Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Recent resources on Blackwater USA

The Nation's Jeremy Scahill has done a lot of reporting on the mercenary army Blackwater USA, including a new book* and a series of articles at The Nation. This is how Blackwater is described in the in the books's promotional material
Meet BLACKWATER USA, the world's most secretive and powerful mercenary firm. Based in the wilderness of North Carolina, it is the fastest-growing private army on the planet with forces capable of carrying out regime change throughout the world. Blackwater protects the top US officials in Iraq and yet we know almost nothing about the firm's quasi-military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and inside the US. Blackwater was founded by an extreme right-wing fundamentalist Christian mega-millionaire ex- Navy Seal named Erik Prince, the scion of a wealthy conservative family that bankrolls far-right-wing causes.
Secretive is right. Blackwater has a lot of soldiers in Iraq right now, but what are they doing? Do you remember when four American "private contractors" were ambushed, set on fire, and hung from a bridge in Falluja? Most Americans were appalled that something like that could happen to our boys, but almost no one asked who had hired those people or what there mission was. Almost no one. Henry Waxman did and it took him three years to find out, as detailed in this article. Turns out they were Blackwater ops hired by Halliburton subsidiary KBR as a part of a 400 million dollar program to provide for KPR employees. This was a big secret because it is illegal for KBR to hire paramilitary security. KBR are there as civilians, and the pentagon is supposed to provide their security. Scahill asks some good questions about this secret contract:
If the Army was responsible for providing security for KBR's 50,000 employees, why didn't it do so? Is the command and control in Iraq in such disarray that $400 million in private security services that should have been provided by the Army was not, and no one noticed? Did no one realize that tens of thousands of private soldiers were performing the Army's security duties?
Here's another good question: What rules govern the behavior of Blackwater mercenaries? If they pick someone up and torture them, can anyone stop them? There is some excellent reporting here. You should check it out. I also like this quote from one of the books reader reviews at Amazon
I'd like to start by saying that I was a Republican once, when that meant smaller government, staying out of your neighbor's business and taking care of yourself. The level of outright corruption by the Bush Administration has been exposed before, but this is an excellent exposition on the very successful attempts by Christian Fundamentalists to privatize war. While our Constitution says that it's the job of government to "provide for the common defense," the neoconservatives and the military-industrial complex have clearly conspired to bleed our treasury at the expense of our liberty. The author has carefully documented his case and many of the accounts of the individual Blackwater mercenaries themselves are sympathetic.
So should I form a new punk band and call it Blackwater USA, just to antagonize these fuckers?

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*Full disclosure: I've signed up as an Amazon associate, so I get a cut now if anyone follows a link from this site to Amazon and purchases a book. So the link I just gave you is an ad.

3 comments:

John Collins said...

One of my students, Derek Tracy, is currently blogging about this issue:

http://stlawu.typepad.com/theweave_tracy/

Julian said...

Did you see "Iraq for Sale: the War Profiteers?" It's an interesting documentary. I felt like it bought a bit too much into the incompetence dodge -- a sort of "Oh, if only it weren't for those crooks in Halliburton, Blackwater, Titan, CACI, and the rest, invading Iraq would have been a dandy idea!" attitude. Nonetheless, it had some information on Blackwater, along with other firms.

Rob Helpy-Chalk said...

John: Your student's work looks great! I'll post some links once I have a chance to read through it.

Julian: I helped organize a showing of Iraq for Sale on campus, but then didn't watch it myself. Our library has it now, so I should be able to watch it at some point.