The role of private companies in Iraq has been widely reported. What hasn't gotten so much play is that, taken as a whole, contractors make up the second-largest armed force there, after the US military. Although this "army" is mostly on the Pentagon's payroll for now, it doesn't fly any flag or belong to any state. It's a multiethnic, for-profit, postnational force, and its sole agenda is to mind the bottom line. It has no incentive to stand down as long as there's money to be made. It's not afraid of terrorists, and whatever passes for an Iraqi government in the future will likely live at its mercy.