is the closest thing to must-see TV that “Frontline” has uncorked in ages. Veteran correspondent Martin Smith, on his fourth trip to Iraq for the program, has reported, written, and coproduced a devastating look at the rodeo of private contractors working for the US government there that should trouble all of us.

“And let it be noted that in doing their jobs in Iraq, he, coproducer Marcela Gaviria, and crew display uncommon braveness that only hints at what reporters stationed there must marshal every day.

“‘Private Warriors’ injects yet more concern about the prosecution of this war, and of others to come. With the smarts and the moxie of a pro, Smith documents something worse than corruption: chaos.”
- The Boston Globe

“”Private Warriors” is the most extensive report to date by any network, broadcast or cable, about the private companies that are providing everything from bodyguards to catering in Iraq. And that includes, in some cases, bodyguards for caterers.

“If this report doesn’t make you angry, it should at least make you squint, scowl and go, “Huh?” Companies such as KBR and the South Africa-based Erinys already have collected tens of millions of dollars for providing services. Yet in trying to get answers to questions as seemingly innocuous as “How much does it cost to feed a U.S. soldier per day?” Smith encounters dodging and double-speak that bring to mind the Kafka-esque interrogations on the old spy series “The Prisoner.” It doesn’t inspire confidence or trust.”
- Newsday

“Smith goes on the ground, harrowingly, to illuminate the dilemma in his fourth visit to Iraq (“the first time I’ve felt it’s unsafe to travel about freely,” he says). He details an extraordinary crazy-quilt system, so huge and scattershot that nobody seems to know exactly who’s doing what or how much it costs.

“In an hour stuffed with solid reporting, Smith opens viewers’ eyes to terrible shortcomings half a world away, providing perspective and information in a dynamic package unavailable anywhere else. He speaks to military men and civilian analysts. His report is remarkable for its thoroughness and even-handedness.”
- The Philadelphia Inquirer

“Private Warriors, tonight’s Iraq-themed news documentary on PBS’s Frontline, offers a fascinating, white-knuckle view of the occupation resistance in Iraq as seen through the eyes of a handful of the 20,000 private-sector security enforcers who live and work there.

“Unlike national newscasts that claim to tell you everything you need to know about Iraq from the comfort of their Washington bureaus or a studio in Toronto, Frontline shows us the view through the shattered, blood-stained windshields of the SUVs that tear along “Route Irish,” an insanely dangerous 15-kilometre stretch between the Baghdad airport and the so-called Green Zone in the city’s centre. There is some gut-wrenching footage here….”
- The Gazette (Montreal)

“Television loves a good car chase, and the squealing of wheels is a trope of any police procedural that becomes bogged down in some urban badlands. Rarely, however, do you see the car chase put to such good use as in the “Frontline” season-ender, as it drives home a few illuminating points on the otherwise dull topic of outsourcing in the armed services.
“In “Private Warriors,” “Frontline” takes a full hour tonight to look at the street-level mayhem in Baghdad and the life-and-death stakes for private security firms, which the United States military employs as protectors and shuttlers in the war zone. The result is appropriately, engagingly upsetting.”
- New York Times

“There are sequences in Tuesday night’s “Frontline,” about the outsourcing of soldiering work in Iraq, that will stick with viewers for a while.”
- Times-Picayune (New Orleans)

“‘Private Warriors’ offers a window into the chaos and violence in Iraq that doesn’t show up on the nightly or cable news reports.”
- Chattanooga Times Free Press (Tennessee)

“It’s a tough-minded look at the role of private contractors in Iraq. … ‘Frontline’s’ report gets not just both sides, but several sides of this complex story. It has nearly an hour of commercial-free airtime to work with and uses its time better than any news organization in the United States.”
– Kansas City Star

“Tonight’s important new episode of ‘Frontline’, the first to really go deep on the issue of contractors in Iraq…”
- The Hartford Courant